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Exclusive: 'Veronica Mars' creator Rob Thomas on the wildly successful Kickstarter movie campaign
What comes next for the campaign? How big can the movie get? And whither Piz?
Well, how much do you think you're benefiting from people like that — from being the first show to try this at this level? What percentage of the donors would you guess are "Veronica Mars" fans, as opposed to people who either like the idea of the campaign or want this to succeed so their favorite show can try it?
Rob Thomas: I would be willing to be that it's a tiny fraction of people that are donating to the "Veronica Mars" campaign because they hope their favorite show will also (be Kickstartered). There may be a few, but I don't think that's a big percentage.
Now that you know the film is going to happen, and that the budget won't be the absolute minimum, how much do you know about who will be in it? How much of the band can you put back together?
Rob Thomas: Our desire is to get the (whole) band back together. We built it around the 10-year high school reunion so that it would be convenient, and I think that's something that fans are yearning for. And also, this is a good gap. A lot of our people work largely in television, and we are firmly in network hiatus season. We'll probably be wrapping just as shows are going back to work, which was very intentional as well. We think we're going to be pretty successful.
If it's the high school reunion, does that mean no Piz and no Parker?
Rob Thomas: No, actually, in the outline — and (the script's) not written — they both appear. That's no guarantee that they will. We don't have those actors in contracts, but I hope for both of them to be in there. In the outline, they both appear.
So do you basically have plans for every significant character, if in theory you can get them? Or does it become unwieldy at a certain point?
Rob Thomas: Or if they didn't die. Ryan Devlin, who played our rapist in season 3, is one of my favorite actors, but I don't think I could explain away how he got out of prison. Though Ryan did send me an entire pitch from his dad on how he got out on good behavior.
Frankly, I want to see Corny in the show, I want to see Madison Sinclair in the show. There was a real internal debate, for me, about what kind of movie I wanted to make. Just by way of example, I really enjoyed "Side Effects," and that sort of noir thriller that I could see Kristen Bell as Veronica Mars in something like that. I liked the plotting of that movie. I had some desire, as a filmmaker, to take Veronica in a slightly new direction and do something adventurous with her. Or, there's the "give the people what they want" version. And I think partly because it's crowd-sourced, I'm going with the "give the people what they want" version. It's going to be Veronica being Veronica, and the characters you know and love. Certainly, I think I can make a fun, great movie out of that, and I'm excited about that, but it was a creative debate I had with myself, and I finally made the decision that I'm happy with it, to go with, "Let's not piss people off who all donated. Let's give them the stuff that I think that they want in the movie."
And I take it that in this version of things, Veronica never went into the FBI?
Rob Thomas: That's correct.
So you just view that as something you pitched the CW to keep the show on the air?
Rob Thomas: Right. That exists in an alternative universe.
Getting back to the idea of other producers going to their studios to see if they can't try this, what have you heard in the last 36 hours from colleagues in the business about this? And how much do you think the instant success of this will influence another studio's willingness to follow in your footsteps?
Rob Thomas: I did get an email from Bryan Fuller earlier today saying, 'Hey, can you jump on the phone with me at some point? I know you're busy, but I would love to talk to you about how this thing works.' And I know it was specifically for "Pushing Daisies." I heard that, and of course I saw your retweet of the Shawn Ryan thing.
I know, on the second part of the question, that Warner Bros. isn't treating "Veronica Mars" like a one-off. I think they're treating us like a guinea pig — in the best way. They want to see if this model works, and they made the calculated decision, and for a lot of the reasons you articulated in that story, that we were a good test case for this. We just happened to be the right show at the right time, got to be the first one out of the gate. I think Warner Bros., if t works, it works, and they could start doing more of these. And you know that if it works at one studio, that they're not going to be the only studio in town that will be trying it.
It took more than a year to finally put this together. Do you think that whoever tries it next — whether at Warner Bros. or with another studio — will have an easier time getting it approved?
Rob Thomas: Oh, absolutely. But the year that it went dormant is the best thing that could've happened. Because in these last few months where we thought, 'It's going to happen, it's going to happen,' I would say I've been on the phone for hundreds of hours, sent thousands of emails. We had our ducks in a row this year that we would not have last year. Those rewards were vetted like the State of the Union Address. That rewards package went through 40 drafts. It got to the point where I couldn't even look at it. It was just like a gray, blank piece of paper. I stared at it like no other script that I have seen in my life. Everybody needed a crack at it, just like the State of the Union: Defense wants to look at it, Interior. Everyone had to sign off on it, and had comments. Had we launched last year, I think we would have been flying blind, and it would've been a disaster. When I first had the idea, I brought that in, wanting an answer right away, because of Kristen's schedule, and I think they needed to get their ducks in a row, as well.
I think what they're doing is brave, and I know there are some voices out there being critical of them. But who doesn't want to see more movies in this price range? These movies have been dying over the last several years. So many fewer that land in this $4 or $5 million price range; this may be a way we get to see more. I think it takes a brave executive to say, "Hey, let's try a new business model." And trust me: they know, they've geared themselves up for potential criticism, but I think they're doing something great for movie fans.
Alan Sepinwall may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org