When Rob Thomas announced the Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for a Veronica Mars movie, I was excited. Not only as a Veronica Mars fan—yes, you can call me a Marshmallow—but also because I knew about the director’s long struggle to get the project to the screen. Although this is the film that started the debate “Should Hollywood Movies use Kickstarter to raise funds?” I have seen filmmakers at all levels struggle for film financing, and quite frankly, I wanted to see the film. And so I became one of the 91,585 backers of the crowd-funding campaign.
Over the past year, Thomas has become an informal pen pal, as he’s sent out over 84 updates to all of the film’s backers, covering everything from securing the funds, casting notices and the production, and they continue as we approach the worldwide release on March 14th, a year to the date that he set records on Kickstarter for the most backers, the fastest project to reach both $1 million and $2 million, the highest minimal pledging goal achieved, and largest successful film project.
The film takes place nine years from when we last saw Veronica. She’s living in New York with her boyfriend Piz, and is interviewing with prestigious law firms after recently graduating. Her sleuthing days are over, but when she hears that Logan has been accused of murdering pop singer Bonnie DeVille, an old classmate from Neptune High, she returns to Neptune to help out her old friend and soon gets pulled back into the life she thought she left behind. Veronica Mars brings back your favorites stars Jason Dohring, Chris Lowell, Enrico Colantoni, Ryan Hansen, Tina Marjorino, Percy Diggs III, Krysten Ritter, and of course, the lovely Kristen Bell, with a few additions including Gaby Hoffmann, Jamie Lee Curtis, Martin Starr, as well as a hilarious cameo from James Franco.
We sat down with director Rob Thomas and Kristen Bell to learn more about the making of this groundbreaking film.
IMDb: You have been working to get this movie made for a number of years. What kept bringing you back to this story?
Rob Thomas: Part of it was that I wanted to finish the story. We ended the final season on a really unsettled note. The network had come to me a few weeks earlier and said there’s a shot you’re going to be canceled, maybe you should wrap things up in a nice little bow. And I didn’t want to do that. I wanted to go down swinging. I did not want to make it easy for them to cancel us. So I intentionally wrote something that would make people want to watch more to see what’s coming next. So like the fans of Veronica Mars, I wanted to see what happens next in Veronica’s life.
The other reason is because Veronica was that show for those of us who made it that, first we were proud of the show we were doing and we really liked each other. We liked showing up for work each day. And in normal life, people have a job they love and they keep getting to go back. In TV they cancel you and make you leave each other. So this was an opportunity to tell the story that I wanted to tell and work with the people that I wanted to work with again.
Kristen Bell: I’m not exactly sure what keeps bringing me back. Something similar to what brings the fans back. It’s like a convergence of it being really, really great writing, loving working for Rob Thomas, our creator. I feel Veronica very easily in my body. As an actress, it’s effortless. This isn’t really a job for me. I want to be friends with Veronica. There’s also a lot of similarities between me and Veronica. It’s easy and wonderful and I enjoy doing it very much.
IMDb: After so many attempts to get the film made, how did you decide to launch the Kickstarter campaign?
Thomas: Necessity. We had run out of avenues. It had gotten to the point that we felt like it will never happen. Warner Bros. owned the title even though I created the show, they owned Veronica Mars so it’s not like I could take it and get it independently financed somewhere, I had to do it in conjunction with Warner Bros and they are typically in the business of making big tent-pole movies. That’s what they do and what they do well. And we are way under that level of movie in terms of scope or budget or fan-base. So when I saw a friend raise $12,000 to release an album, I started going the math in my head. We had three million people that watched us. If we could get 70,000 people to donate $30 each, we could get two million dollars we could maybe get the budget for a very small Veronica Mars movie. And then I took it to my agent, who took it to the studio, and then we spent a year and half trying to convince Warner Bros it was a good idea. Then finally, they agreed with it.
IMDb: Over the years, did you have a particular idea where Veronica ended up versus what ended up in the film?
Bell: I don’t throw out my gut instincts about Veronica, I kind of wait for Rob Thomas to speak. I mean, I have Stockholm Syndrome for sure with him. I think he’s always been such a good captain that I… It’s not that I’m confident with my ideas but I would never trump him so I would always say to him first, “Where do you think she is?” It’s like, lay out the story for me. And he yet again showed his brilliance because he said, you know what, I think the opening scene is Veronica having gotten away from all of this, she doesn’t want anything to do with it. She doesn’t want to be a PI, which sets the stakes so high so all of the fans go, no way, get her back to Neptune. He’s very good at fish-hooking people.
IMDb: After you secured the funds and started production, you kept writing your fans who supported the campaign. Why did choose to do so?
Thomas: We wanted to make it an experience that at the end of the day, no matter what amount of money they spent, whether it was $1 or $25 or thousands of dollars to be a backer, we want people to come away feeling like it was worth it. That they were part of the team. And in some ways, it’s just wanting to please the customer for altruistic reasons–you hope that when the movie is released they are our ambassadors. That they are out there talking up the movie and so, yeah. And in some future, we can even kickstart the next Veronica Mars movie and we want to have 90,000 satisfied customers at the end of this.
IMDb: Now that the film is coming out, do you have the closure you were seeking, or do you still see life for Veronica Mars?
Bell: I will always see life for Veronica Mars. And if they stop filming it, I will still be doing it in my kitchen probably. Again, Rob is the kind of writer that purposefully dangles a carrot in front of your face. And that’s why you love him. He did not wrap this movie up in the slightest. In fact, if anything, the final scene of the movie makes you go, wait, where’s the next movie? Which is what he did on the third season of the show. Our final episode we were told, it’s probably not going to come back so if you want to wrap it up, go ahead and do so. And he said, “Am I going to make it easy for you to cancel us? No way!” I’ll give you the cliffhanger of the century. And that’s why he’s so great.
Thomas: I think as long as Kristen wants to keep making them, I will want to keep making them. I love doing this. I keep saying that we are a mini-Bond franchise. It’s something that’s set up to do more. You can always have another Veronica Mars mystery.
IMDb: I was curious about your distribution model. Why did you choose to release on VOD and in theaters simultaneously?
Thomas: I didn’t choose that. I’m supportive of it, but that decision was made above my head at Warner Bros. I’m excited about it because it was a bit of a necessity. Movie chains typically don’t want to screen a movie the same time it’s on video on demand. Because we had already sold the download of the movie to 90,000 fans, our movie sort of mandated a different kind of release model. so that’s why we are where we are. I think everyone at Warner Bros and certainly the filmmakers are eager to see what this kind of release does. We are guinea pigs on how to get a movie made and how to get a movie released.
Veronica Mars premiered at the 2014 SXSW Film Festival and will have its worldwide release in theaters and video on demand on March 14, 2014.