The video game Torment: Tides of Numenera broke records on Kickstarter last week when it more than reached its goal of $900,000 in–according to CNN’s reporting–roughly seven hours. Over the course of thirty days, and currently holding the number ten spot on the list of most successful Kickstarter campaigns, the video game Elite: Dangerous raised $2,405,511 (1/4/13). A film revival of the ahead-of-its-time-and-therefore-cancelled-before-its-time Veronica Mars (2004-2007) has raised $2,117,773 as of yet, hitting the $1M mark in 4 hours and 24 minutes (according to CNN.com) and, in the time it’s taken me to write this single paragraph, going from having raised $2,096,134 to $2,120,638. And I assure you, I am not a slow typist.
In less than a day, they’ve reached their goal, and they’ve still got 29 days to go. Out of the 2,150,000 viewers who watched the series finale (which was not its all time high, and does not factor in the countless people who have cultishly tuned in since), only 34,013 have actually given money to the show ($2,129,273, as I live and breathe). Including my own $50 contribution, which’ll get me a T-shirt, the film on DVD, and a documentary of the making of the movie, which–if Rob Thomas’s personal Kickstarter campaign video is any indication–should be hilarious. Whereas yesterday the prospect of a Veronica Mars didn’t exist, the question now isn’t even whether this campaign will rake in more than the Pebble: E-Paper Watch’s record-setting $10,266,845, or if it will outperform Torment: Tides of Numenera, which is currently at $2,575,028 (with 22 days to go), but what exactly Veronica Mars: The Movie will look like, or if Warner Bros., which owns the property, will be content to sit back as a mere distributor now that they’re starting to see how piranha-like the fans have grown. What can we learn from the current $2,167,816 total?
Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
Sure, that’s one way to look at it: well, that and the fact that many of the people who grew up watching Veronica Mars are eight years wealthier. Like collectors like Chris Kohler, you buy every single Nintendo cartridge ever released in America, not because you especially want to play any of them (though I say you should give the underrated Clu Clu Land a shot; that got me through chicken pox as a kid), but because you can buy them. Only in this instance, you actually do want to play them, because unlike the comic book traders who hope that their collections will appreciate in value, you’re investing in a product that doesn’t yet exist. If Voltaire were around today, you know he’d be a fan: “If Veronica Mars: The Film didn’t exist, we would have to create it,” and voila, we did.
When I started writing this piece, it was with the rule that if I was still writing a sentence that had a number from the Veronica Mars Kickstarter page in it, I’d update it. After hypnotically re-re-re-re-replacing numbers, feverishly attempting to finish the sentence in the seconds of downtime between stock-ticker-like updates, I changed my policy and just let them stand as they had only seconds ago. You know, seconds ago in this fast-moving digital age when the prospect of a Veronica Mars film didn’t exist; when Arrested Development hadn’t uncancelled itself (as Futurama and Family Guy once did; bring on Dinosaurs!); when we were still hammering away at rocks, not keyboards; when fire, not electricity, not high-speed Internet, was literally the hot new thing. Anything was possible: $2,191,326.
Or Maybe It’s Not Absence So Much as Presence
Right, because when you were a kid, you had to bargain with your parents to watch television bartering away chores for the right to watch GI Joe before school and Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers at the Saturday morning breakfast table (boy, does that seem like a raw deal now). Because when Eureka’s Castle and David the Gnome ended, there wasn’t a damn thing you could do about it. But now, after suffering the indignities of seeing Farscape scrapped in its prime (while Stargate SG-1 soldiered on . . . by cannibalizing members of the Farscape crew), after realizing that fan campaigns and influential television critics (and cunning product placement) could save shows like Chuck, and after seeing new media aggregates revive shows as long gone as even, maybe, Jericho, you realized you had a presence. The Internet gave you a voice, on- and offline conventions pooled that voice into an Occupy Wall Street-esque Digital Megaphone, and you could beg for more.
Or Maybe I Do Not Think It Means What You Think It Means
But then again, though we’re at $2,234,122, maybe none of that’s the takeaway. After all, this is Veronica Mars‘s moment–finally–and we shouldn’t start trying to crowd-finance new episodes of Farscape, even though there’s still nothing like it on television and Rockne S. O’Bannon’s soon likely to have some time on his hands. As I was writing in my last post, do we really want to force creators to monetize their own work as well, and to do so by going directly to fans, cutting out the middlemen who would, in profiting from it, also help to subsidize the costs? Granted, we’re all meaninglessly titled “associate producers” in our own special way for this “joint” production of Veronica Mars, and that’s cool, but just because we can kick The CW for letting our favorite heroine bite the dust, don’t we also have to thank her for introducing us to her in the first place? Inventing God entirely from scratch is lazy; why do you think so many religions share so much in common?
I also think we ought to stop and take a good look at the people who haven’t, but easily could have, jumped on this bandwagon. Joss Whedon funded Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog on his own during the writer’s strike and his most recent film, Much Ado About Nothing, reminds me of the scrappy and creative early works from Sam Raimi (Evil Dead) and Kevin Smith (Clerks), though Whedon may be pulling a Benjamin Button in that he’s going from massively funded films like The Avengers to genuinely inventive, small-scale cinema. Studios might not finance a sequel to Serenity, but might fans? If so, however, what control would he be giving up to appease those viewers who would now literally have a stake in the film? If one producer is already too many (from a creative “cooks around the fire” standpoint), how about inheriting forty thousand highly opinionated ones? Would this just end up being a “careful what you wish for” situation, with Rod Serling stepping out of the fourth wall (and the grave, I guess) to introduce very expensive, incredibly creepy, featuring-the-original-cast fan fiction?
I’m thrilled–thrilled–that we’re at $2,254,204 with 30 days to go, and that I can say “we” because I’m one of the smallest parts of it. I’m sure I’ll be checking the Kickstarter page on a daily basis just to watch those numbers fly higher and higher. (Like the good old debt clock, but less depressingly!) But I won’t get ahead of myself: the film–assuming it remains just that–still has to be shot . . . more importantly, it still has to live up to expectations without pandering to them. Then again, I’m ready to dispense with cable, especially since I’ve just now calculated that I spend roughly $1,176.36 a year on it: that’s crowdfunding for roughly 24 shows, or the number that I actually give a shit about each year. So Veronica Mars, ever the societal rabble-rouser, let’s do it. Let’s solve the mystery of how a show that could raise this much money so quickly ever managed to get cancelled in the first place.