One Person’s “Obscene”…is Really Just Ridiculous

How many of you have been fans of the TV show Veronica Mars? How many have loved any show that didn’t succeed to the network’s standards and got canceled before you were ready? I can name a bunch that are usually on people’s lists, even if they’re not on mine: Freaks & Geeks. Farscape. Firefly. Even some that don’t begin with F! Arrested Development. Better Off Ted. The Wedding Band.

Last month, there was a huge campaign on Kickstarter to raise money for a Veronica Mars movie. For those who aren’t familiar with Kickstarter, it’s a website where people can crowdsource funds for a project. The categories include Art, Comics, Dance, Design, Fashion, Film & Video, Food, Games, Music, Photography, Publishing, Technology, and Theater. People who pledge money generally get something in return. A $1 or $5 contribution makes you an investor and there might be acknowledgement. Pledge more, and if the campaign reaches its goal and moves forward, you’re essentially pre-paying for the produce. I’ve contributed to a documentary on romance novels and got a bumper sticker for now, with a copy of the film once it’s complete. When Jason Manns finally ships his next album, I’ll get a hard copy, a digital copy, and a T-shirt. Need solar USB power to charge your iPhone while you’re camping? You’ll find it at Kickstarter!

There are other places to crowdsource. CE Murphy has self-published stories via crowdsourcing (not specifically through Kickstarter), which just means that people prepaid for those stories. She didn’t write them until there was enough interest (pledged money) to make it worthwhile.

Okay, so back to Veronica Mars. The problem with making movies is that you can’t tell how much interest there is ahead of time, and this is especially problematic for failed TV shows (like Firefly). Or even successful TV shows (like The X Files). So Rob Thomas, the creator of VM, who had not been able to convince Warner Bros. (who owns the property) to invest in an uncertain film, decided to follow a friend’s advice and turn to Kickstarter. WB essentially said “hey, go ahead, if you can get the production costs, we’ll distribute the film.” They spent some time looking into all the details and ramifications before launching the project.

11 hours later, they had $2 million. By the end of the month, the pledge period, they had $5,702,153. So yay, the movie’s getting made!

But some people were not so yay. Apparently, there was some buzz of disgust at people “giving” money to a huge film studio who is obviously so rich they don’t need it. Plenty complained that the money should have gone to charity, instead, and one person who wrote in to Entertainment Weekly called the whole thing obscene.

Really, that made me speechless for a while. Not forever, because, well, I always have a lot to say. πŸ™‚ But I just can’t fathom the short-sighted, narrow-minded, self-righteousness of it.

First, how dare they judge anyone on how they spend their money? How do they know the VM supporters don’t give to charity? Do they give every penny they earn to charity? Do they NEVER go to the movies or buy a DVD or a book or watch a TV show that they pay a cable bill to receive? Are they seriously saying we should never spend money on something “frivolous”? Because if we don’t go to movies they’ll have to stop making them, and the millions of people who work in the movie industry will lose their jobs, and then they’ll need charitable help and those of us who didn’t go see their movies will have to give MORE money to charity…

Secondly, this isn’t a *donation*. The people who gave $1 ensured a movie will be made that they can choose to see when it comes out. Those who gave $10 get a PDF of the shooting script. $25 gets an exclusive T-shirt and the PDF of the script, and honestly, people pay more for some kinds of T-shirts all by themselves. $35 gets a digital copy of the film, the T-shirt, and the script. Get it? They are prepaying for products they will eventually receive. This isn’t an unworthy charity! It’s commerce!

Personally, I think this whole situation is very cool. It opens up possibilities for new ways to create entertainment, which may, in turn, allow for broader creative endeavors. It takes away the necessity of the Giant Corporations that crush innovative technology that might be a threat to them. But it also allows for a marriage between Old Ways and New Ways, all with the bottom line of giving people the freedom to do what they’re passionate about.

Have you ever backed anything on Kickstarter or another crowdsourcing venue?