The crowdfunding campaign to launch a big-screen adaptation of the cult TV series Veronica Mars that made history by raising more than $2 million in just 10 hours has now gone a step further, apparently prompting Hollywood studio Warner Bros. to commit to making the film.
Rob Thomas, the creator of the teen mystery series that was cancelled after three seasons in 2007, tweeted on Thursday that the campaign had been a success. "Hallelujah! It's a green light my friends," he wrote. "I love you all, but particularly the donors among you."
Veronica Mars has a small but seemingly dedicated group of fans known as "Marshmallows", and Thomas and his key cast – including star Kristen Bell – appealed to them with a slick video launched on crowdfunding site kickstarter.com on Wednesday (US time).
The campaign was slated to run for 30 days, with a stated aim of raising $2 million. That's the sum Hollywood studio Warner Bros claimed would be enough to convince it to back the project into development. Now it looks like Warners will have to put its money where its mouth is.
The trailer on kickstarter opens with a title card "Int. Kristen Bell's house - morning", and features Bell's fellow cast members mooching around and pining for the good old days, while she tries to persuade them to move on.
Familiar elements of the show are parodied before the camera swings around to reveal Thomas, dressed in black with glove puppets of a duck and a chicken, emerge from his cardboard-box stage. He then explains the crowdfunding plan.
Clearly, the gimick of humour and geeky earnestness has spoken perfectly to the fan base (though cynics might wonder if the entire thing is not simply a very clever piece of advance marketing by Warners, for a project to which the studio had already in fact committed).
According to deadline.com, the $1 million mark was passed in four hours and 24 minutes. Less than six hours later, the official target was hit.
The project's page indicates that as of 7.25pm AET Thursday more than 40,000 people had pledged a minimum of one US dollar, for a total of $2.5 million and counting.
Virtually all of the premium pledge packages above $400 were gone, including the single top pledge of more than $10,000. And little wonder, given the treat in store for the deep-pocketed fan (or Warners staffer*), who snapped it up.
"You will get a speaking role in the movie," the enticement reads. "Here's the scene – Veronica is eating with the man in her life. Things have gotten tense between them. You are the waiter/waitress. You approach the table, and you say, 'Your check, sir'.
"We guarantee you will be on camera as you say the line. Unless you go all hammy and ruin the scene and we have to cut you out, but that would be a sad day for all of us.
The campaign aimed to raise $2 million in 30 days, the sum Warner Bros claimed would be enough to convince it to back the project
"Just say the line. Don't over-think it. You're a waiter. Your motivation is to turn over the table."
Speaking to The New York Times, Thomas explained that Warners had told him: "If you can show there's enough fan interest to warrant a movie, we're on board." He added that there was a chance "we could fail in spectacular fashion, but there's also the chance that we completely revolutionise how projects like ours can get made".
Right now, the odds on the latter outcome looks pretty good.
Veronica Mars is far from the first film project to turn to crowdfunding. And if its success is genuine and sustained there is no chance Hollywood will let it be the last.
* The package was, in fact, bought by Steven Dengler, a co-founder of financial data website XE.com. According to Entertainment Weekly, Dengler likes Veronica Mars but is more a fan of crowdfunding, and has backed 65 projects on Kickstarter.