Category Archives: Marketing

Veronica Mars and the Case of the Fan-Funded Film

The story of how the movie Veronica Mars came to be is much like the episodes contained within the series itself—a clever protagonist must work outside the system to solve the problem of an untimely death.

In this case the protagonist is Veronica Mars creator Rob Thomas, the untimely death is the cancellation of the TV series at the hands of traditional Hollywood, and his tools employed include nearly every major component of the new entertainment landscape: high quality content, the power of a rabid fan base, the influence of silicon beach, and the impatience of the Internet.

As any good Marshmallow knows, the CW cancelled Veronica Mars 2007 due to poor ratings. Over the next few years, Thomas and Kristen Bell would attempt to push a Veronica Mars movie at Warner Bros. with the help of Joel Silver. But as late as 2010, the studio wasn’t interested enough to put their weight behind it.

“The idea that fans of a cult television series might be able to fund and support it over time has been floated for several decades,” says USC Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts and Transforming Hollywood 5 Co-Director Henry Jenkins. “Many of these shows lack the breadth of viewership which would sustain it through traditional broadcast channels, yet they have a depth of commitment which can be a powerful force when compared to the followings of other kinds of popular culture—from comics and books to most forms of niche music.”

Veronica Mars had that commitment, and it was perfectly paired with new technology in Kickstarter. With Warner Bros.’ approval, the now famous fundraising campaign that asked for $2M raised over $5M in a month from nearly 100,000 donors. “We can see the Veronica Mars campaign as transformative in demonstrating just how big the opportunity is here for the right creators and the right properties,” says Jenkins.

Two weekends ago, Veronica Mars was released by Warner Bros. in 270 theaters, and, in keeping with its progressive past, it was released simultaneously on VOD platforms—a first for Warner Brothers. In theaters the film grossed nearly $2M, or $6,833 per theater, landing it a bottom spot in the top ten for that weekend. Not bad for a fan-funded film.

“Kickstarter has long demonstrated its ability to fund independent and niche media, but since Veronica Mars, we are seeing more and more cult media-makers who previously worked on the edges of the mainstream—from Spike Lee to Steven Sonderberg—cross over into this space. We will see more,” predicts Jenkins.

And if the Veronica Mars movie is a punctuation mark to the series, it certainly isn’t a period. The CW announced in January that Thomas will bring the Veronica Mars world to their online platform for original content, the CW Seed.

Does this mean that the clever, cynical sleuthing of Veronica could be resurrected as a new series? If so, what does that say about the conventional wisdom of Hollywood and the power of fans to demand—and receive—the shows they want? For now, Jenkins sees limitations to funding projects in the Veronica Mars way. “These mechanisms work best where there is a recognized audience already somewhat familiar with the offering: so, we can see works by cult auteurs work here, or we can see it as the court of last resort for a canceled series. It also can work where there is an underserved population—a minority group of some kind (racial, ethnic, sexual, political, cultural) who wants to establish that there is a base of support for a particular kind of media production.”

Join us on April 4th as we continue the conversation on new forms of television production and distribution during our panel entitled “Second Screens, Connected Viewing, Crowd-Funding and Social Media: Re-Imagining Television Consumption. Panelists include Ivan Askwith (lead strategist, “Veronica Mars” Kickstarter Campaign), Vicky L. Free (chief marketing officer, BET Networks), Nick Loeffler (director of business development, Kindle Worlds), Stacey Lynn Schulman (senior vice president, chief research officer, Television Bureau of Advertising), and Sharon L. Strover (professor, College of Communication, University of Texas at Austin) and will be moderated by Henry Jenkins.

For more info, and to buy tickets, visit


Next year, as attendees of Transforming Hollywood 6 post photos and videos from the event, they will be aggregated and displayed on the Transforming Hollywood website and Facebook page as well as across monitors at the conference through TH6 sponsor, WESAWIT, a fan engagement platform for the entertainment industry.

WESAWIT, a co-venture of UCLA Producer Program alums Thibault Mathieu (’12) and Morgan Rostagnat (’11), uses proprietary technology to help event organizers understand their audience better by managing and interacting with fan content gathered from the social web.

“Today’s live event spectator is more savvy than ever, embracing multiple forms of online engagement and we expect this market segment to grow dramatically as technologies continue to expand,” says WESAWIT CEO and Co-founder, Thibault Mathieu. WESAWIT’s proprietary technology manages all visual fan content in one platform, making it easy to curate, display and interact with social content generated at individual events.

WESAWIT works with some of the most popular live entertainment venues in the U.S., including STAPLES Center, Hollywood Bowl, Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE, Walt Disney Concert Hall, and Goldenvoice.

Director of Communications & Social Media at STAPLES Center and Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE, Cara Vanderhook states, “WESAWIT has become an extension of our online marketing efforts at STAPLES Center and Nokia Theatre L.A. LIVE, providing us with valuable insight about our fans and making it easier for us to interact with key audiences in real time at each and every event hosted on site.”

STAPLES Center, recent host of the 56th Annual GRAMMY Awards®, collected over 2,415 photos and 274 videos from this one event alone.

Visit WESAWIT online:, follow @wesawitapp on Twitter, and give them a like on Facebook