$2 million Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for ‘Veronica Mars’ movie sets record


Kristen Bell stars as Veronica in “Veronica Mars.” (Scott Garfield/Warner Bros.)

Shortly after 11 a.m. Wednesday, Rob Thomas, creator of the short-lived UPN/CW detective drama “Veronica Mars,” tweeted that if fans would pledge $2 million by 11 p.m. April 12, Warner Bros. would put into production a “Veronica Mars” movie. The film would get a limited theatrical release early next year, and the studio would foot the bills for marketing, promotion and distribution.

A Kickstarter campaign was born.

“The record time to $1M on Kickstarter is 7 hours. Can we top that? Can we make it there in 5? $80K to go!” Thomas tweeted excitedly Wednesday afternoon.

The campaign hit $1 million at 3:06 p.m. Eastern time — just four hours after it was launched, setting a Kickstarter record.

“We are so close . . . it has me so jittery! So Im doing the only reasonable thing to calm my nerves. #imonthetredmill-watchinghoarders,” tweeted star Kristen Bell on Wednesday afternoon.

Shortly before 9 p.m., about 10 hours after being launched, the campaign passed the $2 million mark.

Kickstarter is the company founded in 2009 to raise money for “creative” projects via Web crowd-funding. Among the many film projects that reportedly have benefited are the documentary shorts “Sun Come Up” and “Incident in New Baghdad” — both nominated for an Academy Award. Bret Easton Ellis, Whoopi Goldberg, Ricki Lake, Dan Harmon and Ed Begley Jr. are just handful of the celebrities who reportedly have patronized Kickstarter.

Thomas’s fundraiser roared out of the gate Wednesday morning; by 1:45 p.m. more than $720,000 had been pledged by about 9,300 people. That’s an average of about $77 per person. Pledges were pouring in at the rate of about $4,000 per minute.

“Veronica Mars” debuted on the now-defunct UPN network in fall 2004; 2.5 million people tuned in to the first season. The show starred Bell as a high-schooler in the town of Neptune, Calif., who moonlights as a detective under the mentorship of her private-eye dad.

When the UPN and WB networks went toes up, and the CW network rose from their ashes, the new network took “Veronica Mars” to its prime-time lineup, but the show only lasted one more season.

Apparently, “VM” fans — who, sadly, are not called Veronica Martians, but rather “Marshmallows” — have been obsessing ever since.

“Best $50 I’ve ever spent. ‘Veronica Mars’ is hands down my favorite TV show of all time!! I know every single line,” gushed pledger Tami Bereznay in the comments section of the fundraising campaign.

“I’m an unemployed, broke, recent college graduate, but I’m still willing to donate for this!” wrote the enthused but fiscally challenged Autumn Hayes, who did not say how much she’d tossed in to the kitty. “If I can do it, anybody can,” she added.

Many of the comments were made by “VM” fanatics outside the United States, who complained that the campaign had been set up to ship pledge rewards only inside the United States, which was “crippling the campaign.” (Wednesday afternoon, Thomas tweeted they were “working out thorny issues so we can include you.”)

Many of the donors said they’d made only a $10 pledge, which entitled them to receive a PDF of the shooting script on the day of the movie’s release, as well as regular updates and behind-the-scenes scoops throughout the fundraising and moviemaking.

“The more money we raise, the cooler movie we can make,” Thomas promised fans on the Kickstarter campaign page at the start of the fundraiser. “A $2 million fundraising total probably means cross words are exchanged at the class reunion. $3 million? We can afford a full-on brawl. $10 million? Who knows. . . . For some reason the Neptune High class reunion takes place on a nuclear submarine! A Hobbit shows up! There’s a Bollywood end-credit dance number!

“I’ve always wanted to direct Bill Murray . . . if that total goes high enough, I’ll bet the good folks at Warner Bros. will agree a sequel is a good idea.”

Speaking of the good folks at Warner Bros., you can imagine how silly they were feeling Wednesday afternoon for having set the greenlight threshold at a mere $2 million.

You know who else was probably feeling pretty silly? Mitch Hurwitz, who has been trying, unsuccessfully, to get an “Arrested Development” movie off the ground for, like, forever.

Ditto Shawn Ryan, who about six months ago said in interviews that he was mulling a Kickstarter campaign to make a movie version of his failed “Terriers” series for FX — while tweeting that he would “need Fox approval (no gimme). Who’d be in?”

(On Wednesday afternoon, Ryan tweeted: “Very interested to see how ‘Veronica Mars’ kickstarter goes. Could be a model for a ‘Terriers’ wrap up film.”)

Anyway, less than a half-hour after Thomas first tweeted the news of the campaign, someone had already pledged $10,000, which entitled the winner to a speaking role in the flick — playing a waiter/waitress who would say the single line, “Your check, sir.” With the caveat, Thomas explained, that if the actor “goes all hammy and ruins the scene,” that actor will be cut.

Another rabid fan pledged $6,500, which entitled that donor to name a character whose name would be spoken by an actor at least once in the movie — so long as the name can be cleared by Warner Bros. legal suits.

Poor Bell is on the hook to record 44 15-second personalized voice-mail messages, because that’s how many people contributed $500 to the movie fund. She’ll also have to make 50 20-second personalized video greetings — the number of people who ponied up $600.

And late in the afternoon, as the $2 million goal drew near, Thomas announced a “stretch goal”: “$3 Million or Logan Echolls doesn’t survive the movie!” Echolls is Veronica’s bad-boy love interest.

Minutes later, he amended that challenge and promised that Logan would live — after he was accosted by Marshmallows at his local Starbucks. “Instead,” he amended, “[Mars’s dog] Backup won’t survive unless we get $3M.”

Moments after the $1 million threshold, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was unveiled as Pope Francis.

“Wow. A new pope and a Veronica Mars movie all in one day!” marveled “VM” fan Jess Zimmerman.

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