The headline on Stuff reads, “Veronica Mars meets Kickstarter target”, and while that’s true, it obscures the reality – that Warner Bros were the ones profiting. This multi-billion dollar company, one of the two biggest movie studios in the Western world (to be honest I’m not sure how Bollywood measures up), used a crowdsourcing website to fund a movie. And people bought into that.
Not that I really blame them, mostly, because you do get rewards for donating on Kickstarter. But this is still some mighty bullshit. Are we to believe that Warner Bros needed grassroots assistance to fund a movie that has an existing fanbase to market to? A company that is constantly lobbying the US government for restrictive anti-piracy legislation, financing anti-piracy think tanks with bad science, buying out inconvenient laws in other countries and interfering in international treaties, all to maximise their precious profits? I mean, I guess a market-liberal corporation’s gotta do what a market-liberal corporation’s gotta do, but normally the justification for those big salaries that the top staff draw is that they’re taking risks and have responsibility for failures as well as successes. This removes the risk. There is no risk. They have found the crowning glory of shunting the risk off to the consumer, which is astounding because the heads of corporations like this are pretty good at doing that already – they’re just usually a little more subtle.
And it’s win-win for them, too. Because not only do they have the fans covering investment costs, they get a hell of a lot of publicity, too. “Oh gee, that’s that Veronica Mars movie! ORDINARY PEOPLE helped make that movie, how cool! It wouldn’t exist without Kickstarter, which all the young people love! Amanda Palmer even used it, and she’s so hip and edgy and married to Neil Gaiman and uses Twitter and gives TED talks! I love all of those things!”
No, guys. No. You did not help make that movie. You just got conned into paying for it. Not even in the “fair” market way where you base your decision on advance screening reviews and rumours and ads and what your friends who’ve already seen it say and the studio is at least nominally obliged to produce a decent movie. With this maneuvre they could set up a single camera focused on Kristen Bell and her co-stars playing with a sloth for two hours and still make money because they’re not paying for it. (Okay, to be fair, I think a lot of Veronica Mars fans would actually pay to see that anyway, but you get my point. I really doubt you need millions of dollars to pay Kristen Bell to play with a sloth on a livecam. She might even do it for free.)
The sad thing is, now that it’s been done once, who really thinks it will stop there? And studios are not going to to anything to reduce their profits in light of the massively reduced risk, let’s be real. They’ll still be dicking over everyone they can and aggressively pursuing anyone who even sneezes at a torrent site. No, I don’t think every movie will be funded like this, but it sure does open the door for some of them to be. And sorry, Warner Bros, but if I’m investing in something for a well-established, highly profitable company like you, I damn well want a percentage of the revenue from it.