The Veronica Mars Movie: Live from the Kickstarter Party in Austin

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Rob Thomas didn’t think he would have enough people to fill the patio.

When the creator and writer of Veronica Mars sent out a message inviting supporters of the Veronica Mars Movie Kickstarter campaign to join him for a beer and to watch the numbers roll in, he never expected that the Dog and Duck pub in Austin, Texas, would become an impromptu convention for fans of the long-cancelled television show, bringing in devoted “Marshmallows” from as far as Arizona, Louisiana, and Oklahoma. As the RSVPs began rolling in, Rob panicked and hopped back onto the update emails, asking fans “Do you really want to have a beer with this fat, sweaty man?” and adding “You all realize that it’s just going to be me with my laptop and a documentary crew, right?” meaning that they could expect no visits from Kristen Bell, the actress of the show’s title character, or Jason Dohring who portrayed the fan-favorite psychotic jackass/caring boyfriend Logan Echolls, both of whom have signed on for the movie already. And yet, we got another surprise when one of those stars did walk onto the back patio unannounced. Jason Dohring snuck in on us and on Rob, and the cheers could be heard down the block.

Even before he arrived, though it was standing room only in the pub, which had to open multiple satellite bars outside, serving beer from tents to the hundreds of fans that flocked to the event. Specialty menus were created, for “Neptune High School Cafeteria Menu” and specials included “The Wallace Fennel Burgers” and “The Cindy “Mac” Mackenzie burgers” (this devoted detail-driven fan would like to point out Mac was a “freakball vegan” according to Mrs. Mackenzie, so as delicious as the burger was—and if you’re ever in Austin, seriously do consider stopping by for one of their burgers—it was clearly not a VM purist who made the menu).

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The Dog and Duck has drawn a diverse crowd of both sexes and across age groups, demonstrating the broad appeal of a television show originally marketed for teens and starring a teenaged girl. Some came in Sunday dress, others sported novelty T-Shirts reminiscent of Dick Casablancas at his best, and many more rocked the “West Coast wannabe East Coast urban” vibe of the television show’s characters. Part of that is just the diversity of Austin (we Texans firmly support the campaign to “Keep Austin Weird”) but more than that, it is the legacy of a television show that gathered its two million dollar goal within the first eleven hours, and kept going.

Not bad for a television show that was canned after three years in favor of Pussycat Dolls reality TV.

This is a banner day for every fandom: how often have we complained about studio intervention, about how shows we love have the plugs pulled, how networks have abused good shows by pushing them into bad timeslots or failing to advertise them correctly. The Veronica Mars fans have put their money where their mouths are: they resurrected a show, and set the stage for others to do the same using platforms like Kickstarter.

As a devoted Browncoat, even knowing that creator Joss Whedon doesn’t support the idea of a fan-funded Firefly, the Veronica Mars Kickstarter victory makes me wonder what could have been.  I realize comparisons have been made between Serenity, the follow-up movie to Firefly, and the Veronica Mars Movie campaign: the differences bear mentioning. With Firefly, fans vigorously campaigned to save the show, and later to bring it back as a movie. It was guerilla warfare, and like our beloved Captain Reynolds, we were on the losing side. We have been frequently told not to attempt to resurrect the show monetarily; instead we Firefly fans turned our giving to Joss Whedon’s charity Equality Now, and Nathan Fillion’s cause Kids Need to Read. The return of our characters in Serenity, while it was a victory for our fandom, was a studio decision. Universal invested in Whedon’s vision, and took the risk knowing it would never be a commercial hit, but would endear them to an angry mob of scary people. Fans. Fans are terrifying.  We Browncoats are among the most fanatical, too, and proud of it.

Marshmallows did the now-traditional campaign of postcards and flyers, mailed bizarre items to the studios while trying to save the show (Mars Bars and Marshmallows) and went above and beyond by hiring planes to fly messages of show support over the studio. But they never organized to the extent of the Browncoats.

That may be about to change, now. If tonight has done anything, it’s build a community from strangers.

One fan, Ty, drove the 1,100 miles from Phoenix after a ten hour shift just to be a part of the event. He considers tonight a victory party, declaring the Veronica Mars Movie proof that “If the fans want it, it will happen.”

“I really want them to make a movie because I want Veronica and Logan to get together. I think the show deserves another chance,” said Janelle of Waco, Texas.

“I like that the characters are really well rounded. Veronica and Logan were given incredibly smart minds, and the dialogue makes sense coming from them. That’s not always true of other shows. The writers are so clever that they sometimes give smart lines to dumb characters, but with Veronica Mars they all had a voice,” added her friend Ellie, on why the show was unique.

Many fans lamented that the show has been taken off of Netflix and streaming, making it difficult to convert new fans during a crucial time period for the fandom. “I think they’re really missing out on an opportunity,” said Stefanie of Austin. “We just proved how much we love this show, and there’s not an easy way to watch it.”

Rob Thomas ecstatically presided over a crowd of approximately 500, and that patio was standing room only (as was the front porch, the interior of the pub, and the cleared parking lot), and crowed “you did it!” while Kristen Bell answered tweets under the hashtag #veronicabars and wished she could be here for the party (Kristen just had a baby, so we understand!) and Jason Dohring posed with fans and offered the thanks of the show’s cast. We never expected Kristen, and were ecstatic to see Jason, but we showed up for the experience, for the brilliant mind behind the show, to show our support, and just to take part in television history.

Overall, the message was clear: fans didn’t donate for the prizes, the t-shirts and DVDs, the signed photos or the opportunity for an associate producer credit. They donated out of love. The goodies are just a perk. Despite criticism of the Kickstarter method as “online panhandling,” the fans contributed gladly, just for the chance to get back to Neptune and find some closure for a show that left the story unresolved.

So how did it all end at the Dog and Duck? In cheers and rousing chants, as the clock wound down and the numbers rolled in: Veronica Mars, the movie, gathered 91,585 donors and raised $5,702,153 in funds, shattering every Kickstarter record.

The Veronica Mars Movie may not revolutionize how movies are made, but it begs the question: when fans rally, what else could we accomplish? In 2014 we will see a movie funded entirely by a fandom.

I, for one, am looking forward to my trip back to Neptune.Image

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