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A tale of two Kickstarters: Veronica Mars vs Bill the Galactic Hero - Her Most Regal Majesty, the Queen of Snark
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A tale of two Kickstarters: Veronica Mars vs Bill the Galactic Hero
I have been fairly vocal about my dislike of the Veronica Mars movie kickstarter, and I did promise DanielWhoseLJNameIHaveForgotten that I would explain quite why I disliked it so much. I'm not sure I can articulate it very clearly, but basically it goes against what I regard as the current spirit of the kickstarter model - communities of like minded individuals forming together to get something done that would be hard to make happen within conventional models.

The problem with Veronica Mars is that it's simply selling a commodity. It's clear that the backers have no real ownership of the project. (Also true of many other kickstarters, but I prefer at least society to benefit from a kickstarter, even if I don't.) It is priced at the same level as a full retail release, despite the lower costs of marketing through Kickstarter. It was originally available only in the US, and is still unavailable in most countries in the world although this has got better throughout the campaign. This to me betrays the global nature of the Internet and attempts to enforce an outdated business model onto an international medium. It also sells "extra" and bit parts in the movie, thus taking work from struggling artists. Rewards are delivered electronically as DRM protected streams, so buyers have no guarantee they will not disappear when the film is no longer profitable. All this is going towards creating a slick safe conventional piece of Holywood product that it should be possible to make entirely within the conventional system.

Contrast this with Alex Cox's "Bill the Galactic Hero" Kickstarter. The pricing model is similarly excessive, but at least for your $25 you get a DRM free MOV file of the film to keep. He is making a black and white film of a minor 60s SF classic with a message that genuinely does deserve wider modern attention. He's shooting for $100000, which is a ridiculously small budget for a modern movie, shooting on analogue film, and relying on obsolete model shots for special effects. Holywood have no interest in this project and never will. The actors, while unpaid, are at least receiving a share of the profits, and are, like pretty much everyone else in the project, giving their time for love. And he has committed to editing the whole thing in an Open Source movie editing tool.

So the difference boils down to this - Cox is using Kickstarter to create niche art that would be impossible to fund within the conventional movie industry by connecting directly with the people who want that. Rob Thomas, by contrast, is taking pre-orders. The Veronica Mars film may well end up being enjoyable, but it is by and large business as usual. Alex Cox is also doing what he's done for most of his career - making movies despite the system, while pushing open technology and consumer friendly distribution. Kickstarter is a way for him to do that that cuts out the inefficient brokerage of the 20th Century studio model, and this is the kind of Kickstarter I really enjoy and am glad to fund.

Bill the Galactic Hero Kickstarter
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