This Friday, Veronica Mars returns in her first big screen adventure, reuniting the entire cast of the popular TV series for the first time in ten years. And it's all because of the fans. Creator Rob Thomas and stars Kristen Bell and Jason Dohring set out with a modest Kickstarter campaign that turned into a phenomenon, and now, we finally get to see the results.
The story follows former high school detective Veronica as she returns to Neptune for her 10-year reunion. While there, she gets embroiled in an all-new mystery and reconnects with former boyfriend Logan Echolls, who may or may not be a suspect. To celebrate the film's final arrival in theaters and on VOD, we caught up with Jason to chat about his journey from Kickstarter to the box office, and to find out what the future holds for Veronica and Logan.
Here is our conversation:
Now, when you guys landed on set, was there any added pressure knowing that the fans made this all possible?
Jason Dohring: There probably should have been. But when you have those same fans on set, and they're not just watching you on the monitors, but they are seeing how the movie is being made...They are actually in the scenes with you, and they are cracking up, and people are tweeting these scenes...Some of the scenes, we had our arms around these people in the actual shot. We went to lunch with them. It was very personal. And it was fun. It was up. There was never any worry. Before we even started, we had such a great script. Then we kept that ball on the track, adding what we could here or there with our own input. And it was a blast, man. We offered that as a reward, were we wanted fans to come on the set. I had people who were in high heels for sixteen hours, because of the party scene they were in. And they were literally crying, they were so happy about it. We had one guy propose to his fiance, it was a wedding present. They wanted to come out here and be on set. You hear these stories, and it was about their amazing energy, and their love for the show. That is more of a huge compliment than something that should make you nervous.
It seems to have really paid off. You guys set it up so that it was all about the fans. I read an article last night, and it was about fan entitlement. Did you guys bump up against that? Where you had fans who had certain ideas, and those ideas didn't coheres with what you guys wanted to do with this movie?
Jason Dohring: I never thought of that. We never really had anything like that happen to us. Obviously, the script had gone out there before the Kickstarter went up. Rob Thomas had an idea in mind. He showed up with a script. So, no one wanted to change the story. Nothing that ever made any waves, or whatever. We never saw anything like that. These people were just so excited to be there, and be a part of the creative process. We posted pictures of us on set, fans would see the background of the picture, get in their cars, drive downtown, find out where we were camped out, and it was unbelievable. You felt like a Beatle or something.
Its interesting watching it as an outsider. I know as a fan of various different TV shows, you really do get invested in certain characters. Then these shows are around forever, on DVD or in syndication. You build this crazy, strong community amongst these strangers...
Jason Dohring: Yeah, exactly, that's what it is. That is such a nice compliment to get, especially when I hear it from fans. It means so much to us. And we love seeing the fans. I was pretty damn lonely down there in San Diego, being away from my family. I had a two bedroom apartment, and when you're not working, you're maybe off two or three days out of the work week...But you don't have time to come back to Los Angeles, so you sit there, working on your craft. But you can go and meet the fans, and it does mean something to people. And that is awesome. We wanted this to mean something to people. That was the initial thought behind all of this. That's what we wanted to do. We wanted it to have an impact, and it develops throughout the film, and hopefully beyond the film. Hopefully there will be a spin-off. A webseries. There are other things possibly in the works.
When you look at some of the other films coming out that people are excited about, Batman Vs. Superman, Star Wars 7, these are movies that are solely reliant on the fan culture. People are excited about them, even though they are heading into production without finished scripts, they don't know who is going to be cast, all they have is the title. You guys were on the other side of that. You had everything in place before you put out the call that you were doing this. I'd have to think that will make a movie that is more satisfying for fans. It seems like less of a cash grab, and more from the heart. Which the fans appreciate. You put in the art and the heart...
Jason Dohring: Yes. Obviously, Rob Thomas had laid the groundwork for that over the past twenty years. He knew our characters quite well by then. It was like stepping back onto a bike. You have to fill in the blanks of what happened in between these two characters, some ten years later. That is the hard part. But he makes it look simple. Whenever I would read one of Rob's scripts...And he directed a couple of the episodes...I always thought his ideas were so great. I would get the script, and I would just sit there saying, "Oh, my god! Oh, my god!" It was just so great. It was something we talked about for the past couple of years. Its unbelievable how everything has come together. Back when you would put out an episode, people would watch it, and then they would get on the fan boards, and they would all talk about it. It is a real community, dude. It is a real community. Its fun, because there is no pure artist separation. He got to make what he wanted. That's what the film became. It was kind of unique.
Originally, Warner Bros. announced that the movie would only be hitting select theaters with the main release being pushed on VOD. Now, the film is opening wide in theaters, because the studio believes in the movie. That had to be exciting to hear. That this was reaching beyond just the hardcore fans to becomes something new and quite legitimate...
Jason Dohring: Yeah, exactly. The movie came to me in that way. Originally, it wasn't even going to get made. Then this little ten minute Kickstarter video went viral through the halls of Warner Bros. The execs saw people talking about it at the water coolers. They decided that they needed to make it. They made it. When they did the testing of it, they showed it to 400 fans, and 400 non-fans, and they wanted to see how it stacked up with non-fans. Of course, we know how our fan base is going to react. 96% of these people put it in the top two categories of excellent or very good. Then, with the non-fans, 50% of these people put it into the category of excellent or very good. If we can get to 86% on Rotten Tomatoes with people who have never seen the show? I think that would be pretty cool. We tried to make a movie with a story that was entertaining to everyone, even those outside of the core audience itself.
That's what you want to see. A lot of times, and we could point to Arrested Development as the most recent example of this...But no non-fans could watch the new episodes when it returned, and the fans that wanted to watch it, most of them decided they didn't like it. It has to be extremely hard to revive a property like this. On top of that, you have fans that would almost rather be disappointment. They don't want to like it no matter what you give them. Here, I don't see that. The fans are wanting to embrace this wholeheartedly from the get go...
Jason Dohring: I know, but we could have so made that mistake. We could have rested on our laurels. 'Hey, we made all this money, so lets just have some fun and shoot a movie in L.A.' Or whatever. But we really cared about what we did. To promote something that is not great is hard. It's cool to have this project. Everyone working on it is so proud. Its great to be able to pump it up. I think the fans are going to go absolutely crazy for it, which is great.
What were some of the challenges of rediscovering Logan Echolls for yourself. How did you find who he used to be, while also allowing time to have passed for the character, who is in a different place than when we last saw him?
Jason Dohring: Yeah, dude. Rob Thomas knew what he wanted to make, and it was there in the script. He knew what he wanted, in terms of the directing, the acting, everything. This is his exchange with the fans for their help. Obviously, we would take every scene, and we would try to find cool things you could do with it. But in Rob Thomas' scripts, there is already a lot there. You don't have to hunt for stuff, because the script does a lot for you. Does that make sense? In setting up relationships, that's there. The dialogue is good all by itself. You know what I mean? If you've seen the show, you know it's very witty. There is banter back and forth. We have to capture that. Sometimes, you'll add your own stuff on top of that, and you'll get really crackling stuff. That's what the audience loves. Our relationships, this dialogue. That will definitely come across in the film. And then you have all of these cameos you will know if you are familiar with the TV show. All of the characters that people loved from the show try to make it back.
Now, you mentioned that there is a spin-off and a webseries in the works. What's next for Veronica Mars? Where do you guys go from here?
Jason Dohring: I'm sure that Rob, dude...He always has ideas. We'll see how this movie does. In our minds, it was already a success just in the way that it was funded. Also because we think the fans are really going to love it. That is going to be my yardstick in how I judge it. I hope the people that love the show like it, and the people that donated to the movie love it. Anything beyond that would be fantastic. But I think we have everything poised to be a really good film. I don't know that I've seen anything else like this. We will keep it going if Rob wants to do an additional movie.
Maybe you can do it like Before Sunrise, where you come back every ten or fifteen years, and we find out where these characters are in each decade.
Jason Dohring: Yeah, that would be great. I'm sure we'll keep a twist on those things. It's already something you'll see with this film. It's all the characters, and it's been ten years since we last saw them. A lot of us haven't seen each other in ten years, so it's a reunion in that sense. There are those relationships and the emotions that underline it. The fact that we all have each other is going to bring something very...I guess its something that fans want to see, and it's interesting. What is that like? How does that all play out? We'll see...