On Friday, Warners sent out a twitter missive into the world thanking fans for sending them support for Veronica Mars – the erstwhile show about the plucky teenage detective solving cases while she solved her own. In return, the studio set up an email address where fans can write in (ostensibly to give numeric proof that the demand for a movie is there).
Warners shouldn’t wait for that numeric proof. They’ve gone that route before by looking at ratings for a show that was on a network no one’s heard of and by looking at DVD sales. The numbers aren’t there, but the character is, and when good writing is staring you in the face, that writing should be reason enough to make things happen.
Since that’s the least convincing business argument, here are three better reasons for why Warners needs to make a move on Veronica Mars.
1. It’s Cheap
In 2008, Warners gave $35 million to director Todd Phillips along with casting carte blanche. The result was The Hangover. I’m not pointing the Veronica Mars bat at the fences here, but the correlation is a pretty easy one. There’s no one in the cast that demands a huge payday (not even Kristen Bell), and with the right director attached, there could be a really low roll of the dice when it comes to investment.
There’s no way that the script for a Veronica Mars film (which is already written) isn’t already a medium budget since it’s mostly people talking on college campuses and in nice homes. The point? You won’t need to buy tigers or grid shots of Las Vegas. $35 million might be the total budget even with advertising included, and it might even be lower.
As for directors, you have several who are fans of the show. Joss Whedon will have a larger directorial star rising during and after The Avengers, and he’s the kind of creative mind that might jump at the chance here. Kevin Smith is in a similar boat, and fans might get to find out what he can do with a halfway decent script he didn’t write. On the other side of the fence is Rian Johnson who continues to steadily gain traction as an artist and known entity. If Brick doesn’t automatically put him on the short list, it’s unclear what would. All of these directors would be at the right moments in their career to take on something like this and knock it out of the park without breaking the bank.
2. It’s Not That Well Known
Pick your blown mind off the ground and consider this: not being on the mass public radar can be a good thing. If the fairly clean slate is used to craft and shape something truly commercial from it while maintaining its unique nature, there’s a shot at greatness here without the pesky expectations game from the public at large. This is a chance for Warners to introduce Veronica Mars to the world as their own, create the image for it in marketing, and to build a broader fan base without sacrificing any of the charm that brought in the original core audience. This internet challenge for fans to send in emails is quaint (if not a little baffling), and it’s highly doubtful that the studio will spend millions simply because a bunch of people write in “I <3 Veronica.”
Is there a challenge with almost unknown material? Of course, but sometimes you don’t get to bite into the pizza before you order it. Warners is known as being a studio that takes more risks, and they’ve grown wealthy because of that fact.
If Warners can adapt The Losers and Jonah Hex – two minor comic books with moderate sales, they can adapt a television show that had 2.5 million people tuning in every week. Plus, marketing a PG-13 movie about a young attractive college student who solves crime on the side is light years easier than selling Jonah Hex, and you can make the film with half the budget.
However, if that viewership doesn’t seem high enough to warrant a film version, the flipside is the chance here to create a unique franchise and put the Warners stamp on it. Treat this as an original idea. Start with the script, and then build upwards. Show creator Rob Thomas has spoken before about a lack of enthusiasm coming from Warners about the prospect, but publicly it seems like all of it is based on the numbers. That’s a shame, because while executives are being underwhelmed by the size of the core fanbase, they should really be focusing on the size of the wad of potential they hold in their hands. Potential that they can actively shape into success.
Plus, the marketing department is probably just itching for the challenge of introducing something to the public creatively.
3. If Warners Doesn’t, Someone Else Will
The person with the most blame on his shoulders for the lack of a Veronica Mars movie in this world is Rob Thomas. We live in a world where Gareth Edwards can take a fraction of a million dollars and create a road trip sci-fi movie complete with CGI monsters. We live in a world where Sebastian Gutierrez can get his friends together on a weekend to shoot a beautiful-looking, stylized dramatic comedy. We live in a world where sooner or later, Rob Thomas is going to get wise to that and just go make the damned thing on his own.
Either that, or some independent player will toss in a few million and reap the profits even if they don’t extend sales beyond the fanbase. This isn’t the casting monster that the Arrested Development movie is. Kristen Bell remains the top name on the ticket, and it seems logical that she could clear the schedule to take a vacation from the cookie cutter romantic comedy vapidness that she somehow got mired in.
Last week, I made the connection between the upcoming Miley Cyrus vehicle So Undercover and the death of the Veronica Mars possibility, but I’ve rethought the position (considering especially this seemingly random new development), and the truth is that the Cyrus vehicle proves that there’s an interest to see a tough, street-smart young female investigator out there. Here’s a chance to do the theme better. A little competition might actually help stir the pot for whomever ends up making the movie.
I have to assume that the continual chorus of Warners’ semi-interest is placed there by their relationship with Joel Silver and Silver Pictures, but if Thomas and Silver really want to see this on film, they’ll find a willing partner and be counting the profits themselves.
We Used to Be Friends
The project is well known enough to have a larger core fan base than most indie comic book films (that’s not an invitation to arbitrarily make a graphic novel first to launch from), but it’s small enough to still be molded by whomever takes it on. It’s dramatic enough to have depth without sneaking out of the PG-13 safety zone. It’s relatively inexpensive with the potential of healthy returns. It has a readily available star, core ensemble, and plenty of spare roles for interesting casting choices. The writing is smart, hip, and has appeal beyond the teen market. The script is done, and there’s a creative team in place eager to make this happen.
It doesn’t come more gift-wrapped than that.
Warners is a company that is replacing its Harry Potter cash cow wit the untested DC Comics model, but will need to continue to be innovative in order to maintain its success. They would make a great home for this project, but if they can’t work up the enthusiasm to enjoy the challenge of it and the complete ease of it all, then hopefully Thomas will find the freedom to shop it elsewhere, give the fans what they want (and future fans what they don’t know they want yet), and make money in the process.
If those arguments are still not enough, Warners has the chance here to resurrect Harry Hamlin’s career. Shouldn’t that really be job number one?
What do you think?