Since being founded in 2009, Kickstarter has raised more than $500 million for some 35,000 creative projects. The "Veronica Mars" film is far and away its most lucrative movie project.
Earlier this year, the documentary short film "Inocente" became the first Kickstarter-backed Oscar-winner, having raised about $52,000 on the platform. Kickstarter has drawn several big Hollywood names, including David Fincher (a producer of an animated project that raised more than $440,000) and Charlie Kaufman (whose short animated film "Anomalisa" brought in $406,000).
Some have derided Kickstarter's growing influence (Gawker lamented its "online panhandling"), but few would argue it's been a positive force for getting dozens of films made in an industry landscape that can be brutal for independent filmmakers.
Thomas admits some of the talk of the "revolutionary" impact of the "Veronica Mars" Kickstarter campaign has been "an overreach," but he hopes it leads to more low-budget films finding their way in the world.
"I don't know that I would bet that a Kickstarter model starts to work across the board and that everyone who wants to make a $3, 4, 5 million movie can expect to go to Kickstarter and get financed," he said. "When there is a brand name product that people have responded to and want to see and there's already a built in following for it, people can be very successful. I hope that in that respect we are pioneers and we see more of them."
Many are already seeing new potential to capitalize on small but dedicated fan support. (On the CW, "Veronica Mars" averaged less than 2.5 million viewers.) Shawn Ryan, whose FX drama "Terriers" was canceled in 2010 after one season, tweeted that he was "very interested" in the "Veronica Mars" Kickstarter campaign. "Could be a model for a 'Terriers' wrap up film," he said.
Thomas also co-created another canceled show — the Starz cult comedy "Party Down" — that may be reborn as a film. He's still hopeful that will happen, but says funding is already lining up more traditionally.
In the meantime, he's hoping the Kickstarter contributions keep coming. More money means being able to shoot in Southern California (where the show was set) and gradual boosts in production value. The screenplay, of which he has 37 pages written, features a 10-year high school reunion for Mars' Neptune High — a gathering that will include inevitable strife.
"In the barebones version, angry words would have been exchanged," says Thomas. "We're now starting to look comfortable enough to say there will be a brawl."
It already promises to be a different kind of filmmaking experience. He'll have 100-plus Kickstarter contributors to use as extras. A documentary on the making of the movie has begun tracking Thomas with cameras. And the production schedule has been built to include two days purely for Thomas, Bell and others to sign the thousands of movie posters and other items they've promised their Kickstarter backers.
Follow AP Entertainment Writer Jake Coyle on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/jake_coyle