Jason Dohring Interview: The Actor’s Role in a Crowdfunding Campaign

The paradigm of Kickstarter success that over-worked, exhausted aspiring moviemakers cling to in their darkest moments—a beacon of hope in during the inevitable 20-day slump—is the Veronica Mars campaign. With the film opening in theaters this weekend, actor Jason Dohring speaks to us about his part in the wild success.

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Created by Rob Thomas, the original 2004 TV-series was about an ass-kicking teenage private-eye (House of Lies and Frozen actress Kristen Bell). The series lasted for three seasons before being cancelled in 2007 by the CW. This did not stop the fans from wanting more, however, as they, and Thomas, continued to push for a Veronica Mars film. Their wish was granted in 2013, as the project was green-lit for a Kickstarter campaign.

$5.7 million later, and the “Veronica Mars Movie Project” has become one of the most successful in Kickstarter history. With 91,585 thousand backers, “Veronica Mars” holds the record for most contributors. It is also the fastest Kickstarter to reach first one million… and then two (it took 10 hours). Now, on the eve of its theatrical and VOD release, Jason Dohring, who plays Veronica’s bad-boy love interest, Logan Echolls, is here to talk about the film, the actor’s role in a successful Kickstarter campaign, and what lies ahead.

Alexandra Eide, MovieMaker Magazine (MM): MovieMaker often focuses on how to run a successful Kickstarter campaign, and we know that most of the work happens before the campaign itself begins. Were you around for any of the pre-campaign strategizing and preparation? And what was your role after the Kickstarter launched?

Jason Dohring (JD): I wish I could take credit for it, but it was pretty much Rob’s idea with Kristin [Bell]. I think the way he did it was very smart, because he could have had people just put it up, but he put together these really fun prizes for people. For $50 you could get a Veronica Mars movie T-Shirt, a DVD of the movie and regular updates with behind-the-scenes stuff, which was pretty cool. For $200 you could get a signed poster from the cast. We are going to wind up doing 5500 of those. If we do one every six seconds it is going to take us 14-16 hours to complete. I just finished mine, and it took me three weeks total. And all the way up to our $10,000 backer, who actually had a line in the movie. So the way it was strategized was very smart and cool. My father even bought private screening for him and fifty of his friends, so even my dad kicked in!

MM: I know fans have been pushing for more Veronica Mars ever since the show ended, and that the movie has been in the works for a while now, but at what point did you realize the movie was actually going to happen?

JD: Probably the day the campaign launched, because that was when we made our goal. We were going to have the campaign going for 30 days and as it turns out we made it in one day. As soon as we did that, we knew what we were doing and that over the summer we would be shooting this movie.

rs_634x945-140110122132-634.veronica-mars.cm.11013MM: What was your reaction when you reached the goal?

JD: I had no idea that we would raise that kind of money. I think that the show took on a life of its own even after it was off the air; because it was a good show, had great characters, a great story, and a very smart female lead that always kicked ass and wound up coming through at the end. I think people liked that and told their friends. I have had many people who didn’t watch the show when was on come up to me in the last few months and say “I just started watching it” but now are caught up before the movie. It’s wonderful because we spent so much time and effort in making it special, so when people go back and watch the DVDs, we’re happy. We put so much into the show. It was our lives, you know, this was the first real big job for most of us, right after high school. We put everything we knew about acting into it, and appreciate it when people enjoy the show because we worked hard on it.

MM: As an actor you contributed to the Kickstarter through videos and such. What was that like? What are the different ways an actor who is very invested in a campaign can help the effort?

JD: I think fans want to be involved on an individual and on a personal basis. When you do things on Twitter, or go out and meet fans, or have them on set, it strengthens the goodwill towards you and any projects you do in the future. It serves you well to stay in touch with your fans. That is a big part as you move forward in the changing climate in the ways movies are made, where you can foster those relationships and let people enjoy the process, let them have a voice, and a say, and include them. I see that as a continuing cycle or circle with our fans that comes from us putting good work into the show, and then they appreciate it, and then we give them more, and so on.

MM: Was promoting a crowdfunder different from promoting a TV show?  From what you have said so far it seems like social media has changed everything within the industry, with Twitter, Facebook and such.

JD: Yeah for sure! I mean I’m in the Ritz-Carlton right now instead of in a little hotel in San Diego, so things are looking up! This is a much bigger project than I have been associated with before. I don’t have a Twitter account, but I did my first live-tweeting session a few weeks ago, and it was fantastic. We have an Instagram takeover for Veronica Mars today [March 7, 2014], and it’s just awesome. And I think we are breaking the mold, because we are releasing the film [theatrically] on March 14, and are simultaneously putting it on iTunes, so everyone around the world will be able to see Veronica Mars, which is amazing.

MM: Now that you have gone through this experience, do you have any advice on how to beg gracefully, not just in crowdfunding, but in seeking investment or sponsorship, or just in life?

JD: Gosh, you know, I hate that. It [can be] ugly to ask for money. I  have a conflict in my mind with how I would go about it if I were to raise money for something. But it’s an enthusiastic thing, and I think it’s a labor of love, and if people get that sense they are willing to help you. So it’s like, “Create something cool, include people, have fun with them and give them updates.” If you have a chore for your project, and you like what you’re doing, I think in general people will support you and give goodwill toward your projects.

MM: What is your favorite part about playing Logan Echolls?

JD: My favorite part is the force he uses and carries with him, and could lash out with at any second. I really enjoy that, coupled with the emotions of the character volatility wise, and with Kristin as a love story. I think between the two it’s really a dream role, because Rob was always mixing those two roles together, the bad boy and the love story, and whenever one would get too much he would throw in the other one to kind of upset it. That was just awesome to play. I had so much fun with this character. It was my first real role and longest running role, and I put everything I knew about acting into this guy. At the time I was trying new things, and taking what I learned in acting class and then driving down to San Diego to put it on film. You know people responded, and that made me more loose and confident, and I continued that through the series.

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MM: What other projects are you working on at the moment? I know you recently finished shooting an indie movie.

JD: Yeah I did, and it comes out at the end of the year. It’s called The Squeeze and is based on a true story – a sports movie. I also did some work Canada recently. You know, this press tour will be taking over our lives for the next couple of weeks, and this is probably the most enjoyment I have ever had on a tour because there is no real work involved, it is just a couple interviews, and seeing our fans. I think I will look back on this moment as one of the great moments of my life, you know?

MM: Before you go, what would you like to say to all the Marshmallows out there?

JD: Probably just thank you for the project. Because there is no way that we would be able to do what we are doing without them. And the thank you would be that Rob made a good movie for them, and hopefully it will be what they expect and be good enough exchange where they feel their money went to a good cause. We were all fighting for it, fighting to make it good, so we hope they enjoy it. I hope they will. I saw it two weeks ago I’ve been telling people – maybe I’m setting your hopes to high, but I think it’s like a nine. And I’m pretty critical, so I think that’s pretty awesome. We really made something good, and it wasn’t like a sure thing, but we did it somehow, so I’m super excited for the fans for this one.

MM: Is there any hope for another movie?

JD:  I know Rob has talked about that, and I think that we would love to continue this story. I know Rob always continues to write something interesting and new to play, and for me I get to play this character, which is the best character really I have ever played, so I think there is no problem in me coming back for that, as long as schedules permit and there is interest from the audience. MM

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Veronica Mars is released theatrically and on VOD March, 14, courtesy of Warner Bros.

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