Battlestar Galactica Reboot Crowdsourced

The news last week that Universal has tapped Bryan Singer to helm a box office reboot of Battlestar Galactica struck me as a strange notion. The Sci-Fi Channel four season BSG series just ended. The series as a whole has a dedicated and adoring following. And to top it all off, there is a BSG narrative filler movie in the works with most of the principle cast, and the prequel series Caprica in production.

Now, the studio wants to reinvent the wheel by producing a new BSG story line with a big-name director/producer that doesn’t connect to David Eick and Ronald D. Moore’s improvement on Glen Larson’s original concept. I can understand how a movie studio would want to cash in on a hot property. However, I believe that there is more to this announcement, and only time will tell to what extent my hunch is true.

I suspect that this announcement is simply the studio’s crowdsourcing its marketing research. Immediately following the announcement, many folks (myself included) online immediately put fingers to keys to decry or question the reasoning behind this new project. A dedicated support staff with the right tools could easily chart and study the responses to this “proposed” project through active blogging, commenting, and Twittering. Obviously, any movie scale project needs to appeal to a wider audience than the SF crowd to make as much money as the studios executives desire (which is a fault in the current movie production and distribution system than a universal rule), but the online debate regarding a project such as this could give producers the information to either kill or further the project internally.

I do not believe that this second BSG reboot is the first project to be silently crowdsourced in this manner. In recent years, there have been a number of films announced that eventually fall into “development hell,” or even worse, a bottomless abyss following a hot flurry of blogosphere talk regarding how bad or undesirable a film may be. That being said, I also do not believe that studios may choose exclusively to listen to fandom prior to greenlighting a project (the majority of Eddie Murphy films are a case in point). I think it just bears repeating that studios are about exploitation, and that the possibility of crowdsourced movie development is a form of exploitation of the fan community most likely to eventually pay to see the films. However, this exploitation does give the community a greater voice in what is produced for them to see in theaters, but at the cost of not knowing without a doubt that their voices may in part determine what makes it way to the screen.

I am curious to see how this project develops following the recent posts around the web about how misguided Universal is. Perhaps the project will disappear, or the studio will claim that it was viral marketing for something else. Or, the studio will proceed without heeding the clamoring yells beneath its dingy tower.

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Jason W. Ellis

I am an Associate Professor of English at the New York City College of Technology, CUNY whose teaching includes composition and technical communication, and research focuses on science fiction, neuroscience, and digital technology. Also, I direct the B.S. in Professional and Technical Writing Program and coordinate the City Tech Science Fiction Collection, which holds more than 600 linear feet of magazines, anthologies, novels, and research publications.