Firefly Fan Films Roundup

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pennausamike

Sr Member
RPF FFF Roundup Intro

As with my collection thread
here I am rebuilding a Firefly/ Serenity reference thread for the third time. I originally created the Firefly Fan Film Roundup to have an all-in-one-place reference for those interested in fan films in the Firefly ‘verse.

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By the time I put it together for the first time, there were already a few efforts for whom there was perhaps only a name in a fan film list, and whose project websites had already disappeared off the internet. I didn’t include them then (or now) because those films existed only as a title at that point. In the decade since I first put up the Roundup list, a few more of the films have gone MIA. But I’ll include them here, still, since I feel they were a part of the scene at one point in time. And if there is SOME visual record, even if it is just some behind-the-scenes photos, screencaps and/ or a DVD in my collection. I think this is the most complete Firefly fan film (FFF) listing because in addition to my own efforts over the years, a number of other Browncoat fans have found and notified me of films they have found tucked away on the web. First is a list of the FFF that I have seen or found information on:

Mosquito – 2005: A parody short film about a too quickly cancelled space-western
Bellflower – 2005 to current: This is a feature length story being released in segments as work is completed
Into the Black – 2006: A feature length film that was mostly shot, but never completed
Operation Bloody Station – 2006: A short film of Alliance science gone awry.
Faith of a Man – 2006: A short cosplay performance essay about the effects of war and defeat on a person.
Albatross Blooper Reel – 2007: The remaining footage from a project abandoned after the first day of filming.
Big Iron – 2008: A short film that halted production, leaving only their MySpace page.
Fool Me Twice – 2008: My own FFF that made it as far as a script, props and wardrobe.
Across the Black - 2009-ish: A battle between Alliance and Independents where all is lost.
Reaverized – 2010: A short film of still more Alliance science gone awry.
The Game – 2010: A short cosplay film plus a blooper reel.
Freedom: The Series – 2010: Started out as a FFF, but was removed from the Firefly IP out of fear for a C&D.
Courage: The Series – 2010: A series that announced big, but ran out of steam after one episode.
Ruins of Du Khang – 2010: A feature film with extremely limited release.
Browncoats: Redemption - 2010: A feature fan film for charity, made with studio permission.
Cache – 2011: A film festival short, filmed in a day.
STAND - 2011: This back-burner project receives occasional attention with a “hopefully someday” release.
Operation Night Watch – 2014: A short film intended to double as an ad for the CSTS event.
The Verse – 2014: The most professional of all the FFF’s, this quasi-official release was backed by Loot Crate.
Browncoats: Independence War 2015: Simply the most ambitious FFF feature.
Firefly: The Animated Adventures Trailer – 2016: The title says it all for this neat little piece of work.
Apache Kid and the Browncoat Rebels – 2017: Another Film Festival short.
The Faithful Companion - 2019: A character-driven short film.
Shadows on the Wind – 2020: This well-made short overcame years of challenges to deliver on its promise.
Heritage – 2020: This interesting short lived largely in green-screen environments.
Out of the Valley – 2020: A first time effort that shows lots of promise.

and two that don’t fit the usual FFF categories
Done the Impossible
Browncoats of Penzance

So, there you have it; a list of 28 fan-made films meant to live in, expand, or pay tribute to the Firefly ‘verse. For the most part, Firefly fan films can be broken into two production types and three story-telling categories.

The production-types would be:
1: The group of friends who have some costumes and props, a video camera, a short story to tell, and a few weekends to make a film. With the editing tools available to a home computer user, these “home movies” can do a nice job of telling their story.
2: The full-on, write a script, build elaborate sets, incorporate special effects, upgraded camera and sound equipment, search for talent for in-front-of and behind the camera, invest some serious effort on post-production, and make a quality short or a feature length film.

The three story-categories, as I see them, are:
1: Fan-made and acted stories featuring the original crew from “Firefly”.
2: Stories about other characters in the ‘verse, but the characters and story circumstances mimic the original show. Older ship, crew as found family, hard-scrabble life, rebel past, character with an opposite sex name, folks got secrets, etc.
3: Stories in the ‘verse, but featuring characters in occupations and situations outside the “run down transport” milieu.

The two exceptions would be “Done the Impossible”, which is a documentary about the early days of the Browncoat fan movement, from Firefly days to just prior to the release of the BDM, “Serenity”; and the “Browncoats of Penzance”, which is a full-length stage musical that was filmed.

At the early stages of the Firefly fan film creation, every FFF, (even the ones that introduced new characters), mimicked the show, most nearly beat for beat. There are many other Firefly ‘verse stories to tell. Story arcs exploring the reach and machinations of Blue Sun, tales of Companions and politics, dissatisfactions within the Alliance; the Firefly ‘verse is rich with story ideas beyond a simple “peril-of-the-week-for-the-crew”. Stories about cops and robbers and Companions and politics and business could all be shot with costumes and props. The efforts could be put into the tales themselves and creating new ‘versey vistas. Building spaceship sets is expensive. NOT taking the “an older ship with a ragtag crew, secrets, rebel past, etc., etc” path would be more of an exercise in personal creativity than mimicking Firefly’s story parameters and then trying to make it feel different. While that may be what Firefly was “about” for some or many Browncoats; for me, Joss Whedon’s Firefly ‘verse was so much more. With official studio participation seemingly over, it is up to the fans to grow the ‘verse.
 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
Mosquito – 2005: A parody short film about a too quickly cancelled space-western.

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The first ever FFF “Mosquito”, is a fictional look back on a fictional series-that-never-was featurette with clips from the “show” and cast and crew interviews. Or at least interviews with fictional-character actors talking about their fictional “Mosquito” characters.

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Libidos run high and IQ’s are low

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on this spaceship that looks suspiciously like an abandoned industrial building.

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The characters are all essentially off-kilter versions of the Serenity crew, with "Kaylee" being the closest match.

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“Mosquito” transitioned to a web comic of 64 episodes, with the last post in 2009.

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The original website is long gone, but a fan did post the video on a hosting page.

 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
Bellflower – 2005 to current: This is a feature length story being released in segments as work is completed.

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There is some question whether Australian “Bellflower” or Canadian “Into the Black” is the first FFF feature-length project. I’m giving the nod to “Bellflower”, in part, because the Bell is still flying. Although the original plan was to release a feature-length film, it took about seven years for video to start being released in short episodes. “Bellflower” started out with a core group of looks-to-be a dozen or so, but as the years since set building and principle photography have rolled by, the torch has mostly been carried by one guy, with a little help on the CGI.

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The CGI, by the way, is lovely to look at. The ship’s captain walks up to a glass faced door, with the spaceport and city behind her reflected in the glass.

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The attention to visual detail is one reason that the post production is taking so long; in addition to the usual real-life challenges that always threaten these small, one-man-doing-the-work-of-dozens productions. I have a special fondness for “Bellflower” because my impression is that all or most involved had little-to-none in the way of filmmaking experience when they decided to show their love for the ‘verse with this extremely ambitious undertaking.
They built extensive sets including a cargo bay,

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cockpit

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and living area for their Sandfly-class spaceship,

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a cool engine room with a rotating Capissan 38 engine,

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passenger room,

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settler ship,

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a space station bazaar as seen in the Firefly episode “The Message”

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and did location shooting at a warehouse, spaceport “postal office”, and a homestead. As is common with many of these small films, the actors are the crew and vice-versa.

teaser trailer

trailer

Pre-production montage

And the film itself.
Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3

Episode 4
 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
“Into the Black” – 2006: A feature length film that was mostly shot, but never completed.

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This also-early effort is another example of the “smugglers with a run-down ship, crew’s got secrets, character with an opposite sex name, etc” that seemed to define the beginning of the FFF movement.

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Much like “Bellflower”, “Into the Black” built some pretty impressive sets for their spaceship, and for all intents and purposes have completed the principal photography.

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As I understand it, the biggest drivers behind “Into the Black” having never been finished are the fact that the film was shot on digital tape, and, there isn’t really anyone with the means or ambition to convert it and then do the post production work. Also, so much time has passed, and the actors have moved on and moved away, and they don’t look like they did when filming was done in 2006; that it is impossible to shoot any pick-up shots if needed. It is easy to imagine a scenario where some interested party could gather everything up, convert it, add some effects, color-correct and try to clean up the sound, edit it together and release it.

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But this, “a little of this and some of that” work represents the hundreds-if-not-thousands of hours that killed my FFF “Fool Me Twice” and that has kept “Bellflower” in post-production for at least 8 years now. So sadly, I think the short clips and behind the scenes footage of “Into the Black” is most likely all we’ll ever see.

2007 summer trailer

Final Trailer (which is better, but I haven't found it yet.)

Into the Black on Global National News

Christmas Special

2010 CSTS video shot after the cockpit set was moved and set up in a new location

And the Into the Black Youtube channel:


which oddly doesn't have their longer, better trailer.
 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
“Operation Bloody Station” – 2006: A short film of Alliance science gone awry.

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From Alien and Fatman Productions comes a ten and a half minute FFF about a new operation that has been initiated by Alliance Scientists to remove the Reavers’ aggressive tendencies.

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This undertaking is known as Operation Restoration.

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Yep…that went well.

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The film is still up.
 

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pennausamike

Sr Member
“Faith of a Man” – 2006: A short cosplay monologue about the effects of war and defeat on a person.

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It is a story based on a piece of fan fiction written by Obsidiana Girl.

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An early description reads, “Faith of a Man” reveals one man's reflections of a civil war. As a captain on the losing side, this man is privileged to have had the opportunity to reflect on such experiences, and therefore finds his beliefs to be enlightened through hindsight.

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The video is gone, I think. I found it buried on some site years ago, but have no link or recollection where that was.
 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
“Albatross” Blooper Reel – 2007: The remaining footage from a project abandoned after the two days of filming.



To be honest, I’m not sure if this is meant to be a blooper reel assembled from what was going to be a real FFF, or if this is sort of like “Mosquito” where the outtakes ARE the film? Either way, this is very much a “kids with a video camera have some fun” kind of project.

 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
“Big Iron” – 2008: A short film that halted production, leaving only their MySpace page.

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I haven’t seen a lick of footage, but this was meant to be a real story based on the song, “Big Iron”.

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Word was they had filmed 2 of 14 planned scenes at the point they gave up.

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Hey, who am I to talk. My film “Fool Me Twice” never made it past a couple of table reads.
 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
And speaking of
“Fool Me Twice” – 2008: My own FFF that made it as far as a script, props and wardrobe.

Sometimes I don’t even include this failure to launch in FFF lists because so little was done. But then I’ll get to looking back on a few of the people who were interested in or influenced by my efforts; and think about what the project offers as a topic for discussion, and, well, to quote Jubal Early, “Here I am.” I won't distract from this thread with yet another re-hash of pics and description. There are prop examples in my collection thread, and I started an RPF thread back in the day.

Triple F, FFF, Firefly Fan Film

I conceived of and wrote “Fool Me Twice” with the idea that it would be a one man show for the most part. I tried to keep things simple with the idea that most folks would only be able to contribute a few days here-and-there, and I expected to draw my extras from the two dozen or so PA Browncoats who were fairly active at that time. I planned on a 3-weekend shooting schedule for a 27 minute film. I expected to have literally a handful of practical effects for a gun battle, two CGI scenes of the IAV Dortmunder (a test clip for which is still online, somewhere, I think) and to fill in the blanks with sound and light effects. Easy-peasy; right? Uh, no.

And I have a FB page, but I’m thinking I’ll probably close that. I turned the script into a short story and posted it on the now defunct ffprop.net page, but that is probably the only public exposure I plan for “Fool Me Twice”. Hey, the Powerball odds are only 292 million to one, so there’s still a chance it’ll get made!





In a senior moment, I forgot to leave a space for
"Across the Black" - 2009-ish: A battle between Alliance and Independents where all is lost.

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This seems like sort of an "older kids with a video camera have some fun” kind of project.

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This film made it as far as a trailer


and a "we are Browncoats" segment in "Browncoats: Redemption"

 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
“Reaverized” – 2010: A short film of still more Alliance science gone awry.

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Another completed fan film by a western US group going by Illusionext. In a home movie style production using the Firefly series characters; Mal, Jayne and River go on a job. River gets distracted...then kidnapped.

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Mal and Jayne have to go get her back.

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This three-and-one-half minute story is what it is; a simple story filmed simply. But it is well done and the sound quality, while not theatrical, IS consistent; something some of the higher aspiring films didn’t achieve. The camera work and editing also does a fine job of advancing the story; better, once again, than some of the work done by groups with access to better equipment.

 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
“The Game” – 2010: A short cosplay film plus a blooper reel.

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Another “kids with a video camera have some fun”, home movie style video that just sort of popped out of nowhere from a group of high-school aged Browncoats in New Jersey. The story involves fan actors playing the original Firefly characters.

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Including Badger and some extra bad guys.

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Serenity is definitely looking a little rough :)

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Like “Reaverized”, it is what it is. Some of the camera work, editing and acting is very good, some not so much.
From the Director: "The set was built in my garage and the props were mostly made of plumbers epoxy hahaha. and the camera work was done with a homemade steadi cam haha. I'd like to see you do better with $200.00 and three days!"

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But I found “The Game” a very watchable fifteen minutes.


Plus twelve and a half minutes of outtakes/ bloopers.

 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
“Freedom: The Series” – 2010: Started out as a FFF, but was removed from the Firefly IP out of fear for a C&D.

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Although I understand the motivation behind Illusionext taking the story out of the ‘verse for fear of IP infringement problems, I wonder if that will also take away the audience. In my area, a group wanted to do a Star Trek film, but created their own universe for, I think, the same reasons. Their pseudo Star Trek movie was Dark Operations. That path is a double-edged sword for such efforts. They have more freedom to tell their story, but fewer people are willing to emotionally invest in an amateur production. At the time I think I saved a bunch of ship design and costume images; but that is so many computers (and crashes) ago that I don't know that I have anything left more than the one I posted.

I found their old blog page, but even some of the images are gone:


and they have a FB page, but there is no mention of "Freedom"


but Reaverized is still on there.
 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
“Courage: The Series” – 2010: A series that announced big, but ran out of steam after one episode.

Another, older ship,

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crew as found family, hard-scrabble life, character with an opposite sex name, folks got secrets, etc.

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Courage flamed to life with cinematic aspirations, decent film equipment, and no budget or filmmaking sensibilities. Courage aired a five-minute first episode that suffered from too many flaws to encourage future production. So, Courage has ceased to be, and even the five-minute episode has been taken down. On the plus side, Courage brought forward some excellent talent that has moved on to other projects. They were planning to create their ship as green screen. The CGI they released at least hinted that was possible.

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The only thing left, is the trailer.


And some info sites



 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
“The Ruins of Du Khang” – 2010: A feature film with extremely limited release

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Was originally “Firefly: The Ruins of Du-Khang”, but word is they were C&D’d to remove “Firefly” from the title. “The Ruins of Du-Khang” is about an older ship, but the crew dynamic is quite different than the original crew from Firefly.

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The production values aspire to a higher end feature film, but “The Ruins of Du-Khang” bounces between higher end elements, (equipment, locations, fight choreography),

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and some aspects that aren’t even on par with the home movie productions, (some sets, effects, costumes and story clarity).

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Released only as a DVD, the only thing online are two trailers


 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
“Browncoats: Redemption” - 2010: A feature fan film for charity, made with studio permission.

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This is the first full-on feature to be finished. The co-creators of “Browncoats: Redemption” had the original idea of making their film an approved not-for-profit charitable organization. On the plus side, they could collect donations of cash, goods and services to make their movie, and they can sell DVD’s of their completed film without fear of receiving a cease-and-desist notice from the Intellectual Property owners of FOX and Universal. The downside is that there was no room for failure once the filmmakers made themselves accountable to other folks. “Browncoats: Redemption” set a release date for 2010 DragonCon, which gave them a little less than two years from concept to finished film. Sounds like a lot of time to put ninety minutes on film, (or digital video), but for a part time undertaking with volunteer crews and actors, that is really pushing.

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A large part of any fan film is locating and coordinating resources. “Browncoats: Redemption” made use of donated locations, borrowed props and costumes, catch-as-catch-can cameos and a ten day shooting schedule to finish their film on time.

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Some of the flaws in the film are the result of first-time filmmaker inexperience, and some, like inconsistencies in the sound, are the result of pushing to make the deadline. “Browncoats: Redemption" is another take on the older ship, crew as found family, hard-scrabble life, character with an opposite sex name, folks got secrets, etc.

Teaser Trailer


Trailer


Final Trailer (showing off some of cameos acquired by "Done The Impossible" creator, Brian Wiser.)


A "making of" video


Presentation of the check to Equality Now and Joss Whedon


My part in all this is that I lent 4 gray BDU's, 3 sets of SST armor, 1 SST helmet, 3 of my East German Alliance helmets, and an Alliance officer uniform with jacket, pants and a flat hat (which the actress who was supposed to wear it apparently wouldn't, because she carried it until a scene where she threw it on the ground as a sign of scripted disgust.) And therein lies a tale, why I have an axe to grind with BC:R. When they first started up, I offered to lend them my four sets of Alliance armor. They TOTALLY blew me off saying that they were going to vacuform a dozen sets of their own armor, so run along, sonny. A few months later I get this panicked email saying they need to pick up my armor TOMORROW.
REALLY?!
Because they expressed no interest, I had made no effort to finish up one set of armor and two of the SST helmets. I also had everything packed away; best I could do was two days. "Yes, great, anything; we're desperate." So I got together the aforementioned 4 gray BDU's, 3 sets of SST armor, 1 SST helmet, 3 of my East German Alliance helmets, and an Alliance officer uniform with jacket, pants and flat hat.
They used all of it, because all they had was one set of SST armor without even a helmet.

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When the first BC:R film credits roll,
I have a costume assistant credit under WARDROBE.
In BC:R Remastered, they changed WARDROBE to COSTUMING and removed my credit.
Sooo, they blew me off, begged for my help, (which I gave), and then removed my on-screen credit.

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Sigh........

There is certainly much more to this story, but I don't want to take away from the dozens of people who worked hard and had fun making their homage to the Firefly/ Serenity 'verse and donated to charitable causes. But there were a few self-aggrandizing, bloated egos that I feel could afford to come down a notch or two.
 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
Pennausamike's Firefly Fan Film Roundup (The interview by Tiamdala):


You've got a multipage thread at
http://fireflydvd.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=4887
about Firefly fan films. What inspired you to post it?


I originally started keeping a personal tally of the Firefly Fan Film projects for my own interest. Because I came to Browncoat fandom after the release of the BDM Serenity, I had some catching up to do. Turned out, I wasn't the only one, as I would often see forum posts of people lamenting that there were no Firefly fan films. So I created the Firefly Fan Film Roundup in order to send fellow Browncoats there by link, when they expressed an interest in FFF (Firefly Fan Films). Although obviously not on par with the hundreds of fan films made about the Star Wars or Star Trek universes, there have still been close to two dozen attempts to tell further tales of the 'verse. At this point, I believe the Roundup remains the only reference of its kind.

How did you find out about all the films? Did you find them by chance browsing the internet?

A little bit of everything. I used to spend a fair amount of time on the various Firefly forums, because it was ALL new to me, looking for information and conversation. Some of the early fan film makers were also on the forums, and would share the progress of their projects on the boards. I've also been contacted by a few Firefly fan film makers based on my prop building and collection work, and my attempt to make "Fool Me Twice". Finally, other fans come across obscure projects, let me know, and I add them to the thread.

Who is making fan films in the Firefly 'verse?

Other than the commonality of being Browncoats, Firefly Fan Film makers are a diverse lot. At the far one end of the spectrum is the band of High School friends in New Jersey who, using cardboard sets and pipe fitting props made the film, "The Game". Scattered all through the middle are fans who never made a film before, fans who make local productions for fun, fans who do part time video work for hire, fans who work at being aspiring filmmakers by doing workshops and contests, and at the opposite end of the spectrum from kids with a camcorder, are the fans making a living in the film biz looking to expand their portfolio and show a little love for the 'verse at the same time.

The thread began with its first post in March, 2010. The last post was last month, on August 30, 2016. Has anything changed between the first post and the last?

Nope, not a thing....HaHa, I'm just joking, of course. I posted my Firefly Fan Film Roundup near the end of what I call the first wave of FFF. These early projects were "FAN films" first, and "fan FILMS" second. Of those, I think "Bellflower" was first and the creator is still plugging away on (frankly amazing) CGI work and post-production a decade later. Two mostly complete episodes are up online, and the "Bell" posts sparse but steady updates on their Facebook page. "Into The Black" was started around the same time as "Bellflower", but it has fallen into the, likely-to-never-be-released, category. That's a shame, because "Into The Black" offered some nice moments in the footage released so far, and it seems like a huge shame to have invested the thousands of dollars that the makers took out of their own pockets, with nothing to show for it. The culmination of the FAN film era is "Browncoats: Redemption". The makers of BC:R put their effort out as the only studio authorized fan film by making it a charitable undertaking. The plus side to that approach is that they didn't have to look over their shoulders the whole time they were making their film. The downside is that the first time filmmakers were forced into a schedule that allowed them no time to hone their craft or their movie. Although BC:R was a fun fan experience, the reviews on IMDB have been fairly scathing because people there are rating its attributes as a movie-compared-to-other-movies.

The shortcomings and failures to finish (or even start, like "Fool Me Twice", ouch) of these early Firefly fan film efforts has seemingly pushed the next wave of makers to achieve on a higher level, and try to make FFF that stand on their own merits. The look of Browncoats: Independence War is top notch and the stunts and action staging is ambitious on a level that belies its fan film resources. The folks making "A Faithful Companion" and "Shadows On The Wind" appear to have a better handle on the craft of filmmaking than many of their predecessors. I'm looking forward to seeing if the finished product lives up to the promises; and I say that not as a challenge, but in anticipation. The quasi-official/ fan film, "The Verse" started out as an ad for the QMx/Lootcrate Firefly crate swag box. An ad? Hey, why not make a short fan film? And so the professional-looking adventures of the crew of the Overland (ship) were born. Unlike some of the earliest efforts, "The Verse" can be pulled up and shown to any average viewer without having to explain away deficiencies or cringe-worthy moments as, "Well, you know, it's ONLY a fan film."

Can you tell me a little more about your own fan film, "Fool Me Twice"?

There isn't a whole lot more to tell than what I've already posted online. Basically, I (thought I) recognized my limitations and planned a simple project accordingly. But even that has proven to require a time and organizational commitment I'm not in a position to make. I sort of shopped the project around, but, while folks would be interested in seeing "Fool Me Twice", they are (understandably) not emotionally invested enough to commit their time to making it. So, "Fool Me Twice" is basically being put out as a piece of fan-fiction.

The genie is out of the bottle. The past decade has seen the cost of equipment drop dramatically as digital innovations revolutionize the methods by which films are made. The internet provides access to a near-infinite number of viewers and promoters. These elements, in short, have made it possible for more people to make films than ever before. The existence of user-friendly websites like YouTube and Vimeo provide an easily-accessible viewing platform. Social media is drafted to handle distribution (i.e. spreading the word). Aside from legal lines one has to observe to avoid IP infringement, do you think there is little to stop people from making the films they want to see, films that Hollywood simply isn't making? It has a sort of Wild West/anything goes frontier feeling to it. I have this image of Mal (from the film) standing up and saying we all aim to misbehave, that Hollywood won't see this coming. Is this now a viable movement for consumer-created content?

It all depends on how you define "viable". First, no fan film taking place in a studio owned IP can ever be more than a curiosity. The filmmaker spends his own money to make a movie that can not even make back its own budget and is under constant threat of a Cease an Desist letter or even a lawsuit; NOT a sustainable business model. Second, for mass audiences, Hollywood has nothing to worry about, because the no-names simply have no way to gain financing on the scale to compete with the Hollywood block buster. At least for now, the masses still associate "movies" with "big budget". Even when Hollywood makes a little "indie" film, they still cost millions. Alan Tudyck starred in a little indie film called "Tucker and Dale Versus Evil" that was made for five million bucks. Part of those large budgets, for what are essentially simple films, is the hiring of large crews to handle the thousand and one small details that go into making a film. In over simplified form, a studio film can have a 100 person crew, where a fan or indie film will come down to one to a dozen people who have to handle everything from transportation to filming to post-production to making sandwiches to feed the cast and crew. It will take them many more spare time hours to finish compared to studio employees and contractors working to a schedule and a budget. It is easy to see why these independent and fan film projects stretch out over years. With these kinds of concept to release schedules, with very few exceptions, fan and indie films will never unseat the studio films. They might surprise them now and again, but they won't replace them.

Where do you think the Firefly fan films fit in this landscape and where do you envision them going?

Firefly fan films ARE slowly evolving in a way that may make them a sustainable activity. I feel that for FFF to be taken seriously as a contribution to the 'verse (and not just the target of internet trolls' amusement,) not only does the quality of the filmmaking and the acting need to come up (which has been happening), but new stories need to be told. At the time I wrote my article in December of 2010 for The Fan Film Follies, I noted that "At this point, every Firefly fan film, (even the ones that introduce new characters), mimics the show, most nearly beat for beat." An older ship…with a ragtag crew…secrets…rebel past…character with an opposite sex name, etc., etc. Over the last six years we are starting to see a LITTLE break out of that mold. Two films have explored Firefly characters' pre-show lives ( the finished "Cache" and "Shadows On The Wind" in post-production) and three have actually boldly gone where...oops wrong franchise; but, "STAND", "Browncoats: Independence War" and "Faithful Companion" are telling stories related to Firefly, but they are not mimicking Firefly. It is a tough thing to pull off because some fans will ONLY watch something that feels exactly like the source material, whereas others (like myself) like to see the source material as a jumping off point to new characters and stories. I think the biggest changes we will see are more announced projects actually being completed, and at a higher level of quality.

What is the best thing about fan films, and what is the worst?

My take on this question is that the BEST thing about fan films probably can't happen because of the WORST thing about fan films. This ties back to your question about whether it is possible for fan films to be a viable alternative to Hollywood. The answer is, the WORST thing about a fan film is that it lives in the shadow of the fact that it can stake no legal right to work in someone else's Intellectual Property. I get that the folks who invested in the creation of the original idea want to control and profit from that idea. In days gone by, that was good enough for audiences because they couldn't realistically play in the IP holder's story world. But the world has changed. No longer is a TV show seen twice a year and then never seen again unless it makes syndication. With the advent of home video players (video tape followed by DVD's) the mass market sharing of these created worlds, and now social media and crowd funding, has moved large numbers of people from passive viewers to active participants. The original Star Trek series, to my eyes at least, really marks the jumping off point of audiences wanting to become participants. Fan fiction became a real thing from the early days of Star Trek, but that was really no threat to the studios in the pre-internet days. (I wonder how many people reading this interview will not even know what a mimeographed fanzine even IS?) Now in the 21st century, the very technological leaps that empower audience participation are also the biggest threat to shutting it down. A 500 copy mimeographed fanzine is no meaningful threat to a studio property, but a well made video that can reach a worldwide market; yeah, that gets the studio legal departments in an uproar.

My solution? Studios that are making millions, and sometimes billions of dollars from the entertainment that they produce, would, in my opinion, be well served by creating departments that combine legal and creative talent to foster audience participation. Up to and including creating a sign-off procedure for the production of fan films. We are seeing an inkling of that concept happening in the Star Wars universe; humorously under the Disney company, who have been one of the most ruthless copyright protectors of all time. I think George Lucas and those who have taken control of his Star Wars franchise, realize the sheer marketing power of a fanbase enmeshed in the entertainment they love. Once the legal shackles have been loosened (and I didn't say removed, because it isn't reasonable to ask IP holders to give up control of their properties) I would like to think we would see the BEST aspect of fan films; unfettered creativity to produce content the studios can't or won't make. A fan film can explore a story idea for the joy of seeing where it goes without concern for making back an investment. A failed fan film was a fun experiment. Too many failed studio movie projects, and a studio is out of business. And who knows, maybe if the reins were loosened on fan films, they could become the proving ground to try out new ideas for the studios that OK'd their production. If a fan film sparks notable interest in its limited release format, perhaps that would lead to a bigger budget re-do for general theater release? Remakes of new ideas interest me far more than retreads of already successful studio films. I'd also like to see authorized DVD releases of fan films; the good, the bad and the ugly. Keep the packaging simple, put up a website to support the release, and I think that the studios would find they had a nice little niche market. In today's environment, fan films are something of an exercise in frustration. I can envision a world where audience participation in the creation of the entertainment they love reaches the whole next level, and it is my hope the studio movie producers see that as well. Then fan films, including Firefly fan films, will be the best that they can be.

And finally, with all the drawbacks, why do people WANT to make fan films?

There are a few "fannish" reasons, and a few practical reasons. I think many fan films are the fan maker's way of seeing the already existing characters in a property they love have further or different adventures. While this is more common in fan fiction, four of the Firefly fan films are made like that, detailing further adventures of Mal and his crew. Beyond the desire to add their personal touch to existing characters, I think there is a group of fans who make fan films who are sort of looking to project themselves by way of their characters into adventures in their favorite fictional universes. On the simplest level, the fan likes that world, and wants to tell their story there.

Then there are the practical reasons, at least as I perceive them. The number one practical reason for a low budget filmmaker to make a fan film is that the origin story has already been told, and the background of the universe doesn't have to be explained. And this is huge for a few reasons. Hearkening back to my own story, "Fool Me Twice", when the Alliance troopers dressed in their SST armor appear on the scene, I as the filmmaker don't have to spend any time telling the audience who they are. Taken from an existing IP, their backstory and characteristics are already defined. Likewise the former Browncoats they are chasing; the audience has an idea who the good guys and bad guys are, and what their motivations are before a word of dialog is spoken. This audience familiarity also extends to the look of the film. As the filmmaker, I can use already established costumes and props to make plot points or save money; but as a creative person, I can build on this look (that I obviously liked in the first place), expanding on it and adding my own personal touch. An example would be the local law enforcement characters in "Fool Me Twice". Their uniforms, weapons and gear are wholly my creative choices, but their patches and badges, taken straight from Firefly ("Train Job") visually show the audience what job they do, without me having to tell my audience with exposition. This applies to story and dialog. In the Firefly 'verse, I can mention "unification" without having to add still MORE exposition. Another practical reason to make a fan film is that the filmmaker/ audience shared interest is already there before the first frame rolls. The fan filmmaker doesn't have to "sell" the audience on the value of the fictional world he is portraying; he/she can concentrate on proving that his/her story is worthy of the audience's attention. I don't care whether we are talking about a professional writer doing episodic TV, or the amateur fan film maker, I think there is value in being able to concentrate on character and plot development without having to add in world building as well.

For me, I wanted to breathe life into some characters who were inspired by the amazing Firefly 'verse.
A Firefly fan film would have been the best way to enjoy and share that dream.


And as with the Collection interview, the dead link goes to the now-gone first posting of the FFF Roundup. There has actually been a fair amount of activity since then, so it is good to catch up!
 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
“Cache” – 2011: A film festival short, filmed in a day.

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This is a character study story of how Mal and Zoe met when captured early in the war, meant to show the root of Zoe’s devotion to Mal.

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The creator/ director was a member of the PA Browncoats, so of course he and I had had discussions on some of the FFF that we would like to see or make. He had given me a copy of the story a few years before, and when he decided to film “Cache”, he asked me to work as the Alliance costumer.

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In a microcosm of one of the things that killed “Fool Me Twice”, I was able to provide the costumes but my work schedule prevented me from being there as costumer. That meant instead of 5 Alliance troopers, there were only 3, the elbow pads were inadvertently worn as knee pads, and the officer’s flat hat was worn kind of like a beret.

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None of these things are glaring in the film, but it is just disappointing that I wasn’t able to be there to attend to those details. As a behind the scenes note, one of the Alliance troopers is the father of the actress who played Zoe; there to make sure that the role she answered the ad for was on the up-and-up.

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He and the other trooper had some off-camera fun in “uniform”, included in a few behind-the-scenes stills.

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The video is still online:

 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
“STAND” - 2011: This back-burner project receives occasional attention with a “hopefully someday” release.

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This project is another from the Utah Browncoats.

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Principal photography is done (I think)

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with a fairly ambitious palette of CGI being worked on by its video game designer/ creator.
The Quail

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Prowler

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and Prowler cockpit

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Certainly the sets and costumes are exciting, and hopefully “STAND” will cross the finish line for all to see.

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At this point, they have only a FB page:
 

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pennausamike

Sr Member
“Operation Night Watch” – 2014: A short film intended to double as an ad for the CSTS event.

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This film works out to be a montage of video clips as a number of scattered Independent soldiers work their way to a rendezvous.

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There are some interesting desert vistas; some place to go camping!

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A fun weekend project from the Utah Browncoats.

 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
The Verse – 2014: The most professional of all the FFF’s, this quasi-official release was backed by Loot Crate.

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This is another rag-tag rebel crew doing crime in their somewhat worn down ship.

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But the ship is the same standing set used to film the settler's ship in "Bushwacked", so in addition to a neat little story well-told, "The Verse" has some serious in-the-'verse cred goin' on!

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The trailer:


The short film:


and a blooper reel,


are still on the web.
 
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