Firefly Fan Films Roundup

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pennausamike

Sr Member
Browncoats: Independence War 2015: Simply the most ambitious FFF feature.

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The plot summary from the makers:
It is the year 2511 on the distant Planet Hera, and rebel fighters aka "the Independence Army", intent on secession, are fighting their last skirmishes against the superior and well-supplied Alliance Forces. After an early victory, the Independence soldiers from the 5th Battalion of the 76th Combat Brigade are hopeful that they can hold out long enough for their bid for self-governance to be recognized.

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However, their leaders aren't as optimistic. During a lull in the fighting the soldiers try to rest and prepare for another day of battle, but news of a stranded group of civilians filters through the base. Eventually several squads of the 5th Battalion are sent to rescue the group of refugees and lead them out of the Valley and through the treacherous Mountain passes, in order to avoid being destroyed by the inevitable enemy offensive.

I think two exceptional aspects of this film are the extraordinary nightime photography and the astounding number of blank rounds expended!

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Truly tho', the work and heart put into this film shows. The small Independents Flak gun is the actual piece strapped to the back of the ship Serenity in the BDM Serenity.

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There is no shortage of Alliance bad guys, either. They wear face coverings because they are mostly played by good guys doing double duty.

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They have a FB page:

A link to the Abbyshot Blog interview with the film's creator.

Teaser Trailer

Behind the scenes featurette:

and one of many short clips available online
 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
Firefly: The Animated Adventures Trailer – 2016: The title says it all for this neat little piece of work.


This short trailer often elicits cries from the Browncoat fans to continue Firefly as an animated series. As much as I enjoy this little clip, I would hate to see Firefly rebooted as a cartoon. Much like my dissatisfaction with the comics, I feel a large part of the magic of Firefly was the performances of the cast and the chemistry of their interactions. (Think back to the end of “Shindig” where Mal and Inara are sharing some engine room moonshine. Inara is trying to console Mal that at least their little adventure netted him a job, and Mal re-reminds her, “I was stabbed!”)

Plus some behind the scenes stuff, longer than the film itself!

 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
“Apache Kid and the Browncoat Rebels” – 2017: Another Film Festival short.

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I tend to call these kinds of efforts, “walkin’ and talkin’” films. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that (as long as there’s a little action in the walkin’ and something interesting in the talkin’); “Fool Me Twice” was planned as a “walkin’ and talkin’” film.

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The costumes are VERY western, with a smattering of 'verse props to sell the Firefly vibe.

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They have a FB page:
 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
“A Faithful Companion” - 2019: A character-driven short film.

From Firefly episode Ariel:
KAYLEE:
Look at the bright side, maybe you'll meet a young, handsome Doctor, and he'll ask you out, and
(beat)
What's Companion policy on dating?
INARA:
It's.....complicated.
So, if you've ever wondered HOW complicated, a new Firefly fan film wants to answer that for you.

This was the type of FFF I was hoping to see back when every single one of them was an “older ship, crew as found family, hard-scrabble life, rebel past, character with an opposite sex name, folks got secrets, etc” story. This story examines the problems when a Companion falls for a backwater commoner.

There was some nice pre-production art done,

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and actors were cast.

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This is another FFF I have a small connection to. The creator reached out to me because of “Fool Me Twice”. Long story short, I saw the script and noticed the main character was unarmed, and I donated the shiny (literally) Denix break-open revolver replica for the character to use. After production was done, the pistol was auctioned off to contribute toward the post-production costs.

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Even with all the attention to controlling costs on this film, real-life intervention meant that this film, like many others, is to be commended for overcoming a slow birthing period and crossing the finish line. Until you have lived it, it is hard to imagine just how much things never go according to the gorram plan!

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The original pitch:

and the short film:
 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
“Shadows on the Wind” – 2020: This well-made short overcame years of challenges to deliver on its promise.

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There is always a core group or person that drives these FFF projects forward.

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Cast and crew-contribution changed quite a bit on this film from conception to completion (as a result of everything from moving to military deployment), but despite many obstacles, I believe the original vision has mostly survived to appear on screen. The basic story is that Wash’s kid sister, who is an Alliance pilot, flying an Alliance ship,

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gets caught up in some underhanded Alliance dealings. As always, things don’t go smooth. This short film will likely make it into common availability, but for now the plan is to enter it in some film festivals.

The crew made use of some simple but solid filmmaking technology like track-mounted cameras and a drone.

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The early trailer with different actors and temporary effects:

They have a Youtube channel with a number of interviews and behind the scenes clips:
 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
“Heritage” – 2020: This interesting short-film lived largely in green-screen environments.

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This is an abbreviated take on the, “old ship, crew’s got secrets...” thing, but the presentation is different enough and I definitely bought the actors in their roles. For me, the biggest weakness was that the costuming/ props connection to the ‘verse was pretty limited, such that if it wasn’t for the main plot point character, it would be a little hard to actually place this in the Firefly/ Serenity ‘verse.

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The most interesting aspect was the extensive use of green screen to build ship environments. It was possible to use minimalist sets

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and achieve large-scale results.

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This was the intention of the "Courage" crew, but they never made it that far.

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They have a FB page:


The trailer:


And this should be the full film:

 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
Out of the Valley – 2020: A first time effort that shows lots of promise.

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This is a little “slice of life” vignette short film.

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A really scary, awful, horrible slice of life, because it follows some stragglers from the massive Independents’ defeat at Serenity Valley as they try to escape with their lives.

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I thought this was a good effort overall, although the "tone" of the episode felt a little off. Firefly was a TV show and Serenity was a PG-13 movie, so the R-rated language felt inappropriate. That's what the Chinese is for
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As far as violence and gore; for me the jury is still out. Felt like a little much, but that is more a feeling than a conviction. Probably NSFW

 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
FROM FFPROPS.NET

After I wrote my quick captions (in the FFF Roundup) for “Browncoats: Independence War”, describing what I thought was an incredibly well done fan film, and frankly, a pretty darn good film period, I searched for some links to B:IW on video. I found the IMDB page and was surprised to see a one star rating from 17 reviews. Three of the reviews are actually positive, with one reviewer saying he gave it an 8 because he viewed it relative to other fan films. Another of the positive worded reviews noted that B:IW was a standard to judge other fan films by. Of course I wondered why the negative reviewers scored the film at the lowest rating possible? A 1.1/10 rating versus the technically less accomplished and more “fannish” Browncoats: Redemption, which has a rating of 4.9/10. Reading the negative reviews is an eye-opener to be sure! The reviewers actually attack every aspect of the production values of the film (including those elements that are obviously strengths, like camera and stunt work), the director/ creator personally and by name, and outright lie about the attendance at convention showings. Wow, that’s a whole lotta hatred for an obvious work of passion by a large group of dedicated people. I have to wonder how much is professional (jealousy, competitiveness, feeling threatened, etc) and how much is Browncoat self-anointed keepers of the True Faith (if it ain’t Joss, it ain’t Firefly). Or, as one of the positive IMDB reviewers noted,

Watcher187 16 May 2017

Update-v1: I have looked at all the low ratings and I figure it is one of two things. Either they are idiots, or they are jealous of the work that this crew put in. There is no way that this movie rates anything below a 5. And should be an 8 or above.

Update-v2: I read several of the 1 star reviews. In spite of having different names, it's the same person. It's the same writing style, they just pulled up a thesaurus and replaced derogatory words with something similar. If the person were a true critic, they would have offered advice outside of attacks. It's one jealous failed person attacking others when they cannot perform themselves.

In any case, it is very strange, and frankly, very nasty; to revile, for such dishonest reasons, the product of so much hard work.

(In the time since I wrote this article, the 17 one-star reviews were removed from the IMDB. While I’m not in support of removing un-favorable reviews, or hiding from negative opinions, the one-star reviews were obviously a personal attack directed at the creator of “Browncoats: Independence War", and included verifiably false statements like the outright lie about the lack of attendance at convention showings. The photos from the screenings show the audience spilling out the back doors!)

So, to address the elephant in the room; how do I feel the various Firefly Fan Films stack up? ( Or maybe,does anyone reading this Firefly Fan Film Roundup care how I feel? :) )
Yeah, even that isn’t an easy question, so I tend to break even that question into categories.

1. Is the film a feature or a short film?
2. How well does a fan film capture the look of the universe it takes place in?
3. How does the acting and the story/dialog draw the audience into the ‘verse?
4. Do the technical aspects of the film (sound, picture, camera work, editing) distract from the story being told?
5. If there are any, do the visual effects (VFX) or stunts take away from the story being told; or maybe even make it better.
6. And finally, availability.


For all the words that follow, it is only possible to touch on some of the attributes that stand out about each of the films already made.

The contenders are-features:
Into The Black (unfinished)
Bellflower (in process)
The Ruins of Du Khang
Browncoats: Redemption
Browncoats: Independence War


And short films:
Reaverized
The Game
Cache
Apache Kid and the Browncoat Rebels
The Verse
A Faithful Companion


For features in the second category, how well does the fan film capture the look of the universe it takes place in?

For me, the winner is B:IW. The entire cast, except for a handful of refugees, is in Independents or Alliance uniforms.
The props and sets are all firmly rooted in the ‘verse. I’m especially thinking of the attack fighter and tent interiors with their gadgets and graphics. While much of the look of B:IW was created by pure no budget ingenuity, professional film industry resources were available in other instances. The individual Browncoat characters’ kit is likewise rooted in the ‘verse.

I found the costuming and sets for (more or less in order of success) Bellflower, BC:R, Into the Black and Ruins of Du Khang to run the gamut from, “pops right out of the ‘verse” to “sure, I’ll buy that they would wear that, but it tells me nothing about the character”.

Likewise the sets: Into The Black, Bellflower and BC:R all built credible ship interior sets. I’d say Bellflower has utilized their ship set the best, but all three created a living space, not just a movie set. Western towns are popular ‘verse sets but Bellflower also built a space station bazaar interior set.


For short films in the second category, how well does a fan film capture the look of the universe it takes place in?
The head and shoulders above the rest effort is The Verse.
This semi-official, sponsor backed effort is definitely still a fan film, but the “fans” are largely filmmaking veterans, and it shows.
The costumes and locations are about on par with the best of all the Firefly Fan Film efforts, but they used the Firefly “Bushwacked” settler ship set at Laurel Canyon Stages! Hard to beat that for “in-the-‘verse” cred.

Of the remaining shorts, Reaverized and The Game are home movies, and the costumes, sets and locations are more implied than detailed. Cache and Apache Kid and the Browncoat Rebels were film festival entries, and were presented in a way that relied more on dialog and incidental visual cues to place them in the ‘verse. A Faithful Companion likewise relies on story and prop clues to place it in the verse, with a little VFX to guide the impression along.


Acting, story and dialog; okay, this is often the fan film killer category. Shoot, this is often a “real” film killer. Just a note before commenting on the films themselves. To me acting shares a common problem with Computer Generated Images (CGI); the uncanny valley. The concept was identified by the robotics professor Masahiro Mori. Mori's original hypothesis states that as the appearance of a robot (or CGI-my notation) is made more human, some observers' emotional response to the robot (CGI) becomes increasingly positive and empathetic, until it reaches a point beyond which the response quickly becomes strong revulsion. However, as the robot's (CGI) appearance continues to become less distinguishable from a human being, the emotional response becomes positive once again and approaches human-to-human empathy levels. (Think, “Polar Express".) In acting, especially acting before a camera, the uncanny valley is the transition from an actor playing a fictional character to that leap were the actor IS the character, and we in the audience are watching them “live their experience” as opposed to watching an actor “playing a part”. (Although one might say that in my acting example, it is the “uncanny Plain” which surrounds the top acting “plateau”.)

Bad acting, wooden acting, overacting; all these things can pull the audience out of the fictional world that the filmmaker is trying to immerse them in. By its very nature, low budget fan filmmaking doesn’t always have the resources to populate the story with top actors who “are” characters rather than “playing” characters. I, as a reviewer, always have a hard time calling out bad acting because I know the folks in a fan film worked really hard for little reward to produce something they hoped would be cool. Actually that reservation to be too critical applies to all involved, except for the occasional self-important egomaniacs who denigrate others to elevate themselves. But, I digress…

For the third category, how does the acting and the story/dialog draw the audience into the ‘verse?

The feature winner again is B:IW, which is even more of an accomplishment given the size of the cast. Because for contrast, I feel the acting in the short film The Verse is the best of ALL the Firefly fan films. There were no acting or dialog moments that pulled me out of the film. But, the maker of The Verse only had to find a dozen folks to put before the camera. Contrast that task with the need to put dozens-plural of believable characters on screen as in B:IW or BC:R; or even the larger casts of Into The Black, Bellflower, or Ruins of Du Khang. Fan-acting is an issue in all the Firefly fan films except The Verse, but to many varying degrees.

I think Cache took a wise approach in casting their film. They had only five people on screen and only two of those characters had to carry the story. As a light-hearted note, one of the two (non-speaking) Alliance troopers was actually the lead actress's father, there to make sure the project his daughter answered the ad for, was legit. A Faithful Companion took a similar approach in keeping the actor quality high by keeping the character count low.

Bellflower is releasing their film bits at a time, and I continue to be amazed by the work done by this group that, to the best of my knowledge, has no other filmmaking experience to their credit. I like all the people who inhabit their 'verse; a credit to the actors and their presentation of the story.


In terms of story and dialog, I think most of the Firefly fan films have done a decent job of presentation. BC:R tried a little too hard to squeeze fannish references into their script, and there were a few squirmers, like the boy genius engineer trying to explain why the ship was like a girl. B:IW's introduction of the Nazi trenchcoat, eye patch, evil villain was their over-the-top moment, and Bellflower's ship mechanic's mumbling dialog about his trash can robot gets my vote for their cutting room floor moment. Please note that I'm not picking on these fan films. Many, many high budget Hollywood films written by top experienced writers have their moments that played well on the pages of the script or on the soundstage, but don't work in the film. Two that were edited out of the BDM Serenity were Inara bringing a bow-and-arrows to a Reaver fight, and fireworks at the funeral scene. But let's face it folks, we can all name those moments in "real" films that made us as the audience go "WHAAA...?!" (The Joker shoots down the hi-tech Batplane with a rubber barreled revolver, anyone?) In my mind, B:IW did a good job of juggling varying levels of story and character intensity in both acting and dialog. I think nearly all the films have done a good job of telling us who their characters are, and I say curse The Verse for doing such a great job OF MAKING US WANT MORE!


In terms of technical excellence, top marks have to go to The Verse and B:IW. Both films have a very "rich" look (like chocolate, not money) despite being starkly different. B:IW is vibrant while being dark (how do you DO that?!) and The Verse is very dynamic, whether shot on the ship's set or outside in the desert. Both teams used their cameras to help tell the stories; long shot, group shot, back and forth, close ups; the audience was kept IN the action. Oddly enough, two of the more ambitious projects, BC:R and Ruins of Du Khang, were the ones who most fell short in using their cameras to involve the audience and tell the story. The shooting schedule for BC:R was too short to allow the number takes and angles that might have helped up the energy of their story telling, and Ruins was kind of confusing with too many look alike characters and places, that the camera work didn't help clarify. Adding to BC:R's technical woes, they had serious sound problems that were never straightened out, even in the follow-up special edition. To the credit of all the short films, they might have looked like home movies or video, but I was always in the action and I knew what was going on. I have a disagreement with an online Browncoat friend as to the quality of the look of Bellflower. To his qualified eye it is lacking, but viewed through the lens of my love for Firefly fan films, I really like it. To me, it has the look of found footage; and no, I don't mean like "shaky-cam" that was briefly so popular; more like unscripted drama (reality TV). Once again, for total newbies, I think Bellflower has done a good job of showing their world, combining it with the VFX, keeping the audience in the action, highlighting the visual clues that the story takes place in the 'verse and moving the (actually rather slowly developing) story forward.


As pertains to visual effects work, at this point, I think Bellflower is the VFX top of the heap, with The Verse and B:IW in second and third. The fact that Bellflower takes place on a spaceship that lands and takes off, flies and re-enters, visits planets and a space station, and even disgorges passengers; means there is a LOT of CGI, especially for a mostly one man show. In contrast, the CGI of BC:R was limited to mostly donated insert shots from NEO FX. The Verse made fair use of VFX, but with less than fifteen minutes of story to tell, no comparison. For all the professionalism brought to the table by the B:IW team, they mention in their special features that VFX was something of a learn as you go experience for them. And even at that, B:IW does a nice job of using VFX to increase army size and depict an Independents air strike. Ruins of Du-Khang tried to use physical models with some kind of green screen. The complexity of the models didn't work with the limitations of green screen, and I think their story would have been better served if they had tried really old school of shooting light colored craft against a black backdrop. But, yunno, props for trying.


In terms of stunt work, B:IW is the undisputed champ. They blew up stuff, (heck, they blew up PEOPLE), they fired thousands of rounds of blanks, there was bludgeoning and bayoneting and knife fighting. Yeah, I don't think anyone is topping this one any time soon. The Verse threw a punch or two, but I think the runner up might be the main character fight scene in BC:R. The peripheral characters fights aren't quite as realistic, but since that was my rather expensive Alliance armor out there, I'm rather biased to breathe a sigh of relief that it wasn't TOO intense. But boy, the good guy-girl and the bad guy really let each other have it; and additionally, the special features on the training that went into the fight scene is pretty good, too. The fight scenes in Ruins of Du Khang were pretty well choreographed, as well. The fight scene in The Game, where Jayne single-handedly takes out every bad guy was entertaining in its own right.


All that is left is the availability of the Firefly fan films that have been made so far.
Making a fan film available to a mass audience can be a challenge, because the better and more available a fan film is, the more likely it is to attract the attention of the Intellectual Property (IP) holders and their sometimes overzealous lawyers.

It pains me to put Into The Black in last place because I don't think it will ever BE available. This was one of the pioneer Firefly fan films; either Into The Black or Bellflower is the first , and I'm not sure which, but Into The Black was the first one I was aware of. What content was released is still to be found on Youtube, so all is not lost. It is a shame to think of all the hard work that went into making Into The Black, knowing that the digital video tape is languishing (and likely deteriorating) somewhere.

Bellflower is still slowly progressing, and the segments are available to view on Youtube as they are finished. The early trailers and some behind the scenes videos are still out there as well. I didn't include Shadows On The Wind because there is so little content to view, but I believe at this point, they will likely join the roster of finished Firefly fan films before Bellflower. This is a shame and a blessing at the same time, as I believe Shadows on the Wind will be an upper tier quality film, but I REALLY want to see Bellflower cross the finish line.
(And since I wrote these reviews, “Shadows on the Wind” has been released, and I think the makers should be proud of the obstacles they overcame and the short-film they put out.)

All of the short films are available as videos online at this time except A Faithful Companion. I'm not sure what the release plans are for that one, outside of its availability to the project backers. (At this time, "A Faithful Companion" is up on the web.) Small projects have a habit of disappearing off the web, so I recommend committing any films you want to keep to DVD or a hard drive. In looking for links for this fan film roundup, I could not find the Across The Black project online. But I still have my copy on DVD. The Verse is likely to be available for quite sometime because of its quasi-official status. But even at that, merchandise licenses expire and content can disappear. At this time, I have committed all the online Firefly fan film content to DVD. One of these days, I need to throw a Triple F shindig and watch them all!

Of the features, only Bellflower is on the web. As of now, the two main issues are legalities and, in the case of the two earliest features, incompleteness. Short films usually ride under the original IP holders' radar, but the more ambitious a project becomes, the more likely it is viewed as a threat to the original IP holders' rights. In my view, fan films should be viewed as marketing and a way to keep a franchise in the public eye at no cost to the original IP holders. Maybe the problem is that the studios are churning out such regurgitated drek, they have a right to think people would rather watch fan films. Oops, did I say that out loud? (coughJJTREKcough) Anyway, on that train of thought, I'm glad to see that the new generation of Firefly fan films are moving away from the, "broken down ship-crew's got secrets-character with an opposite sex name" model, and starting to tell original tales from the 'verse.

To wrap up, the quality of all the fan films lies strictly in the eyes of the beholder. If you are a believer that there is no Firefly but Joss Whedon's Firefly, you're not going to like any of these Firefly fan films. If there is no movie but a big budget Hollywood movie in your eyes, only The Verse has a chance of passing muster. Yeah, sorry, but that's the truth. As good as B:IW is, it is still a $30 million dollar movie made for $30 thousand. Ingenuity and a dedicated, talented crew might make it look like a hundred times what it cost, but all the heart in the world won't close a $27 million dollar gap. (of course, a Hollywood movie that HAS a $30 million dollar budget and ends up making half the movie of B:IW, really has no excuse.) For the "there is no movie but a professional movie" viewer, what chance does a thousand dollar backyard fan film have? None, frankly.


I can speak only for myself, but I watch fan films with an understanding of, and empathy for, the circumstances of the filmmaker. In thinking about it, I even do this to a degree with Hollywood movies. (I still marvel that the movie "The Losers" was made for twenty-some million bucks.) I look at what I think the creators were trying to achieve, and applaud however close to that vision they were able to achieve. As a semi-insider (very semi; more like peering in the screen door) I think it is important that fan film and low to no budget filmmakers support each other. Whether professional or hobbyist, fan film making can best serve the accepting audience by being a cooperative rather than a competitive venture.

And at this point, I'd like to thank Francis Hamada of B:IW, Julian Higgins of The Verse, Cliff Ackman of Cache, Frank Fradella of A Faithful Companion, William Pace of the Utah Brownvcoats, Matt Black and the 2017 BCB committee, and Adam Newall of Titan Books for letting me be, to varying degrees, just a little closer to the creative side of the Firefly 'verse.
 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
"Done the Impossible" - 2006: Browncoat fandom from the days of broadcast Firefly to the production of the BDM Serenity.

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By fans for fans, I think this would appeal to anyone who understands what it is to love a fictional creation; book, movie or TV series.

Adam Baldwin serves as host with Jewel Staite doing a voice-over, and has interviews with cast, crew and numerous fans.

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Firefly actors
Nathan Fillion
Alan Tudyk
Christina Hendricks
Jewel Staite
Morena Baccarin
Ron Glass
Rafael and Yan Feldman

Firefly production
Joss Whedon
Tim Minear
Christopher Buchanan,
Greg Edmonson
Loni Peristere

Authors
Orson Scott Card
Keith R.A. DeCandido
Tracy Hickman
Margaret Weis

Others
Mary Parent Universal pictures
James Gunn


A very extensive review is found here,


that might help folks determine if this is something they need. I can only say that I enjoyed it immensely. But, I might qualify as a fan........

 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
Browncoats of Penzance

quoted from the Youtube page:

"The Browncoats of Penzance" - The Stanford Savoyards​

A production of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic "The Pirates of Penzance", inspired by the sadly short-lived tv series "Firefly". This production was lovingly put together by a cast and crew of loyal "Browncoats", at Stanford University in Palo Alto, CA. Ultimately this is first and foremost a Gilbert and Sullivan show, but we did our best to work in as much Firefly goodness as possible.

The full one hour and fifty-six minute show is online.


I have never watched all of this, and likely never will, but I salute the effort to make a Firefly musical; yet another way to show the fans' love for the 'verse.
 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
So, there you have it; a list of 28 fan-made films meant to live in, expand, or pay tribute to the Firefly ‘verse. Over time (because there is a good bit to do) I'll be filling in links, pictures, some info and more of my take on the whole Firefly Fan Film movement than most folks will care to read :)
 
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pennausamike

Sr Member
OK folks, there ya'll have it. The mostly complete and up-to-date version of the Firefly Fan Film Roundup. There are a couple of video links I hope to find and add at some point; but this is I think, a pretty handy guide to the EU Firefly/ Serenity 'verse.
 

justanuthercap

Well-Known Member
RPF PREMIUM MEMBER
Wow Mike, thanks for keeping the 'verse alive. I still proudly display every prop and costume I aquired back when the other forum was active. Boy oh boy, propstore got a LOT of my money.
 

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