From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

The ‘Verse Lives On: Browncoats ‘Redemption’

We’ve done the impossible, and that makes us mighty.~ Captain Mal Reynolds

From the first note of music to hit our ears, Firefly and Serenity brought a breath of fresh air to the realm of science-fiction and fantasy media.

And, like many of the science-fiction television shows, Firefly was cut far too short, leaving so many questions and ‘what-if’s. Serenity answered many of those questions, and yet left even more.

The Alliance? The Reavers? How many worlds are there? Who else is out there? There have got to be other ships, what about them?

Fortunately, Michael Dougherty and his merry band were there to answer that question. Although it all began with a simple ‘have you ever?’, the project quickly took shape and substance.

Browncoats: Redemption is a fan-film slated to release at the 2010 Dragon*Con in Atlanta, Georgia. Created by fans, for fans, the first Redemption trailer will screen at the 2009 Dragon*Con. All profits from the film will go to charity.

About the film itself? Well, why don’t we let the man himself talk about it.

Mr. Dougherty graciously agreed to answer some questions for Fantasy Magazine, and tell you about this great project.

From Michael C. Dougherty, writer/director/co-creator/co-producer of Browncoats:Redemption

What was the original idea behind this work? How did it get started and develop so much momentum, so quickly?

It got started very organically. Steve Fisher, one of our Producers, came to me and said “Have you ever thought of doing a Firefly Fan Film?” From there it was never a thought, in my mind, that we wouldn’t do it.
It really began to gain momentum after Dragon*Con 2008. We walked the floors everyday asking people if it was something they’d be interested in, not knowing there are two other Firefly fan films in the works, and got a very positive response. Then we did a table read of the script, made up of fans from the Facebook page, to see how it felt and how fans would receive it. From there, it took on a life of it’s own. Fans came out from all over the US, and the world, to offer their support.

Where in the timeline of Serenity and Firefly does the plot fall? Whose story is it telling?

This falls three months after the events at the end of Serenity. Mal sent out the wave and now the rest of the ‘verse has to live with it. Our crew is caught in the middle of the Alliance wanting to make an example of any ship like Serenity, since they let them go so many times, and the Browncoats wanting to rise up again after hearing the news.

What is your goal with this movie?

The goal, ultimately, is to continue the ‘verse we love. We Firefly/Serenity Fans want more. With this film we can continue the stories of the ‘verse and also do some good for the five charities who will receive the proceeds from the film. Our goal is, in one year, to move 32,000 units, the same amount of DVD’s sold the opening weekend of the Serenity Collectors Edition, and give each charity at least $90,000. For some of our charities, that would be life changing.

A lot of attention has been directed to the concept of fanfilms recently with the release of The Hunt for Gollum. The high-quality and canonical integrity of the film has set a new standard for fan-films. With the fierce support and interest of the Firefly fans, I can imagine it’s both an excellent support and an incredibly high standard to be held to. How has this affected the film and the support of people who are maybe understanding the possibilities of a high-quality fan project?

Ironically, we knew nothing about The Hunt for Gollum till after we started our process. We are using the same camera, a RED ONE, that the crew of The Hunt for Gollum used and our intention all along was to help raise the bar for fan films so they are treated with a little more respect for the amount of care that goes into them.
We set the bar extremely high for our project, and ourselves, and thanks to many awesome Firefly Fans we made that a reality. This project would not have happened in the short time it has, and the quality it is, without the support and love of the Browncoats that came out to help us.

Are there any inside jokes or references to the original series or movie for us to watch for?

Too many to mention. There are subtle ones hidden in the background of the ship and not so subtle ones in the dialog. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not hokey, but well placed so it feels natural. We really made efforts to have the movie have so many things you see something new each time you watch it. Outside of that, I don’t want to give too much away and ruin some of the surprises.

I think for me, half of the fun of Firefly and Serenity was in the actors themselves and the way they have perpetuated references and subtle mentions of Firefly even in other works since. Is the general irreverence and playful interaction prevalent in Redemption, or is the mood darker, a little more grim?

The mood is a good balance between Firefly and Serenity. We have our heavy moments and we have our “this is just a family of people out in space”. One thing I was worried about, early on, was if our crew would come together and feel as natural together on screen as the cast of Firefly. I can say, without a doubt, we couldn’t have chosen a better cast who look like they’ve traveled to the edge of the black, and back, and still love each others’ company. The subtle work each actor did with their character amazes me to this day. They brought more than I ever thought when I put pen to paper to write this.

How have the actors and crew from the series and the original film come behind this project? Are any of them directly involved?

There are none directly involved, as of yet, but we received Joss Whedon’s blessing on moving forward with the project and we shared our progress with Alan Tudyk who was very interested in the selflessness of our supporting the charities. He even got one of the film’s t-shirts out of the deal. We look to introduce the rest of the cast to the project as we move forward.

A call for fan interaction was put out on the website for the official ship-building. That must have been fun, to see everyone step up and offer their unique skills.

Absolutely. Like I said before, this would not be the project it is, if it wasn’t for the Firefly Fans that came out, gave up their time and sweat, and made the ship a home for the crew.

PJ Haarsma has a brief cameo in Browncoats: Redemption. Did he approach you and offer to appear, or did the crew go to him with this opportunity?

We went to him through Kids Need to Read, one of the charities we are supporting and the one he co-founded with Nathan Fillion. He was awesome to be a part of it.

The ‘Ballad of Wes Robins’ is a must-read for anyone visiting the web-site, obviously everyone has a lot of fun with this. What other great stories/anecdotes have cropped up that will always be remembered by the cast and crew?

You ask that and I’m flooded with memories. We filmed a total of fourteen days and each day had at least a handful of great stories/anecdotes. From the ‘Ballad of Wes Robins’, a fan originated song, to watching our cast interact with the fans that came out to be Extras, and all the way till the end where happy tears were shed…I can’t look back on this project and not think of great stories/anecdotes that could have me going on for days.

The profits from this film will go directly to several charities. What was special about these charities, and why should fans get behind them? Can fans donate directly through the movie site to these charities? Are donations to the production costs tax-deductible?

The charities we chose are Equality Now, Kids Need to Read, Dyslexia Foundation, the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center, and the Marine Corps – Law Enforcement Foundation. Those charities were chosen because they were either supported, or created, by the cast of Firefly/Serenity. It just didn’t feel right choosing a charity that had no connection to the show/movie we were so inspired by. If that isn’t a big enough reason to get behind the charities, besides it’s good to help others, I don’t know what is.

Fans will be able to donate through the movie site to either the project OR the charities. Each donation for the charities will be broken up evenly between the five charities we are supporting. A very small portion of the initial DVD sales will go to the cost to produce the DVD’s, but everything else will go, evenly, to the charities and, minus the production cost, the donations made are tax-deductible as we are officially a non-profit organization.

Are there any other comments you’d like to make on this project? What, besides a shiny new ship, lurks on the horizon?

That’s a dangerous question because I could go on for days on just the movie. So instead of going up, let me bring you up to speed. We’ve completed principal photography, so that means the film is fully done minus editing and CGI (the stages we are in now). We are releasing our first teaser trailer this year at Dragon*Con 2009 and the trailer will be available online a few days after the convention.

As for the horizon, we are aiming to begin raising awareness of both the project and the charities. Outside of that, there’s a lot to accomplish over the course of the next year. Is it ok if I keep you posted?

Certainly, and thank you so much for the time and effort to answer the questions. I’ve heard there’s a panel and trailer screening at the 2009 Dragon*Con. Any info on time/place for that?

No problem. The panel at Dragon*Con this year is Sunday, September 6th at 11:30 AM at the Marriott rooms L401-403.

The screenings are nebulous right now as we’re editing and the final release of the DVD will be at Dragon*Con next year.

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