March 7th, 2011

Support fan-funded efforts at more Firefly... not in this case, NO.

Some of you may have heard about a recent effort to re-boot Joss Whedon's Firefly via crowdfunding (aka fan-funding). It started out as an innocent tweet by Nathan Fillion (saying that if he won the lottery, he'd buy the rights to Firefly) and has snowballed into one of the scariest things I've seen in recent fandom (and considering I'm a regular reader of Fandom-Wank, that's saying a lot!).

If you want to catch up on the crazy, go to www.helpnathanbuyfirefly.com. (Sanity, on the other hand, can be found on twitter via the #hnbf hashtag).

Here's my take on things...

I love the enthusiasm that everyone is showing for continuing the Firefly verse, but I’m very concerned about this announcement.

Firstly, it has already been stated that Fox (that’s 20th Century Fox, who own the rights, not Fox the network who aired the show) have no intention of selling the rights to Firefly. None whatsoever. They are actively licensing merchandising rights (QMx, Ripple Junction etc)and rights to create comics (Dark Horse), so Firefly is an ongoing concern for them. To repeat, they have no intention of selling.

Secondly, this current plan proposes the production of Firefly stories without the involvement of Joss. This is a no-brainer in my opinion – there is no Firefly without Joss.

Thirdly, the funding of this model is unrealistic. A single episode of Firefly cost over $1 million (according to some accounts) to produce… back in 2001. This would have easily doubled by now. Serenity (the movie) cost $40million – and that’s before marketing, distribution etc. Fan funding via small amounts is not a viable way to do any big budget endeavour – you’d need some serious backers, and a heck of a lot of professionals who know how to craft a story, create quality costumes/sets/props, professional casting agents, skilled people for lighting, sound, art direction, editing, continuity, filming etc… and then you need the cast, union representation, insurance, catering, post production, legal, etc. Without serious backing (and I’m talking a few people who can put in millions) there is no way a few “businessmen” with little to no television production experience leading small investors can succeed. That’s the reality. Painful to hear, but there it is.

Fourthly, your idea of introducing a “social network of fans around the world with a singular mission” and which functions as “a social hangout where we can gather to share ideas about how to spread the word or where we can organize to do things together” completely disregards the fact that this already exists… and has existed for almost 10 years. Every year, thousands of fans meet socially as part of local Browncoat Groups (some of which are now non-profits, others are purely social), tens of thousands more participate in online forums/social networks to share their passions and creativity, and thousands more again turn out every year for annual charity screenings of Serenity as part of “Can’t Stop the Serenity” (www.cantstoptheserenity.com).

Lastly, I find it very irresponsible for anyone to be asking people for money for this. You’re basically forming a company that will end up being putting together a Firefly fan film, which will likely get sued for license/trademark infringement. Experienced fans who have gone through the wringer of fandom campaigning more than once have tried to offer advice and guidance to the organisers of HNBF. As far as I can tell, this advice has not only been ignored, it has been rejected. And these aren’t just everyday folks who’ve been around this fandom for a while – these are people who have worked closely with Fox Broadcasting, 20th Century Fox, Universal, Mutant Enemy and many of the other entites involved in Firefly’s long life. They know the situation, they know how action can be taken, they know who to talk to… and more importantly, they know when to back off before those same entities decide that Browncoats are fanatics (in the bad way) and decide to shut things down forever.

So, to anyone thinking about putting up your hard earned cash to this enterprise, please consider your decision very carefully. Consider whether you are making a viable investment, or simply giving your money away. Consider whether your money can be better spent elsewhere in the name of Firefly – such as continuing 20th Century Fox’s interest in Firefly by buying official merchandise, supporting Dark Horse in producing Firefly comics penned by Joss & Co, supporting Titan Books in producing companions that include original Firefly stories by Firefly’s writing staff, and supporting the good works of campaigns like Can’t Stop the Serenity, Kids Need to Read, Browncoats: Redemption and so forth.

For myself, I will not be buying stock in this company. Not only because I believe it is going nowhere, not only because Whedon fans have been burned (badly and for big dollars) by similar start ups and endeavours in the past, but because I believe that this is not the way to go about continuing the stories of the Firefly verse. I want more Firefly, yes, but I want it penned by Joss and I want it when Joss is ready to tell it. Which is not now.