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March 05 2011

100 Almost Hits and Misses on DVD. A DVD compilation, including a certain myth about the making of Serenity.

What's the myth?
The film was already into [pre-]production (?) before the DVDs were released.
The movie wasn't made because of the DVDs, jesse.
As I recall, the movie was produced due to the DVD sales of "Firefly". 'Course, there was also the howl of us fans that made them consider another possibity.

(My voice will never be the same again, ahem.)
You recall incorrectly.
Accepted. Please tell the tale.
There was never a fan campaign to make Serenity. Credit goes to Universal and Joss for making it happen. The marketing pitch was that fans campaigned for the movie and DVD sales made it happen, but that was a (hugely appealing) fabrication.
Ahh. Interesting. I didn't know that. I came to Firefly fandom pretty late. Only in the last three or four years. I always thought it was the fan outcry and strong DVD sales that made Serenity happen. Very interesting.
Oh, everybody thinks that. I think -- not 100% -- the Serenity EPK supplied to media said that. Anyhoo, a bunch of newspaper articles got written which mentioned the fan campaigns, and then other media copied those articles, and now almost everything about Serenity says that.
jesse, we take perverse satisfaction in knowing that we didn't make the movie happen. It's weird. We know. :) But, everyone knows we also weren't capable of getting a sequel. That brings less satisfaction.
I take satisfaction from the movie, the fun time everybody had when it got released (those days? epic) and things which have come afterwards (CSTS etc).
From a podcast interview with Joss:

It was really just, you know... what sold it was the show itself. The DVD hadnít come out yet, so they didnít really know about the fan base. They knew that there might be some sort of cult thing, but nobody really knew how big it was until well after they had commissioned the script. There was no script, there were just fifteen episodes and me saying, "Hereís what the story will be." And they took it from there.
I like our myths. Our myths are fun.

But truth be told, plans to make the movie were already in progress at least by early 2003. The Firefly DVD was released in December of 2003.

Although the DVD sales and fan campaigns were not the direct causes for the movie to begin production, the steady support of the fans had to be an affirmative boost of confidence for Joss and Universal. Imagine if fan support just dropped precipitously after Firefly left the air? Message boards and websites dried up, hardly a soul showed up to the Fireflyy DVD launch at the 2003 L.A. ComiCon, and all the fans gave up on their self created campaigns and get togethers.

Mary Parent really wanted to work with Joss, Joss really wanted to continue Firefly with a movie, so it was a good deal for them both. However, if interest in Firefly had died, a studio could get nervous about investing millions in a property, and Joss could have been disheartened to see interest in Firefly die so quickly. A studio can pull away from a production if it looks like it will be a financial loss, and they could have worked with Joss to produce something else.

The fans definitely played a part in the story of the movie, but it was already a going deal well before the Firefly DVD was released.
I disagree with the "leet" folks around here.

While there were serious internal discussions about a movie about the same time the DVDs came out, rest assured, the chart topping sales of the DVD played a big role in the movie being greenlit, and there were multiple fan campaigns promoting sales of the DVDs. No less an authority than Joss has confirmed this on multiple occasions (not the least of which in the prescreening teaser), as did Mary Parent of Universal Pictures when we interviewed her.

And let's not forget the really early fan campaigns to get FOX to even agree to make the DVDs in the first place. As I've mentioned before, I met with Fox executives less than a month after the TV show was cancelled and at that time they had NO intentions of even releasing the DVDs. They wanted to wash their hands completely of Firefly, period. So the fans, myself included and many folks here on this board, started making some noise. We did all sorts of things to show we were interested in the show.

And pretty quickly the executives changed their tune about the DVDs, which did eventually lead to the movie. Were we the only reason Fox made the DVDs and eventually the movie, of course not.

In the excitement of the moment, have we all embellished the role we played? Of course we have. But to keep saying the fan campaigns had nothing at all to do with the movie being made is simply not true, and it's disrespectful of all the time, money, energy and passion thousands of fans put in to keep the dream alive.

Jeremy Neish
Co-Writer/Director
Done The Impossible

[ edited by JeremyN on 2011-03-06 01:31 ]
Oh, hi 11th. You must have been typing your reply the same time as me. I want to make it clear you aren't one of they naysayer's I was referring to in my "leet" comment above. In fact you are the main person I think of when I think of folks that poured their hearts into Firefly during the dark days.
Jeremy, you met with Fox, not Universal. Universal made the movie because of the show, not because of the Firefly DVDs.

I'd appreciate it if we didn't have barbed comments about certain fans.

[ edited by gossi on 2011-03-06 02:03 ]
JeremyN and 11th Hour, I don't think anyone disputes that fan fervor and energy (and even their ability to magnify their voices to make it seem like there are so many more than really exist) wasn't a factor in the movie happening. I mean, why would they greenlight a movie if they thought there would be no one to see it? It's the sequence of events that gets twisted and needs correcting from time to time so that people don't think we are a bit more mighty than reality.

I think one of the contributing factors to the box office failure of the movie was Universal's mistaken impression of our numbers. It led them to be too narrow in their marketing and that was an error. So, in a way, the noise that the less than mighty number of Browncoats made also contributing to misleading Universal as to the size of the fanbase and thus the narrow marketing to the already converted. They were marketing to me and I saw the movie 13 times before it hit the theaters. Those were wasted and poorly targeted marketing dollars.

The current Firefly campaign is also suffering under the same delusions that there are more dedicated fans than really exist. You notice I say "dedicated" not casual fans.

[ edited by IrrationaliTV on 2011-03-06 02:13 ]
Gossi. You are correct, I did meet with Fox, I had no reason to even think of talking to Universal, since they didn't enter the picture until a year after my meeting. (At least from from the perspective of folks on the outside like myself.) My point was that Fox didn't even want to make DVDs, and trust me, no amount of back door dealing would have made the movie deal go through with the bean counters at Universal if Fox was so disillusioned with the property to not even make DVDs.

And, as I mentioned, we did eventually meet with Universal. And Mary Parent very specifically told us that the sky high sales of the DVD gave them the comfort to go ahead with the movie. And fan word of mouth played a signifiant role in the DVDs selling well (I've personally purchased over 80 copies of the DVD boxset myself). And I know I personally "converted" hundreds of folks over. And that was just one "dedicated" fan.

IrrationaliTV: Interesting opinion about the fans appearing so big Universal didn't market it properly. I don't really agree, but interesting.
Surely we can discuss Firefly without posters calling one another elitist. JeremyN, consider this a warning to be respectful toward other posters.
And to clarify, Gossi, all I'm saying is that the fans did play some role, how big is anyone's guess at this point. And you are right about the fact that the vast majority of the reason the movie was made was because of the quality of the show itself. Anybody who actually watched Firefly and had eyes and at least half a brain knew the show was something special, and the world deserved more.
Sunfire: Fair enough, my bad. I didn't mean it in a negative way, but I can see how it came across that way. I was just trying to express my disagreement with the opinion of some frequent posters here.

[ edited by JeremyN on 2011-03-06 03:12 ]
Anyway, back to the point...Wait, what was the point of this topic again? Think we went a little overboard here.
Mary Parent very specifically told us that the sky high sales of the DVD gave them the comfort to go ahead with the movie.

And this is very much not what the popular mythology tells fans, although it is what many people here have been arguing for years now, frequently with direct pushback from others. It gave Universal more comfort in their already existing decision. The mythology, however, routinely tells fans simply that they got the movie made, period.
This thread from 2009 (wherein several people post quotes from interviews, from the visual companion, from forum posts by the cast and so on) explains the situation and settles it fairly conclusively - the DVD sales made Universal feel better about their decision but the decision had been made beforehand. Would they have gone back on that decision, plunging 'Serenity' into development hell if the DVD sales hadn't been as good (or worse, been terrible) ? Quite possibly but obviously we can't know that so making statements as if that's definitely the case isn't supported by the evidence.

This "debate" was old 18 months ago and it ain't getting any younger ;).


ETA: Re: the article, really nice, comprehensive list for fandom cross-pollination, "If you liked X you may like Y..." type of thing. Definitely a few on there to check out.

[ edited by Saje on 2011-03-06 09:20 ]
I'm still wondering why it's just a debate.
Because we're not meant to play Thunderdome anymore, last time Simon got really angry at the mess and murders.
Fans played in an epic part in making the release epic, but not in making the movie happen. The idea fans made the movie happen was a mkgt pitch. I know this because I literally sat through the actual pitch at one point. I also helped put on those Can't Stop The Signal screenings. It was, in my belief, a great idea and the fact the media went for it shows how positive it was. At the time, the thinking was: sequellllll.

It has also turned out to be deeply problematic. The Firefly fandom is one of the more amazing things joss and his fans have produced. I mean, half a million raised for Equality Now - come on. That's brilliant, and something which not a single member of the press cover when mentioning the movie, the series or the fans.

Instead, the fandom at large now risks being hijacked by HNBF and the like. It's not because people mean anything bad. But look at that Facebook group. Look at what people are writing. Almost everybody believes they can make more show by campaigning, 'cos that's what we did the first time...

It's starting to morph the fandom from something amazing into a cult, and that shouldn't happen. Yes, Firefly fans did something amazing in 2003, 2004 and 2005 - they saw the shit out of Serenity, they really enjoyed it (uhm, except for those people who liked Wash), and they kept a community together that has done amazing things. Browncoats shouldn't be defined as doing anything to get more. Universal gambled on an ongoing franchise and lost. We didn't.

[ edited by gossi on 2011-03-06 13:45 ]
Pushing Daisies, speaking of shows to catch up on...

I know there are a lot of Pushing Daisies fans here. Y'all know about the comic book coming out this year, right?
No I didn't knew about the comic, BreathesStory. Great news!

Spotted another (minor) mistake in the article: Andy Richter Controls the Universe technically wasn't a "single-season Fox casualty", but on for two seasons, though sadly only 19 eps got made.

---

That a movie based on a short-lived show like Firefly could be created was a rare and happy miracle. Sadly there are plenty of great but quickly cancelled shows that didn't get made into movies and plenty of promising projects that got stuck inside development hell. Including many projects based on shows with a passionate fan base.

I think gossi et al. are right to stress that fan campaigns generally don't get cancelled shows revived and certainly weren't the only (or prime) reason why Serenity got made.

However, I think it seems reasonable to suspect that the positive reception and attention that the show received from fans and the press played its part in making sure the movie got made (and didn't remain stuck in development hell), that the original cast was kept intact, and that it got a worldwide theatrical release. All these things were, I believe, wonderful and extraordinary.

A movie based on a short-lived television series (and a commercial failure) already is extraordinary. It's even more difficult to imagine show that was both a commercial failure and failed to generate any positive interest, ever getting made into a movie purely on the basis of its quality (though it's certainly an appealing idea).

[ edited by the Groosalugg on 2011-03-06 17:14 ]
Hi guys. I'm glad to see we're still talking about HNBF. I agree with most of you that a fan campaign will probably not bring back Firefly all by itself. However, I think that it's important to show we're still interested because Joss may become a bigger player after The Avengers. The good thing with HNBF's pledge is that it's an indication about how much interest there is. The bad thing is that it's too imprecise; and it relied a lot on Nathan's quote, which made people think it was really going to happen.

I'd like to get a more precise picture of who is hoping for more Firefly. I'd like that because of a slight hope that, in 2012, when the general public asks for more Joss, it could be of use. For that reason, I'm building a website with a poll. It's not finished, it's imperfect and it's likely to receive bad comments, but if you have a few minutes to spare, it's here:
http://browncoats.info

I intend to turn the website into something bigger, but I'm getting the poll out there as soon as possible try to use the traction gained by HNBF.
Ragondux, is this to satisfy personal curiosity? What do you intend to do with the results of this poll? Who is the end audience of it and what do you think it will accomplish? If you are asking people to register on the site, you will get very few responses.
I have no grand plan, but the results will be made public and I suspect they would interest a lot of people. If one day there is hope, they could be sent to the right people, but I don't want to create false hopes.

I require registration because otherwise people would just build voting bots and I'd get useless results. I'd rather have a small quantity of reliable answers than a lot of garbage. But I will not publish any personal data.

[ edited by Ragondux on 2011-03-06 20:59 ]
I admire your passion but, an unscientific poll like this won't be considered by "the right people." Have fun with it though.
I intend this poll to be as scientific as can be done with a website (ie. I know how to make statistics, and I know the limits of that kind of poll). I'm not making a market study, but I got tired of reading on one side that we were millions of fans, on the other side that we were very few.

I'm only targetting the fans, and my purpose is only to get a general figure, but I'm not completely unprepared as far as analysing goes.
And yet someone who knows the industry is telling you the industry will not care about that kind of "poll".
I think the HBNF FB page and pledge system tells you all you need to know. There are at least 113K people active on social media sites that have some sort of interest in a fan driven more Firefly effort. Out of those 113K with interest, 11K are willing to say they would give money to such an effort. In other words, not enough.

Of course, results might be totally different if 20th put up a website to gauge interest.
I don't expect the industry to care much, no. Still, having accurate numbers can't be much worse than doing a pledge. And it won't hurt "our cause."

ETA: unless I missed something, the pledge system just show how much fans would be willing to pay to buy the Firefly rights. My poll asks for a bit more, like: how many fans there are that never watched the show while it first aired, how many fans want new episodes to be fan-funded, how many of them want it on TV, and so on.

For example, I'm pretty sure that showing that most fans want Wash to be reborn and episodes to be fan-funded would end all hope of seeing Joss do something.

[ edited by Ragondux on 2011-03-06 21:32 ]
But it's still not representative of anything other than those people who find and take the poll.
In fairness, isn't that true of all polls though ?

And it won't hurt "our cause."

Unless the industry does pay attention and the numbers are very low. Knowledge may be power but it can also be a double edged sword.

Must admit, i'm mildly curious about the results myself (only mildly though, so I won't be jumping through the required registration hoops ;).
Obviously. Randomized polls cost money and aren't done on websites.
You make a good point, Saje, but I don't think the industry will decide whether to do a sequel based on that kind of poll, whatever the results might be. Even a million fans wouldn't be enough.

My best case scenario is this: Joss becomes a big name next year. Someone wonders whether reviving Firefly could work, sees the poll, and decides to buy a real market study. If the poll doesn't work, the industry will not even see it in one year.
What happened to those Farscape webisodes that were supposed to happen? Looking into what happened there might be of relevance.
Stalled due to money and development, Simon.

Ragondux, if you look through the HBNF Facebook site there is already a survey monkey survey that does exactly what you are proposing and doesn't make anyone sign up at yet another website. Someone beat you to it.
Purely money for the 'Farscape' webisodes according to Brian Henson - via Wikipedia - who says they're ready to go apart from that.

If the poll doesn't work, the industry will not even see it in one year.

By "doesn't work" do you mean a negative result (from our perspective i.e. low numbers) ?

...but I don't think the industry will decide whether to do a sequel based on that kind of poll...

Oh me neither, just pointing out the worse case scenario. As you say, they'll take no notice of it at all i'd imagine. And to be honest, even if Joss does become a big name I suspect that at this point a 'Serenity' sequel probably won't be right at the top of his to-do list but i'm not inside his head.

Who knows though, stranger things have happened. People play the lottery right ? I'd put it at those kinds of odds.

[ edited by Saje on 2011-03-06 22:11 ]
@IrrationaliTV: if you're talking about the post that was made 8 minutes ago, technically I was first :) But they're a lot more visible, so I get your point. If you're talking about some other survey, I can't find it.

@Saje: by "doesn't work", I mean that I'll either get positive answers or no answers. There'll be no way of distinguishing between lack of fans and lack of visibility, unless lots of people answer that they don't want to pay for more Firefly :)
Ragondux, there was a survey monkey survey up yesterday. Posts on that site move pretty fast. First posted around 18 hours ago. It has everything yours does. And (respectfully) none of it means a damn thing. Doubt they (or you) will even get a decent sample size.

Joss is already a BIG NAME in TV. Avengers may make his name in features but, his reputation in TV is already solid.
Doubt they (or you) will even get a decent sample size.

Well, I do intend to build a bigger website, not just a poll. If the website gains a userbase, so will the poll.

Joss is already a BIG NAME in TV.

To some extent. He's not very well known in my country, even among TV series fans, for example. He's definitely not a nobody, and he's very important to millions of people, but "The Avengers" is definitely on another scale.
He's certainly a well respected name in TV. By "big name" though I basically mean "has enough latitude to make pretty much what he wants" (i.e. enough for his name to push through a sequel to a movie that was borderline profitable, if at all). 'Inception' probably sounded pretty good on paper anyway but at the same time, after 'The Dark Knight' grossed over a billion dollars I suspect Chris Nolan could more or less do what he liked.

ETA: There'll be no way of distinguishing between lack of fans and lack of visibility, unless lots of people answer that they don't want to pay for more Firefly :)

Yeah, since clicked on the poll and read the questions (i'd assumed I couldn't without registering). As you say Ragondux, if you get low numbers it's hard to tell if people just don't know about it or know but don't care. Put that way it maybe seems a bit less worthwhile but hey, we agree that the chances of a negative effect on the best case outcome are very remote so putting it up can't do much harm I reckon.

[ edited by Saje on 2011-03-06 22:50 ]
What happened to those Farscape webisodes that were supposed to happen?

Ahh, Simon, quit pulling on those heart strings. Now, I'm really sad. :(
I did a demographic (etc) survey of some Browncoats a few years back, and emailed the results to execs at Universal - they used the survey to help try to sell the video game rights. (Which didn't happen in the end). I can't actually remember if I saved the results anywhere, ahem.

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