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January 18 2006

Slashdot posts a "correction" to an earlier story about Firefly. Story mentions the website trying to raise cash for a new season, and comments below bring out that they've already stopped.

Comments also have some Browncoats defending the show/movie. Previously mentioned earlier story is right here, and it's about that gorram Entertainment Weekly article.

I'm happy to see is regrouping for a more realistic effort. Working to bring browncoats together to promote a future for the 'verse? Good! Trying to build Rome in a day (with matchsticks)? Bad!

I look forward to them coming up with some workable efforts that can bring future Serenity outings closer to reality. Baby steps, baby steps...
Yeah that particular site got criticism from a lot of fans about their approach. But they seem to have seen sense for the time being.

If anyone is interested, scroll down this thread at to see the 'official' reason why the organisers stopped taking money and returned donations.
I'm just glad it stopped. I think that the industry may be going in this direction, but fans would be hindering the effort. Not helping.
but fans would be hindering the effort. Not helping.

I totally agree. Fans trying to raise money for a new series (the alleged economic clout of the fandom didn't work at the US box office) and those damn silly online petitions saying 'Sign here to bring back Firefly' are pie in the sky ideas as far as I am concerned. And it does raise extremely serious issues of how much influence should a fandom have in the running of a TV show.

I'd suggest.

1) Keep on buying the DVDs. Give them away as presents (many fans do this already).
2) Writing to the SciFi channel and thanking them for showing Firefly. Don't email them, post them a letter.

In the short run, it will achieve bugger all.

Eventually someone high up will hopefully notice that there's still a lot of interest in the Firefly 'verse.

But a new series of Firely in the next few years? Not a hope in hell. And let's not forget that no one is really sure about the Fox network and whether or not it owns the rights to the TV show.

Though I could see Universal commissioning a Serenity TV movie for the Sci-Fi channel but that decision is in the laps of the gods.
Yeah, the best you can do as a consumer is to, erm, consume. Universal get a cut in licensing for most of the Serenity products, and of course the Serenity DVDs.

There's no way any TV network would touch fan donated money (and also whoever is collecting that money is - nearly literally - sitting on dynamite waiting to explode under them).

Fans of Serenity/Firefly are many, but not many enough to pay for another episode or movie.
1) Keep on buying the DVDs. Give them away as presents (many fans do this already).

Or, donate them to public libraries a la one is really sure about the Fox network and whether or not it owns the rights to the TV show.

Surely you jest.
We're talking about legal issues here. Contracts, etc.
Bet your bottom dollar someone knows who owns the rights to the TV show. Like all of the lawyers that were involved in drawing up the contracts. They just ain't talking because, well, it's no one's business except those involved.
And you can find out who "owns" the show by watching the credits at the very end of each and every episode. All that legalese is there, but it goes by so quickly that you can't read it unless you pause the playback.
: )

[ edited by AmazonGirl on 2006-01-19 15:59 ]

[ edited by zeitgeist for spelling/clarity on 2006-01-19 21:45 ]
I was referring to the fandom in general. There's been that many claims and counter claims about who owns what and for how long.
True, that.

By the way, your name is a goldish colour.
How'd you do that?
Being one of the admins. Blue is for the mods.
And pink will be for me! Um. For something important. I don't know what, yet.

I'm so glad this stopped, it was all very foolish.

I can't imagine that anyone involved with Firely/Serenity would ever approve of such a thing.
And you can find out who "owns" the show by watching the credits at the very end of each and every episode.

This is true, but it doesn't tell you things such as how long a TV show is licensed exclusively to a network (eg Fox Broadcasting Corp), or if the rights have later been sold elsewhere.

I don't think any of us really know.
I'm so glad this stopped, it was all very foolish.

I can't imagine that anyone involved with Firely/Serenity would ever approve of such a thing.

Well, I have to admit I was skeptical, as well(I have not been jaded), but it was a worthwhile effort, at least they had a proper site, and they can do other stuff to rally the fandom and encourage more of the verse.

And more foolish things have been done in terms of Firefly/Serenity *cough*Attempting to have a continuation of Firefly *cough*. And what can anyone say, the fandom seems to comprise of people who are passionate about Firefly, want to see more of it, who are unrealistic, and shouldn't be surprising lol ;)
(I loved that introduction on the Serenity DVD Joss made for the advanced screenings, just touches my heart....)
I find the pooh-poohing of to somewhat irritating.

Yes, the amounts necessary to bring back the show are quite large. But they have to start somewhere, right? The site had only existed for a few days, with little promotion. Of course, they hadn't raised much money.

And yes, the strategy they pursued may have proven to have insurmountable problems. But without trying it, how would they have known? It's not obvious to me that it's a bad strategy. After all, TV seems to be moving toward a pay-per-view mode (a la Googlevideo, Apple's Video Ipod service, etc.) Why not pre-pay for the production costs on a per-season basis? Even if they didn't raise all of the money necessary to cover the production costs, they might've reduced the perceived risk enough for a greenlight.

And yes, there are probably a lot of legal risks involved. Are they insurmountable? I don't know, not knowing what they are. But I haven't seen anything yet that suggests that, whatever they are, they could not be overcome.

From the note on the website, it appears that a top-level decision-maker (Joss?) would've reacted badly to fan money being involved. Why? They don't seem to mind taking fan money when buying tickets, and DVDs -- why would they mind fans pre-paying for the show?

The biggest faults I saw with their effort was that a) didn't have a timeline with milestones to measure progress b) no indication of who was behind the site, and why we should trust them and c) and no mechanism for returning the cash if the effort was unsuccessful within the allotted time. Perhaps with more time, they would've addressed these flaws. But since they shut it down, we won't know.

But I don't think it was the obviously unworkable strategy that some of y'all appear to think it was.
Didn't exactly work for the Save Enterprise campaign. And I remain unconvinced that fans shoud be in charge of the ayslum.

Here's a hypothetical situation. Let's say the money had been raised. And Joss says "Right I want to go this way with Firefly" and the organisers who represent those who donated say "No. We don't like your new direction. We gave you all this money. We want the old Firefly back. You owe us". What did we get? Joss compromised artistically and the ultimate fan fic appearing on our screens.
My position is that I support these guys decision to regroup, and I look forward to seeing what workable ideas they come up with. I do think their initial strategy was obviously unworkable, for reasons people have covered and I won't repeat, and that was kind of evidenced by how quickly they dropped it.

I think their best strategy for success will be to start with some smaller manageable goals that they can realistically meet and then build on. If these guys are up for it, it would be amazing to have a central site for future browncoat fundraisers (a la Variety ad, Operation: Browncoat, DVDs for troops, etc.). Don't know if that's at all their plan, just a thought of mine...
It's not obvious to me that it's a bad strategy.

As a creator I sure as heck wouldn't touch that money for a myriad of reasons including Simon's argument above. If there's to be a pre-pay system it needs to be set up in a way thats accountable to the people paying in and to the creators and not just one that pops into existence thanks to people no one has ever heard of where there is no way for anyone to know for sure what's really going on. And asking Browncoats to part with their money without having anything in place smacks of a ripoff in the offing- no offense to anyone involved, but from the outside it could easily look like the 'coats are being taken advantage of.

The legal issues revolve around not only rights to first air, rights to syndication, dvd release rights, merchandise rights, and on and on but Fox, Newscorp, NBC/UNI, Joss, Mutant Enemy, etc's claims on those rights. Seems to me to be foolish to start collecting money when none of the legal mumbo is sorted and no one has found out if Joss would take the money if offered.

Assuming Firefly's average budget of $2.2M per episode, it would cost around 2,420,000 of us $20 to get a new season. And that doesn't take into account the increased bankability of our BDH's. Not that I couldn't see them softening on that for their love of the show, but I would never ask them to take a paycut to make me happy. What if people who paid hate the final product and want their money back? What if for unforeseen reasons it becomes financially or otherwise untenable mid-run. Are you ready for that backlash? That heartbreak?

If I thought about it further I could probably write quite an essay on why this is an exceedingly bad idea. Hope these 'off the top of my head' thoughts help stir the brains of those pondering it here today.
Simon --

As I envision it working, the fundraisers would have a deadline. If they failed to work out mutually acceptable terms with Joss and the rest of the Firefly production team by the deadline, then they'd have to give the money back. Thus, if Joss felt the terms compromised his artistic vision too much, then he'd just refuse the money, and the money would go back to the donors.

Yes, you're right, Save Enterprise didn't work. The question is whether that was the fault of that particular campaign, or a demonstration of the inherent unworkability of the strategy. I'm inclined to former explanation.
The industry will not accept money from fans to produce a show, that to me demonstrates unworkability of the strategy, regardless of which fandom engages in such a campaign.
zeitgeist -

Suppose a couple of penniless fans came to Joss or Fox with some funding scheme. How do you think they would react? I'd predict that they would just blow them off (albeit pleasantly and with great charm.) So going to them before you raised a substantial amount of money would be pointless, in my opinion. Same with working out the legal rights.

On the other hand, if you came to them with several million in the bank, they're much more likely to at least talk to you and seriously evaluate your proposal.

I agree that the browncoatsriseagain folks needed to provide more information and accountability to re-assure prospective donors that they were not a scam. Among other things, they needed an escrow system, bios of the founders, a timeline with significant milestones, etc. I expected that we would see those things as the site grew, and the money became more substantial. But, again, the site was days old. You guys seem to be expecting it be fully fledged, rather than what it was -- a good start.

Yes, some fans would be disappointed with a second season, just as some fans were angry that Joss killed off Wash. Yes, things could go wrong mid-run. Life'e's full of risks. I'd still rather live in a world with a disappointing second season of Firefly, than a world where it didn't exist at all.
While I always advocate people speaking their minds, I think this discussion is moot now. The organizers of this are moving on, I think we should too.
jam2 -- while the browncoatsriseagain folks may have moved on, I think the idea has merit, and I would like to see somebody else try it. Therefore, it's worth discussing, even if the browncoatsriseagain folks aren't currently pursuing it.
Fair enough, crasch. However, I think the response of most here probably means that as great an idea as it may be, it has no real chance of success since people aren't broadly willing to get behind it.

Operation: Browncoat raised $8,000+. If this effort was wildly spectacularly more successful, like 100x more, it would raise maybe $1million, which would be enough for... nothing. Beyond all the legal/creative reasons, I just don't believe the numbers are there.
Money = Ownership. I think that's why TPTB in Hollywood won't hear of taking money from outsiders -- they are not interested in "selling" to outsiders. Remember, Fox (the studio, not the network) gets $ every time someone buys Firefly on DVD, and Universal gets paid for Serenity DVDs; if fans paid for making the production, who would get that DVD money? Also on the ownership tip, I would agree that there would be a danger that fandom money might come with "input," like "bring Wash back" or "more YoSaffBridge" or "Mal and Inara should kiss" or who knows what, and as goldfish-toned Simon said, we wind up with fanfic. Not so much with the goodness.

And let's say that fans do raise this ginormous pile of money to pay for production. (I also agree with zeitgeist here -- our BDHs will certainly deserve a pay raise sometime soon, so when I say "ginormous," I mean "doubleplus ginormous" -- like jam2 says looking at Operation Browncoat numbers and using zeitgeist's estimate of cost, literally a minimum of 6,050 times more than we have shown is reasonable for us to raise.) Someone would still have to create an hour a week on their network schedule for the Fan!Firefly to run. They won't do that unless they believe they will be making money during that hour -- that's why Firefly was cancelled in the first place. So they would need to believe they will be seeing high-enough ratings if they air the show. How can we guarantee that when we couldn't even deliver enough audiences to make Serenity a hit at the theatres (respectable, yes, but nobody's saying it's a hit)?

The best advice was gossi's -- let's be consumers and consume. Let TPTB, who certainly can't be accused of not smelling the potential for money, figure out that great DVD sales + Internet users might = future sales on iTunes, Google Video, etc., or direct-to-DVD, or whatever else their little profit-seeking sensors can sniff out.
You know who has $2 million dollars?


It's not like the man is sitting on a street corner with no legs shaking a little cup for spare change.

And you know who should have been asked before anyone started raising any cash for this sort of thing?

Succinctly put, Allyson. Thanks
The skepticism here towards this idea is a big part of why I continue to haunt Whedonesque. People here think a little.

I like a borderline Quixotic struggle as much as the next guy. But even broaching the idea of collecting money for as radical a concept as this without doing a LOT of really major planning and thinking before you go public, doesn't even rise to the level of being Quixotic. And, then there is what I guess we're calling the fanfic problem so intelligently described above -- imagine Joss trying to take "notes" from a couple of hundred thousand fans-turned-suits....
jam2 -- Operation Browncoat was a charitable effort to raise money to buy Nathan a coat. Albeit, a very special coat, but anyone who donated did so out of warm feelings toward Nathan and his character. I think people are much more likely to pre-pay for something from which they would personally benefit. Also, we don't need to raise all of the production costs to make it worthwhile, we only need to reduce their capital costs enough to make it worth the risk. However, you're broader point is well taken, as the people responding here don't seem very favorable.

billz-- I would assume that the studio would get the money. I look at "donations" as pre-payment for the series. It's like ordering a magazine subscription to the New Yorker. Most magazines earn money from both ads and subscriptons. As a subscriber, you don't know exactly what's going to be in each issue beforehand (as the articles haven't been written yet), but you know in general the kind of articles that will appear. And just as the magazine retains ownership of the articles, so would the studio (or production company) maintain ownership of the episodes. The networks currently operate like a magazine that makes its money solely from ads (commercials), back issues (DVD sales), and reprints (re-runs on other networks like the Sci-fi channel). I see this as a way for them to add subscription revenue (episode pre-payments) to their revenue stream.

As for rabid fans trying to tell Joss what to write, I'm sure he's well-versed in fending off their entreaties. After all, he knew that killing off beloved characters in Buffy would risk the shows ratings, and thus the possibility of that it would be renewed. Either way, whether he gets paid by ad revenue or by pre-payments, keeping the money flowing depends on pleasing the fans. (That said, I doubt very much that Joss writes with the fans in mind--I think he writes for himself, and the fact that what he writes pleases enough people to pay him to do it is a happy accident.)

Allyson -- I'm sure Joss gets crazy fan mail every day of the week. Asking him before you've raised credible amounts of cash would've been pointless, as I assume that he (or his staff) would dismiss such a plan out of hand. And while Joss may have the personal wealth to fund another season, I doubt he would want to invest such a large fraction of his net worth in a single project.

bobster -- Yes, perhaps they should've done more research they started. However, it's easy to get caught up in excessive planning. It's often better to get something out there, to get ideas and feedback, and adjust on the fly.
crasch, I really like your analogy about a magazine, but I think it is a little off, IMHO. A subscriber subscribes to the *whole* magazine, not just one feature. Subscribing to TV is what cable is about. For example, our family subscribes to HBO, and we love Bob Costas, Deadwood and Entourage, but not so much Bryant Gumbel, The Sopranos (I know, we're dweebs) and The Comeback. If we could make a deal with HBO to subscribe only to Deadwood and Entourage (or, back a little while, Six Feet Under), we'd do it. It would be the same way with "subscribing" or prepaying for just one series -- I don't think anyone would go for it. It would set a very weird precedent.

Allyson, really good point about "who has $2 million," and who should be asked. It reminds me of the one really funny line in the "making of" special about "The Producers": "There are two rules in theatre. The first is, never invest your own money. The second is, NEVER INVEST YOUR OWN MONEY!" (shouting is Nathan Lane's, not mine) ;-)

BTW, crasch, I *don't* think it would be "pointless" to try to ask Joss what he thinks about these ideas, as he absolutely, positively gives respect and consideration to what we say or ask. I mean, he posted here just today! If he didn't like the idea of fans raising money to donate toward production, it wouldn't be because it was "dismiss[ed] out of hand," it would be because he didn't like it.
Allyson -- I'm sure Joss gets crazy fan mail every day of the week.

Asking him before you've raised credible amounts of cash would've been pointless, as I assume that he (or his staff) would dismiss such a plan out of hand.

You can't really make any educated assumptions regarding Joss and his assistant. Asserting that it would have been pointless is also untrue.

And while Joss may have the personal wealth to fund another season, I doubt he would want to invest such a large fraction of his net worth in a single project.

This doesn't make sense within your plan. I mean, wouldn't he just immediately make that money back from the sponsors of the imaginary second season?

It's often better to get something out there, to get ideas and feedback, and adjust on the fly.

Maybe not so much with other people's money, especially when the people with the plan know as much about television production as I know about quantum physics, which is to say, absolutely nothing. Also, while it may be easy to get caught up in "excessive" planning, it would have been nice to see ANY planning with this.

A fool and his money, and all that. But what makes me sad aren't the fools, but the people who perhaps with a small amount of education wouldn't have sent money to an unknown entity, with no ability to make anything happen at all, without first consulting with the people responsible for Firely to ask: Since you're tied up with film for the next two years, can you look in a crystal ball and tell me if you, the actors, the writers, will still be interested and available to move forward?

I understand the road to hell is paved with good intentions. What I see is treating a creative force as if they are party clowns for hire for your own personal entertainment.

Although that may not be the spirit of this sort of fundraising, it is what it is.

If I may make an assumption, I think Mr. Whedon knows that there are fans who would sell their homes for a second season. I also assume that because he is a good man, he'd never take that money, not a cent of it.

So, whatever you believe, unless an effort is made with the blessing of Mr. Whedon, it's not legit.

And if anyone wants to do something nice for Joss with their money, making a donation to one of the charities he adores in honor of him and his family I am absolutely certain will be appreciated. I'm not just assuming that. I'm sure.

Someone above suggested buying Serenity to donate to public libraries. That's also lovely.

But this kind of project? I think the disclaimer I'd put on it is, "donating money to this idea is exactly the same as setting your wallet on fire, now that you know that, would you still like to donate?"

Of course, point is moot as this project is shut down and they claim they have returned the money to donors. But in the future, I'd ask that no one just send cash to an anonymous source with a flashy site. The money seems to have been returned...this time. Maybe hopeful fans will not be so lucky the next time.
billz -- I'm sure Joss would be very gracious, but I don't think that he would take such a project seriously until it had already garnered a lot of support. If you were him, would you want to give your imprimatur to some project started by some unknowns on the internet? What if they turn out to be just a couple of flakes? If he endorses them prematurely, fans will blame him for any problems that arise. So, until such a project demonstrates its credibility, he's likely to be discouraging to any such proposed projects.

Yes, pre-paying a la carte for a single show, rather than paying for a bundle of programs is new. However, it's not *that* radical -- most cable services offer pay-per-view after all. (Although the way most of them handle pay-per-view is pretty boneheaded in my opinion.) And Apple's Video Ipod services seems to be working well. The principal difference between Apple's service, and what I envision, is that instead of paying for existing programs, you would be pre-paying for programs yet to be produced.

An important feature of a successful pre-payment program would be a mechanism for returning the money if the project failed to reach it's target by some pre-defined deadline. The principal risk to would-be subscribers would then be a) lost interest on their subscription b) and administrative costs. Would it work? I don't know--but I would like to see it tried. I think it would help shows like Firefly and Arrested Development, whose fans are passionate, but too few to earn enough ad revenue.
crasch, don't you think that if there was a buck to be made with this venture (at this point in time) that TPTB would be all over it? That is if the talent and creators were willing and available.

There is just too much "if" in this plan right now.
Tamarac-- not necessarily. Network executives have been known to make a mistake occasionally. After all, Star Trek was cancelled after 3 years of poor ratings. Yet, obviously, there was still a lot of life left in it, that the execs didn't recognize at the time. I think the same is true of Firefly. It takes time to grow a franchise.
I totally agree that cancelling Firefly may have been a mistake. I just don't concede that a fan based fundraising drive to resurrect it is the way to go at this point in time. The best way for some type of return to the verse is if industry insiders decide there is a buck to be made. And I certainly don't condone efforts to part fans with their money without the blessings of the creator of the verse.
There are not that many browncoats.

There, I said it. I wish there were more browncoats, but there ain't. I realized this after the movie didn't do so hot at the box office. It's still a cult following.

The pre-screenings made the movement seem bigger because of how enthusiastic, loyal, and vocal browncoats are. That made it easy to instantly sell out 30 simultaneous screenings, which adds up to maybe 8000 fans, and they showed up and were excited and made the whole venture look awesome (and it was). But that doesn't scale out into the mainstream. (So how many BCs are there? I dunno. There were close to 80,000 registered at the Universal site, and that was free.)

It does come down to the mainstream. Any TV show or movie needs some mainstream support to succeed. The people who watched Firefly on Fox or now on SciFi, many of them just happened to click to it on a Friday night, many made a point of watching because they like sci-fi in general, many like the show a lot but wouldn't call themselves browncoats (I have several friends in that category).

The point is, the existing TV landscape allows all those people to tune in with no barrier, and still count as eyeballs in the advertising scheme. Once you talk about fronting money to maaaybe get a show on the air, that's a big barrier. It's a big enough barrier that hardcore browncoats (many in this thread, myself included) won't go over it. Forget about Joe FlippingChannels, Mary ScifiFan, and Bob LikeDontLoveTheShow. Now you're down to a small fraction of the audience that wasn't enough to make the show successful in the first place.

crasch, I believe your heart's in the right place (as I do for the guys, having exchanged emails with them), but I think you're overlooking all the points people are making to try to be realistic about this. 1 browncoat wanting this desperately to happen is not enough. 1000 browncoats isn't enough. 100,000 browncoats wanting it desperately isn't enough. 1 million brownco... Well, there aren't 1 million browncoats, and that's where the numbers just come up short.
Thank you, jam2. I probably spent $10K this last year going to every FF/Serenity remotely related Con, buying copies of FF, buying copies of Serenity, buying all Serenity related products in existence, going to every prescreening and seeing the movie 17 times.

I still won't give money to some anonymous person who has a pipe dream.

Just saying.
I read this link this morning before leaving for work and scratched my head. Now I’m back home I see that Billz and Simon’s posts convey the gist of my opinion.

Surely the funding of production is not (and never has been???) an issue. Production would have continued if the network had provided an opportunity to do something significant with the finished product. The network thought they had better opportunities with other ‘properties’; irrespective of what we may think of the relative merits of what replaced Firefly and what was available on other stations. Unless/until something changes their view on that – such as ludicrous sales of the Firefly and Serenity DVDs – then campaigns such as this are totally irrelevant.

Before Christmas I was watching with interest the proposed merger (in the UK) of Virgin and ntl as it seemed like that kind of new player in the UK cable market might be something of value for otherwise overlooked shows. A new force in cable TV might well welcome a ‘cult’ show to get an initial following. It didn’t happen but it seems like the deal may be on again . My feeling is that such changes in the balance of power inthe media are our best bet for revival - short of very rapid movement to the downloading society.
There is no realistic possibility in which movie or network execs would accept fan money. Period. I have a strong feeling that Firefly/Serenity will be done for a while (at least) for the following reasons:

1) The movie just came out a few months ago, and the DVD even sooner. It is way too early to anticipate another project taking off.

2) Serenity left us with what I believe to be a strong sense of finality. For the most part, things felt resolved. The only project of Joss' that seems to be somewhat open-ended was Angel, though not on a thematic level. If he plans to return to any part of the verse we probably won't know until late 2006 or 07 depending on how well Goners does, and Wonder Woman's ability to attract a buzz. If these movies do not do as well as expected, then it would seem likely that he would return to a former project.

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