Wednesday, October 24, 2007

A Monster Fan Interview: Browncoat1

Carl (browncoat1) is a Jericho Ranger as well as a Firefly Browncoat. I remember him from the CBS board and he'll be back there soon. Carl promotes both his favorite shows and we are fortunate to have him as a Ranger.

Thanks for the interview Carl.

1)Why was "Firefly" cancelled?

Well, I will try not to get too longwinded. Joss Whedon, who had created "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" was in a contract with Fox Television and they asked him to create a show for them. What he pitched was "Firefly" a show he was inspired to write when he read a copy of Michael Shaara's "The Killer Angels" he found in a seat on a plane trip. The story appealed to him and being Joss he added his own flair and ideas to the theme and created "Firefly". "Firefly" was a blend of sci fi and western, two genres that most people think should never be mixed, but Joss did it in a way that worked. The crew of Serenity (their ship) were an odd mix of people living on the fringe of space, beyond the arm of the law, trying to make a living any way they could.

He wrote the pilot "Serenity" and showed it to the Fox execs who promptly didn't get it. They thought the two hour pilot was too long and told Joss he had to write a whole new pilot over the weekend and present it on Monday. He wrote "The Train Job" which Fox accepted as the pilot and eventually aired. This was the first mistake as "The Train Job" did not properly introduce the audience to the characters or give us enough background on the politics, the War, or the emotions that set the stage for this story.

Another major factor for cancellation was the inept management of Fox execs in how they handled the show. They did not produce enough ad spots for the show so word did not get out to people that the show was on. They put it on the "timeslot of death" which if Friday nights at 8:00pm Eastern when much of the target demographic is not at home to watch. Then to make matters worse they aired the episodes completely out of order lending to the confusion and causing viewership to drop off. The final nail in the coffin was preempting the show frequently for major league baseball without warning. People tuned in to find baseball playing two weeks in a row and figured the show was gone. Before word could spread via the internet the damage was done and Fox pulled the plug.

Joss himself, as well as cast members, have said that Fox simply "didn't get Firefly". It is easy to see that they didn't due to the way they handled the show.

2) Can you also tell us about Serenity and how that came about?

"Serenity" was the feature film the Universal greenlit after Fox released the series on dvd. The dvd was released only after much campaiging by the browncoats. The dvd far surpassed any sales expectations due in large part to the browncoat online community spreading the word and bringing new people into the fanbase. We had a "Dvd to the Troops" campaign where we made contacts within the US military to ship donated dvd sets of "Firefly" overseas to US troops on the ground and in the navy stationed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea, Japan, and Germany. With the release of the dvd set we were driven to make it successful, and that success was noticed by Universal studios who approached Joss about doing the movie.

"Serenity" is a continuation of the story of "Firefly" that takes place 6 months after the end of the television series. The crew is in desperate straits and they are being tracked by the law for harboring a fugitive. This movie was Joss's attempt to wrap up some of the loss ends of the story arcs from the series in case he did not get another chance. Universal had signed on for three movies, but we had had the rug jerked out from under us before so we were wary.

3)Why the name Browncoats?

"Browncoats" was actually taken by the fanbase after Nathan Fillion, who plays Malcolm Reynolds, referred to the fans by that name. "Browncoats" also refers to the Independent soldiers who fought the Alliance during the Unification War when the Alliance was trying to bind all of the planets under their control, whether those planets liked it or not. The browncoats lost the war.

Only seems fitting we held onto the moniker "browncoats" since we have been the underdogs in the fight to save our show, then the dvd set, and then the movie.

4) Why are fans so enthusiastic?

I think it is because for the vast majority of the fanbase, the message Joss was conveying with "Firefly" really struck a chord with us. The main theme of Joss's story is freedom and family. The crew in the show had bonded and become like family. They might argue and disagree, but when push comes to shove they are willing to lay down their lives for one another. Independence and freedom also resonates with many of us as it is at the very fiber of what this country was founded on; freedom from oppression, freedom from persecution, and freedom to chose one's own path.

Those themes bound us to this show and the story inspired us. We fell in love with this crew and this universe Joss created and that love bred the enthusiasm that we are infamous for online. Like the browncoats in the show we are tenacious and we won't give up no matter the odds. It is that very enthusiasm that won us the dvd set and the movie.

5) I noticed you have a section of the message board called Guerilla Marketing. What are you marketing and why?

The Guerilla Marketing section on some message boards refers to the ideas that we use to help spread awareness of the series dvd, the movie dvd, and now the Collector's Edition of the movie "Serenity". These ideas include links to fliers, bumper stickers, swag to hand out a conventions, and other ideas for spreading the word about the show and movie and their dvd sets. "Guerilla Marketing" was coined back in 2003 by several browncoats since we felt we were waging a campaign to save the show on our own without the backing of the network, much like guerilla fighters after a war is officially over. This is not meant to say we are aggressive or abusive in or techniques, quite the contrary. We are careful not to hang fliers or hand out material without first getting permission from the necessary parties to do so.

We also field and discuss ideas in this section for buying dvds, donating dvds to the troops, libraries, rental locations, and the like.

6) What is Nathan Nation?

Nathan Nation is a the collective name given to the loyal fans of Nathan Fillion who plays Captain Malcolm Reynolds.

7)Who originally started the fan campaign?

The fan campaign originally kicked off with the launch of the site Firefly: Immediate Assistance by Kiba Rika. The site can be viewed here:


Kiba was instrumental in getting us organized and directing our efforts. It was her direction that led to the Variety ad thanking Fox for Firefly and asking them to keep the show.

8)Do you have any current petitions, events, conventions?

Currently there are no petitions in the pipe, but we are very active at conventions. We hold trivia contests, costume contests, and hand out fliers, swag and other items to help in promoting the dvds. We also have a group of fans who, like the 501st Legion of Star Wars fame, that costumes themselves as Independent soldiers from the show and go to conventions to help spread the word.

9) Does Firefly have a lot of international fans?

We have a good many international fans. I talk to people online every day from Australia, the U.K., Germany, Canada, Singapore, Korea, and China. I just got back from Dragon Con in Atlanta, GA where I met fans who flew in from Australia, South Africa, Canada, France, and Scotland for the browncoat get togethers.

10) Have you watched Jericho?

Since day one! I love Jericho! I got the dvd set as soon as it was released. I took part in the Nuts to CBS campaign and was very active on the CBS board until I started getting "You can't post here" messages from the CBS site about 6 weeks ago. Couldn't get CBS to resolve it so I have just been surfing around at other Jericho sites. I really love the show and am eagerly awaiting the new episodes.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this information and for introducing us to Browncoat1. I had not heard of the term Browncoat until this week, although I did know about Firefly and it's loyal fan base. I am one of those who never knew the show was on TV and only heard about it after they made the movie. I now have both the series DVDs and the movie on my Amazon.com wish list. This fan movement can teach us a lot.
aka Charlene

maybei said...

Nice to meet you Carl - browncoat1. Thanks for sharing about Firelfy, I will have to check it out!

auntvonna said...

Great interview with Browncoat1 Jane! I will also be checking out the Firefly DVD and the movie. I'm intrigued.

Wendy Scott said...

I'm very sorry, but "NathanNation" is not the single collective name given to fans of Fillion.

This group was started roughly 6 or so months ago. They are currently very heavily involved in successfully promoting the "Kids Need To Read" project started by Fillion and P J Haarsma (author of "The Softwire" series) and they are assisting with spreading the global word on the London based art project, "Hero" by Martin Firrell which features Fillion and is due to debut in London in 2008 (www.completehero.com).

Jericho Saved said...

Thank you for the correction and the link.