Still flying: Firefly fans’ creativity transcends cancellation

Actor Nathan Fillion, who played Capt. Malcolm Reynolds in the 2002 television series Firefly and its sequel film, Serenity, said in a recent interview: “If I got $300 million from the California Lottery, the first thing I would do is buy the rights to Firefly, make it on my own, and distribute it on the Internet.” Following this remark, Firefly fans swiftly moved into action, launching a Web site and Facebook page to gauge fan support for funding a buyout. Almost 12,000 fans responded, pledging more than one million U.S. dollars total.

Reactions to the movement were mixed. Some commentators speculated that a successful buyout could revolutionize the studio system of television production, while others expressed doubt that 20th Century Fox would be willing to part with the rights to Firefly regardless of how much money was pledged.

The project has now halted, but the momentum it gained in only two weeks demonstrates the passion, creativity, and capacity for swift mobilization that are hallmarks of fandom. Yet it bears pointing out that a revival of Firefly — or any other cancelled series — is not necessary for fannish creativity to thrive. Firefly fandom is clearly alive and well. Browncoats: Redemption, a fan-produced Firefly film with proceeds benefiting charity, premiered in 2010 amid great excitement from fans. There are nearly 1,700 Firefly fanworks in the Archive of Our Own, and many more elsewhere on the Web. Such fannish interpretations will continue to be produced, for fun and for free, regardless of who owns the series’ production rights or whether new episodes are being aired.

The passion and creativity of fans transcends the bounds of cancellation. To paraphrase Mal Reynolds in Serenity, love is what keeps fandom in the air, and that love can endure decades after its source texts.

October Drive – Celebrating our Vidding Roadmap!

The final project we have time to talk about during this drive is one of the newest and, we think, one of the most exciting. Our Vidding Roadmap. What’s that? An economy pack of assorted awesome things — initiatives that will serve a purpose beyond vidding, and which we believe will educate, advocate, and entertain. It includes a portal for learning about vidding, aimed at the curious, whether they are coming from inside fandom or from outside; a safe, stable place to store vids for the future; a way to share multimedia fanworks; and integration of multimedia into the Archive of Our Own.

The educational Vidding Community Resource Site is in development right now. The Dark Archive is also getting very close to reality. Video embed functionality for the AO3 is being coded and tested as we speak.

The Torrent of Our Own (TO3), however, is a more complex project. We are developing a bittorrent tracker for fair-use transformative fanworks, including fan vids, fic trailers, political remix, AMVs, machinima, and other forms of transformative digital media. This is a way to share our work with each other that isn’t an afterthought to someone else’s aims. A way that is designed for us, built by us, and owned by us. Running on our servers, with our advocacy behind it. After all, the vidding community has been increasingly disrupted by inaccurate content-filtering systems, the commercial failure of small streaming sites, bullying cease and desist letters, and wrongful DMCA takedowns. The TO3 will provide a stable, scalable home for vids; because torrents work best when there are high levels of collaboration and participation, we can open the network to any and all forms of fair use digital video and audio.

Our Vidding Roadmap, all of its parts, is a big project. It’s one we believe there is a pressing need for. Preserving our work, advocating for its legitimacy, and building for the future.

Donate to the OTW now.

Star Wars Fan Film Wins Emmy

Congratulations to the makers of Star Wars Uncut who last week won an Emmy for “outstanding creative achievement in interactive media” for their collaboratively made, “crowd-sourced” fan film.

The group divided the original Star Wars film into 15 second chunks, and then invited fans to claim a segment and remake it in whatever creative way they wanted. The pieces were then edited back together to make a new version of the film–or, more accurately, many versions of a new film, since each segment has been remade more than once. (A computer program lets you move between them.)

The group is currently “working through the legal issues” with Lucasfilm to produce a full version of the film with official Star Wars soundtrack; Lucasfilm is apparently supportive of the project.