We recently had a discussion about the legalities of fan fiction
, and how some authors were adamantly against the concept (even if their views were on shaky legal grounds). While it is true that certain derivative works can be stopped, that also doesn't mean it's a smart thing, from the perspective of cultivating fans. Reader Eilieen now points us to the news of a fan-made film that builds on Joss Whedon's Firefly TV show and Serenity movie
"Browncoats: Redemption was made by the fans for the fans," director Michael Dougherty explained to Wired.com by e-mail. "But we view this as an independent film; we had Firefly fans travel from all over the U.S. to volunteer their time as extras and other supportive roles in its production. Without them, this film would not exist, and it will only be successful with their continued help and support."
Unfortunately, the article at Wired totally leaves out the question of whether or not the copyright holders know about this particular fan film, and if they're okay with it. Plenty of movie makers -- such as George Lucas -- are perfectly happy with fan flicks, even to the point of encouraging them. But, in this case, it's not clear if this is, in any way, sanctioned. While the filmmakers say they're doing this for charity, that still suggests they're hoping to make some money from the film to give to charity -- which often is the trigger that sets off Hollywood lawyers.
Whedon, for his part, has always been good about cultivating super-loyal fans, and at the same time, of experimenting with smart business models
. But, not everyone associated with Firefly/Serentiy
have always been so sharp. Back when Universal Studios tried to market Serenity
via its biggest fans, the lawyers at Universal (apparently kept separate from the marketers) tried to demand licensing fees
from the fans that the marketing department was urging to promote the film.
Looking over the site of the movie itself, it does suggest that they were able to secure permission
from everyone necessary -- including both Universal and Fox (who ran the TV show) along with Whedon himself:
So here's how it is, we've reached out to FOX, Universal Studios, Joss' agent at CAA, and even Mary Parent who is now at MGM. Everyone we've dealt with has been extremely helpful and completely blown away the stereotype of what the Hollywood experience is like. And much to our surprise, we even have the blessing of Joss Whedon himself. We've reached out to both Fox and Universal to get a greater understanding of the legal permissions we needed to make this a reality and we set out to complete it. And thanks to mighty fine Browncoats like yourself...we have.
That's slightly cryptic, but it sounds like all the legal permissions were granted, and perhaps this fan film will go ahead with all the official blessings. While it's silly that such a permission-based culture is necessary, just to make a film celebrating something that people love, at the very least, it's nice to see some Hollywood folks recognizing that fan fiction and fan films aren't inherently bad things.