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"We Are Mighty" - a look at Browncoats: Redemption

Saturday 3 April 2010, by Webmaster

Anti-heroes have a special place in the reader’s heart. Flawed, annoying, a dark and dangerous counterpart to the shiny-faced typical-heroes, anti-heroes reach into the grab-bag and pull out all the things heroes are really scared of. They often teach us more about ourselves, more about life and the conflicts therein than do the flawless Supermen of fiction.

One of genre’s beloved anti-heroes is Captain Mal Reynolds, of Firefly and Serenity. He really never tried to be a hero, and when he did, he usually managed it in the most blundering way possible. Sure, he got the grand speeches, the devoted crew and the hatred of an empire. But even the villain gets grand speeches. Plus, Mal’s crew threatened—more than once—to walk off stage, and he earned the hatred of the empire completely by accident.

Mal didn’t set out to be a hero, but we cheered for him, and when Firefly got pulled off the air, we booed and hissed our new villain, Fox. Loyal fans clamored for a return, a rerun, a fan series, anything!

Finally, some of those wishes are going to come true, and it’s for a great cause!

A new anti-hero has stepped into the ‘Verse. Captain Laura Matthews, captain of the ship Redemption, really has no heroic goals. Unlike Mal Reynold’s and his crew, Captain Laura isn’t out to spread the signal or disrupt the Alliance. She merely wants to make a living and keep her peace.

But the Alliance is looking for a scapegoat, and the Browncoats are looking for a hero. Along with everything else, Laura has a secret that threatens everything she has worked so hard for. As the Alliance bears down on them and war threatens to begin again, the crew has to figure out where they stand and how they will respond to these new pressures.

They didn’t set out to save the day. But there’s a job that has to be done, and it’s fallen squarely in Laura’s lap. The Alliance wants revenge for the mess made by the Serenity, so Redemption and her crew are hounded by enemies. Their actions might just change everything.

The cast and crew of Browncoats: Redemption didn’t set out to be game-changers, either.

Michael Dougherty and Steve Fisher threw the idea out there on a whim. “Hey, what about a Firefly fan-film?” they asked the attendees of the 2008 Dragon*Con, and got whole-hearted approval and support. In telling the story of Browncoats: Redemption, Dragon*Con has an undeniable part!

Cast, crew, funding, everything started falling into place. Mike said that, when filming started, he didn’t know what he couldn’t do. Everything was done with fan support, from cast to ship-builders. Calls were sent out on Twitter, Myspace, via fan boards and Browncoat groups. The fans responded.

Long days, snafus with sites and all other challenges were taken in stride. From PJ Haarsma (author of the Young Adult Science Fiction series, Softwire) showing up for his cameo with 104 degree fever, to Mal Reynold’s pistol (donated by QMX for the filming) breaking over Laura’s head, they pushed through on a break-neck schedule. Everyone worked around their day jobs, their families, and the distance from home.

They built the Redemption from scratch. Mike’s wife rummaged through thrift stores and vintage shops to create one-of-a-kind costumes. The primary filming was done in fourteen days. The entire time from idea to release? Two years. The project booked right along at a good clip, and the first trailer was scheduled to be unveiled at Dragon*Con ‘09.

Mike tweeted his worry, some time before the panel, that the room was too big. Thirty minutes before the panel started, the staff guys were turning people away, and that was after more chairs were added, and people were standing!

Two more trailers have been released since Dragon*Con. New side-projects are being announced, new triumphs and opportunities.

The project has brought many fans onboard. From PJ Haarsma—who has a cameo and many amusing stories to tell—to the Bedlam Bards and many a Firefly addict. There’s something for everyone. A film like this gives people a chance to be involved, to help out. Can’t donate money? Work on the ship. Can’t make it to Maryland to work on the ship? Retweet that trailer!

Browncoats: Redemption is an ambitious look at what might have happened after the crew of Serenity broadcast the signal. It has ambitious goals too: to raise a significant amount of money for the charities it supports.

They chose from a list of charities supported by the stars of Firefly. The Dyslexia Foundation, Kids Need to Read, Equality Now, the Al Wooten Jr. Foundation and the Marine Corps-Law Enforcement foundation. Each charity will receive an equal percentage of the proceeds from the DVD sales.

How much? Steve and Mike have a minimum goal of $90,000 per charity. Some of these charities are just starting up. Others are well established, but they all support an incredibly diverse range of worthy causes.

Kids Need to Read is the one that really brought me into the fold. Started by PJ Haarsma and Nathan Fillion (“Mal”), KNTR brings books to under-funded schools and libraries. Some of PJ’s stories are heart-breaking, as he talks about the kids he’s talked to and the places he’s been.

The premier of the film is at Dragon*Con 2010. DVD sales start soon thereafter. There will also be a screening at ComicCon 2011 and on Can’t Stop the Serenity. Further screenings/showings will be announced as they are booked.

There will be special releases, which I am not authorized to tell you about. But take my word for it, they will be worth watching for! There are a lot of great things coming down the pipeline, and the momentum just keeps getting better.

A great film that promises great success for a great cause. Take that, Hollywood! Genre film can be triumphant, bold, minority-friendly, smart and successful. Don’t believe us?

Just ask the cast and crew of Browncoats: Redemption, and we’ll all answer you with a hearty “We are mighty!”

Because what’s better than the chance to be part of the anti-hero’s story; to live it up with them?