Interview with ‘Browncoats: Redemption’ creator Michael Dougherty

Last year we covered the ambitious new fan film in production set in the Firefly/Serenity ‘verse: Browncoats: Redemption, which tells the story of Captain Laura Matthews and the crew of ‘Redemption’. To get the progress on the project, we caught up with Michael C. Dougherty, who co-created the film with his friend Steven Fisher.

In keeping with the noble Browncoat tradition of raising money for charity, the film is entirely non-profit. All monies raised, once production costs have been covered, is being shared equally among Equality Now, Kids Need to Read, Dyslexia Foundation, the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center and the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation

This year the production was in full swing with script tweaks, casting calls, location planning, filming…and now all principle photography is done. Photos from the set show how high the production values are: the costumes, sets and attention to detail are stunning. The special effects and editing still need to be completed, but next week at Atlanta’s Dragon*Con, the movie’s trailer will receive its world premiere.

Browncoats: Redemption main cast Dragon*Con photo
New postcard for Dragon*Con showing the cast

WhedonAge: 2009 has been an incredible year for you so far! What inspired you to make this film?
Michael C. Dougherty: The inspiration came from multiple places. The idea to do the film started simply enough with Steve [Fisher, co-creator] asking me, “Have you ever thought of doing a Firefly fan film?”

I’ll be honest, at that point I hadn’t heard about “Into the Black”, “Bellflower”, “Big Iron”, or any of the other attempts at this. But we realized, early on, as much as we wanted to do this, if the fans weren’t interested in it there was little point. We went to Dragon*Con 2008 and asked every Firefly/Serenity fan we could find if this was something worthwhile to them. We were really glad to learn that not only was it worthwhile, but it completely reinforced why we would even take this on. I don’t know many fans as passionate, welcoming, and generous as the Firefly/Serenity Browncoats. There was no way we could let them down or make them wait any longer for a story from the ‘verse we love.

From there, every step forward, like every aspect of this project, was extremely serendipitous and organic. Inspiration came from the passion of the people who came out from the table read, the fine actors and crew, the many people who suffered the heat and time for a few minutes to be in the film, and the people who have supported us.

WA: Can you tell us where you are in terms of production and when the release date might be?
MCD: Right now we’ve fully wrapped principal photography. We’re taking a small break, to prepare for Dragon*Con 2009, and then off to editing. We’ll be launching our first trailer at Dragon*Con and the second at the Firefly/Serenity Creation Convention in November.

So far our DVD release will be at Dragon*Con 2010. We may sneak in some showings here and there, but formally we’ve committed to releasing the film them and we want to make sure we’re consistent with what we say we’re going to deliver.

WA: What has been the biggest challenge for you personally while making the film?
MCD: I’d say the biggest challenge was wearing so many hats. I was co-creator, writer, director, co-producer, and whatever was needed to help move us forward. The biggest challenge wasn’t any of those jobs individually, but when you’re doing them all simultaneously, and you have fourteen, to close to one hundred people on some weekends, looking at you for leadership and direction…it can get extremely overwhelming and intimidating.

I saw many times, over the course of filming, that it would have been easy to get an ego and forget why we’re doing this. That is until you see that working side by side with you are people who care so much about the project they are giving up their time to help see this through the end.

WA: And what has been the most fun for you? Do you have any on-set shenanigans you can share with us?

MCD: The most fun, and this will sound cliché but I don’t care, is the friends I have made through this project. Getting to know these people and grow with them through this project has been amazing.

One on-set shenanigan inspired “The Ballad of Wes Robins”, written by one of our extras and crew member Logan Liskovec. We were filming the reaction shots of our great extras for the end of the film. The shot called for them to react to something happening between our main characters. The actors did their thing off camera to help timing, and on the first take, at a pause between reactions, Wes just says “Duuuuuude”. The entire set started snickering during the take. We had a good laugh about it for a few minutes and it even got Wes his own line in the scene.

It’s hard not to think of a memory of on-set, and off-set, shenanigans. We’d prank each other, do whatever it took to make each other laugh, and generally just really enjoyed each other’s company. There were many other shenanigans a plenty, but I don’t want to go into many details, to protect the not so innocent.

Behind the scenes set building for Browncoats: Redemption by Heather Fagan
Behind the scenes set building for Browncoats: Redemption photo by Heather Fagan

WA: You have kept to your schedule and kept everything on track amazingly well. Was there ever a time when you thought you were not going to get to this point?

MCD: Thank you so much for noticing. We worked extremely hard to make sure every deadline was met and we got everything we needed from the day. I was constantly torn. One part of me constantly feared that we wouldn’t. The other part of me was determined, come hell or high water, that no matter what we would do whatever it took to make our schedule.

The beauty in the later part of that thinking was that, since this was my first film as a producer/director, I didn’t know I was filling the days with so much. I was just a man on a mission and that naivety could have blown up in my face, but we had amazing actors and an amazing crew who believed in this as much, and sometimes I wonder if not more, as I did.

WA: How did you find all your actors and crew?

MCD: Thanks to Heather Fagan’s help, we put out casting calls everywhere we possibly could. We held two weekends of auditions and must have seen close to forty people each day. We brought back those that we thought fit the characters, and the ‘verse, and the rest is history.

WA: Without getting into spoiler-city, what can we expect from this movie? What is your favorite part of the film?

MCD: What you can expect is to see? That’s a loaded question. What you can expect is a great story, characters that you can connect to, and a story that feels like it is a part of the Firefly/Serenity cannon.

WA: When and where will you be unveiling the premiere at Dragon*Con 2009?

MCD: We’ll be premiering the film at Dragon*Con 2010, but for 2009 we have the release of our first trailer. As well as a special treat for those who show up. It could be an unedited clip from the film. It could be the announcement of a guest appearance. It could be both.

WA: Does it feel good to be so close to the premiere?

MCD: I would love to say yes, but I am so focused on getting everything edited and prepped that, while a year isn’t much time, it feels like forever away.

WA: Have you been to many Cons before? Will you have time to look at any other panels, and if so, what will you see?

MCD: I’ve been to my fair share of Cons. Dragon*Con, so far, being my favorite. I hope to get a chance to see one of Ron Glass’s panels, and a few others, but we shall see what the Cons bring. I have a rule at Cons, unless someone has scheduled me for something, I enjoy the Con and go with the flow. I don’t try to force the experience. I get more out of it that way.

WA: When will the promo be available for everyone else to see?

MCD: The teaser promo will be out one week from its showing at Dragon*Con. Mainly to give us a bit of time to recoup, get the redesign of the website up, and put it out there on as many sites as we can.

WA: Do you have any hints or tips for anyone thinking about setting up their own production?

MCD: Know what it is you want before you get started…and make sure it is actually wanted.Plan ahead, but be flexible because things come up you can’t control. Get your ego out of it, because it’s not about you. It’s about making sure each person there to help you has what they need. Do not over hype what you have before it’s done, because that is the biggest way for karma to prove you wrong. Want it more than anything and don’t give up. No matter what negative things people will say and they will. No matter what obstacles are in your way, because there will be. Trust your actors and crew.

WA: Thank you for taking the time to do this interview, Michael, and all the best for Dragon*Con!

MCD: Thank you so much for keeping an eye on the project.

Michael and the Browncoats: Redemption team will be at Dragon*Con next weekend and the world premiere of the trailer will be in the Marriott room L401-403 at 11:30AM Sunday, September 6th during their panel.

You can find out more about the film on their website, browncoatsmovie.com and on their Facebook page. And for more insight into the making of the film there are some great videos on the Browncoats Movie YouTube channel.

WorldofHiglet is a writer writing the writer’s dream – to write, always. A huge fan of Joss Whedon and Felicia Day who regularly blogs on ‘the last geek bus home’ about all things geek. She has interviewed Felicia and has set her sights on Joss next. Her first novel Turning Left at Albuquerque is being published as an audiobook podcast on turningleft.podbean.com and her latest non-fiction book is currently being considered by agents.

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