WORLD EXCLUSIVE Q&A w/ Creator of Browncoats: Independence War

What. What. WHAT. That's right. The boys of Geekin' grabbed the ear of none-other than Francis Hamada, creator of the fan-freaking-tastic Firefly fan-film, Browncoats: Independence War. Mr. Hamada was amazing enough to take the time to answer a few of our (and your!) questions about his film. For the first time anywhere, right here on Geekin', you'll read about Browncoats: Independence War and what went into making this movie. Retinax-5 and I are self-proclaimed "process junkies" for comic books, but that extends to other mediums as well. Getting to pick Mr. Hamada's brain about the whys and hows of making this fan film were a real treat and very cool to get to read back. On top of answering our (and your!) questions, Mr. Hamada gave us the rare privilege of getting to watch a pre-post version of the film. I'm not telling you this just to brag, though that's there too, but to bring you first hand knowledge of just how incredible this movie is. Firefly fans the world over need to be paying attention to this fan film. Browncoats: Independence War captures the feel of Firefly and Serenity, while telling a unique story in a setting we Browncoats are all too familiar with. Rife with wonderful nods to the movie and TV show, this fan film blew us away with how true to the source material is was, while still bringing new and vibrant characters and story, which can be a daunting task when you're dealing with a universe that the fans immerse themselves in so entirely. Hit the break to see the exciting and informative Q&A.


What drew you to Firefly in the first place?
To be honest, I was never an original fan.  Out of the hundreds who worked on this film, only two people were fans of the show, while it was on the air.  I started watching it when it was on the Sci-Fi Channel and was hooked.  I saw Serenity in theaters and got the DVD right away, but I was slow to get the Firefly Box DVD set.  Once I did, however, I practically wore those DVDs out. :D  The fact that so many of us were late comers to the Firefly universe is proof that the fandom is growing! Not shrinking.  I believe there are over twice as many fans of Firefly now, than in 2005, when Serenity came out, perhaps many more.


Geekin' Fan and Tulsa Browncoat Janece asks: "Did you get to film in any interesting locations?"
Well we did get to use portions of a gun range.  We filmed right next to a fake ‘old west’ town that they used for quick draw pistol shooting and this old west town (all fake) had an ‘abandoned gold mine’. The entrance to the gold mine was a fake fa├žade that went into the mountain.  Very “Disneyland” and quite nice.  We avoided that because they were active shooting ranges and thus no one bothered to clear out all the spider nests and mounds of fire ants that dominated that area.   Since we filmed all at night, it was disconcerting at time when the cast would say “uh? the ground is moving” and we’d point our flashlights and movie lights down at the ground and see millions of fire ants marching towards somewhere (just like Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull).  No one got bit though. :D   A friend let us use his land, around an hour north of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge, and it was beautiful, but it got really cold at night when the fog would roll in from the Pacific Ocean.  That’s why so many of our actors have layers of costume and so many wanted those tan overcoats to stay warm.

Was it all shot at the same location? Was it all outside?
No, we filmed at eight separate locations – three of them indoor sound stages.  In fact there's a scene where half of which is shot in the field and the reversal shot was done on a sound stage.  For another scene, half of the shots were done on a sound stage indoors, the other shots were done on location on a battlefield.    Most of the movie (over 65%) was filmed at one of our co-executive producer’s house.  He has a large tract of land that we can blow up stuff and fire blanks because it’s private property.  But he lives 100 miles away from most of us, including me, so we all had to commute a 200 mile round trip each filming day for nearly 27 shoot days out of the 45 day schedule.  With the cost of gasoline being so expensive, this was about $100 in just gasoline costs each trip.


Did anyone have to learn something new specifically for their role?
We did have military instructors training our actors with the guns, especially those who had never fired fully automatic weapons before.   All the main actors had to go through ‘actor boot camp’ and learn about tactics, moving like a soldier, loading, clearing jams and firing their weapons like soldiers.

Has anyone from the show, cast or crew, seen or commented on the film?

Nope.  Not yet.


How long did it take once you thought of the project and got the ball rolling before you actually got to film?
One month (30 days) from ‘the first thought’ to first day of filming.  In those four weeks, we cast the film, got the crew and secured the locations.  I didn’t go through an audition process, I just cast my friends!  I’m just lucky I have talented friends. :D

Tulsa Browncoat Beth O'Donnell asks: "What was your favorite episode and why?"

I have no single favorite episode.  I love them all. :D


Tulsa Browncoat Jonathan Laughter asks: "After so long since the cancellation of Firefly, was it a challenge to get a crew interested in the project?"
As soon as I mentioned ‘Firefly’ people freaked out. There is a HUGE following in this area. We didn’t actually work with any of the local Browncoat groups per se, what I needed were people who had knowledge and experience in certain jobs (gaffer, grips, sound crew, costume construction, stunt people, special effects artists, etc.) and there are tons of people with that knowledge base here in California, who are total Firefly fans.   The problem was due to the fact that we were a fan film, it was all volunteer work, and many of the crew had to take other (paying) gigs on many days, to pay the rent.  This is fully understandable, and one of the ordeals of micro budget film making.


Browncoat Miriam Queen asked: "Is there another Whedon series you'd consider doing a fan film of?"
 No plans for any Whedon related fan films at this time.  Fan films are fun, but they also cost a lot as far as time and personal money, especially since you can't monetize them.  At the time we started, a lot of my cast and crew were 'between jobs' and they had the time.   A lot of my cast and crew are now 'going back to work' so to speak.  I too have to start looking for a job or else I'll be the 'homeless fan film maker' hahahaha.  Also, I am foremost, a Firefly fan.  I know lots of Whedon fans who love everything he does - Dollhouse, Cabin in the Woods, Avengers, et. al. but I'm first and foremost - a Browncoat.  Love of Firefly is also how I got all these folks to help me make the film.  It's the common element that drew everyone from different backgrounds together. :D  Hope this answers the question. :)

Any plans for sequels or other movies set in the Firefly universe?
Not at this time :D


Any plans to show it anywhere?
We hope to have it shown at the various CSTS (Can’t Stop The Serenity) screenings around the world.  There is a concern since it is a full length feature and thus these events would have to make room for a ‘double feature’, but we hope that we can work our film into the pipeline for these worthy charity events.

Any plans to distribute? How can fans of Firefly and your film find it?
Being a fan film, we could only distribute streaming content or DVDs to backers of the various kickstarter and IndieGoGo campaigns.  Selling them is not an option and would bring about the wrath of the studio lawyers.   Fans will have to see it at the various conventions that we hope to screen at.


The song during the credits, who wrote and performed it?
The song “My History” was written and recorded by my friend Shannon Kealey, who also plays the role of Corporal Taylor Acrey.  Her memorable line is “It’s a trap!” (an homage to Star Wars, as well as another spoken line by an Alliance trooper when he refers to a wounded Browncoat as “Rebel Scum”).  Shannon wrote the song for the film, and she sang and recorded it with her father Tom Kealey and family friends who were musicians.  Again, serendipity aligned me with incredibly talented people.  Usually when ‘most friends’ come up to you and say “Hey, I wrote a song for your movie” the response is a tepid “gee thanks” as you prepare yourself for a cringe inducing amateurish effort of a song.  But this was so delightful and professional that I listened to her song over and over again the day I got the track from her.   I had no idea her singing voice was so awesome.  Her lyrics also dovetail perfectly into the film, singing about how the Victors write the history and how they will never tell of how they crushed our side like ‘we remember it’.  Her stanza is “you can’t write my history” which is a defiant slogan against the Alliance written ‘history books’ that will paint ‘Unification Day’ as a great victory, while Browncoats will remember it as the day they lost their independence.   I also loved just how she captured the “Firefly” essence in her musical composition.  It was a perfect companion to the music of the show. But then I feel like Joss Whedon, when he said that he lucked into getting the best actors to play the best characters in the show Firefly.  I got unbelievably lucky when I cast my friends and they all pretty much excelled at their roles and then some. :D


Why a Firefly fan film versus another franchise?
Simple.  The fans who make Star Wars Fan films, who make Star Trek Fan films, Any of the Marvel franchises, Any of the DC franchises, Metal Gear, HALO, Mass Effect, Bioshock, Dead Space, etc. still have original material to look forward to in the future.  None of their franchises are technically ‘dead’.  Star Wars fans can look forward to a new movie soon, same with Star Trek.

What about us?  The Firefly fans.  Nada, Zip, Nothing.  We’ve been alternately thrilled and then crushed with various rumors and ‘news’ screaming “Re-boot” or “Re-Emergence” of the Firefly universe.  All of these resulted in crushing disappointment and the actual scenario is becoming more and more unlikely as the years go on and the original cast gets older.   Firefly fans are the unloved romantics in the pop culture universe.  The stars don’t seem like they will ever align, to feed us anything new in the ‘verse’ as far as Television or Motion picture tales go.  So only the fans will have to step up and create new material for the other fans.

 The boys of Geekin' want to give a huge thanks to Mr. Francis Hamada for giving us this amazing opportunity and huge honor, not only for sharing his movie with us but giving us his time and energy for this Q&A. You won't find a cooler guy. We also wants to give a huge thank you to the cast and crew of this movie, who poured their own time and energy into giving us an incredible movie and moving experience, and new characters to love.

Be sure to check out the links below and show Mr. Hamada and Browncoats: Independence War your love! Spread the word about this amazing fan-film, let your Browncoat brothers and sisters know about this soon-to-be fan favorite!
BrowncoatsIndependenceWar Facebook Page 


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