If you’re a Star Trek fan, if you’re an independent film maker, if you’ve simply hear anything outside the drone of politics and food porn, you’ve probably heard about Axanar.
Axanar’s YouTube trailer description puts it quite accurately: “the idea of the “fan film” evolves into a new era of Independent Cinema.”
It’s no surprise that the big production houses are scared. No longer is film making equipment exclusive to production lots. No longer are explosions and realistic space ships unobtainable to the layman. No longer does it cost hundreds of thousand of dollars for film and development. The power is in the hands of the passionate.
The fans have taken back their films, crafting it with their hearts and their souls. Cast and crew breath life into it as if it were their own Adam. Plot-driven stories, dynamic characters, and situations that enthrall and engage viewers are again central to movies. The razzle dazzle of smoke and fire are put on the back burner, utilized it only when essential to the story. Is it any wonder why the Big Houses are running so many superhero films now, centralizing on the million dollar effects that the independent film maker doesn’t have the pocket change for?
While Axanar may garner attention for the lawsuits for IP issues, other fan films like ‘A Faithful Companion’ play inside the rules. Set in a world very like the one that Joss Whedon created for ‘Firefly’, the film cracks open a human element. While ‘Serenity’ was meant to wrap up the ‘Firefly’ series due to it’s cancelation, fans have not been sated. Written and director Frank Fradella has ventured into an expansive universe about 500 years in the future. Earth has been left to colonize other parts of the galaxy. While central planets are technologically advanced, planets on the rim are still on the frontier. The story is set on one of these planets and follow the life of Jeremiah, a man on the ‘Old West’ planet of Parrish and Calliope, a Companion, a woman well educated, smart, and highly sought-after.
The story is an old one and one that doesn’t get any better: Love. But what happens when love battles lifestyle and career? More, what happens when love isn’t altogether blinding, but creates a vision that you weren’t quite prepared for?
‘A Faithful Companion’ is a fan film that’s helping the evolution of Independent Cinema. As a short, it can focus on a high quality production without compromise. With it’s focus on plot, lens on character, and crafted with heart, it explores a world not too dissimilar from our own in both situation and setting.
The film is fan-funded at Indiegogo (https://www.indiegogo.com/
We are pleased to announce that we are now accepting head shot submissions for the short film, "A Faithful Companion". If you are a Backstage member, please click the backstage image below to view the details and submit for the desired role. You can also submit your head shot and resume in person by attending the Palm Beach County Filmmaker's Networking Event in West Palm Beach. Event details are below. Can't attend the event? Simply email your head shot, resume and the role you wish to audition for to email@example.com, please be sure to CC the director, Frank Fradella as well, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Place "A Faithful Companion" in the subject line. You will be contacted if selected for an audition and a time slot & sides will be given to you from there. We may consider you for a video submission if you are not in Florida. Thank you & break a leg!
Production title: A Faithful Companion Union / Non-Union: SAG Ultra Low Budget Contract
Production Type: Independent Project length: Short Film (20 minutes)
Project format: 16:9 HD Posted on: Tuesday, January 12, 2016
Production location: Parrish & Delray Beach, FL
Production Company: Paper Lantern Productions / Black Onyx Productions, LLC
Company website: http://www.fireflyfanfilms.com
Director: Frank Fradella Producer: Frank Fradella / Talina Adamo
Casting Director: Talina Adamo
Shooting Location: Florida Compensation: Yes Email: email@example.com
Audition Location: West Palm Beach, FL 33401 (By Appointment only)
January 30, 2016 8:00 AM – 6:00 PM
January 31, 2016 8:00 AM – 2:00 PM
(Please note all auditions will be given a specific time within this window)
Call Backs: January 31, 2016 2:00 PM – 6:00 PM
Shooting Starts: March 5, 2016 Shooting Ends: March 7, 2016
Synopsis: “A Faithful Companion” is a romantic dramedy inspired by Joss Whedon’s space western television series, FIREFLY. In this universe, a Companion is a highly respected part of civilized society, not unlike the traditional Geisha of ancient Japan. On a trip back home to an outer rim world (read: the Old West frontier), Calliope, a sought-after Companion, meets and falls in love with Jeremiah, a wise-cracking charmer who knows more about horses than space stations. This story tells the story of what happens when a respected Companion battles her own heart and the edicts of her order to find happiness.
[CALLIOPE] [GENDER: FEMALE] [AGE: 20-30]
Calliope is a Companion, trained from an early age in diplomacy, politics, commerce, music, dance, and sensual pleasures.She was born and raised on a rim world, riding horses and taking hay rides. Her father still lives there. Falling in love with Jeremiah was not part of the plan.
[JEREMIAH] [GENDER: MALE] [AGE: 25-35]
Jeremiah is a good ol’ boy who has lived his whole life on a rim world bedding farmer’s daughters and probably raising his fair share of hell. He’s got a quick wit and a bit of a drawl, but his heart is in the right place. He doesn’t much know the difference between a Companion and a hooker and it doesn’t bother him either way.
[NUPURI] [GENDER: FEMALE] [AGE: 45-70]
Nupuri is the Elder Mistress of the Companion Order in which Calliope resides. It’s her job to instruct and counsel her girls in everything from playing a musical instrument to the Kama Sutra. She is the epitome of effortless class, and a master manipulator. She has lived the life of a Companion and sees the dangers that lie ahead for Calliope.
[OLD MAN CAMPBELL] [GENDER: MALE] [AGE: 55-70]
Calliope’s father has no problem with his daughter’s profession. He has a fairly big problem with some backwater hick trying to take that profession away from her. Campbell is a big personality. The kind of guy who wears overalls and has a beard that’s been with him since he was in diapers.
Robigo TV over on Vimeo put together a fantastic video essay on the editing of the film Whiplash, which won the Academy Award for Editing. By now you're probably starting to realize that my goal with Firefly Fan Films isn't just to promote the films that fans have made in the Firefly universe, but to provide an ongoing resource for filmmakers of all levels to up their game. Watch the video below for a great treatise on the subject. (Be advised: This video includes the last two minutes of the actual film, so if you haven't seen the movie yet, you'll want to stop watching at about the 22-minute mark.)
Make no mistake about it, you can shoot all day long and have the best lenses in the world, but your film is made in the editing room. Period. Learn how to edit and edit with purpose, and you'll make films that make people "lean in."
This post comes via the informative and educational channel of Darious Britt. There's a lot of good info here, and I highly endorse all of it. His note about casting? Spot on.
Being a fan filmmaker doesn't exclude you from the rules. Your passion for the source material is great, but to make a great film (which should be your aim, right?), you need to nail down your fundamentals. This video will help you get there. Good stuff.
One of my favorite stories to come out of Hollywood — actually many of my favorite stories about filmmaking in general — came out of the movie Blade Runner. I'm one of those nuts who has the multi-disc edition of the film with every cut ever made, and a whole disc just dedicated to behind the scenes footage and director's commentaries.
The first of my favorite things about that film — and arguable the best lesson any filmmaker can take away from it — is that creative beats money any day of the week and twice on Sunday. During the production of Blade Runner, director Ridley Scott ran out of money before they finished building the set. That whole wonderful world they inhabit? The streets, the neon, the patchwork builds, the noodle stalls and crosswalks? All one set. But it wasn't done. You couldn't point the camera down the street without realizing you were on a set because it was clearly unfinished. With no more money coming from the studio, they had to get creative. So someone asked, "How can we hide the fact that this isn't done?" Answer: "We need to reduce visibility."
Okay, but how? And the solution, which became the trademark look of the film, was simply to turn off the lights and make it rain all the time.
Can you imagine Blade Runner in the daytime? Impossible. The film's whole aesthetic depends on this look, and it arose because the filmmakers had to stop solving problems with their wallets. This is why I tell you to go do a 48-hour film festival. Get used to solving problems creatively, because sooner or later (and usually sooner), you're going to run out of money and the creative solution is better anyway.
My second favorite lesson from this film — again related to creativity versus budget — is to show how the cinematographer used just a single light to create this iconic scene where Rachael is getting interrogated by Harrison Ford's character.
One light. One.
I know because the middle shot is my recreation of that scene, done in my studio. We used one 300-watt light and a single bounce card (reflector) to duplicate this look. The image at the bottom was something I found on the internet where another group of filmmakers tried to recreate this shot as well, but used several lights to do it.
More isn't better in this case.
If I could give the fan filmmaker a single takeaway from all this, it's that you should abandon the "fix it in post" mentality. Get creative. Work with what little you have, no matter how little that is, and use your shortcomings to create a film that could only have come out of the situations and locations and the people you had at the time.
Not counting the bridge or cargo hold on Serenity, take a look at any of the crew areas and think about what it would take to recreate a scene there. Inara's shuttle? Some great drapes and matching bedspread, throw in a $30 cast iron tea set and you can be pretty darn close.
Lighting recreations are some of the best learning tools you have at your disposal. You don't have to do the whole scene, but recreating just a singe shot you really liked can up your game as a filmmaker. If you're considering doing a fan film (and I hope that you are!), take some of your favorite scenes and do your best to recreate them. You'll have a whole new understanding of how the filmmakers were painting with light... or without it.
Today was the day. We put up an official Facebook page for "A Faithful Companion," our Firefly fan film, and posted it across the various Browncoat boards. We got a few likes, fielded a few questions, and immediately realized there were a lot of things we hadn't made very clear from the get-go. So. Here we are, with the What We Assume Will Be The Frequently Asked Questions, or W.W.A.W.B.T.F.A.Q.
That's the name of our short film, which sets out to answer the question, "What happens when a Companion falls in love?"
Okay, so we're not going to assume that everyone who finds their way here is going to be the most die-hard Firefly fan ever, so here's a quick breakdown for you: This is set in the future. Earth got used up, so we expanded out to other planets. The core worlds are very technologically advanced. The worlds on the outer rim are more like frontier worlds. So you end up with a kind of "space western." Shadow is one of the planets on the rim. A Companion is the future's answer to a geisha. Yes, they have sex for money, but in that society, they are given the same respect as a diplomat or an ambassador. They are highly intelligent, very well-educated, and they choose their clients. Their clients don't choose them.
Current estimated running time is about 25 minutes.
Not a single one. This is an all-original story with all original characters. The 'Verse is a pretty big place. Serenity wasn't the only ship flying, and as much as we loved her crew, those were some pretty singular people who made those characters come alive. We're aiming to tell a story of other people, but you might see some similarities here and there.
We're aiming for a shoot date in the spring, sometime in late April or early May, if all goes well. Our operations are based out of Austin, Texas, and we'll be filming in the J.Lorraine ghost town in Manor, Texas for part of the shoot, and in a Japanese gardens for another bit.
We will. Dates and times will be announced, and we'll be entertaining the thought of having folks send in a pre-recorded audition (with special instructions).
We'll be running a crowdfunding campaign and asking folks to donate a few bucks to help us out. A lot of us will be working for free, but some things — like renting an entire ghost town — costs a few pennies. Luckily, we're working with a well-respected charitable organization who has approached us about being our fiscal sponsor (details to come). That's a fancy way of saying you'll make your payments to them and they'll dispense to us the funds we need. Everything else goes to charity, and your whole donation is tax deductible. How's that for shiny?
Our film will be available online. For free.
Any merchandise we sell will be strictly during the fundraising portion of our process, and will go directly toward the production costs. Even then, we won't be selling anything with FOX's copyrighted material on it. It'll be original t-shirt designs or behind-the-scenes DVD shenanigans or some such tomfoolery. Once the film is made, we won't be able to take any more funds unless we're specifically asking folks to send our little film to a festival somewhere.
This story doesn't have one. This is a story about people. Not everybody spends their lives in the black.
For me — Hi, I'm Frank Fradella, the writer/director — the greatest unfulfilled promise of the entire Firefly TV show was the relationship between Mal and Inara. I can't say this film is what would have happened — our characters are different from Joss' characters — but it's a concept I wanted to explore. I believe in love. I just think some people are stubborn and stupid, is all. They don't always know how to love someone back. Sometimes they do.
Hey, I get it. You've been burned. We were warned going into this that the Browncoats are a little gun shy about these fan film productions. But what makes us different is very simple and very important: We specifically wrote a story containing only props and locations that we already had access to (that means no space ships, no blasters, no holographic pool tables) and was something we could shoot in three days. We're not aiming for a feature film here. We wanted to tell a simple story and tell it well. Most importantly, we wanted to make sure that we could keep whatever promise we made about delivering that film.
You can return to this site for frequent updates, or you can follow us on Facebook at "A Faithful Companion."
That's it. Did I miss anything? Ask me in the comments below and I'll do my best to answer or update this post!
Since I started dipping my toes into the fan film world, far and away what I've seen is that the bigger the production plans to be, the less likely it is to actually be completed. It's especially tricky with a Firefly fan film, where the ship itself seems to be an integral part of the world we all enjoyed.
But, listen. As an award-winning filmmaker who's worked on micro-budget films where your cast and crew are all volunteers and all the post is on you, there are some nuggets of wisdom I'd like to impart. Feel free to ignore them, of course, but keep them tucked away somewhere. You might be surprised at how useful some of this will be.
That's it! My work here is done. Go forth and make great movies!
It's a little rare, I think, for productions of our size and budget to go the extra mile to produce concept and pre-visualization art for a film. I also think it's incredibly important, and I've found that I've made decisions about the production based on the art we've produced.
I've been very fortunate these past few weeks to work with Richard Makoto Sashigane out of Japan on a series of concept art panels that we'll be sharing with potential donors/producers. The script is only 25 minutes long, so we picked eight images that we felt best conveyed the story. Some of them came very easily. Others took more work. Here's an example of the one we wrapped last night. This is the seventh art panel out of eight, so we're at the climax of the story here!
The script here called for a dramatic scene to be played out between our two characters where one of them has imbibed a [redacted] from a small vial and the other has fallen to his knees in a moment of anguish. In the film, the actor may or may not make the choice to go so far as to hit the floor, but for the sake of the concept art, we need to tell the story visually and it really has to drive the performance home. Richard sent me these thumbnails based on the script and I thought they were good, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for.
I took the second panel into Photoshop and did a quick edit. Job number one was tilting the camera to convey a sense of unease. Leaving those lines static the way they were in the panels he provided didn't give us enough drama! Second was the distance from the scene. This is a very emotional scene and a crucial moment between these two characters. Putting the camera all the way across the room would divorce us far too much from the emotional impact. We needed to get close. Third, and finally, I wanted to change the position of the camera so that we were behind the man enough so that he overlapped her. The scene is about connection, and about their relationship, so having them appear to be so separate on screen would actually have the opposite effect than what we wanted! I kicked this back over to Richard and gave him some time to get to work.
When Richard came back with this piece, we knew we were getting close, but both of us were bothered by the position of the hand. Luckily, I had asked him to make sure he did all the art of the man on a separate layer so we could change him as needed. Good thing, too!
Here we go! Much closer! The hands-to-the-head is a universal symbol for anguish! Or she could be arresting him and telling him to "assume the position." Luckily, this was an easy fix!
Something as simple as dropping the elbows changed the whole attitude of his reaction here. We were really close. Richard, being the consummate professional and real perfectionist, said, "Actually now coming back to it I can see multitudes of things wrong with this picture. Well mainly the colors, and there's not really any depth to it."
Personally, I thought the piece was already gorgeous. But as an artist myself, I understood where he was coming from, and I saw an opportunity to help tell the story better. This story is set largely on Shadow, one of the rim worlds, and it's got all the Old West charm. But that means a lot of brown. Lots and lots of brown. Nothing but earth tones. The woman in the shot is a Companion, and she represents the Core worlds, and the clash of their cultures is what drives a lot of the conflict in the story. Also? The vial she's letting fall from her hand is a very important prop in the scene and it was getting lost here.
Here were my notes to Richard: "I think if you put her in a blue silk dress it would cure a lot of ills. Just that sudden contrast would give us a focal point and separate her from the background. I think it's better than you think it is. My only real complaint is that the vial is completely lost. It may not help much, but let's get a hard rim light on that vial. Should take you about 8 seconds. Haha!"
And so, eight seconds later...
Seeing this panel completed helped us make wardrobe decisions when we go to shoot. A red or tan dress in this scene doesn't work. We needed a color to contrast with the frontier-like ambiance. It wasn't why we did the concept art to begin with, but it's been a great unexpected benefit!
So what do you think, Browncoats? Isn't it shiny? :)
Welcome to Shadow, home to a goodly portion of our story in "A Faithful Companion." The very kind folks of J.Lorraine Ghost Town in Manor, Texas took us on a private tour of their very fine town and it'll be ours for the taking come shoot day. There's even a fire pit in the center of town, which plays a nice part of our opening scene. I've gotta tell ya, folks... standing there, walking the ground and going in and out of the buildings... it really sets a mood. It's not hard to act like you're out on the rim when you're in a place like that.
The weather's been very unpredictable here in Texas these past few months, so we're going to wait until Spring has firmly set in her heels before we start shooting. Casting will take place a might sooner than that, and fundraising will happen somewhere in the midst of both. If you've got a hankering for new stories in the Firefly 'Verse, tell your friends about us! We'll need all the help we can get!