This is a first in a new series of blog posts surrounding interesting pieces of PR I’ve come across. This piece is by no means new, but seeing as I’ve only recently come across it and feel part of it, it has become a necessity for me to write about.
During my time as a student I studied a module entitled Televisual Narrative, and I think I can safely put the obsession with Joss Whedon creations that followed down to my choosing to study that module. It led to my choice to write my undergraduate dissertation on ethics in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and my research in doing this and the communication with fans of the show and other academics working on similar subjects all pointed me in the direction of a show named Firefly.
Not many people have heard of it, those who have will either know it for its monumental online popularity or its monumental failure as a television show. The show ran for only one season and was prematurely cancelled, but the unexpected number of DVD sales following the cancellation told its producers of a popularity that was killed off before it was given chance to live. For this reason, director Joss Whedon took Firefly where no cancelled TV show would ordinarily go – to Hollywood. The script for Serenity was written, rewritten and given permission to be made. Whedon ensured a team of the right people were selected to make Serenity the best it could be and bring the story of Firefly back to tell the FOX network ‘actually, we are great’. This was all well and good, but marketing a film as a Hollywood take on a cancelled TV show wasn’t going to be easy. That’s why Joss Whedon delivered this message as part of his filmed introduction to Serenity, and why this little speech is the best piece of PR I’ve come across this week:
Hi, my name is Joss Whedon. Before we begin the special screening, I have a little story I want to tell you. It’s about a TV show called Firefly.
Firefly went on the air a few years ago and was instantly hailed by critics as one of the most cancelled shows of the year. It was ignored and abandoned and the story should end there, but it doesn’t, because the people who made the show and the people who saw the show (which is…roughly…the same number of people) fell in love with it a little bit…too much to let it go, too much to lay down arms when the battle looked pretty much lost. In Hollywood, people like that are called ‘unrealistic’ … ‘quixotic’ … ‘obsessive’.
In my world, they’re called ‘Browncoats’.
Whether you’ve watched the show, or saw the DVD’s, or whether you’ve never set foot in the Firefly universe before tonight, the fact that you’re here means that you are part of something…something that is a little bit remarkable. This movie should not exist. Failed TV shows don’t get made into major motion pictures unless the creator, the cast, and the fans believe beyond reason.
It’s what I’ve felt. It’s what I’ve seen…in the DVD sales, the booths at the cons run by fans, the websites, the fundraisers… all the work the fans have done to help make this movie. It is, in an unprecedented sense, your movie…which means, if it sucks, it’s your fault. You let us down, but let’s not dwell on your failures because the work is not done. I have to finish making it. Obviously not quite the final cut and you will notice some placeholders in music and effects, but we’re very close. Once we are finished, we have to get people to see it. Now, obviously the studio is going to do their thing. There will be ads and trailers and all that joy, but this movie doesn’t have stars and it doesn’t have a giant mega-budget or even a simple sellable premise. What it has is us, the people who believed unreasonably.
If this movie matters to you, let somebody know. Let everybody know. Make yourselves heard. If you don’t like the movie, this is a time for quite, silent contemplation. But, when the unfinished credits roll, if you still call yourself a Browncoat, remember the millions of people who don’t…who might. I want us to do this together. The cast is going to be appearing wherever they can. I’m going to be blogging and stumping and whatever I can think of. We’ve got Can’tStopTheSignal.com up and running…I’m fairly certain. We’re all doing everything we can to make this the event that it should be.
Just remember, they tried to kill us…they did kill us…and here we are. We have done the impossible, and that makes us mighty. Thank you for helping to get this movie as far as it has gotten.
Welcome to Serenity.
The film came out in 2005, before the rise of social media, but as examples of a great viral campaign go, I don’t think you get much better than this. The fans of Firefly and their online presence are the reason the film was made, and there can’t be much better PR than knowing you don’t have to start from scratch to market a product – the consumers are already waiting for the product they asked for.