Dark Horse Mistakenly Uses Fan Film Model

A bizarre, but interesting bit of fan film news. It seems that Dark Horse comics published a Serenity comic book that contained images based on a model from a fan film called the Bellflower Project. The artist of the comic book, Patrick Reynolds, mistakenly made reference to the model thinking it to be Serenity canon. After a premature threat of legal action from the original designer and the people behind the fan film, Dark Horse released the following statement:

“Recently, we made a truly unfortunate mistake regarding the use of art from a fan film in one of our comics. We would like to make an apology to the artists and the filmmaker who were affected by our error.

While preparing to draw Serenity: Float Out, artist Patric Reynolds researched ships from the ’Verse online, and mistook some ships designed for the fan film Bellflower for canonical ships. The ships were designed by John Douglass, S. E. O’Brien, Sam Osbourne, and filmmaker Mark James. Their work is terrific, and completely professional, like so much of what the Browncoats do, so no one realized the mistake.

We understand that this was a serious oversight on our part. We want to assure everyone that this is not a usual occurance, and we will make sure to be more careful in the future.

Please accept my most sincere apologies, on behalf of Dark Horse and artist Patric Reynolds.”

  • Unnecessary posturing from these fan film creators. You would think as fan film makers they would be more sensitive to inquire why the image was used in the first place before attacking with all guns blazing considering the fact they’re making a film based on someone else’s intellectual property. The news item seemed very hypocritical.

  • Gotta agree with you here, Christopher. It’s ridiculous for fan filmmakers to say, “Hey, you stole the designs from our unauthorized and unlicensed theft of your intellectual property!” I understand that these guys designed these particular ships themselves, but to threaten legal action over a box with some warp nacelles on the side seems patently ridiculous, and all too indicative of the elevated attitutude that too many fan filmmakers have these days. Hey guys, I know you’re trying to put together a bitchin’ show reel to get that choice Hollywood job… but threating to sue the people who DO have the rights to produce this material isn’t the way to go!

  • I remember a while back when MySpace was big I had and still have a Fan Film Follies MySpace page where I would alternate fan film posters as my profile picture. If you’re familiar with the Star Wars fan film Rogue I got a nasty correspondence from someone involved in the film to the affect of how dare I use said poster without permission. It blew my mind. I never had anyone complain on someone who is helping promote their film.

    Same thing happened with a cute film called The Amazing Adventures of Little Batman. This nasty email didn’t come from the actual filmmaker, but from his supposed “producer”. Talk about self importance. I think I either posted the actual film on MySpace or the old site I used to write for. I forget which one. But I got a nasty email over it. This was a rant of how dare I post the film without permission. So yes.

    I must say 99.9% of my experiences with the talents behind the films we cover here have been absolutely positive, but with all facades of life there’s always an asshole or two.

  • art rhetoric

    I’d be flattered to see something used from my Fan film. (if I made one)
    Why sue? Negotiate references to your work, get more internet traffic :p

  • Wellll, there’s a little bit o’ history goin’ on there…
    First there was Firefly, which started to sink from being ill-handled by FOX Broadcasting.
    Fans spent a boatload of their own money and time in a guerrilla marketing campaign.
    Alright, that didn’t quite work, BUT;
    when Universal took over the property, they mobilized the fans trying to create a blockbuster summer movie…
    …and then released it at the end of September.
    Alright, that didn’t quite work, BUT:
    All that work by the fans did produce a steady income generating property for both FOX and Universal.

    After a couple of years of fan marketing and fan merchandise and a few fledgling fan films (including “Into The Black” and “Bellflower”), apparently some corporate lawyers got the impression that some one was making money off their (largely ignored) property and launched a major Cease-And Desist campaign. They also sued one of the leaders of the Save-Firefly guerrilla campaigns, an artist known as 11th Hour, for about ten times her annual income.

    Does the term, “bite the hand that feeds you”, ring a bell?
    Sales of the Firefly DVD set, always an Amazon leader, started to fall off the charts.
    Universal, who had previously been the recipient of a “Big-Damn-Thank-You” write in campaign, now found themselves the recipient of a “Go-F…”; well, you get the idea. Firefly/Serenity fans also created a website to put together a “bill” for all the free advertising work they had put into Serenity at Universal’s behest. A nuisance at most, but the overall effect was that Universal quickly realized that they were killing a small-but-steady income stream for no good reason. It might be an over active imagination on my part, but I can almost see the creative executives storming into the legal department and asking them just how far up the back side of their alimentary canal they had their heads? The C&D’s C&D’ed (except for a few real infringements) and the lawsuit against 11th Hour, (for whom fans were taking up a collection), went from hundreds of thousands to sort of a plaintive whine. Things were so bad, the “Can’t Stop The Serenity” charity movement almost died off.

    Although not the center of the storm, fan-made homages to the intellectual property of Firefly/Serenity were briefly on the lawyers’ radar. It is my understanding that FOX and Universal have mostly turned a blind-eye to fan films except, they cannot make any money and they shouldn’t use designs from the show.

    Bellflower has been around since nearly the beginning.
    The makers of Bellflower have poured their hearts and pocket books into a labor of love that has psuedo-official backing from QMx. They designed a slew of their own ships, only to see an official licensee apparently claiming them for their own.
    In the context of riding out the C&D assault, I find the indignation of the creative team behind Bellflower to make sense, because Universal had gone back to relying on the hardcore fans to keep the Firefly/Serenity money tree producing fruit. I find it a symptom of modern society’s ills that “lawsuit” finds its way into any expression of wrong-doing or even affront.
    It is my opinion, though, that Dark Horse did owe the Bellflower team an apology and acknowledgment for the creative source of a number of the ships seen in the “Float Out” comic.

    It is also my opinion that the higher caliber fan-films like “Into The Black”, Bellflower” and “Browncoats: Redemption”, whatever their short comings, are the most likely source of vitality for a franchise that hasn’t produced any meaningful new content in over four years.


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