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In 2002, FOX cancelled its promising, Joss Whedon-helmed sci-fi series Firefly after airing only 11 of its 14 episodes. The show’s small (at least by network TV standards at that time) but loyal audience never lost interest, though, and the series eventually became a hit on DVD. Its success on that format spawned a spin-off movie (Serenity), fan sites, fan fiction and elaborate cosplay. A 2014 cast reunion at a Dallas sci-fi convention was a major cause for celebration. Today, more than a decade after airing its last original episode, Firefly is still kind of a big deal.

Inspired by their personal experiences attending sci-fi conventions over the last decade, Firefly co-stars Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion crowdsourced a production budget for a short fictional series about sci-fi conventions called Con Man. The duo turned to Indiegogo earlier this year with their pitch, and the response was staggering: 47,000 individual contributors raised a robust $3.1 million. With an original funding goal of $425,000, Tudyk and Fillion raised $1 million the first day and expanded their original plan for a three-episode miniseries to 13 episodes.

Con Man premiered last week on Vimeo for $15.

Tudyk, who wrote and directed the series, stars as a washed-up actor who has lived out his career attending sci-fi conventions as the former co-star of a long-ago-cancelled Firefly-like series called Spectrum. Fillion, best-known for starring in ABC’s long-running Castle, plays a former co-star of Tudyk’s on Spectrum who has since become a major celebrity. Decider caught up with Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion to talk about their years attending sci-fi conventions, their crowdfunding success, and the streaming premiere of Con Man.I wondered if the toilet was metaphorical of Wray’s career — that you wanted to start the story with him at the bottom?
ALAN TUDYK: That sounds better! [Laughs.] NATHAN FILLION: Everything in this series that Alan wrote has a kernel of truth. It started somewhere in Alan’s life experience. That’s where he’s coming from. At one point in his writing [the script], it says, “I’m going to take off and go to a couple of cons. I need ideas for fresh episodes.” He came back and wrote three more episodes. It’s all born in truth.

Is your connection to the sci-fi convention world mostly from Firefly?

NATHAN FILLION: Certainly Firefly has a very strong presence. You’ll find that people who go to conventions as fans are fanatical. They’re passionate about your work. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done, someone will come up to you and say “I’m a big fan of…” and tell you about a project you’ve forgotten about. Firefly is a large part of it. When people come up dressed as a character I’ve played, it’s usually Firefly.

ALAN TUDYK: And for Nathan, Captain Hammer.

NATHAN FILLION: Yeah, I see some of those.

[Fillion played a character named Captain Hammer in Joss Wheedon’s popular 2008 web series Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog.]

Early in Con Man, there’s a tense scene with a fan on the airplane who wants a lot of things autographed, and Wray tries to take advantage of that.

NATHAN FILLION: I think what you see in that scene is the dichotomy between how Sean Astin [who was in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and plays a version of himself in Con Man] and some celebrities who embrace what they have, embrace what they have done and then others like Wray Nerely [Tudyk’s character] who can’t appreciate what’s right in front of them, who can’t appreciate and enjoy the position they’re in.

Do you think crowdfunding is a transitional model for funding projects until the studios catch up, or do you think there is a real future in funding projects this way?

NATHAN FILLION: This is an entirely new business model. I have had mentors in the industry tell me that what I’m doing right now with Castle is the end of an era. There aren’t going to be a lot of shows to have the same kind of journey that I’m having right now. This is the new business model.


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