I love going to Conventions.
Above all else, I am a fan. My favorite gaming experiences have been at games where I am part of a universe I really enjoy, like Firefly LARPs (Yes, this mythical creature exists!).
One of my favorite films is Galaxy Quest because it is an interaction between the fans and the actors and we get to see conventions from the actors’ side of the production. Of the many stories I have enjoyed hearing throughout the years, I loved hearing how a hotel waiter caught Patrick Stewart watching old episodes of TNG at 3 in the morning “because it wasn’t an infomercial” and Stewart trying to ham-handedly explain that he wasn’t just living out the old days (This was two days after Days of future Past had wrapped).
It was also the same panel where this famous speech responded to Heather Skye.
I do a lot of my work because I am a fan. I have worked as a content producer. I have run LARPs. I have talked with agents. I have discussed why nudity is not a costume with men and women. I have interrupted panels and been threatened by guests for doing my job. I’ve helped solve problems and known several top Con Men by first name (and George is still my “go-to” mentor). I have ejected attendees and enjoyed doing it. I have gotten money with actors and have even high-fived Bulk and Skull( and the lowest of twos).
Like Gomez Addams, I have seen terrors and nightmares on both sides of the curtain. So any time I get to enjoy a film about the reasons I am slowly losing my hair is a chance for me to see how my “on-camera” days look on the portable HD screen. I am not a fan of me so much as I am a fan of seeing others get to be fans. Like Chiwetel Ejiofor in Serenity, I sometimes hate me for making the convention a better place.
Do not get me wrong. I love working with most famous guests. While there are exceptions, at a convention, most actors are really just caught up in the process of lots of different crews dragging them around like museum pieces. Yes, there are the divas. But despite the exceptions, most are just being told to “be here”, “be there”, and are given requirements by staff who aren’t talking to each other and coordinating well. I
f we include the personal convention handlers who are really meeting the actor for the first time with a preset list of times and schedules (Gods help the actor who tries to go long!) and are very Eichman-esque in their handling, and we throw in the security staff who think they are the secret service and have their own requirements for guests so they can keep the celebrity safe (Lose the codewords, guys…we all know who you mean when you say “Willowtree”), and let’s not forget the times when the booking company or the studio sends a representative along for media relations, an actor can lose his mind with all of those folks demanding “this needs to be covered” but “don’t touch that.”
The big conventions have ironed most of this out, but in the process made it worse with multiple layers of protection before outside media and press enters the picture. The few free times when the layers of convention entourages and hangers-on let an actor go free are actually very enlightening experiences for the staff. Will the actor be mobbed if he wants to wander in artist alley? Not like you’d expect.
Many have a great time seeing the homages and caricatures of themselves and their friends. Although unless it is a huge group photo, the “no free photography” thing tends to hold sway as part of the convention contract.
Will the actor be confused with another actor by fans? It happens, but more often than not when it does, the actor will run it through to play with the experience or will kindly correct rather than being a hose-nozzle to the fan.
Will the released canary fanboy over another Celebrity? It happens more than you think near John Barrowman.
Will he get drunk and go back to the bar or his room? That is one of the easier problems for the security. The guest is awakened and brought to the panel.
Will he wander off into the desert! Yes, in one case.
But most free time for a celebrity is spent the same way we spend our time at a con during our few minutes of free time. Wandering halls for interesting panels, checking Facebook, talking to spouses, making connections, networking, getting some fresh air, grabbing some lunch that isn’t the same catered fruit tray from WalMart as the last Con.
Celebrities consider the con a great experience to get feedback on what works in the show, what doesn’t work in the show, and get that feedback from more than just a single focus group of twenty people. They get to see which characters are good and why? They get positive criticism through repetitive reminders of scenes that worked (“ I loved when your character….”) and a surprising lessening of the negative criticism they get from directors and other stars on set. Conventions are great experiences as long as cons remember to make the experience enjoyable for the guest. I once heard someone refer to a particular con’s difficulties in getting guests as “it used to be that we would invite a celebrity to party with the guests and the convention was an excuse to charge to hang out with awesome people.” I don’t remember the name of the convention but that holds true in getting guests to come.
Alan Tudyk even admitted to CBS that “A lot of conventions — they’re parties.” Make the con a value for the Guest. For 98% of the celebrities, it isn’t all about the money and the white doves and the rooms that face south. It is about the chance to hang out with “people who appreciate my job.” Well, maybe a handmade sandwich would be cool this time.
The hard part comes when I try to get people to go to comic conventions and then explain that it isn’t SDCC, they aren’t giving away free signatures of the movie poster for the blockbuster weeks before it comes out, they won’t get to pirate trailers at panels or be part of the movie soundtrack.
Con Man is a show about the actor side of the experience. Alan Tudyk is the main star (Knight’s Tale / I, Robot / Firefly) and this is actually his baby. He premised that the fans were the best part of the con experience. It was the staff, like me, who were the odd ones. (Thanks Alan!). You can get the plot points on the Indiegogo page, but the fact that an actor wants to write about the fans Makes me happy.
Up to now, when I want to explain a convention, I have been limited to the Get a Life Sketch from SNL,
Or, to the opening to “Chasing Amy” Tracer sketch,
Or the Holy Trinity sketch,
or even Galaxy Quest’s opening and closings (Just noticed how many of these are the bookends to their prospective films).
Even the recent episode of Castle wasn’t necessarily compementary to the fans.
Now with Con Man, I should be able to explain what the majority of the con experience is like without having to resort to making the fans look OCD, psychotic, or insulting.
I want fans to feel like they are the best part of the experience and I am excited that Alan is going to make a story about how the fans are the great part of the con experience, because if we can get you to the con, then we can get you “into” the con, and then we make you part of the con experience that makes it awesome for everyone. And then you become awesome. I want to thank all of the awesome conventions that have been part of my experience.
They are in alphabetical order. I also put some of the better ones near the end so that not all the awesomeness was at the beginning with the first seven. AggieCon, Comicpalooza, Houston Con, LepreCon, MaricopaCon, OwlCon, Phoenix Comicon, and Space City Con.
Con Man will be filming at the following three conventions:
Florida Mega Con
April 10-12, 2015
Orange County Convention Center
9990 International Drive, Orlando, FL 32819
May 28-31, 2015
Phoenix Convention Center
100 N 3rd St, Phoenix, AZ 85004
May 28-31, 2015
Georgia World Congress Center
285 Andrew Young International Blvd NWAtlanta, GA 30303.