E=MC Geeked Saturday 27th April 2013

Pre Con Thoughts …

During Friday morning I got my pre-convention buzz on-board. Fuelled
by early morning IMDB-ing of the 4 Big Bang Theory guests. Oddly I noticed I was registration number was 70 – not sure if I should read anything into that or not as I really want the con to be a success but was quietly excited – and at the same time feeling a bit guilty for it – at the level of “intimacy” (keep it clean!) it might allow with the guests if we are less than 100 people! Definitely considering the coffee lounge meet and greet. Note to self: watch a few good Stuart eps. tonight too.

The Event …

I’d like to say, right now, that I had a totally brilliant day at this convention but I need to get a couple of grouse out of the heather first. This was to be my first Rogue Events Convention and until the day I found that communications with and from the organisation was lacking and the docs. that I was sent were very much the victim of some careless cut and paste (I had guests from another con listed under photo sessions). I also had to badger via email several times, right up until 3 days before the con for my e-ticket! Communications on the day and the previous evening were sketchy as well. I spoke with a couple of groups who’d arrived the previous day to find no Opening Ceremony, no disco in the evening and no explanation. I think the watch-word here is COMMUNICATION guys!

Right that’s out of the way. I found the organisers to be polite and helpful and they took time out to chat to attendees (that’d be me). The guests were professionally introduced (still doesn’t happen at all cons) and the front guy was excellent, putting the guests at ease. Which I’ve always felt is important.

Arriving at the hotel was scary. No herds of attendees filling all available chairs and corridors. In fact where is everybody. It was at this point and once we’d queued for reqistration that I discoved my feelings re ticket 70 were spot-on (shame some attendees had been waiting since 7AM for registration – which I bowled up for at 9AM, comms again). I’m guessing all this was due to the con being organised in expectation of a much larger number? Got chatting with some guys and gals in the queue – which is always fun – sharing experiences of cons-past and that good-natured attempt to outdo each other with queueing horror-stories. Please see Norbreck Castle hotel for further details.

I scanned the schedule for the day. First-up All Guests (opening ceremony?) in the Main Hall. Even more scariness. With just 10 minutes to go before curtain-up there were – and I counted them to be sure – 2 dozen attendees in the room. Crickey where are all the Big Bang fans. By kick-off I think this number had roughly doubled. I do feel for organisers AND particularly the guests in this situation. Couldn’t help feeling that these numbers will pretty much drive a nail in the coffin of any future BBT cons. Speaking with staff later the issues around “main” cast members appearance (and I use that term with the greatest of respect to our 4 great guests this day) was purely financial 🙁

I positioned myself front and centre table. All guests took to the stage with gusto and now the biggest cut and paste “opportunity” reared its head. Kevin Sussman had been billed as Kevin Smith in the schedule. There was some good-natured ribbing from Kevin and laughs from the floor as he was introduced – this one kinda’ ran a bit. I’ve been doing these things for *cough* years now and even though you are inevitably there to see a particular person there is always a guest who unexpectedly stand-outs. this prize went to Brian Thomas Smith . Brian’s no-nonsense and open-handed attitude to his experiences in LA were refreshing. Thanks also to Brians’ girlfriend who sat – unintroduced – on our table for this part of the con. A couple of comments as we chatted sorta’ twigged me to who she probably was – hope I didn’t disgrace myself. You are one lucky guy Mr. S!!!

First guest talk was Kevin Sussman. What a genuinly nice guy(say that slowly please, it’s important). Some wonderful insights into the show. Especially his audition and actual testing for the roles of both Leonard AND Howard. Wow! What might have been if he hadn’t had that schedule clash with his appearances on Ugly Betty? And would you believe it he actually used to work in a comic book store in Manhattan, cue some great “blank expressions” he (and some customers) adopted when at work. He confessed that the comics on the show are all DC and NOT alphabetised and he still finds himself sorting them to give himself “a task” during a scene. Kevin has been great friends with John Ross Bowie – who you and I know as Kripke – for many years and they now colaborate on creative/writing projects apart from BBT. Most recently an animated short called Dark Minions which they have pitched to and are hoping to be picked up by Amazon as part of their original-content thrust. An animated series produced by Shadow Machine Films of Robot Chicken fame and voiced by both actors, among others. He really likes the stop-motion medium and feels it is more “real” exactly because it is not flawless, unlike other animated offerings. Not wanting to be type-cast Kevin likes to juggle his career between comedy and drama.

It was now the turn of Alice Amter. Her command of accents and admitting to being a native of Birmingham warmed the crowd. “Can you tell me where the no 63 stops?” in a broad northern dialect, nice! Alice loves LA and was surprised to see how much her home-town had changed, even if the accent hadn’t! I asked if her role on BBT had opened any doors for her and it certainly has. It was also interesting to hear that the eps. she is in “on the laptop” – she took great pains to point out that she has legs too – are shot with her and her on-screen husband sitting off camera to one side and talking to Raj, not pre-recorded. Which means that she is working alongside the cast for the majority of each episode she appears in and not just the segment you see on screen.

Brian Thomas Smith. What can you say? An awesome guy. Brian chatted openly about his current projects and his obvious approval for the Bring-Back-Zack Facebook page (which rose from 700 to 808 likes during the day!). Inevitably the subject turned to that Superman costume from the Justice League ep. Brian revealed that he sweated profusely in it and wardrobe actually provided him with maxi-pads under his arms! Several of his web projects were show on the screen during his talk. I need to find the one with him and his friend on a scooter. His eagerness to re-create the dance from the vid. on the dance floor was priceless. The story of his short-notice audition against 4 other “hopeful zacks'” was classic Hollywood … can you come out this afternoon at 5pm to read … again, nice! See “The Lunar Excitement” for vintage-Zack; and the character was tweaked to play it a little less dumb too!

Aarti Mann was introduced on stage and chatted alongside Brian – which I personally feel always works better for guests, especially if they are somewhat nervous about their appearance. Why make them suffer unduly, nobody wants that. Also interesting to note that all four guests were convention virgins. Aarti spoke of her passion for Hollywood, acting and film-making. Which was the way her career was originally headed. She was also asked about awkward scenes and then talked through a bedroom scene with Leonard while it was being shown on the big screen alongside; she did mention she enjoyed that scene with Johnny Galecki!

Autographs. With the numbers involved autos were a breeze. I went round twice to get a sig. from Aarti Mann for a friend of mine as the conversation proved so distracting I forgot to ask for his photo to be signed to him. Many, many kudos points to Rogue Events are due here for the quality of the black and white 8 by 10 photos. There were bloody excellent and I’m sure the guests must have been well-pleased with them too. Only £2 each as well; studio stills often sell at £10 a pop!

Meet and Greet. Here too we were really fortunate. Because of the number of attendees everyone was allowed to go to the 1/2 hour Meet N’ Greet. Brilliant; as if this event hadn’t been intimate enough already. Shame too that the only spare chair at our table was next to mine. So reeeeallly intimate! Each table took it upon themselves to try to out-applaud each guest as they sat down which was a nice ice-breaker 🙂

More gems from the guests round the table. Kevin – who I really felt for – had flown out from NY on Friday, attended our con all day Saturday and was to fly back to NY on Sunday. Alice, who was by this time suffering a little from jet-lag confessed with obvious relish to her celebrity crush on Simon Baker following her recent appearance alongside him in the season finale for The Mentalist (Don’t worry WB no spoliers were let-out). Aarti made us feel protective towards her for the “virtual” (and in some cases not-so virtual) rotten tomatoes aimed her way for stealing Leonard from Penny in the eyes of some more rabid/less reality-based fans. Not a good way to encourage guests to give their time for fans really chaps. Brian reminded us take a look at the web show he has produced for Yahoo: The Flip Side, which has recently been renewed for a second season!

All that remained was the Closing Ceremony and a last chance to show our appreciation for our great BBT guests. Thanks Rogue (you wouldn’t believe the number of times I typed Rouge) Events and staff for a cracking day and many thanks too to the attendees who were great fun to talk with and really rose to the numbers-game challange to make the guests feel welcome. I know cons with these sorts of numbers are few and far between and not good commercially but I can’t help feeling that I was part of something quite special. Maybe the only BBT con to ever happen in the UK? Let’s hope not. See you next time. I’d definitely look at another Rogue Event.

That Morning After Feeling …

… and right there is the flip side Monday morning post-con feeling. I mentioned it at the meet and greet and got a few knowing nods. I well-remember that sinking feeling on Monday morning in the office, still pumped from the con. The buzz-kill when you attempt to explain how cool it had been, falling on deaf ears and to blank-faces 🙁

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