For those who are yet to experience a pop culture convention, The IRIS paid a visit to Oz Comic Con Melbourne this past weekend to experience what a convention is like on-the-ground and in the thick of it.
If you’re not sure what a pop culture convention like Oz Comic Con is, the easiest description is that it’s a gathering of nerds and geeks and fans, focusing on film, tv, comics, fan art and literary fiction work and giving people an opportunity to meet and interact with the creators or stars of those works. Throw in a big chunk of cosplay (dressing up in costumes of your favourite character) and a whole stack of vendors selling merchandise and you’ve got a pop culture convention.
Melbourne’s line-up featured a mixture of celebrity stars; from current hit shows such as Arthur Darvill (Doctor Who) and Jennifer Morrison (Once Upon A Time) to Robert Englund (Nightmare on Elm Street film franchise), Tom Skerrit (Alien) and Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver and Stargate tv series) from more nostalgic projects. The celebrities are a big drawcard, giving fans a chance to pay to have photos with them or get their autograph. For some fans it’s literally a once in a lifetime opportunity and they’re prepared to spend up to do so. Considering how far away Australia is, to get some of these people out from the UK or America, it really is worth it as they often don’t return regularly, if at all. When you see the excitement on people’s faces after having met somebody they truly admire and respect you can’t help but feel elated for them. Another addition to having the photograph and autograph opportunities are the Q&A panels, which adds another dimension of fan interaction with the celebs.
During the weekend, on Saturday I checked out the ‘Game Of Thrones’ panel featuring Daniel Portman and Kristian Nairn, who play Podrick and Hodor respectively, as well as Doctor Who favourite Arthur Darvill and one of The Hobbit’s most loved dwarves Dean O’Gorman. Then on Sunday I got a little taste of Yvette Nicole Brown best known for Community, the ‘X-Men Days Of Future Past’ panel with Shawn Ashmore and Daniel Cudmore and the Veronica Mars panel with Jason Dohring, Sam Huntington and Aaron Ashmore.
The questions are screened, but it’s often the guests who twist things around to give hilarious or cheeky responses and it gives a great insight into some of the behind the scenes stuff that goes on for their working lives. It’s very rare for us to get any juicy goss about upcoming projects that they may be working on but it’s always great when they share stories of things that happened on set or working with particular actors or discussing things that they wish could’ve happened on certain projects.
Some highlights from the ‘Game Of Thrones’ panel included having both Nairn and Portman admit that they’ve not read the books and are intimidated by George R.R. Martin for fear of having their characters slain horrifically. Nairn stole the whole panel when a fan asked him whether he’s sick of people asking to say “Hodor” when he declared that he’s actually more tired of people asking if he’s sick of people asking to say “Hodor” than he is being simply asked to say “Hodor” declaring it some kind of weird paradox.
Arthur Darvill broke Doctor Who fans’ hearts when he declared he and co-star Karen Gillan (Amy Pond in Doctor Who) would be unlikely to return to the show. “We categorically said that how we left in Doctor Who was how we wanted it to end. Coming back would undermine that.” For sci-fi-drama show Doctor Who Darvill admitted that some of the action stuff where he was dressed as a Centurion were his favourite parts to film, but he didn’t keep the costume and that it’s ended up in a museum somewhere, and the most terrifying aliens were The Silence due to their sheer creepiness factor.
The Iris also has a soft spot for Dean O’Gorman and he is honestly one of the funniest guys around. If you can keep up with him, believe me live-tweeting his panel was a challenge, he has some wonderfully hilarious stories to tell of working with the other cast members of The Hobbit. Particularly glowing reviews of Martin Freeman and Sir Ian McKellen and tales of sleeping co-stars and the exact opposite of rock star style parties. One of O’Gorman’s most popular side-projects is his photography work and quite a few questions were directed to this topic. O’Gorman is clearly very passionate and has a distinct gleam in his eye when he starts discussing his next photography project that will be dedicated to the World War 1 anniversary and the new equipment he’s bought to be able to make it happen. “I also took a series of shots called ‘Sleeping Dwarves’ which are photos of all The Hobbit cast in candid moments of when they were sleeping on set, I’m hoping to release them one day, once Warner deems it’s alright for me to do so”.
Yvette Nicole Brown star of the recently re-resurrected show Community repeatedly praised working alongside co-star Donald Glover claiming he’s “freakishly talented and fearless and injects humour into everything”. Even recounting how the writers and producers of the show have allowed him to ad-lib many of his scenes “Sometimes you get a script and it will just have ‘Donald does something hilarious’ and he comes on set and he just does or says something hilarious in that bit” but the ad-libbing isn’t strictly a Glover thing, with Brown admitting to occasionally ad-libbing her character Shirley’s popular line of “That’s nice” in some of her scenes.
Shawn Ashmore and Daniel Cudmore during their X-Men panel were also another great duo to have answering questions. With the focus predominantly being on their experiences working on X-Men, the two bounced off each other well. Ashmore revealing if he could have any mutant ability it’d be teleportation for the convenience, and Cudmore saying if he could pick a favourite superhero it would be Batman because he had all the cool cars and the best toys and that he’s basically a billionaire hanging out in caves all the time. When asked if they could pick an Avenger to join the X-Men team who would they pick, Cudmore responded “I’d say The Hulk, purely so I can fight him, how good would that be? The Hulk VS Colussus” at which point he breaks out into a little beatboxing and starts making voice-over like announcements about a showdown between the two. Cudmore was surprisingly quite funny recounting how his first audition for the X-Men films involved him showing up in just a pair of shorts and flexing his muscles saying “it felt like a porn audition”. Both guys admitted that working alongside Hugh Jackman was an intimidating experience but that it also inspired them to be better performers and to bring their A-game.
The boys of Veronica Mars definitely had a mostly female audience, no surprises there, but what was, was how loyal an audience they have despite the show not having been on air for 10 years. Thanks to the Kickstarter crowd funded movie, Jason Dohring, Sam Huntington and Aaron Ashmore are back on the convention circuit fielding the occasionally difficult to answer question due to foggy memories. Dohring straight off the bat said that anything was possible in the way of a spin-off tv series or another movie, which of course is great news for Veronica Mars fans, and it seems that all of the guys are all keen to still be involved should the producers come knocking. One fan asked whether it was a surprise for Dohring to find out his and Kristen Bell’s characters would end up in a relationship considering their initial iciness which he said it was, but that they’d been approached fairly early on to work on their chemistry. All the gents on the couch were in agreement that they were Team Logan so clearly but given the opportunity Huntington was also a fan of Ryan Hansen’s character Dick Casablancas blurting out “I like Dick” at which point the whole audience burst out laughing, with a sheepish Huntington realising his innuendo. The awkward moments didn’t end there when one fan admitted that she’d only just earlier that day realised that there were two Ashmore boys – Aaron from Veronica Mars, and Shawn from X-Men. “That’s the story of my life” replied Aaron, jokingly resentful of his one-minute younger twin. They’re advice to young aspiring actors though is one of the most commonly asked questions at panels Aaron Ashmore suggested practical advice “Follow up casting agents”, Sam Huntington’s response “Have fun with the material and be in the moment” and Jason Dohring’s “Work really hard and don’t be afraid to utilise your own ideas as material” all of which seemed to resonate well with the audience.
Along with all the amazing celebrities there are many other activities you can participate in. If you’re a fan of cosplay and dressing up in character, there’s always a Cosplay Parade and Cosplay Contest and this year there was even a specific Cosplay Kids event where even the littlest cosplayers could show off their costumes. One of the highlights for any convention attendee and a must-do for volunteers is play Cosplay Bingo, first Star Wars Stormtrooper of the day is always the most exciting!
The Nintendo WiiU stand was extremely popular the whole weekend, giving video game fans a chance to play Super Smash Brothers ahead of its release in December this year. There’s also sneak peak screenings of releases from Beyond Visual Entertainment, Madman Entertainment and Siren Visual and there was also panels on animation, comics, and film and TV make-up workshops that allow people with a more career-driven interest to get advice and tips from those in the business.
And let’s not forget about all the wonderful vendors and merchandise available to spend your hard earned (or possibly your parents’ hard earned) money on. With over 100 stalls to pick from you can find just about anything to fill your nerdy pop culture loving desires. There are stalls selling hand crafted fashion including clothing, costumes, jewellery and accessories. As well as all the stunning fan art, books, and comics that the artists and authors have for sale and you can also meet them and talk about their art right there at the table.
With Oz Comic Con’s next event to be held in Brisbane on the 6th & 7th of September I’m going to share with you some of my top tips when it comes to attending a convention if it’s your first time:
• Be patient and kind to not only your fellow con-goers but the volunteers and staff. We’re all there to have fun, being grumbly will just be a downer and ruin your experience as well as upset others.
• Pre-purchase your tickets – it’s cheaper and you will often be able to get inside quicker.
• Use the event guide and plan your day carefully. There are crowds and it takes time to move around, so be selective about who or what you really want to see and do.
• Stay hydrated! Bring or buy water, nothing worse than feeling sick or faint when you’re there to have fun.
• Be mindful of your dollars – it costs to get photograph and autograph opportunities with most guests so budget wisely.
• Most importantly – HAVE FUN!
Once you’ve gone to one convention it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll be going to another, so I’ll probably see you all at the next one!