August 2017~ Trek-On!

Trek-On! was a Sci-Fi one-day convention organised by the guys who produce the TrekMate Podcast. It took place on Saturday 19th August 2017 at The Rudolf Steiner School in King’s Landing Langley.

I. along with a few other people from FCD Events was asked to help crew the event. Initially there were 14 guests, mostly from Star Wars. The headline guest was Max Grodénchik who played Rom in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine who had come over especially for the event on his way home from the big Trek con in Las Vegas. After setting up the venue on the Friday night, most of the team met up with Max at a local carvery, which was a first for him and his family.

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The event had everything you need for a good con. It had a good amount of guests. Plenty of dealers plus other activities such as a Jedi Fight Academy run by Andrew Lawden, one of the guests, who was Liam Neeson’s fight stand-in in Star Wars Ep 1: The Phantom Menace, a table-top gaming area plus a console gaming area. There were also props on display from Back to the Future, courtesy of The Hill Valley Preservation Society. A screen accurate DeLorean was outside the venue and you were able to have your photo taken inside it. In Hall 2 (where the guests were situated) you were also able to have a professional photoshoot with the guests. A variety of talks by the guests had also been planned, hosted by the man of many voices, Mr Contalk himself, Neil Green!

When I crew cons for FCD, I am part of the management team and normally manage an area but with this event I had asked to do something simple like helping to look after a guest or two. This request was honoured, but due to a shortage of staff I ended up looking after quite a few!

The crew of the USS Merlin, a Region 20 Chapter of Starfleet International, the world’s biggest Star Trek fanclub were present, with RAdm Richard Sams in command. He was there to present Max Grodénchik with his member pack after he joined the USS Alba, a Scotland-based chapter.

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Although there was a lot on offer, sadly attendee turnout was low. From the point of view of the organisers, it was upsetting to say the least. It hasn’t put them off and they are going to try again in the future. But, from the point of view as a collector/fan it was good for me as I got to spend a lot of time with the guests, chatting about their time on various films.

The majority of guests were what are commonly known as ‘extras’. Personally, I hate that term as I think it totally devalues their role in film/tv. I prefer ‘Background Actor/Artist’. Most of these people are trained actors. Yes, they don’t speak on screen and if they do it has to be less than 13 words (in the UK at least) otherwise they get paid more and get a screen credit. Theirs is an important role. When talking to people about this topic, I always ask them to think of an important scene in a film and then imagine that scene with all the background actors removed. For example, look at the scene below. It’s the medal ceremony from the original Star Wars film. How boring would it look and how much less of an impact would it have if it was just Luke, Han and Chewie with Leia giving out the medals? It would look nowhere near as effective.

For some, this is their life’s work and they have worked on many famous films and TV shows and worked with many big celebrities. These folks have helped make some of the biggest films what they are today and to devalue their work would be an insult and a disservice to them.

We were lucky enough to have quite a few ‘extras’ at the event. I’ve been waiting to meet a good few of them over the past few years.

First there was Alan Tomkins. Alan has been Art Director on a number of blockbuster films, including The Empire Strikes Back, Batman Begins, numerous Bond films and war films such as ‘A Bridge Too Far’. I was eager to meet him for his work on Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It was interesting to hear his stories of working on the film including how Kubrick made his life hell by constantly wanting the pod bay of the Discovery-One re-dressed.

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The there was Alan Austen. Alan has done a number of films but his main role for me was as the Stormtrooper who put Han Solo in the carbon freeze in The Empire Strikes Back.

Alan Austen

Derek Lyons has been in a number of my favourite films and had multiple roles in each. He was a German soldier in two Indiana Jones films, has appeared in multiple Bond films and had three roles in Flash Gordon. It was great to hear stories from both him and Alan. I met Derek because of his 3 roles in the original Star Wars. He was a Rebel Honour Guard, a Rebel Pilot in the briefing room scene and finally Lt. Voren Na’al, medal bearer at the award ceremony.

Derek Lyons

Like Derek and Alan, Nick Joseph has had a varied career, appearing in ‘The Spy Who Loved Me’ and many episodes of the classic Doctor Who. Nick portrayed Major Arhul Hextrophon during the medal ceremony in the original Star Wars. Nick was a pleasure to speak to.

Nick Joseph

Next was Tina Simmons. Tina has done lots of background work, most recently in Transformers: The Last Knight and Doctor Strange. Tina played a Rebel Technician during the briefing room scene in Return of the Jedi. I know someone else who was in that exact same scene and stood only meters from Tina. If only I could convince him to do cons too? Great talking to her as well!

Tina Simmons

Harry Fielder was a pleasant surprise. Harry has had a near-40 year career as a background actor, appearing in hundreds of TV shows and films. His first being an episode of ‘The Saint’ with Roger Moore. Harry used to be very popular on the Star Wars con circuit, but due to ill health he hasn’t done an event for a while. Luckily, he lives a couple of miles from the venue so came down to sign. The man has so many stories, it’s amazing. I had no chance of hearing them all so I bought his book. Harry played Corporal Grenwick in the original Star Wars. He was in multiple scenes but is best known for helping Darth Vader with Princess Leia’s interrogation and being shot by Han Solo when they attacked the detention block. I’m glad I got to meet him!

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Finally, there was Sandeep Mohan. Sandeep has played many roles including being an MI-5 agent in Skyfall and a surgeon in Dr Strange. For me, he is best known as a Scarif Trooper in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and a First Order Stormtrooper in The Force Awakens. In TFA he appeared in two standout scenes: He was the trooper that manhandled Lor San Tekka (Max von Sydow) and the trooper that stopped his partner and made them back away when Kylo Ren was having his tantrum.

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It was a great pleasure talking to all these guests and I wish Wayne and Jude all success in the future with any events they put on. There is so much potential there.

 

 

May 2017~ Heroes & Villains Fan Fest

Heroes & Villains Fan Fest is run by the same company that run the awesome Walker Stalker Cons that also take place at Olympia in February/March. I planned to go to this event from the day it was announced and it would also be the first event my brother would attend with me in 4 years, so I was hoping it was going to be good.

I knew how Fanfest ran their Walking Dead events, and yes, whilst they are pricey compared to events run by UK based companies, you have to take into account a variety of things. Such as the fact that they are a US based company so would be liable to pay some sort of business tax in the UK, they actually pay their staff (yes, they have some volunteers) whilst most UK event organisers run on volunteers alone (except for “management”), they bring a lot of their own equipment with them from the US and they cap numbers and still use two halls in Olympia. Personally, I’d rather pay more for a pleasant, organised experience rather than attend a cattle market, one such event was set to take place the exact same weekend!

Looking back at the guests they normally get for their US based events, it seemed to be a good mixture of people from DC and Marvel Superhero TV shows and Films plus guest from other popular shows thrown in for good measure.

The final line-up was announced over a series of months, with Stephen Amell from Arrow and Melissa Benoist from Supergirl headlining the event. My brother was interested in meeting both, whilst I wanted to meet Melissa, plus a few other of the other guests. 31 guests were announced in total. Unfortunately, 5 had to cancel for various reasons, including Melissa Benoist.

About 3 weeks before the event, someone introduced me to a new show. Designated Survivor. It stars Kiefer Sutherland (from 24) and also Italia Ricci who was attending the event as she had appeared in Supergirl as Siobhan Smythe/Silver Banshee. Now I don’t normally like political dramas but this was like The West Wing meets 24. I was hooked and polished off the whole series in about 5 days. I then made the choice to add Italia to my ‘to meet’ list and, as you will read, it was a good choice!

The week of the con arrived. An event occurred that could potentially cause problems. A terrorist set off a bomb at a music concert in Manchester, killing 22 (including children) and injuring many others. The UK threat level was increased to its highest level-critical. Would HVFF back down, or show these people that in the face of terror you never give in and let them win. Rather than cancel, HVFF beefed up security, and whilst it would mean things might be a bit slower, it would hopefully keep us all safe. It was the right thing to do. Show these people that no matter what, you can’t keep us down.

The day of the con arrived! I arrived with my brother at around 10.30am and he was finally able to meet my mate Fudge as she was there to satisfy her Stephen Amell addiction (which she did). I had a few photoshoots (as you will see below) and then my brother and I spent the day browsing the vendors, watching some panels, including the cosplay contest and meeting guests. My brother met Emily Bett Rickards from Arrow and Shantel VanSanten from The Flash. I think he preferred the latter! I spent some time chatting to Richard Brake who plays the Night King in Game of Thrones and was fascinated to hear how his costume and makeup (which takes 6 hours to put on) actually causes him to bleed when he wears it and, if not careful when using the toilet, he could lose an important body part!

We left at about 4pm after an awesome day.

At this point I would like to give a big shoutout to the HVFF disability team. My brother is disabled and uses a mobility scooter, and at the moment am unable to stand in one place for extended periods. The whole setup for disabled people was awesome. From line access to guest booths, to queuing for photo shoots and the quiet room. It was all awesome. I made sure on Sunday to take some cupcakes to the ladies (Steph & Anne) running the quiet room as they did an awesome job.

Day 2 came and I had a couple of photo ops left plus I wanted to watch the Captain America panel with Stanley Tucci (Dr Erskine) and Hayley Atwell (SSR Agent Peggy Carter). The panel was great! Both guests bounced off each other very well and the host did a good enough job not to be too intrusive and get in the way.

Apart from my final photo ops and autographs, my final task was to meet the awesome and very lovely Italia Ricci (and her husband Robbie Amell, who wanted my tee-shirt). I’d had some pins made in the style of a Presidential Election Campaign and had put her character from Designated Survivor (Emily Rhodes, White House Chief of Staff) on as you can see below.

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I also had a matching shirt made, which Italia first saw in the photo-op (see below) which she thought was awesome.

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Italia liked the pin and said she would have liked one for the director and for Kiefer Sutherland. Luckily I had more. I then had a quick chat, grabbed a selfie and off I went! Both Italia and Robbie are awesome and make a lovely couple. Plus, Italia loves pizza so HAS to be awesome!

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I had a final wander around the stalls, managed to avoided buying a very expensive Captain America shield and left at around 4pm.

Overall, it was an absolutely awesome weekend. I could not honestly find fault with anything. The organisation was spot on and there was so much space it was great! You could move around without problem.

My final guest list was:-

Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy/The Walking Dead)

Brandon Routh (Chuck/Legends of Tomorrow)

Sean Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Stanley Tucci (Captain America/The Hunger Games)

Richard Brake (Game of Thrones)

Maisie Richardson-Sellers (Legends of Tomorrow/Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Italia Ricci (Designated Survivor/Supergirl)

I can’t wait until the 2018 event and I’m hoping that all of my brothers family are able to attend as well. The kids would look great dressed as Superheroes!

If you’d like to find out more, then head over to:- heroesfanfest.com

December 2016~ Star Wars Identities

The Star Wars Identities exhibition opened at The O2 on November 18th and runs through until September 2017.

The exhibition consists of 2 parts that run side by side. The first is a display of over 200 props, costumes and art from the first 7 films. Some of the props and miniatures are original whilst some were recreated for the later films. That doesn’t stop them being awesome. I had two highlights. The display of Imperial and Rebel spacecraft and the Jedi hall at the very end.

The second part is very interactive. Using Anakin and Luke as a starting point, you get to look at father and son and see what influenced them and did that have an effect on the path they chose. You are given a digital audio guide and a wristband. As you go around you start by choosing if you are human or alien and if so which alien are you. You choose your home planet and your desired occupation. The further along you go you more of your traits you get to build up until at the very end you have a complete character in the Star Wars universe. It can even be displayed on a big screen.

Well worth the money and I would recommend going during quiet periods so you can spend time with the exhibits!

November 2016~ MCM Birmingham Comic Con

It has been a couple of years since I attended an MCM event as I had a few issues with the last one, but they had two guests I had to meet. Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Gary was also in the pilot for Star Trek as Gary Mitchell.

I had my Godson’s sister, Safiyah with me as she has been wanting to attend a con for a while now. We set out early and arrived at the NEC about 20 minutes before opening time. When the doors opened, we got in quite quickly.

The event hall was well laid out. Lots of space to move around and a nice variety of dealers. There was also lots of Pokemon stuff which kept Safiyah happy!

The autograph lines were well organised and I managed to meet Gary and Keir early on. Both were lovely guys!

My main gripe last time was twofold. Firstly, the staff at MCM seemed to be very young and in some instances very immature. I was pleased to see that it seemed to have changed. Yes, there were still a lot of young, immature volunteers, but the big jobs fell down to more experienced people. Second was the photoshoots. Last time they ran very late (2+ hours) and getting the photo afterwards was a free for all. This time it ran much more smoothly. On time for one thing. Once you had your picture taken you simply walked out and went to one of the many photo printers to collect it!

Lots of good cosplay on display too. Will definitely attend again as will Safiyah.

The only thing that let us down was the terrible Midland Train service on the way back!

April 2016~ FCD ‘Out of the Ashes’

I honestly do not know where to begin. This has to be the best event I have been to in years!

FCD 2015 was a great event. I volunteered at the event and was asked by Wil and David to join the main FCD team shortly afterwards. Many months were spent in planning and preparation. At one point we did not think we would have an event to put on due to some complex issues but after changing the venue and making it a one day event, we were ready.

The team members arrived on the Friday afternoon. After unpacking we began setting up. I began by helping to construct the Klingon bridge but then went into the main event room to assist with the setup there. Once setup was complete, we had a team briefing and then chilled out for a while.

Later that evening we had a team meal along with our guests and media partners. Then I decided to hit the sack so that I was ready for the next day.

I woke up early and went to the event rooms. We had a very quick meeting and once breakfast was over we got ready for opening. We honestly had no idea about how many people would turn up after all the trouble the event had encountered. We had enough chairs for 100 people to sit and watch the various talks etc. It was nowhere near enough…..

The doors opened. Shortly before the opening ceremony it became clear we needed more chairs so some of the team set about quickly putting more out, but still people kept coming. 483 in the end…….way more than expected.

The opening ceremony took place with Wil and David introducing the guests (Claudia Christian of Babylon 5, JG Hertzler, Aron Eisenberg and John Carrigan all from various incarnations of Star Trek) and so began the day.

What followed was a series of hilarious talks by the guests, a charity auction that raised lots of money for charities and a surprise marriage proposal by team member Simon to his partner Sheridan who was also a team member. JG Hertzler helped Simon with the deed by setting up an elaborate ruse and asking Sheridan for her help. It was awesome to watch and congrats to both!

Whilst the various talks were going on there was also the chance to have a professional photo taken with the guests as well as wander around the various dealer stalls.

The main event ended at 5pm and we had to quickly clear the room ready for the evening. It was to be a meal followed by a disco with karaoke. The theme was Spy vs Spy. There were many fine costumes on display and a great time was had by everyone. The party continued into the small hours……

Sunday was spent having a quick, final tidy up before chilling out and saying goodbye to old friends and new.

Overall, the whole weekend was a blast! It was like being at one massive family party! The energy in the main room was amazing and the constant smiles on everyone’s faces said a lot. It was knackering but absolutely worth it!

Roll on 2017 and well done to all involved but especially to Wil and David, and a HUGE thank you to all the FCD team members that made me feel so welcome!

March 2016~ Marvel Superhero Challenge

With the upcoming release of Captain America: Civil War, the latest chapter in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Disney are putting on events for kids at their flagship branch, The Disney Store Oxford Street. Through a colleague I managed to secure a couple of spots for my niece Jessica and nephew Charlie (Little Lewis was too young) to a preview event which would allow the staff at the store to test everything out before going live.

We arrived early enough to take part in the opening ceremony and the first 10 children were given a special Disney key. We wandered around the store for a while before heading down to the theatre where the event would take place.

There were 10 children in total. The children were split into two teams: Team Cap and Team Iron Man (just like the movie). There were ten characters, five per team. Each child had to select a character from a bag and that would be their character for the duration. Charlie and Jess ended up on opposing teams with Charlie as The Winter Soldier and Jess as Iron Man. After that there were a series of tasks to complete, each tasks earning a piece of a puzzle upon completion. The final task needed both teams to work together to complete the final puzzle.

At the end each child was given a nice set of stickers!

Shortly afterwards my wallet was bled dry as the kids went on a shopping spree in the store!

September 2013~ Science Museum Lates

If you don’t know, once a month The Science Museum in Kensington holds a themed, open evening for adults only. There is always a silent disco, a bar, a quiz and much more.

This time the theme was ‘The science of food and drink’. There were a number of things on offer but, after a wander around the space gallery, we headed for the ‘Cocktail Science’ session to learn all about cocktails.

Whilst wandering we also found a ‘Pestaurant’ which served chocolate or chill covered bugs. Mags was the only one brave enough…..

After that, we headed for the bar and the quiz! We didn’t win but we had fun taking part.

Check here for future lates:-

Science Museum Lates