This opinion is presented from my point of view as someone attending with something to promote, not necessarily as a fan, although I love this stuff.
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The first annual UncommonCon Convention took place November 24-26 in Irving, Texas. The convention organizers describe UncommonCon as a cultural festival featuring comic books, role-playing games, science-fiction & fantasy art & literature, anime & manga, and all related hobbies & art forms. Some of the conventions guests included Ted Raimi (XENA) and Lou Ferrigno (THE INCREDIBLE HULK) and several comic book artists.
I am aware that my film has very little, if anything, to do with the genres the UncommonCon would be celebrating, but I chose to put as much effort into promoting LAUGHING BOY at this convention as I have been at the film festivals I have attended. The only elements in LAUGHING BOY that would be interesting to these convention-goers are the cartoons in the film, and actress Tiffany Grant. Tiffany voices many popular characters in the English-dubbed versions of anime.
SATURDAY NOVEMBER 25
The first thing I did was locate James Echols to introduce myself, then I looked for the video rooms. Outside each video room was a schedule taped to a cardboard stand-up. There was no screening schedule provided in the convention program.
The screening rooms were HUGE! There were enough chairs set out to probably seat 750 people in each screening room. One room was for Sci-Fi/Fantasy, the other was strictly anime. I expected the video rooms to seat 30 or so people in front of a big screen television, but the presentation here was much better. Although all movies were presented on VHS, the projection system being used was very good, so the quality of the screen image was excellent. Movies they were showing during the convention included LABYRINTH, MARS ATTACKS!, MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN, DAWN OF THE DEAD and LAUGHING BOY. Pretty cool company to keep.
At the moment, LABYRINTH was showing, and there were only 3 people watching. I have to keep in mind that people do not attend these conventions to watch movies. They want autographs, toys, question and answer sessions with the stars attending, and so on. Watching a film is a very low priority, especially one that does not fit into the theme of the convention.
Attendance was not what the organizers expected. One told me they expected around 4,000 people, but only about 500 were present Saturday afternoon.
As I walked around the traderoom floor, I approached Lou Ferrigno for an autograph. I asked if he was signing programs…he said he would sign my program if I bought a $20 poster. Sorry, Lou, don’t want it that bad. I almost started to explain to him that I am a broke, indie filmmaker and I can’t afford to buy a poster, but I decided not to go into it. He probably couldn’t hear me anyway. I said nice to meet you and moved on. He seemed like a nice enough guy though, and of course he has to make a living as well. Has he been in anything lately?
I sat down in the ballroom to watch a live performance actor Victor Lundin was giving. He was promoting his new CD “Little Owl.” It was rather funny, though. Victor stood there in behind his microphone, guitar in hand, but he never even strummed it. The actual recordings from his CD would play, and he would sing along with his own vocal track from CD playing as well. Attending this little show would give me a reason to approach him back in the showroom and strike up a conversation.
After Victor’s little show, I went back into the showroom to ask him for an autograph. For those of you who don’t know who he is, Victor Lundin was the first Klingon in Star Trek. He also made a couple of appearances in the 60s Batman television show, and co-starred in the sci-fi movie Robinson Crusoe on Mars. He graciously signed my program for free, and recognized me from the small audience at his performance.
It’s about 30 minutes before showtime, so I head to the screening room where there were about 85 to 90 people watching Babylon Park, a spoof of Star Trek: Voyager and Babylon 5 done in the style of South Park. That was the largest audience any screening at the convention would see.
Outside the screening room, Hot 100.3 FM had a table set up. I asked the DJ, Alan, if he could announce to the lobby (since he had a PA and a mic) that Laughing Boy was about to start. Alan was doing two live feeds an hour, and he offered to announce it on the air!
Showtime. There were about 25-30 people in the audience, and probably 5 or so lingering at the door at any given time. A couple of people would leave and come back continually, they must have been working. I know one of them worked for the radio station. I was extremely pleased to have that many since attendance had been low to zero for all the other screenings except Babylon Park. People don’t go to these sci-fi/fantasy conventions to see the movies, especially one that has nothing to do with sci-fi or fantasy!
SUNDAY NOVEMBER 26
I arrived at the con around noon on Sunday. There was hardly anybody there. When I arrived, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was playing in the screening room, and only one person was watching. I took a look inside the showroom area, and only a few people were there. Since there were so few people at the con this day, I decided to relax and watch some of Frankenstein. I have never seen this one.
After maybe twenty minutes, I thought I’d take one more look around the con. Still very few people. Why was attendance so low on Sunday? I know the final day of these things is the slowest, but this was SLOW.
Laughing Boy was supposed to start at 1:20, so I waited in the lobby a while to watch for people.
I got a little perturbed when I returned to the screening room. They started the movie 20 minutes early! Not a single person was there! In the next few minutes about 5 people would wander in, but only a couple stayed. That’s okay, they missed a large chunk of the movie.
I thought I’d take one more walk to the showroom to thank James Echols for screening Laughing Boy at UncommonCon and tell him how happy I was about Saturday’s show. While I was walking around, a young man stopped me. He asked if I was the Laughing Boy guy. He had seen it on Saturday and wanted to know where he could buy the video! While I was talking to him, a teenage girl stopped me to ask if I was in a movie. She saw Laughing Boy Saturday as well and she said she thought it was really funny. Secretly I was hoping she would ask for an autograph. She didn’t. That’s okay. Sunday turned out to be a great day as well thanks to these two people.
As far as conventions go, UncommonCon was pretty standard fare, but given the fact this was their first one, they did a great job! James Echols and many vendors were disappointed that only 1200 people total attended the con – he was expecting around 4000. They spent quite a bit of money on advertising, so they have to do some research as to why attendance was so low. Perhaps it was the holiday weekend. The con was held at the Hyatt Regency East at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. It was a great location, but maybe people were scared away thinking they had to pay the expensive airport parking, which was not the case. The Hyatt was validating all convention-goers parking tickets, so parking was FREE. I don’t know if they advertised the free parking.
James Echols told me he is looking to screen more Texas independent productions at future UncommonCons. Visit their website at www.uncommoncon.com
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