Fan Expo ’17 – The Panels

I’m trying something new with the format of this blog. The pics now appear as thumbnails and you can click on them to make them larger.

Welcome to part 2 of my Fan Expo 2017 coverage. Fan Expo holds a number of question and answer sessions with various celebrities across the expo, and I’d thought I’d write up the ones I attended (couldn’t see them all and had to make some tough choices). You may be asking yourself – how could she possibly remember what happened two months later? I TOOK NOTES:)

After going through all my pictures, I found 250 of them that I was willing to share. Don’t panic, they are not all here. Where appropriate, at the end of each section, you will find a link to a Flickr album that has the rest of the pics for that person/group. You can click on pics in the album to make them larger as well.

Matt Smith (Doctor Who, Christopher and His Kind, The Crown)

Okay, I don’t have notes for Matt Smith, but he had the first panel of the expo. One of the things I look for is what I call the Fan Expo Ripple Effect. It’s when I hear about something that convinces me to check it out. In this case, it was Matt talking about playing Prince Philip in Netflix’s The Crown. I was so intrigued, I watch the show in my hotel room during breaks:) – It’s really good and Season 2 is starting soon. He was also fantastic with the wee kids in the crowd who got up to ask Doctor Who questions.

Matt Smith Flickr Album Link – click to open

 

John Barrowman (Arrow, Doctor Who, Torchwood)

This man was the highlight of the expo for me. He came out on stage in a trenchcoat and proceeded to do a burlesque strip tease to reveal the TARDIS onesie above. His joy of being on stage was incredible and he loved interacting with the crowd. The picture in the middle shows him with one of the Fan Expo sign language interpreters – he spent a few minutes getting her to repeatedly sign “hung like a donkey” . That gives you some idea of how his panel went. He answered questions about working on Doctor Who and Arrow and finished his panel by leading the audience through a group sing of “Copacabana”.

John Barrowman Flickr Album – click to open

Tim Curry (Rocky Horror Picture Show, Clue, IT)

Tim Curry made a very rare appearance at Fan Expo this year. He suffered a massive stroke a few years ago which has left him quite impaired. I felt honored to see him. He’s played some of my favorite characters in film, from the hilarious Wadsworth the butler in Clue, to the terrifying Pennywise the Clown in IT, and the transformational Frank N Furter in the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

He was charming and funny in his panel. He mentioned that one of his favorite films he worked in was Muppet Treasure Island and that they had had a 2 week rehearsal period prior to filming Clue, which let them really work out the madness of that movie. (If you haven’t seen Clue – make it a priority). When someone asked him about the upcoming IT remake, he remarked that he just hoped they fixed the ending of the movie (referring to the terrible giant spider effect they had in the 90s TV miniseries).

Stranger Things Panel (Finn Wolfhard – Mike, Gaten Matarazzo- Dustin, Caleb McLaughlin – Lucas)

Definitely one of the most popular panels, their lineup went up the stairs and outside of the convention centre. These guys were hysterical. Although they had moderators to help with their panel, they basically took care of it themselves. Gaten and Caleb both had broadway backgrounds prior to Stranger Things (Les Miz and Lion King  respectively), while Finn was a relative newcomer. They really enjoyed working on the show, especially all the 80s stuff- and were sworn to secrecy about season 2. They said the highlight was finding out that corduroy pants while incredibly ugly are also shocking comfortable! They described their first day filming which was the opening Dungeons and Dragon scene in the show and how it took forever due the attacks of nervous giggles.

Stranger Things Flickr Album – click to open

Star Trek Discovery Panel (Jason Isaacs, Anthony Rapp, Mary Wiseman, Shazad Latif, Doug Jones, Sonequa Martin-Green)

A fun behind the scenes fact… They were filming this panel for the Innerspace TV show, so prior to the panel, a person had to go through and tear all the labels off the water bottles so the brands wouldn’t appear.

The panel was great and certainly huge- all the main actors and showrunner. The actors seemed to be very excited to be participating in a new Star Trek – which takes place about ten years before James T Kirk heads to the skies. Jason Isaacs said his biggest geek moment was standing on the set holding a phaser and yelling “energize!”.

I’m going to finish off this panel with a hat tip sidebar to Doug Jones (The guy in the grey vest above). If you watch horror and sci-fi you’ve seen him (he’s always the guy under the monster makeup). He was the main creature in Quarantine, Pan’s Labryinth, The Ancient in the Strain, Cochise in Falling Skies, Abe Sapien in Hellboy, one of the Gentleman in Buffy… etc, etc, etc.

Star Trek Discovery Panel Flickr Album – click to open

Nathan Fillion (Firefly Castle, Doctor Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog)

Nathan Fillion was as charming, witty and handsome as ever:) He talked about learning the art of acting when he worked on “One Life to Live” (an extinct soap opera). He spoke about his love for scuba diving which led to me discovering we share the same fear of being eaten alive – he specifically mentioned sharks and bears (“the sharks of the forest”).  As always he spoke of his love for Firefly and what that show meant to him.

Nathan Fillion Flickr Album – click to open

Billie Piper (Doctor Who, Diary of a Call Girl)

Billie Piper’s panel was a low key affair. I could only stay for 30 mins as I had to scoot to my next panel, but it seemed it was taking her awhile to warm up to the session. She spoke about how overwhelming all the attention was when she started on Doctor Who (even though she had been a big pop star in the UK previously). Hilariously, she talked about how she could never take the daleks seriously, as on the set they were always bumping into things and incredibly clumsy. She also confessed to nicking small props of the set of Doctor Who whenever possible:)

Billie Piper Flickr Album – click to open

Justin Roiland (co-creator and the voices of Rick and Morty – on the right)

The expo was pretty well organized this year with lines, rooms etc – except for this panel. I suspect they seriously underestimated the popularity of this show. They had set it up in a room that held 400 people. 30 min prior to the panel 1000 people had shown up and had to be turned away. The ONLY reason I got into this room was my VIP badge.

Rick and Morty is a new love affair in my life. It’s a cartoon that’s just finished it’s 3rd season, and tells the story of a drunk mad scientist who travels the multiple universes with his grandson…. yes, this is Doctor Who on acid – except bitingly funny.  Justin immediately won my heart by saying his favorite sci-fi show was Farscape.

He spoke about writing and voicing these characters and confessed that he is more Morty than Rick. As Rick is a drunk, he has occasionally gotten drunk while recording the voices, which often goes off the rails. His favorite episodes have been the Interdimensional Cable episodes where the dialogue is often improvised.

Stephen Amell (Arrow)

Stephen is a Toronto boy and he always enjoys being home. He was managing his session by himself and doing fairly well. He did have to deal with David Ramsey crashing his panel, but it was sweet to see them together. He shared stories from the set, and jokingly discussed how he always assumes John Barrowman is right behind him.

Stephen Amell Flickr Album – click to open

Anthony Daniels (C3P0 in Star Wars – the only actor to appear in all of them)

What a classy man! He walked through the audience to get up on stage, and then wandered around himself taking the microphone to folks who had questions. Also reminded people to put down their cameras and to be in the moment (which is a big personal philosophy of mine too and yes, I’m aware of the photo blog irony)

He provided lots of stories from filming the movies – including the improvements in the C3P0 costume. It originally would take them 30 min to get him out of the C3P0 head, but now it just takes a few seconds. At the end, he spoke beautifully about Carrie Fisher, and how she will live on through these movies – it was very sweet.

Anthony Daniels Flickr Album – click to open

Rocky Horror Show Panel (Patricia Quinn – Magenta, Nell Campbell – Columbia)

Rocky Horror is a movie that holds great significance to me. As a naive 18 year old from the sticks, it was the first time I was shown a world where things were not as “straight” forward as I thought. It was a seminal moment in my adulthood.

Patricia and Nell both shared they’re memories of working on the stage version and then moving to film for Rocky Horror. Patricia who was the “Lips” at the beginning of the movie, described how she had to be clamped into this mask so that only her lips would be seen. Someone has asked them if they had kept their original costumes, and both jokingly said if they had they wouldn’t be here now:)

Rocky Horror Flickr Album – click to open

Anthony Stewart Head (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Repo the Genetic opera, and if you’re old enough a series of Nescafe Taster’s Choice Coffee commercials in the 80s)

True confession: I had a mad crush on Giles the Librarian in Buffy. He was handsome, smart AND A LIBRARIAN…. what was not to love? This was my most anticipated panel of the whole expo.

He was as charming and funny as I could have hoped. He spoke of the various shows that he’s worked on, and particularly Buffy. He said that “The Body” is still one of his favorite episodes he’s ever worked on. He said that the character of Giles was half Prince Charles and half Alan Rickman:)

Anthony Steward Head Flickr Album – click to open

That wraps up Fan Expo ’17 coverage, stay tuned for next year’s edition. I think for the next blog we will get around to those ducks and geese I promised you next time:)

What It Was Like to Attend Fan Expo ’17

After trying to explain the whole Fan Expo thing to a colleague, I thought it might be fun to try and do a blog about the experience for those who’ve never been. This blog may wander around a bit, but welcome to how it feels to be at a convention!!

I’ve attended Fan Expo almost every year since 2004 (I missed last year for grownup reasons). The lead up to the expo builds over six months as guests are announced and plans are made. By the time I head out for the first day, I can hardly contain myself. This year I decided I would stay at the hotel attached to the convention centre – so I packed my bags and headed out the door filled with dreams, wishes and most of all energy!

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f4 – 24mm- 1/60 – ISO 400 (photo credit Sara)

The Expo runs Thursday evening to Sunday evening and takes over both halls of the downtown convention centre. The south hall is where you will find Artist’s Alley (more on that later) and other vendors. There’s still a flavor of the old Comic Con, but to be fair the majority of vendors are now there selling everything else. My routine is to wander the south hall on Thursday and Friday when it is still “quiet”. Once the crowds descend on a Saturday, I literally hide in the basement watching panels for the rest of the weekend.

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f2.8 – 19mm – 1/100 – ISO 800

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f3.5 – 28mm – 1/160 – ISO 2500

I’m not interested in most of the items being sold, but other folks appear to promote upcoming events. I still have a Hunger Games mockingjay pin attached to my jean jacket they were handing out before the first movie was released. In this case, the folks promoting IT, were offering a VR tour of the Derry sewers that had you hunting for the monster. I decided to stay above ground and moved on.

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f2.8 – 16mm – 1/100 – ISO 1250

They had a fantastic display of costumes from the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok movie. I have a particular interest in costumes, and it was great to see these up close.

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f3.3 – 35mm – 1/30 – ISO 800

This almost life size Jabba the Hutt was incredible. I got the chance to talk to one of the folks involved in its creation. The amount of artistry that is on display at the Expo is amazing. From sculptures like these guys to the cosplays you see everyday, its really incredible.

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f2.8 – 20mm – 1/100 – ISO 800

The horror vendor area is mostly in the north hall. This mask vendor has been coming for a number of years, and I continue to be amazed at the quality of the work they have on display.

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f3.5 – 32mm – 1/40 – ISO 400

For those considering attending a full weekend Fan Expo event, you need to treat it as an endurance event (or at least I do at the age of 48). It’s long hours, filled with many people and for an introvert like myself, it can be incredibly draining. As I mentioned above, I was able to stay at the hotel this year and I took full advantage of that. I started each day with a massive breakfast, as I knew I would not be eating real food for another 10 hours or so. I also tucked myself into bed as soon as I could. I think I had a 9 pm bedtime the whole weekend:)

The photo below also demonstrates something I call the Fan Expo ripple effect. One of the reason I like attending panels is to be convinced to check out a movie or TV series I’ve not watched before. In this case, Matt Smith during his Thursday panel spoke about how much he enjoyed playing Prince Philip in the Netflix series The Crown. I spent the rest of my weekend downtime working my way through the show:) [Sidebar: John Lithgow is AMAZING as Winston Churchill]

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f3.2 – 16mm – 1/80 – ISO 3200

The final secret to any convention is managing your food and fluid intake through the day. Water is your friend (even for someone like me who thinks camels have the right idea). You also need to find portable food that can fit on your person. I’m a fan of almonds and breakfast bars but miles may vary. Luckily, because this is a convention centre, most of the larger rooms have water dispensers at the back so you can refill your containers. There are food courts on the main floor but: they are expensive and on the main floor (where crowding makes it impossible to move on the weekend).

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f8 – 16mm – 1/80 – ISO 100

The crowds are certainly an issue, and something you need to learn to cope with. Fan Expo is the one time of year I purposely send myself into large crowds. I managed to take the two photos below of the north hall on Thursday and Friday. By Saturday, you would not have be able to see any floor space at all. The area on the left with the red carpet is for celebrity autographs. The horror vendors and others are on the right, and the photo op area is at the far back.

 

 

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f5.6 – 16mm – 1/40 – ISO 800

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f4.5 – 16mm – 1/160 – ISO 2500

The other convention reality is lines, lines and more lines. Fan Expo started offering a VIP pass a few years ago that let’s you skip all this for premium pricing. If you are not VIP, your weekend is made up of lining up for autographs, photo ops, or in the case of the pic below for a celebrity Q&A panel. You can see the line goes way back and around the black escalators.

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f2.2 – 4mm – 1/30 – ISO 250 (iphone)

While there are a few smaller rooms in the south and north hall, most of the celebrity panels take place in 106 which is a massive 3 ballroom wide meeting room or in 102 which is a smaller auditorium sized room. The picture below is the right half of 106 just prior the the panel being done by 3 of the kids from Stranger Things. To get the full effect, you have to imaging the same number of people sitting behind me. The room holds about 3000 people. Celebrities sit on chairs in the middle where I am, and they have large screens on either side so the people on either end can see what’s happening.

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f5.6 – 16mm – 1/160 – ISO 6400

This is the smaller room of 102. Here they simply project up on a screen the interview that is taking place. In both rooms, audience members can line up to ask questions of the celebrities on stage. I’ve never done this as I can never think of a good question!!

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f2.2 – 4mm – 1/30 – ISO 160 (iphone)

If all of this sounds crazy and exhausting, you’re not wrong. So you may be asking, what keeps me coming back year after year? It’s the memories that I take away every time. It’s being surrounded by THOUSANDS of other people who are into this weirdness just like me. It’s the fact that you can start up random conversations with strangers about almost any sci fi/ horror/ anime / comic topic. I once spent 20 mins talking about the Critters movies with a fellow while we were waiting in a line. There is also the fact that you get to interact with celebrities, artists and others and share a moment with them. So let me list the things I love.

THING I LOVE #1: The Fans – I can’t overstate how much I love the fans that attend this convention. One of the highlights this year occurred during a Q&A panel held by Meatloaf. After an audience member asked him a question about something they had read on the internet, he cautioned folks to be careful about what they read. He specifically mentioned Wikipedia and how anyone can add to that site, and said that people could post he had told people he was an alligator. 20 minutes later, just before the panel ended, an audience member shouted out that Wikipedia now stated exactly that.

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THING I LOVE #2: Photo Ops – I happen to love the photo opportunities with celebrities (the Photo Op). While it’s a blink and you’ll miss it event (you walk up, say hi, they take the picture and you’re gone), it’s a chance to physically be in the same space. This year it was John Barrowman. I’m a big fan of his, and I also suspected he might give a good hug… I was not wrong. Lately, I’ve tended to not worry about autographs so much, I like the brief moment here.

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photo credit Epic Photo Ops 🙂

THING I LOVE #3: Artist Alley. Artist alley is rows and rows of new and established artists selling their creations. The items can include artwork, comics, jewellery, sculptures, clothing etc. This was the first year I really took my time and wandered the rows. I got the chance to chat with a few of the artists and let them know how much I enjoyed their work. One fellow and I geeked out about a poster he had created for The Thing. I’ve include below a couple of the prints I picked up this year.

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f2.2 – 4mm – 1/15 – ISO 320 (iphone)

THING I LOVE #4: The Shared Moment For folks who don’t do the fan thing, it’s hard to describe the feeling you get from meeting an artist or celebrity that you’re a huge fan of. Most of the time it’s just a few seconds to a minute, but the moment is huge. It’s an opportunity to let them know how much their work means to you, and for the most part I’ve seen that feedback appreciated.

This year I got the chance to meet Drew Struzan. He’s as an artist, and even if you don’t know his name –  you know his work. He drew many of the big movie posters in the 80s and since (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Back to The Future, Blade Runner, Harry Potter etc, etc, etc). I had a few minutes to talk with him about how much I enjoyed his work. He also did the poster for one of my top two movies of all time, so I did get an autograph after all:)

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f2.2 – 4mm – 1/15 – ISO 250 (iphone)

THING I LOVE #5: The Fans in Costume Okay, so I cheated and had two of these. I love folks who come in costume. The work and love that goes into it is incredible. Plus, I’m not brave enough to give it a go (I have themed t shirts and that’s as far as I’ll go).

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f2.8 – 16mm – 1/160 – ISO 2500

That sums up the Fan Expo experience for me. I hope for those of you who’ve never attended a Fan Expo that I’ve given you a little taste of what the weekend is like.

After spending the weekend rubbing shoulders with tens of thousands of strangers, and coming home tired, exhausted, malnourished, dehydrated and borderline crazy – will I be doing this again next year? The answer to that unsurprisingly is YES 🙂 Stay tuned for part 2 of this blog where I write up the various celebrity panels I attended.

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f4 – 24mm – 1/60 – ISO 400 (photo credit by Sara) **dramatic representation**