FanX 2016 Final Wrap-Up

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Woke up this morning after a nice, long nap. It’s been a terrifically geeky NINE day run up to this point, with Wizard Con in Las Vegas last weekend and Salt Lake Comic Con’s FanX having just finished.

I will put a period on this stretch of geeky absurdity today, day TEN, by going to see Batman vs Superman. I hope that I will not be as disappointed in it as I have thus far believed I will be, judging from my own experience, impressions, and the reviews that I have seen.

But, let’s talk about FanX for a bit. It’s now early Sunday morning, and I’m sure I’ll be writing this all day, hopefully to be posted by bedtime tonight.

[Editor’s note: I have attended all SIX Salt Lake events, and so have a nice breadth of experience and example to draw from when I talk about it. Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg both know who I am from those early days, even if sometimes they wish they could forget. I have never shied away from addressing the negatives (of which there have been many, over the years) while also lauding the positives (of which there are many more).]

First off, we need to remember that this is the “smaller,” more “intimate” get-together for Utah pop-culture fans and their heroes. And, for the most part, it is.It is smaller in that Dan Farr and Bryan Brandenburg don’t sell as many tickets to FanX as they do to the fall Comic Con event, which pretty much guarantees that you will feel 100% less crowded than you do during September’s events, which boast 120,000+ people guaranteed.

But this time, in order to help everyone feel like it was less crowded, they also performed the magic trick of actually making the space bigger. The simple act of moving the photo-ops off the Vendor floor and into the adjoining meeting room space was inspired, and really opened up the floor space, which is always needed.

The family and I did our parts to help spread the joy that is FanX by gifting some Thursday passes from the Star Wars screening to one of my wife’s co-worker and his daughter, who is a HUGE Chandler Riggs fan.

Tymber and Chandler Riggs - CroppedThey were able to upgrade those to Friday passes when Chandler cancelled his Thursday appearance, but not without a little disagreement about the price. But, in the end, his daughter, Tymber, got an audience with her idol, who remembered her from his last appearance here, when, apparently, he felt so badly that he had mis-spelled her name that he tracked her down to re-do it. Such a good kid.

Anyway, here is Comic Con Karma #1 for this weekend:


Comic Con Karma #2: We also wound up winning an extra multipass, which none of our friends wound up being able to use, so a quick trip to facebook found it a new home with Mrs Brandon Brown, whose husband was excited she could attend the event for the weekend.

Comic Con Karma #3:

I also ended up with a pair of tier 3 seats for the Doctor Who Ultimate Experience on Friday night, which I found myself unable to use. Another trip to facebook, and Amy Wright was able to go see the Doctors!

I love it when us fans help each other out, don’t you?Now, to digress for a quick second, let’s talk about one of the calamities that occurred this weekend with photo-ops and line organization. This isn’t just me; there are a lot of stories on Salt Lake Comic Con’s own facebook page, and I like to listen to my fellow con goers while I’m at the event, so I hear a lot of stuff: some valid, some not. I like to correct the invalid stuff, while addressing the valid stuff.

In this case, it is specifically Jeremy Renner’s photo-op, but I guess Kate Beckinsale’s line was just as wacky. (I didn’t see a lot of problems during Buzz Aldrin’s photo-op, though, and we were even taken back for a re-take. Amazing.)

Buzz Aldrin - FanX 2016

First, some quick math. (I have a Master’s Degree in English, so bear with me as I puzzle this whole numbers thing out.) At a blistering THREE seconds per photo-op, that’s 20 per minute, that’s 1200 per hour. That seems completely unrealistic when you take into account ADA groups, slow people, talkative celebs (which are GREAT, by the way—I’m looking at you, Gillian Anderson, taking 5 seconds to comment on I’ll Follow You Down), large groups, children, retakes, etc. Let’s call it an average of 6 seconds, or 600 photos per hour.

Now, as I said, I’m no math genius, but that means if you have a one hour block of time for a celebrity to take photos, you shouldn’t sell more than 600 photo-ops.


[Editor’s note: while I realize that a pedestrian cost of $50 per photo-op, this will only Gross $30000, but that’s in ONE HOUR. I’ll let you do the math for more expensive celebrities. As Epic Photo-Ops’ costs are fixed, it’s pretty easy to determine the celebrity’s share of that Gross.]

This number can fluctuate a bit based in large part on how the line leading in to the photo booth is managed. Here’s where Epic and/or Salt Lake Comic Con kind of dropped the ball, at least this weekend.

But, first, I think it’s important to realize a couple things about the fans that attend these events (in my experience):

1) Fans know that they are going to have to wait in lines,

2) Fans understand that a big celebrity, who is only going to be here for a single day, is going to be in high demand.

It seems that, at least at this event, Salt Lake Comic Con organizers over-sold photos with Jeremy Renner, based on the time they allotted for him. This, in and of itself, isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as I know that most (not all) celebrities really want to give their fans as much as they realistically can. What made this particular event so egregiously bad was the line management out front. I don’t know who was in charge of the front-end, Epic Photo-Ops or Salt Lake Comic Con, but I can understand some fans’ frustrations at being VIPs, but being relegated to lower-numbered “groups” for the same photo-op block of time, and behind GA pass holders at that.

Look, I’m not some sort of VIP badge elitist. I buy them for very specific things. But if the perk of VIP is to have a (theoretically) “shorter” line for photo-ops and autographs, but then they get reshuffled into a previously undisclosed matrix of “groups,” which were determined by no logically discernable system, and then be placed behind those who didn’t pay for the privilege of said (theoretically) “shorter” line…?

That just doesn’t make any sense, man.

Book multiple photo times, sell photos for those times, do VIP and GA lines, and move on. If a VIP can’t buy a photo-op at a certain time that “fits” their preferred scheduled? Oh, well. It’s a comic con. These things happen. We all make choices in how we arrange our panels, photos, and autographs, VIP or not.

If a celebrity is only here for a day, there just has to be a limit on how many photo-ops you can sell. Time is a finite resource… there are only so many minutes in an hour and hours in a day… you can’t stuff 10 pounds of manure into a 5 pound bag… pick a cliché. People will, unfortunately, not always get the photos they want.

Deal with it. I’ve been there. We all have.

But for the love of God, organizers, don’t make the process any worse than it has to be.

Jeremy Renner - FanX 2016Full disclosure: I was in the Jeremy Renner line. My printed ticket said 1:30, the board said 2:00 (understandable schedule adjustment: no problem there.) Was told when I took it upon myself to check at 1:00 that I was in group FIVE and to come back at 3:00, got called up after VIP groups 1-4 as “all other Jeremy Renner VIPS,” when there were at least 11 “groups” of ticket times, and was one of FIVE full lines of VIPs that stood outside the photo op area for nearly an hour after FOUR other VIP lines had been taken in, because they apparently had NO IDEA how many people were still waiting—and that didn’t include most of the GA folks. I finally got my photo, as did everyone else as far as I’ve heard, and my family is happy (see notes 1 and 2 above), but this particular bit of line management was the textbook definition of “clusterfuck.”

And let’s not get into the fact that Kate Beckinsale apparently left early (I have no problem with that. It happens.), but the organizers didn’t tell any of the fans that were waiting…? Is that true? What’s up with that?

[Editor’s note (I know… another one?): I have harped almost continuously since the first Salt Lake Comic Con that communication is the biggest problem/pitfall they have, and it continues to be that way.]

Sorry. That was a long bit of digression, but let’s get back to the good stuff. A nice spread of guests for folks that showed up. Though I’m not really an N*Sync/BSB fan, clearly there was a market for them to be here… Wow. They were busy.

Gillian Anderson - FanX 2016It’s always nice to see some celebs give great panel, too. I saw William B. Davis and Mitch Pileggi, Gillian Anderson, and (part of, sorry) Alan Tudyk’s panel on Friday morning, before whisking myself away to Gillian’s photo-op.

They were all great, especially Tudyk, whose “bag of shit” was in heavy use from the get-go. I was warned about that by Jewel Staite last week in Las Vegas, and she wasn’t lying.

The vendors were plentiful, but it seemed they were vastly outnumbered by artists and authors. I have no problem with this, as most of the art is amazing, and really, how many booths selling funkos (other than the funko store) do we really need.

I kid. The vendors had some great stuff. If I was rich, I could buy everything I wanted. But, sadly, I’m not.

Such is life.

We make do with what we have, and we move on.

Overall, I thought the breadth of guests that Bryan Brandenburg and Dan Farr were able to bring in was impressive, again, and the onus will be on them to top themselves come September.

There were a great many cosplayers, as usual, of all genres and “quality” levels. Hey, I don’t cosplay at all, so I don’t normally judge, but “Captain Phasma” was pretty lame. I am sorry I didn’t see whoever was playing Brienne of Tarth, who was apparently awesome, according to my wife.

The non-celebrity panels, too, cut a wide swath across the pop-culture landscape, from The Women of Marvel to an actual Time Travel panel (okay: they didn’t exactly time travel in the panel; they talked about time travel as a scientific theory/reality) with Bryan Brandenburg.

And if that’s not enough of a subject matter swing for you, then I don’t know what to tell you.

See you all in September, when I’m sure Dan and Bryan will have upped the guest game even higher. (My guess/wish is Robert Downey Jr, finally, and Benedict Cumberbatch, just in time to tease Doctor Strange. Maybe? Dan? Bryan? Helllloooo…?)

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