How to Take Home "Garbage Bags Full of $20s"
October 6, 2016 7:06 AM   Subscribe

Fan conventions, where stars can take home hundreds of thousands of dollars in exchange for a few hours of time, once were the domain of has-beens and sci-fi novelties. But the business has become so lucrative — think $500,000 for Captain America's Chris Evans or The Walking Dead favorite Norman Reedus to appear — that current TV and film stars are popping up at events like Salt Lake City Comic-Con and Heroes and Villains Fan Fest.

The Hollywood Reporter takes a look at the (sometimes a bit shady) world of conventions, from the side of the stars who sign autographs and get their pictures taken with fans.
posted by Etrigan (106 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
 
This report—on media fan conventions—does not resemble the conventions that folks like scalzi and I are regular guests of honour at.

Just sayin'.

But hey, actors.
posted by cstross at 7:14 AM on October 6, 2016 [70 favorites]


I recently paid $75 for a photo with William Shatner at Boston Comic-Con, and apparently so did thousands of other people. Shatner just sat on a stool in front of the camera, smiling the entire time, as if he was hearing the ka-ching in his head with every press of the shutter.
posted by briank at 7:21 AM on October 6, 2016 [13 favorites]


I only charge $1 per photo. If enough MeFites agree to pay this, I'll show up at any venue you want.
posted by xingcat at 7:22 AM on October 6, 2016 [21 favorites]


So, cstross, no hover hand? In-ter-es-ting.
posted by From Bklyn at 7:29 AM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Pay to Play is the rule of the game, and I don't fault the slebs or the fans one bit. They have access, and they're selling that access, and you can choose to buy it or not. But... it's a struggle I have every time a convention comes around -- do I want to pay that much to be able to say that I met so-and-so? Increasingly, as the price point moves up, the answer is no. With the right fan, and the right star -- there's a sweet spot where the price point hardly matters, and that can be a dangerous place.

I was totally cool with paying the Fonz $40 for his autograph and a quick chat, because THE FONZ. This year, I would have forked out about $250 at minimum to meet '66 Batman and Robin, and it killed me that I couldn't justify that much money. It also killed me that I missed out on my one chance of meeting actual-no-shit-Hollywood-legend Tony Curtis at a con, also because of price point, which in hindsight, wasn't too bad at all. Tony Curtis! THE Tony Curtis! I could have been one degree from so many! *sigh*
posted by Capt. Renault at 7:32 AM on October 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


I hear that if the conventions raise over a certain amount, the celebrity has to make potato salad.
posted by delfin at 7:33 AM on October 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


Now look at them yo-yo's that's the way you do it
You sign the paper at S. D. C. C.
That ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Money for nothin' and your fans pay a fee.

Now that ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Lemme tell ya them guys ain't dumb
Maybe get a blister on your little finger
Maybe get a blister on your thumb.

We gotta kickstart graphical novels, custom commissions, freebies
We gotta move this box of t-shirts, we gotta move these indie I.P.s.

The big name actor with the earring and the makeup
Yeah buddy that's his own hair
That big name actor got his own jet airplane
That big name actor, he's a millionaire

I shoulda learned to do them situps
I shoulda worked to get them abs
Look at that actress she only shows up on Fridays
Bet the con pays her tab

And he's up there, for what? Joss Whedon know'n?
He's slingin' out catch phrases like a parakeet
Oh that ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Get money for nothin' and your fans pay a fee.

We gotta kickstart graphical novels, custom commissions, freebies
We gotta move this box of t-shirts, we gotta move these indie I.P.s.

Listen here
Now that ain't workin' that's the way to do it
You sign the paper at S. D. C. C.
That ain't workin' that's the way you do it
Money for nothin' and your fans pay a fee.
Money for nothin' and the fans pay a fee.
(Get your) money for nothin' and fans pay a fee.
Money for nothin' and your fans pay a fee.
Money for nothin' and the fans pay a fee.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:36 AM on October 6, 2016 [56 favorites]


Pay to Play is the rule of the game, and I don't fault the slebs or the fans one bit. They have access, and they're selling that access, and you can choose to buy it or not.

Like the Elmos and SpongeBobs in Times Square.
posted by headnsouth at 7:38 AM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Money-saving pro tip: Instead of paying for a posed photo with the celebrity, just take a selfie with the celeb in the background.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:39 AM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I always thought it was weird to pay to have your photo with a celebrity ...it's such a bizarre concept to me. The best "celebrity" booths I went to were ones that you can shoot the shit* and not have the feeling that you are another paying random in a long line of dollar signs**.

*the best ones I've been to were the voice of Master Shake (he gave out scratch-n-sniff stickers!) and a character creator for Archer.

**I'm totally not faulting the celebrities or conventions or even the fans - people most definitely enjoy that experience of meeting someone they love. I just find the whole thing weird.
posted by littlesq at 7:42 AM on October 6, 2016 [15 favorites]


The idea of meeting someone as having value is interesting. It feels to me like having a meeting with an economic payment attached as quid pro quo kind of defeats the idea of the meeting giving you a kind of prestige, and it's not like Mr Actor is going to be chatting with you for hours since he has a line winding around the building to get through. But there are certainly plenty of stranger ways to spend money.
posted by selfnoise at 7:46 AM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Yeah, those cons honestly don't sound like much fun. The fun of meeting celebrities at cons wasn't that you could take a photo with them, it was that you might find yourself in the same green room or party with them and could have long chats. (Or in some cases, with older SF authors, fend them off with baseball bats, but I digress) The point was talking and interacting. I don't get what value "I had my photo taken in front of this person" has.
posted by corb at 7:46 AM on October 6, 2016 [19 favorites]


littlesq, I'm with you. I have a friend who really, really loves getting pictures of himself with celebrities but thankfully does it mostly by waiting at stage doors outside venues and the like.

At least with the con set-up, it's not like people are jumping them while they're out and about trying to live their lives, which I have always thought creepy. I'd be curious to know if the celebs that do these con-based meet-and-greets find themselves accosted less frequently out in the world.
posted by smirkette at 7:47 AM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


This report—on media fan conventions—does not resemble the conventions that folks like scalzi and I are regular guests of honour at.

Coincindentally, as we type, mefi's own scalzi is on his way to New York Comic Con, where he will be signing "a limited edition poster to celebrate the Audible-exclusive release of his audiobook, The Dispatcher". Comic Con is of course nothing like Worldcon, but authors these days have to keep their feet in both types.

Media fan conventions resemble less the traditional fan cons than entertainment-industry theme parks, in which the guests are the attractions that the public has to wait in long lines in order to have a brief experience with them and which feature people walking around in elaborate costumes and so very many t-shirts for sale.
posted by Doktor Zed at 7:54 AM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


does not resemble the conventions that folks like scalzi and I are regular guests of honour at

So, lunch-bags full of $20s then? ;-)
posted by Nelson at 7:54 AM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Are fans still slans? What's the latest there?
posted by GuyZero at 7:54 AM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Call me a miser, but I don't understand the mentality of paying for an autograph.
posted by entropicamericana at 7:58 AM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


On the one hand, contracts in the entertainment world are typically really, really biased in favor of the corporations rather than the performers. (The famous Steve Albini rant on recording industry practices comes to mind.) So if these people have found ways to clear big paydays for doing nothing more than spending time with their fanbases, more power to them.

And very often it's not just the big stars themselves that do all right. My niece is a big Walking Dead fan, for instance, and she and a friend have gone to a couple of their conventions where the A-listers are tightly wrapped up but the actors/actresses who play the B- and C-listers, characters who were killed off and written out of the show, are there and have their own stories to tell and more time to spend per person. It's good that the people who didn't have big contracts up front have an additional revenue stream when the show they helped to build took off.

On the other hand, I remember being a wee delfin at any number of local car dealership events, star-struck because ONE OF MY FAVORITE PHILLIES ARE RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF ME and getting a baseball signed by all of them. Even the Phanatic. I'd hate to see sticker shock get today's kids priced out of that experience.
posted by delfin at 8:00 AM on October 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


I went to a convention recently in Niagara Falls, for a friend's bachelor party. While there, I managed to corner Dante Basco (Rufio, the voice of Prince Zuko), and had him sign of photo of my cat, Prince Zuko. He signed, "Zuko! Regain your honor! Love Dante". Made my week :)
posted by triage_lazarus at 8:04 AM on October 6, 2016 [18 favorites]


Got my picture taken with Ray Park (Darth Maul) at a local con a few months ago. He charged $100.00 a photo, but took the time to engage in conversation with every fan that met him. He charged a lot (I didn't pay it... I won the pass at a drawing), but seemed to at least try to give the fans their $100.00 worth. And it was more like $50.00 because $100.00 got you and a guest in to get your picture with him, so I took my son whose mind was blown when I surprised him with meeting Darth Maul.
posted by prepmonkey at 8:11 AM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I can't really think of a TV or movie person I'd be so super excited about meeting that I'd feel the need to pay for it, but that's me. I don't fault people who get excited for these sorts of meet-and-greet/photo opportunities. I get that for some people, just being able to say they got their photo with Big Name Movie Person is enough, and that's cool for them. I don't really feel like anyone is being taken advantage of here, honestly.
posted by darksong at 8:15 AM on October 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


Cstross beat me to it. When I was on committee for Archon back in the day (early 90's maybe?) when actors at fandom cons was the exception, not the rule, they read a few offers from some actors. You know how people type LOL when, at best they chuckled? Yeah, when they got to the remunerations that these folks wanted for their services, LOL would have been literally accurate.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:17 AM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I also wish they advertised this better: like "Paid Autographs" in the con programs, so you don't have fans standing in line for an hour only to find they have to fork over extra money. Actually, I have this problem with all fan programming that you have to pay extra for which is not noted as such.
posted by corb at 8:21 AM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Are fans still slans? What's the latest there?

An most fandom cons they at least read, which doesn't quite make you an enlightened super powered mutant despised by the rest of society. Yet.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:22 AM on October 6, 2016


When I went to ECCC a while back and C2E2 more recently I was really put off by the celebrity lines. I'm not big on celebrities anyway, but the whole model of lines and fees for autographs and pictures destroyed any possible interest I had.

I once had a couple beers with Panther from The Protomen after their set in Madison. That's the way to rub shoulders with a (incredibly minor) celebrity. If you can manage it, I highly recommend it.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:25 AM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I came in here intending to post something about how really thinking about the piles of money actors get for convention appearances makes me sad, as someone who's trying to get people to notice her crazy sci-fi comic book, but I think Robocop Is Bleeding pretty much summed up anything I was gonna say with that Dire Straits filk.

Ah well. That TV show pitch is almost done. Nearly time to try and make a deal with the corporate masters.
posted by egypturnash at 8:25 AM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this sort of thing--yes, a picture with Chris Evans or something is way better than I've ever done or ever will do in convention terms. But, like, my great celebrity convention story was having a substantial portion of the Babylon 5 cast playing Whose Line with me sitting in the front row, and Jason Carter coming over and at one point sitting down at my feet. Like, I could have petted him like a puppy. I didn't, but I could have! Didn't even own a camera at that point--it was many years ago, pre smartphones, at a time when I could barely afford D*C and definitely didn't own a camera. But the experience was organic and amazing because it was organic.

I don't fault them for charging because they've got tons of other things to do with their lives. I just... don't feel the least bit compelled to go spend money on this stuff. As a fan, the experience-per-dollar is just not high enough to compete with so many other things I could be doing with my money.
posted by Sequence at 8:26 AM on October 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


I've done a few cons, and paid to meet certain celebrities, and I've found great pleasure in doing that. I see it as essentially the same thing as going to a museum and paying to experience a van Gogh, or going to a concert and paying to experience Willie Nelson. Since going to the Motown Museum, whenever I hear a Motown song, I can say to myself "I was in that room where that was made", and that makes me tremendously happy.

Is access to favourite people all that different than access to special places or things? I don't find that, personally. I've visited plenty of graves for authors or artists I like, and doing so gives me a sense of connectivity to them that I didn't have before. Yes, paying to access someone and to have a brief interaction with them is a bit crass and commercial compared to running into them on the street or at an airport bar, but so what? I've met the Fonz. It gave me pleasure to meet the Fonz. It gives me pleasure still to be able to say I've met the Fonz. I can see a box of Happy Days DVDs and say "I know that guy!"

What can I say? That connectivity -- as forced and artificial as it is -- makes me really happy. And it's my money. As ever, YMMV.
posted by Capt. Renault at 8:47 AM on October 6, 2016 [16 favorites]


I have a really, really strong social taboo against interacting with celebrities in the wild. A paid photo opp, where the interaction is 100% commodified, would be the only way I would feel comfortable getting within 10 feet of Chris Evans.
posted by merriment at 8:51 AM on October 6, 2016 [14 favorites]


Did celebrities charge for photos and autographs before the Internet? I would guess because of social media, being able to post a photo of you and a celebrity is now much more valuable than it is in the pre-Internet days when all you could do is to show it to whoever was physically around you.
posted by FJT at 8:52 AM on October 6, 2016


We went to the Chicago Doctor Who convention last year. My kid loves Strax, the goofy, potato-looking alien. Rather than pay for a photo, I waited in line at the Q&A and convinced Dan Starkey, the charming actor who plays Strax to threaten to destroy my son if he didn't finish his dinner. I feel like it's a way better souvenir, and I can share it.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:56 AM on October 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


FJT: "Did celebrities charge for photos and autographs before the Internet? I would guess because of social media, being able to post a photo of you and a celebrity is now much more valuable than it is in the pre-Internet days when all you could do is to show it to whoever was physically around you."

They absolutely did.
And arguably because the photos were rarer & then less "published" they were in fact more valuable than today's.
posted by chavenet at 8:57 AM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Did celebrities charge for photos and autographs before the Internet?

Lawrence Welk's dentist only charged $20, same as in town.
posted by dr_dank at 9:02 AM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ew. This is gross.

We took my daughter to our local Trek convention. I was pretty sad that the only activities there, after you have paid to go to the convention, is to pay for additional "premium" events or signing "opportunities", or to buy stuff from the vendors.

To me a cool convention would include the chance to interact with parts of the set from the show, a chance to create a little video of your own Trek show, basically, opportunities to interact in some way instead of just buying stuff.

Seeing cast members participate in Q&As (which we had to pay extra for!) was also really depressing as they clearly have answered these same questions infinity times already.

The best part was the cosplay. Which people are doing at great expense and they don't get paid to do that even though it's clearly improving the experience of the convention for everyone else.
posted by latkes at 9:03 AM on October 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


I bought the most recent photo book of Peter, Paul and Mary and had my picture taken with Peter and Paul during the local booksigning. They are hugging me. It is now my Facebook photo. The only problem is that I can never change my Facebook photo again.
posted by Melismata at 9:05 AM on October 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


I guess whatever it takes to make conventions tolerable for the actors? Honestly I don't get why people think that actors would love to hang out with fans talking about the exact thing for the umpteenth time. It's just part of their job and they should be paid for it.
posted by Foci for Analysis at 9:07 AM on October 6, 2016 [10 favorites]


I was going to say that I don't understand at all paying good money to meet/have your photo taken with a celebrity or actress.

But on the other hand, we just went to Disney World, where I paid hundreds of dollars a day so my daughter could stand in line and get the autographs of people who kind of vaguely look like animated characters, so who am I to judge?
posted by madajb at 9:11 AM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Quite true, Foci for Analysis. And I'm sure that there's a level of actors, not that of Shatner, where they could use the money. It's very hard to be typecast and unemployable anywhere else.
posted by Melismata at 9:12 AM on October 6, 2016


I don't begrudge the actors wanting to make a little more money (though usually one thinks more of a B-lister from a basic-cable series cancelled 8 years ago than Chris Evans), but I cannot get my mind around the idea that meeting some random dude, who will not be demonstrating the skill for which you admire him and whose personality could be anything, is somehow equivalent to experiencing a work of art. I've met one or two actors at cons and enjoyed the opportunity to tell them I liked their work, but it wasn't an aesthetic experience. The idea of paying some bored and contemptuous pro to act friendly towards me also makes my skin crawl.
posted by praemunire at 9:15 AM on October 6, 2016 [8 favorites]


I see it as essentially the same thing as going to a museum and paying to experience a van Gogh, or going to a concert and paying to experience Willie Nelson.

Well, but supposedly the art or music IS the experience you are paying for. You are paying to see someone's artistic output. When you like an actor, you like his or her work, ie, their acting, not their mere presence. The analogy would be paying money to see the actor's movies.

Cue the discussion of the nature of celebrity culture . . .
posted by chainsofreedom at 9:17 AM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


The idea of paying some bored and contemptuous pro to act friendly towards me also makes my skin crawl.

Isn't that kind of the same as the entire modern service industry? Waitresses, doctors, nurses, hotel bellhops, uber drivers, etc.
posted by FJT at 9:20 AM on October 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


I prefer Mandy Patinkin's attitude (from IMDB):
In a 2012 interview in New York Magazine, Mandy Patinkin said that his most famous line from The Princess Bride (1987) ("Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.") gets quoted back to him by at least two or three strangers every day of his life. Patinkin told the interviewer that he loves hearing the line and he also loves the general fact that he got to be in the movie, stating, "I'm frankly thrilled about it. I can't believe that I got to be in The Wizard of Oz, you know what I mean?"
posted by Melismata at 9:27 AM on October 6, 2016 [17 favorites]


After going to an MST3K convention back in the day, I don't think any other convention could ever live up to it.

Tour of the studio; chance to play Doom with Mike or go to the Mall of America with Mary Joe; panel discussion with Russell Johnson and Kim Catrell, costume party and dance with Trace; no charge for autographs. Can't beat it!
posted by brookeb at 9:28 AM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


Seeing cast members participate in Q&As (which we had to pay extra for!) was also really depressing as they clearly have answered these same questions infinity times already.


Many years ago, I read an interview with an actor about exactly this phenomenon, in which he coolly explained which questions he could guarantee would be asked and which answers he always gave in response. I rather got the impression he was doing the week's grocery shopping list in his head at events.
posted by thomas j wise at 9:29 AM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


which answers he always gave in response

"A wizard did it."

or

"What the hell are you talking about?"
posted by entropicamericana at 9:37 AM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Patinkin told the interviewer that he loves hearing the line and he also loves the general fact that he got to be in the movie, stating, "I'm frankly thrilled about it. I can't believe that I got to be in The Wizard of Oz, you know what I mean?"

I saw an interview with the guy who did that "How Bizarre" song a few years back, and when asked whether he regretted being a one-hit wonder, said something to the effect of "I get to make people happy all over the world by playing that song. Better than being a no-hit wonder."
posted by Etrigan at 9:48 AM on October 6, 2016 [14 favorites]


At a Star Trek convention in Portland, Maine 20-odd years ago, we saw James Doohan, who, by all reports, loved doing cons and meeting fans. That day, a teenage girl, maybe 15 or so, dressed in a blue TOS uniform and homemade Spock ears, started to ask him about the advantages of transwarp drive when he stopped her cold. "Aww, look, lass (yes, he really called her "lass"), it's all just made up, it's not real. Let's not spend time talking about it". He said it in a kind voice,so as not to hurt her feelings too much, but you could also tell that he wished he would never have to hear a question like that ever again.
posted by briank at 10:03 AM on October 6, 2016 [13 favorites]


I don't begrudge an actor doing this at all. Even somebody like Stephen Amell, star of a pretty successful TV show, is deserving of whatever's available to him, in my opinion (and my guess is that he isn't making from Arrow what, say, anyone on Game of Thrones makes per episode). But I don't really understand the appeal for the person paying the fee. Paying somebody to take a photo with you doesn't speak to me. I don't think I would pay anyone to take a photo with me. Maybe if that person were hugely important to me in some sentimental way, and I knew they either relied on that money for their income or were donating it to a charity.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:04 AM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I started to say that I couldn't see myself paying to meet a celebrity. For the most part, I don't get fannish about actors, even if I'm fannish about the works they appear in. But then I thought, well, except for John Darnielle. I'd pay good money for a meet-and-greet with John Darnielle. Or Rainbow Rowell—I really like her. I'd donate three figures to a charity of her choice for a chance to sit down with her for a cup of tea. I have a favorite romance author—KJ Charles—and, likewise, I'd compensate her for a chance to chat.

Of course, writers are generally more accessible than other media stars anyway. One of my kids went to hear Brandon Sanderson read last year, and for the price of a book got to hear him speak, and get books autographed. Sanderson started out moving people through the line pretty quickly, but as the crown thinned out, he relaxed and started chatting more. My kid, already impressed with Sanderson's world-building and the scope of history in his books, and with Sanderson's reliability at a writer, was further pleased at how open Sanderson seemed with him and the other fans.

Anyway, my point was: I started out thinking, "Oh, that is so not my thing," but there are times and places where it might be my thing after all. I understand people's frustrations with the commodification of fandom, and at the same time kind of celebrate how accessible it makes performers to their fans. I probably wouldn't pay $100 for an autograph for myself, but I could imagine giving that opportunity as a gift to a couple of people I know, who would be thrilled.
posted by not that girl at 10:04 AM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


Meet and greets and photo ops aren't really how I do fandom either, even for actors or writers I'm a huge fan of. I'll happily go to panels and Q&As, and have, but paying for a photo or autograph just isn't appealing to me. I don't particularly judge actors or fans for doing them, I just have zero interest in it. If the actors enjoy or can fake enjoying it well enough to do the con thing, more power to them.

I wouldn't say no to having a cup of tea with some of my favorite actors or creators, solely for the purpose of picking their brains about their work (in a character stuff and talk to me about the craft kind of way, not a "how do warp drives work" kind of way), but I couldn't even bring myself to ask for a selfie if I met them on the street much less pay for one in a con environment. I think all I'd be able to manage in a hypothetical run into your fave on the street scenario would be "I'm a big fan of *thing*, thanks for being great, bye!"

Though now that I think about it, I'd be somewhat more likely to do the con meet and greet if it was someone less well-known or associated with a small fandom, especially if they'd had a big impact on me, and then a photo op would just be an excuse to say something nice to them in person.
posted by yasaman at 10:25 AM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I'd much rather have fans who want Chris Evans' picture pay $30 bucks a pop than for the ticket price of the convention to go up by $10-15 for everyone in order to get him there.
posted by straight at 10:25 AM on October 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


Maybe if that person were hugely important to me in some sentimental way

For a lot of fans paying for an autograph/picture, that's exactly what it is. Most people who go to fan cons are, obviously, huge fans of the work. That movie or show or book probably means a huge deal to them, and they want a chance to share their joy with likeminded people and have a brief momement with someone who helped bring the show/movie/book/whatever to life for them.

I'm not sure why we need yet another round of I Don't Understand This Particular Way of Being A Fan And Still Want To Voice My Disapproving Lack of Understanding, but there we go. People want to spend money on something that brings them joy. Paying tons of $$ to go to a con isn't my top indulgence, but I don't see how it's much different that shelling out tons of money for your favorite sports jersey, going to a game, and hoping to get an autograph from your favorite player, either. Or paying tons of $$ to see Springsteen live 100 times.

(That that said, given that the ways in which some fans overshare or can be kinda creepy with the actors/authors, the money these people receive is well-deserved).
posted by TwoStride at 10:26 AM on October 6, 2016 [11 favorites]


I started to say that I couldn't see myself paying to meet a celebrity. For the most part, I don't get fannish about actors, even if I'm fannish about the works they appear in. But then I thought, well, except for John Darnielle. I'd pay good money for a meet-and-greet with John Darnielle.

Second-to-last Mountain Goats show I went to, he stopped by the merch table afterwards to sign stuff, and he chatted a bit with everybody he signed stuff for. Last Mountain Goats show I went to, he didn't do this, though. They were at different venues, which I think might be a significant factor, plus I believe the show where he did do a signing might have been the last for that particular tour, so he didn't need to pile into the bus and drive to the next city or anything.
posted by tobascodagama at 10:42 AM on October 6, 2016


Isn't that kind of the same as the entire modern service industry? Waitresses, doctors, nurses, hotel bellhops, uber drivers, etc.

I'm not a huge fan of it there, either, but at least in that situation I'm not generally seeking them out specifically for the pleasant interaction in itself. There's an underlying business transaction that is going to happen anyway.
posted by praemunire at 10:46 AM on October 6, 2016


That movie or show or book probably means a huge deal to them, and they want a chance to share their joy with likeminded people and have a brief momement with someone who helped bring the show/movie/book/whatever to life for them.

My oldest kid, whom we adopted as a young adult, connected really powerfully with Stargate as an abused and isolated teen, and later with Supernatural and Firefly. I would pay to have them meet and get a picture with certain stars from those shows, because it would really mean a lot to them. And to me, because when they first moved in with us, our shared fandom of Buffy and Firefly were really good points of connection as we got to know each other. For me, while I might think it would be cool to shake hands with certain stars, I'd probably always choose to spend my money elsewhere. But if my kid were going to a con (which could totally happen), I'd cough up a hundred bucks for them to have that experience.

(That that said, given that the ways in which some fans overshare or can be kinda creepy with the actors/authors, the money these people receive is well-deserved).

I have chosen to unfollow certain writers I like on twitter because I felt like I was getting kind of "notice me and we can be best friends!" about them. Well, OK just one so far. I've restrained myself better with others. But when people are sharing themselves on social media, sharing personal stuff as well as professional stuff, it's easy to think "we have so much in common, we would totally like each other." This is quite likely even true! Most people who meet me do like me! But I felt it was best for my dignity and the writer in question's comfort if I carried on my friend-crush from a greater distance.
posted by not that girl at 10:48 AM on October 6, 2016 [9 favorites]


In my experience the best way to meet a celebrity is to be sitting for a portrait when they come by to view an upcoming but not yet open gallery show and you get to casually dig them for not writing Captain America very well.
posted by The Whelk at 10:48 AM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


If you've ever read Darnielle talking about some of the interactions he's had with fans, and the reasons he's had to step back...I mean, he is one of my favorite singers of this century, but I don't think I could bring myself to ever speak to him.
posted by praemunire at 10:48 AM on October 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


For A/B/even C-list actors the money they make from doing cons is just the icing on the cake from their steady work. But if you're the sort of actor who gets an episode of TV now and again, getting a series regular role on a genre (read:fandom-creating) show is a huge deal. Residual deals aren't what they used to be, and even if the show ends, you've got a semi-regular annual source of income you can tap into by attending some cons and either getting appearance fees and/or just doing your own meet and greets/autographs.
posted by JauntyFedora at 10:50 AM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


I think I've just figured out what my issue is with actor-celebrities at cons. It used to feel that if celebrities appeared at cons, they were doing it at least partially out of love of the thing itself, and were themselves fans. Science fiction writers loved science fiction and other science fiction authors. It felt like even the actors really enjoyed the community and wanted to be a part of it. And that was a different experience than them being there /just/ for the money. It felt, at least, like it was a reciprocal thing, like they were a part of it all. This feels different.
posted by corb at 10:56 AM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


If you've ever read Darnielle talking about some of the interactions he's had with fans, and the reasons he's had to step back...I mean, he is one of my favorite singers of this century, but I don't think I could bring myself to ever speak to him.

Yep. I will forever be satisfied that in April, I was at a concert where he came out into the audience during Spent Gladiator 2, and he put his hand on my shoulder and looked at me while he sang the first line.

He recently auctioned off a one-hour house concert (as in, coming to your house to sing in your living room) to raise money for, IIRC, someone's medical treatment. If I'd had a spare 15 or 16k around, I might not have been able to resist bidding for that.
posted by not that girl at 11:03 AM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I understand that part of the rationale for charging for autographs (at least for star athletes) is that some collectors turn around and sell those autographs. If I'm going to make money off of someone's autograph, why shouldn't they get paid for it?

That being said, it's just not my thing. (Not entirely true: I'd do a lot to get to tell Andy Partridge how much I've loved XTC's music all these years.)
posted by corvikate at 11:04 AM on October 6, 2016


This sort of fandom is not my thing. That doesn't mean it's wrong any more than NASCAR is wrong or bull riding is wrong or competitive Laser sailing is wrong. (Those are also not things I would pay for the privilege of seeing.) That said, actors who can make a couple of hundred grand in a weekend or even, say, ten grand in a weekend, should totally do it if they're comfortable with the gig. I know from the adorable photo ops all over my tumblr that the leads of Supernatural (Ackles, Padalecki) do a fair amount of convention shenanigans during the off season and I hope to hell they're making bank on it. Good for them, say I.
posted by which_chick at 11:09 AM on October 6, 2016


I can't speak for millionaire actors who do this, but I know a few television actors who get a couple of gigs per year, sometimes on some pretty good shows, sometimes recurring roles.

They have, at best, a lower-middle class life with a lot of downtime when no money comes in at all from their acting, or, at best, a couple of hundred here, a couple of hundred there from residuals, which eventually dwindle down to nothing.

So they all have side-hustles. They couldn't live without it. For a lot of actors who work in the trenches of genre filmmaking, where the pay is very low indeed, conventions are the side-hustle. This is how they make enough money to afford to be actors.

Of course, most of these smaller actors charge a lot less to have their photos taken and are a lot more generous with their time. I have met quite a few who are genuinely delighted to meet with fans (a lot of actors are really extroverted.) And without these side-hustles, there wouldn't be, say, horror movies, or at least wouldn't be dedicated actors who work in them a lot and, as a result, are reliably great at them. That seems like something worth supporting.
posted by maxsparber at 11:15 AM on October 6, 2016 [18 favorites]


Now we're well past the point of de-railing, what do authors like me or Scalzi get from a convention?

Well, you need to remember that the sort of conventions we do are mostly fan-run on a volunteer basis. There's a membership fee for people who attend, but it's not run by a corporation or paid staff—not even worldcon, which is at about the biggest scale of event you can run on that basis (up to 9000 attendees for 5 days). Comic Cons and larger media events (including Dragon*Con) are run by companies with permanent staff—utterly different rules apply.

In general, an author guest of honour at a fan-run convention expects the convention to pay their travel expenses and hotel bill. (A convention that can't pay for an air fare plus two nights in a hotel probably can't afford to tie its own shoelaces, much less book function space for an event for 100+ people for two days.)

For a convention of any significant size—more than about 300 attendees—it's common but not universal to offer to cover not only the author's expenses but those of a companion (spouse, child, carer, whatever).

It's less common, but not unusual, to offer an envelope of walking-around money (on the order of $50-100 per diem) to cover the guest's food and drink expenses.

And the convention committee usually get to take the guest(s) of honour out to dinner at a restaurant at some point.

Anything beyond that is unusual and negotiable. Hotel suite rather than a room, flights in business/first rather than coach class ... maybe, but it depends on how big the convention is and how badly they want to please the guests.

Things authors don't generally do: charge for autographs or face time. (Ew, tacky.) Hide away from the fans they're there for. (Caveat: most authors are introvert, and sometimes it all gets a bit much.) Throw hissy fits because the bathtub in their imperial suite isn't full of champagne. (A bottle waiting for them in the room is received gratefully.)
posted by cstross at 11:28 AM on October 6, 2016 [19 favorites]


Meh, I have no problem at all with this. Obviously, because I've got a photo of myself and Mr. Bowtiesarecool with Billie Piper at a con on our living room wall. I don't think I would make a habit out of it because I'm not made of money, but I have fond memories of discovering how much shorter than me she is (and I am quite short), and it was a real thrill getting to meet someone I so admired right in the peak of my Doctor Who phase, and I'd much rather pay money to have a well-lit, professionally taken, consensual photo taken with someone than accost them on the street/in a bar/wherever else for a selfie. I occasionally come into contact with famous people, political or otherwise, at my work, and I always feel bad when people harass them for photos. At least this way, everything is on the up-and-up and the person in question is benefiting from my squees.

I have a bigger problem with fan cons with nothing else to do - f'rexample, the above con with Billie Piper sucked, because they had terrible line management, minimal oversubscribed actual programming, a weak artist alley, and a generic vendor floor. I'm not a huuuuuge anime fan, but I've grown to love the anime cons around here because they do so much great fan programming focused on academic/cultural sides to the fandom, hands-on activities, tons of original art, etc in addition to the paid photo-ops and signings and generic merch.

Another (now extinct) interesting variant on this was Disney World's Star Wars Weekends, when they would essentially run quasi-cons in their Hollywood Studios park. All the experiences (other than merch and food, obviously) were included in the existing cost of a theme park ticket, including celebrity panels and autographs. So, if you were willing to get there at oh-god-why o'clock to get in line in the morning, you could shake Frank Oz's hand, see Ray Park do a discussion and demonstration of martial arts, and see a ton of celebrities in a panel or parade, and still have day left over for a couple of rides and fireworks. I'd love to see more theme parks tackle events like that, rolled into the existing cost of admission.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 11:33 AM on October 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


I just remembered my best experience with a horror actor. They will get often make a little scratch getting flown out to haunted houses in October. I was doing a podcast and called to see if I could interview two of them, Kyra Schon, who played the zombie girl in the original Night of the Living Dead, and George Kosana, who played the sheriff who says "They're dead. They're all messed up."

Turned out Kyra is also a huge horror fan, and insisted on going through the haunted house with us and George, which I also recorded. You can hear it here, although I seem to recall it's mostly her screaming happily.

I love the side-hustle.
posted by maxsparber at 11:46 AM on October 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


I think I'm going to keep my $$$ and go watch Galaxy Quest. Again.
posted by pjsky at 12:01 PM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]



I've never done this at cons I've been too. It would be cool to say hi to some actors I like but I've never had the cash that I could justify spending on it. It just isn't something I care about that much.
On thinking about it more while reading this thread I figured out that if I did have more disposable income there would be point that I would likely spend money for some actors because it would be fun.
posted by Jalliah at 12:08 PM on October 6, 2016


I don't think queuing for hours and paying $$$ for photos is any stranger than spending unpaid hours writing stories or drawing pictures for media properties you don't own. Or collecting shelves full of those plastic toys or going on a coach tour of Haworth in Bronte cosplay or whatever. Fandom is a strange thing.
posted by betweenthebars at 12:13 PM on October 6, 2016 [4 favorites]


He's not an actor but look, knock on wood and all but Stan Lee isn't going to be around for much longer. This year is the last year he's going to be at NYCC, and he's retiring from all con appearances in general. It costs to meet him and get him to sign something, but I did it once before and it was cool just being in the presence of someone with so much history. If ever there were a reason to shell out for meeting someone this is it if you want to meet him, because after this you'll probably never get a chance to do it again.
posted by Sangermaine at 12:24 PM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


I can't begrudge the actors, particularly the younger CanCon guys & gals who these days probably have a far shorter shelf-life and fewer options than people like Michael Hogan (Who's probably no stranger to the Con Circuit, but he's going to be able to get work after Teen Wolf wraps, whereas the Teen Wolf will probably have to move out of the way for the next young set cut oblique abs), but I just don't understand the mindset of an adult who'd pay to get their picture taken with Boba Fett's body-double.

And while You Do You and It Ain't My Money are totally things, it bums me out that the convention closest to me gives higher billing to a replica of the car from Supernatural than Mike Zeck, and probably explains why the only artist that seems to return every year is Greg Horn.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:25 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I paid $50 to have a professional photographer take my picture with Avery fucking Brooks. If you think that's stupid, well, that's fine. I'll always have my picture with Avery fucking Brooks, you know?
posted by Automocar at 12:31 PM on October 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


You know, I have paid $50 to have my picture taken with ... me. Just a nice portrait by a professional photographer.

I didn't realize I could get Avery Brooks in there for no extra charge.
posted by maxsparber at 12:34 PM on October 6, 2016 [15 favorites]


More than 25 years ago, a then-friend stood on line to have an author we both admired sign the back of a postcard.
It reads, "Dear (Iris) - KEEP WRITING! Best wishes, Douglas Adams."
I love this yellowing scrap of cardstock to an unholy degree.
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:34 PM on October 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Avery Brooks is just outside the frame of about 65 percent of all photographs. You just can't look fast enough to catch him.
posted by Etrigan at 12:46 PM on October 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


But then I thought, well, except for John Darnielle. I'd pay good money for a meet-and-greet with John Darnielle.

I met him when he did a signing for Master of Reality. When I got to the front of the line I said something reasonably bland, through the silent flailing fangirl shrieking going on in my brain, and he told me my name was weird and looked at me like he was imagining how my head would look on a pike. It was one of the single greatest things to ever happen to me.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 12:46 PM on October 6, 2016 [6 favorites]


He's not an actor but look, knock on wood and all but Stan Lee isn't going to be around for much longer. This year is the last year he's going to be at NYCC, and he's retiring from all con appearances in general. It costs to meet him and get him to sign something, but I did it once before and it was cool just being in the presence of someone with so much history. If ever there were a reason to shell out for meeting someone this is it if you want to meet him, because after this you'll probably never get a chance to do it again.

This was also my rationale for paying for 3 seconds of standing next to William Shatner. Dude's 86 (though even in person he looks a lot younger than that), clock's ticking.
posted by briank at 12:51 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


William Shatner. Dude's 86

*brain explodes* No he's not. He's T.J. Hooker.
posted by Melismata at 12:54 PM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


D'ya mean Rack Hansen?
posted by Iris Gambol at 12:55 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


I can think of a bunch of reasons why big name actors would be willing to do this other than just money—

-Spending several hours being told you are wonderful and you bring joy to the lives of other humans must be nice
-Sometimes people bring their pets, and you get to pet them
-For people who like their costars (Chris Evans, Anthony Mackie, and Sebastian Stan seem to be in this group), it’s kind of like a paid trip to hang out with your buds. Actors always talk about how hard it is to see former costars if you aren’t working on the same projects anymore. Going to a con means hanging with pals on someone else’s dime, and someone else did all the scheduling legwork
-Getting asked to hug babies dressed in silly costumes
-Making a movie is a huge amount of work, and not a lot of people want to hear all the insider details. But hundreds of people who want to hear about the craft services table from a tv show you did five years ago? Cool! None of your anecdotes are uninteresting!
-For the Marvel cast especially, I think of this as extended nerd Disneyworld— people want to hang out with their favorite characters, even if they know it’s an act. That’s true for toddlers who want to “meet” Cinderella and Gaston, and it’s true for grownups who want to share a giggle with Cap.
-Presents! Sure, some fandom presents are gross or stupid, but a lot of them are actually pretty fancy and nice.
-Building a Brand. Having your fans think of you as Approachable and Sweet pays off, career-wise.
-Personal causes— almost every major con-attending actor has a nonprofit or cause that their fans end up raising money for, in their honor.
-You might end up getting promoted from Crewman #6 to Security Chief ‘Roc’ Ingersol if the show ends up getting rebooted
posted by a fiendish thingy at 1:02 PM on October 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


Stephen Amell maintains his online following with the same level of dedication as people widely heralded as social media mavens, people like, say, Jonathan Coulton. He works hard at being in touch, relatable, and fun to as many of his fans as he can engage with.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 1:07 PM on October 6, 2016


I think I've just figured out what my issue is with actor-celebrities at cons. It used to feel that if celebrities appeared at cons, they were doing it at least partially out of love of the thing itself, and were themselves fans. Science fiction writers loved science fiction and other science fiction authors. It felt like even the actors really enjoyed the community and wanted to be a part of it. And that was a different experience than them being there /just/ for the money. It felt, at least, like it was a reciprocal thing, like they were a part of it all.

Also like, it's not that there's anything legitimately wrong with this, but running a con for profit just bothers me. Every volunteer con I've been to has had a charity auction or a charity concert or a blood drive or something. Even the very small cons! These media conventions have a huge amount of money flowing through them but no charity initiatives, unless one of the actors is repping something.

A blood drive would be so appropriate for horror cons it's a damn shame

Paying the actors is gr8 but a portion of those fees I assume go to the corporation holding the convention and that is just completely against my experience of fandom.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 1:18 PM on October 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


It used to feel that if celebrities appeared at cons, they were doing it at least partially out of love of the thing itself, and were themselves fans.
corb

Is that really true? Isn't there an old cliche of sci-fi/fantasy actors being at cons to collect their check while barely disguising their contempt for the nerd masses around them (e.g., what Galaxy Quest parodies in the beginning)?
posted by Sangermaine at 1:46 PM on October 6, 2016 [2 favorites]


Sangermaine: Having been to a great number of fan-run cons over the last thirty-plus years (the kind corb is talking about, as opposed to the pay-to-take photos expos) - yeah, this does happen at those, but it's always been significantly less common than Galaxy Quest, et al., would have you believe. Sure, some actors and celebrities sneer at their fans. (Some authors do, too! I specifically remember Ray Bradbury being incredibly supercilious to everyone at a book-signing at Archon, many years back, and outright rude to my mother.)

But way more of them, as far as i've seen and heard, are outgoing, genuinely engage with people, and have a great time going to panels & getting drunk in their off-time. I've never been much of a celebrity/actor person, but back when Babylon5 was a big deal, one of my local area cons had Claudia Christian and Jason Brian Carter as guests, and they were incredibly personable. (Carter, in particular, seemed to be having a great time wandering the hotel hallways drunk and chatting with random people. He tried to sit in my lap at one point, as i recall.) I've certainly heard lots of stories from friends & acquaintances, too, of actors being engaged and responsive at fan-run cons in a way i think is probably not even possible at the big stupid expos.

(Note: even at fan-run cons, in my experience, the biggest-name celebrities ARE being paid to appear - but it's a tiny honorarium, a pittance compared to what they get for the pay-to-play stuff. They're probably not doing it just for the money.)
posted by adrienneleigh at 3:39 PM on October 6, 2016 [5 favorites]


I've spent $40 on a round of drinks many, many times. Can't remember them all. If I knew I could get a picture with the Fonz for $40 I'd probably consider it.

I do understand that not everyone has $40 to throw around on drinks or Fonz-pictures, of course.
posted by Cookiebastard at 3:45 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Ironically, I wouldn't even stand in line to say hi to the people in TFA, even those I like, let alone pay for an autograph. Scalzi or Stross I'd at least stand in line to say hello to, but only because they fill the rare Venn Diagram of authors I enjoy and Mefites I respect.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 3:53 PM on October 6, 2016


I've been going to Dragoncon for years, and while it is for-profit, they do have a pretty large blood drive every year and I've always been happy with the quality and quantity of the programming. Most of the really memorable stuff, for me, has happened in Q&As or just walking around the con. Plus there's a parade!

also, I don't usually pay for autographs, but two years ago I got Nichelle Nichols to sign her autobiography for me and it was money well fucking spent.
posted by nonasuch at 4:52 PM on October 6, 2016


Is that really true? Isn't there an old cliche of sci-fi/fantasy actors being at cons to collect their check while barely disguising their contempt for the nerd masses around them (e.g., what Galaxy Quest parodies in the beginning)?

It is true, but it was true primarily for fan-run cons focused primarily on written SF. These types of cons don't make such a big distinction between "fans" and "talent". Yes, they have Guests of Honor but as cstross says they're mostly just comped a room and airfare. And there would be plenty of other pros just wandering around like any other fan. Because they mostly were fans.

Today's media cons are different. For-profit enterprises with a sharp, hard divide between fans and talent. They are totally different beasts with a very different atmosphere.

Personally, if I drop $100 for 5 minutes of someone's time there better be, like, a cheesy cop outfit and maybe some handfcuffs involved.
posted by Justinian at 5:23 PM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


My BFF and I paid to have pictures taken with William Shatner and Patrick Stewart (at two different cons). Did we really get a chance to talk to them, no, but we had a blast and love revisiting the pics. We're trying to find cons featuring Avery Brooks and Kate Mulgrew next.
posted by saturngirl at 5:26 PM on October 6, 2016


He recently auctioned off a one-hour house concert (as in, coming to your house to sing in your living room) to raise money for, IIRC, someone's medical treatment. If I'd had a spare 15 or 16k around, I might not have been able to resist bidding for that.

Oh, I know. If this had been on offer a few years ago, when I had a different job, he would have been rocking a certain hideous housing complex in the East Village. But even then, I'm sure he would've made some polite conversation setting up or whatever, and I would've been like "Noooo don't talk to me you're uncomfortable around fans just play the music we can agree you can do that!"
posted by praemunire at 5:32 PM on October 6, 2016


This economy fascinates me. The options to see General Hospital folks is very expensive--you have to pay $250 to get some sort of photo op. And a lot of the cast members seem to have very pyramid-scheme side projects.
posted by armacy at 5:34 PM on October 6, 2016


I don't think queuing for hours and paying $$$ for photos is any stranger than spending unpaid hours writing stories or drawing pictures for media properties you don't own. Or collecting shelves full of those plastic toys or going on a coach tour of Haworth in Bronte cosplay or whatever. Fandom is a strange thing.

None of those things appeal to me at all, but I really want to go to a big(ish) con to see the costumes and cosplay. It's the same reason it would be fun to take a stroll through a furry convention -- that kind of group creativity and display would be neat to see in person. The whole monetization and fan culture side of things leaves me kind of puzzled, but if people are happy with then more power to them.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:47 PM on October 6, 2016


Tony Curtis! THE Tony Curtis!

A thing like that!
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:56 PM on October 6, 2016 [3 favorites]


I have a lot of photos with celebrities taken at conventions of this type. I recently got my photo with William Shatner, and I knew going in that he would likely not even look at you or register your presence, but he said hello and thanked me very much for coming which I thought was slightly delightful.

I have some great stories behind some of the photos I've got, either things I've discussed with the celebrities, or people I've met in line, or memories from the day itself. The majority are up on a wall at home and it's fun to see my own hairstyles change over the past decade I've been getting these photos and it's always a conversation piece when people come over.

You do seem to get more time with the guest when you're getting an autograph, last time myself and my husband had a 15 minute conversation with Marina Sirtis about all sorts of things. When she found out we were newlyweds she forcibly gave us *back* the money we had paid for the autograph. It had me bouncing on cloud 9 all day.

I get why other people might not see the appeal, but to me, the shows or movies that these people have starred in have given me so much joy, brought so many new people into my life, including friends that I have had for over a decade that I wouldn't have met otherwise and was even the reason I met my husband. Going to conventions just enhances those feelings and meeting the people that were part of the production and getting to thank them personally adds just another layer of joy. I do agree the some of the most fascinating conversations and panels I have attended have been with writers or directors of shows so it is unfortunate that that seems to be waning.

Honestly, I'd feel more uncomfortable if there *wasn't* money exchanged for these type of things. They're working actors and the idea of coming up to them while they're just living their lives or asking for a selfie makes me shudder. I can't imagine that they LOVE doing these things but there have been many that seem to genuinely enjoy it and it would seem weird not to provide them with money in exchange for their services and time. Yay, conventions!
posted by liquorice at 6:27 PM on October 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


I had an unfortunate experience at a convention when waiting in line to speak to John Rhys-Davies*. I wasn't going to purchase an autograph/photo (I really couldn't afford it at the time) so the convention line directors actually made my friends and I wait to the side of the line we just waited in so paying people would go first. It ended up taking so long that we had to leave because we had other things planned. When about to talk to Grant Imahara, the con person taking the money in his booth seemed really put-off that I wasn't buying anything. Those incidences really left a sour taste in my mouth about the whole thing to be honest.

I inadvertently made it sound like John Rhys-Davies was problematic, but he seemed lovely from what I saw from far away. It was the convention runners that made it shitty.
posted by littlesq at 7:02 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Also! Rick Springfield does a lot of these types of things. His documentary An affair of the heart is really about this economy. There are special cruises, shows, perks...
posted by armacy at 7:10 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Okay, wow, I finally opened up the article and I'm surprised this information isn't in there:

The article names three companies running these conventions: Wizard Entertainment, Reedpop, and Informa. First, Informa doesn't do fandom conventions, as far as I can tell. But more importantly, Creation Entertainment basically created this kind of convention in the 1970s and continues hosting them to this day. They ... more or less, they constitute their own distinct tradition in fandom.

(Their wiki article makes the audacious fucking claim that they hosted the first annual Star Trek convention in 2001; that's not really relevant, it's just hilarious.)

The fan-run conventions are the other major tradition in fandom, and they started (more or less) with Worldcon in 1939. All the fan-run conventions are mimetically descended from Worldcon*. That includes the early Star Trek conventions, the first media conventions, which were modeled off of the SF conventions already happening. And it includes Dragoncon, even though it's for-profit, because (as far as I know) it's also modeled off this tradition.

Modern media fandom was born in the 1970s out of these two types of events - the fan-run Star Trek conventions, and the more commercial and corporate Creation cons, both of which were happening at the same time.

The third distinct species of event is the industry conventions that host fans - examples include SDCC and E3.

This might be super reductive but you can tell them apart by the panels:
- Creation cons will be 100% guest of honor fluff panels and will charge for the seats therein, on top of registration.
- Fan cons will have some GOH panels, and also panels devoted to literary and cultural discussion. They will be 100% free after registration. Many even have a hospitality suite with free snacks and coffee.
- Industry cons will have panels that are devoted entirely to a particular media franchise - a particular TV show, the MCU, etc. - with the industry people sitting up front answering questions. I'm pretty sure those panels are free but there are usually lines to get in.

You can see the purpose of each convention laid out there. Industry cons are made for the industry to talk to fans. Fan conventions are made for fans to do whatever they like, and invite the industry people to hang out with them. Creation-type cons, as far as I can tell, are made in order to separate fans from their money give fans facetime with their favorite actors.

They all engage in some similar activities, but with very different intents, and very different atmospheres.

*nota bene, I don't remember if Worldcon is actually the first SF convention. It might well be descended from some earlier convention lost to the vagaries of time.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 8:04 PM on October 6, 2016 [7 favorites]


I've been to a few Creation conventions across the States and they've never charged for a seat on top of registration. Do you mean the tiers of seats? Like how you can pay extra to get Gold Weekend passes which provide you with additional events and front row seats? One of the things about Creation cons is that they guarantee you a seat in the panels (and therefore won't sell tickets in excess of the number of seats available), so no need to line up to get in to see a panel you want or have people camping out all day in a seat just because they want to see the one panel at 5pm (I'm looking at you Reedpop NYC Star Trek convention).

I agree that focus is very much on the celebrities and panels about them but every Creation convention I've attended have at least had a handful non-celebrity related panels. The most recent convention I went to had two hour long panels run by two Sociology professors. One of the panels was discussing the Star Trek memorabilia of the 60s and the other one was an interesting talk all about The Voyage Home. At the much bigger Vegas convention, they generally run a ton of panels discussing the science and philosophy behind the show that run in the smaller halls while the big celebrity panels are on.

I get that people don't like for-profit conventions and there are definitely some valid criticisms of the Creation model that exist, but there's a lot to get out of those smaller conventions (in contrast to CC etc) and it's not all just fluff.
posted by liquorice at 8:17 PM on October 6, 2016 [1 favorite]


Yep, I mixed that up. I only take in Creation cons via social media, so I definitely should not be so judgey. Sorry about that.

(Also I only hear about the Supernatural conventions, which possibly don't have that kind of panels, idunno.)
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 8:22 PM on October 6, 2016


Right, right, I'm not familiar with the Supernatural conventions so same applies to me - they may run them differently!
posted by liquorice at 8:38 PM on October 6, 2016


This was also my rationale for paying for 3 seconds of standing next to William Shatner. Dude's 86 (though even in person he looks a lot younger than that), clock's ticking.

No he's NOT, he's (checking IMDB) ... born March 22, 1931 ... ALMOST 86. Still only 85!

(Seriously, though, he does look quite good and healthy for his age.)

(Also, when I started writing my comment I was fully expecting 86 to be the right age, so my comment above is intended as "I refuse to accept that he's actually that old", not being obsessively exact about the few months.)
posted by theorique at 2:50 AM on October 7, 2016


"Coincindentally, as we type, mefi's own scalzi is on his way to New York Comic Con, where he will be signing 'a limited edition poster to celebrate the Audible-exclusive release of his audiobook, The Dispatcher'. Comic Con is of course nothing like Worldcon, but authors these days have to keep their feet in both types."

In fact, I'm typing this from my hotel room in NYCC, a few blocks from the Javits, where NYCC is going on.

I do in fact attend both types of convention, although I do tend to think of Comic Cons less like conventional science fiction conventions and more like trade shows, because in terms of scope (tens or even hundreds of thousands of attendees) and of intent (sell lots of product, right there on the floor), that's what the Comic Cons resemble. Traditional conventions are fan-focused programming with a dealer's room added, Comic Cons are a dealer's room with fan-focused programming added. There's nothing wrong with either model -- they are what they are. It helps to understand they are different, however.

I will also say that for my own career, I tend to think of traditional SF conventions and Cominc Cons differently. At this point, I attend traditional conventions to hang out friends, other writers and editors, and to stay in touch with core "fandom." I go to Comic Cons to do business. For example, here at NYCC yesterday I met with both my book and tv/film agents, and today I have a meeting with a film/tv production company to discuss a couple of possible projects. I do hope to spend a little time with friends when I'm here but there are so many people and they are all so busy (and widely dispersed) that it's more difficult than at a traditional convention.

Again: Both types of convention are valuable, but both are different beasts.

With regard to signings, I don't charge for autographs (If you come and get a limited signed poster from me at NYCC, for example, you won't have to shell out cash). The reason I don't is that by and large when I sign your book, you've already bought the book. Which means you've already paid me for the autograph. At this point I might do paid autographs if the money were going to a charity, but otherwise, no. This is sometimes confusing for comic/media con folks -- I was just at a media-type convention and was asked by my handler how much I charges for autographs, and she was surprised by the fact I charged nothing.

With that said, I certainly don't begrudge actors and other media types who charge for an autograph or a picture. I can sell my book for money -- but what they have to sell is themselves -- or more accurately, the affection you have either for them or the roles they played. Leaving the 1% strata of Chris Evans out of it, many of those actors have a while between acting gigs, and if signing autographs and posing for pictures pays their mortgage, then good for them. The crowd will decide what to pay for or not -- and if the bubble gets too big, then it will burst, and that's fine too. In the meantime, I hope the not-1% actors, etc, are saving at least a little of that cash.

(I do know of a couple of authors who I think are at least toying with the idea of charging for autographs. Unless you're on the level of Martin or Gaiman (who are not the authors I know who are toying with the idea), this is probably not a good idea -- again, unless you're doing it for a charity thing. But if a Comic-con or other event wants to pay an author a straight-up appearance fee? I wouldn't begrudge an author taking advantage of that, either.)
posted by jscalzi at 3:12 AM on October 7, 2016 [8 favorites]


Scalzi and Rainbo Vagrant really do good breakdowns- I think I also tend to think of things like ComicCon as a "trade show", and I just - I don't like trade shows. They're not intimate, they don't really cater -in my view- to fans, and it's just not really the experience I've grown up in. I wouldn't call them conventions, because to me conventions are the fan conventions.

I think the only thing I wish is that these clearly advertised which of the two they were intended to be. I had a really bad experience trying to take my daughter to a con for her interest, which I assured her ahead of time she could do on a small budget - as I had done at con since time immemorial- and it turned out to be a trade show con where they charged for some activities.
posted by corb at 7:24 AM on October 7, 2016 [2 favorites]


Calling Comiccon a trade show is accurate. As another point of difference, the writers and producers of tv shows will have panels at Comiccons , but aren't invited to Creation's cons at all. That's probably the real reason they're not for me.
posted by Rainbo Vagrant at 8:52 AM on October 7, 2016 [1 favorite]


As a decades-long veteran of the convention scene, B-movie god Bruce "The Chin" Campbell has some observations about its current state:
Q: Do you miss those old days, before conventions like this blew up?

A: To a degree. The business is bigger and better, so if you're in it for the cash, it's a good time to be in it, but it loses a little bit of the personal touch. I'll only meet 50 fans today, and that's at a signing. It's completely insulated and planned, and when the stack of posters are out, see ya. You know what I mean? You go here because of the press. You don't come here to press the flesh; you’re not kissing hands and shaking babies. You're here because you can do a round table with ten tables full of ten media outlets at each table. By the time you walk out of that room, you've done 100 interviews. That's the whole point of it. As far as fan interaction, there's other conventions that are way better. You got your own table, you kibitz with them, you ask them where they're from. You get to know them a little better. These are just so commercial. You go on the floor and it's elbow to elbow.
The really important thing in his interview, though, is his anecdote about the most cathartic autograph session he ever had with a fan...
posted by Doktor Zed at 12:46 PM on October 7, 2016 [5 favorites]


It's like factory farming money from the needy/ gullible/ starstruck (I'm not sure what is the correct word). It seems so alien to me.

How can someone fork over a hundred bucks for a quick snap and a kind word and feel the interaction anything but sincere?

Or is sincerity extra?
posted by Tasmanian_Kris at 2:24 PM on October 7, 2016


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