Tuesday, 19 April 2016

RETRO REVIEW: Cardiff Film & Comic Con 2013 - A Detailed Review

Guests met and discussed in this review :-

• Anthony Head (Rupert Giles from “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”)
• Miltos Yerolemou (Syrio Forel from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Sabu (Wrestler)

Two quick notes before we get started...

1) If this is your first time on "Shangel's Reviews", I'm currently reviewing every single episode of "Buffy The Vampire Slayer" and "Angel" in depth. A list of all the reviews I've written so far can be located
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With that being said, let’s get started, shall we?

This is the second in a series of reviews I’m going to label “retro reviews”. I’ve been attending conventions for many years, but I only created this blog and started keeping detailed accounts after “Hallowhedon 5” in October of 2013. Any conventions I attended before that date have been lost to time and merely exist inside my own mind. So, I’ll probably never get around to writing reviews on those because I’ll have forgotten so much of what makes my reviews stand out – the details! I remember my interactions with the guests perfectly, but it’s not really enough detail to create a high quality review, so those will remain inside my brain, unless I ever create memoirs one day. However, it’s not all doom and gloom, gentle readers. Before “Hallowhedon 5”, I attended three other conventions in 2013 – “Cardiff Film & Comic Con”, “LFCC”, and “LFCC Winter”. After each of those events, I wrote a semi-detailed review and emailed it to my friend Jon. This means that I can go back and piece together the conventions from those emails and create reviews that I think are worthy enough to be published here. So, with that being said, welcome to the second “Retro Review”. These will be shorter than my usual convention reviews because some of the details will have been lost to time, but hopefully there’s enough here to hold your interest and give you a feel for what the event was like.

“Cardiff Film & Comic Con” took place at the Motorpoint Arena over the weekend of the 31st of August and the 1st of September 2013. This, I believe, was Showmasters’ first ever edition of the “CFCC” event, which has since spawned into a sellout show twice a year - once in March and once in September. Due to this being a first-time event, I think Showmasters might have underestimated the interest and ticket sales that might occur, irrespective of the maximum capacity of the venue, as I believe this event almost sold out on pre-sales alone. The building was apparently rammed throughout the Saturday (which I read about on the Showmasters forums by people who attended) and it wasn’t much easier to navigate on the Sunday, which is the day that myself and my friends Hannah, Beth, and Dom attended the event. We all bought ‘early bird’ tickets, which allowed entry into the venue from 9am, while regular entry ticket holders could enter after 11am. It was around 11:15am that the building became exhaustingly stuffy and busy.

Myself and the gang of misfit toys (A.K.A. my friends) arrived at the Motorpoint Arena at just after 8am, ready for the doors to open at 9am. Just before doors opened, Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett), Kenny Baker (R2-D2), Robert Englund (Freddy Krueger), Anthony Head (Giles), and a few others exited the hotel opposite the Motorpoint Arena and walked past us, saying “hello” and being friendly as they went by. Anthony Head moseyed past, looked me in the eye, and said, “Good morning! See you in there, mate!”, which I found overwhelmingly kind, but also a little bizarre. Did he remember me from our previous meetings in 2010 and 2012, or was he simply being kind to an attendee at random? Either way, my inner-fanboy alarm was bleeping before the event even started. If there was such a thing as a ‘fanboy orgasm’, I would have just climaxed.

Doors opened at 9am and we were inside the venue by 9:05am. Now, that’s efficiency! I must admit, while I have problems with the way Showmasters operate sometimes, they do have those entry queues down to a science for the most part. After entering the venue, I headed over to the sales desk, as this was before the days where I pre-booked everything to avoid those massive queues. Originally, myself and the misfit toys were scheduled to attend “CFCC” on Saturday, but due to Miltos changing days to Sunday, we decided to switch with him. Therefore, my Anthony Head photoshoot, which I had pre-booked, needed to be changed as well. I’d checked on the Showmasters forums and was told that it should be absolutely fine to switch at the sales desk, but I was a little apprehensive because I’d already missed out on a photoshoot with Anthony Head at LFCC 2012 because they sold out. Nevertheless, the crew member working at the sales desk was friendly, very helpful, and I received my photoshoot with no issues. In addition, I also bought a Sabu photoshoot to go alongside my Anthony Head one. That’s two studio photos and three autographs to obtain in one day. Piece of piss! These days, I’m usually trying to get fifteen autographs and six studio photos in one day, so I must admit that I miss such a simple schedule.

Knowing that the arena would get significantly more crowded after 11am, I decided to try and get all three of my autographs obtained before that time, and also try to get my photo taken on the Iron Throne before then as well. Studio photos don’t matter so much because they’re scheduled for specific times and everyone with a ticket will get their photo (barring extremely rare circumstances). With both of my studio photos scheduled for the afternoon, these were a non-issue from an organisational standpoint. One thing I hate doing at conventions is jumping straight into a conversation with a celebrity as soon as doors open because I’m usually tired, they’re usually tired and not yet warmed up to conversations, and I’ve found that waiting a little while can be extremely beneficial to having a good experience and a longer conversation. Therefore, we looked around the merchandise stalls for a while before I approached Sabu’s table, as his was the closest to me after we’d explored all the stalls. Plus, his queue was empty at the time, so it seemed like the perfect way to start the day.

Sabu: The first thing that was clear to me about Sabu was that he was a recently recovering drug addict, as he had the shakes in a bad way. You could see them when he wrote, when he lifted his arms, or when he was stationary. Now, coming into the event, I knew that Sabu had a reputation for being a quiet person and also a bit of a grumpy git, so my expectations were quite low, even though he was one of my favourite wrestlers growing up. I must admit, for someone with a reputation as a grumpus, and for someone covered in scars and being known as a ‘hardcore’ wrestler that’s willing to set himself on fire or land in piles of razor-sharp barbed wire, he was surprisingly friendly. Also, he talks really quietly. I don’t know if it was nerves, lack of sleep, or jetlag, but Sabu was barely audible, even after I moved my ears closer to him. He also seemed pretty subdued, but was otherwise friendly enough, even though he wasn’t particularly talkative. We talked a little about his career, what he’s up to now, and some of his experiences wrestling in the United Kingdom (he was staying here for a few months to wrestle for some U.K. companies), before I thanked him and told him I’d see him at the photoshoot later in the day. Overall, not a bad experience at all, but I’ve certainly had better ones. Guest type = Responder.

“What’s a responder?”

I’m glad you asked.

A few years back, after attending many conventions, I devised a system whereby to categorise my experiences with guests and their level of interaction in order to compare the quality of my experiences across conventions and time. I have O.C.D., shut up. The following three types were found :-

·       The Responder: This type of guest is often polite and friendly. If you ask them a question, they’ll happily answer. If you comment on something, they’ll respond or smile gratefully. However, they won’t carry the conversation forward, you have to. These are the most common type of guest, and this is what you expect when meeting someone at a convention. This is a great category to be a part of.

·       The Groucho/Big Guest: There are two aspects to this category. Firstly, you have the groucho. The groucho is there for monetary purposes or is generally just having a bad day, or is a bit of an ass. If you meet enough people, one of them is bound to be an ass! The grouchos aren’t interested in conversations above a few words. They’ll say ‘hi’ (sometimes they don’t bother with that), sign, say ‘bye’ (sometimes), and you’re on your merry way. Of course, in certain situations this is relevant and expected, which brings me to the second part of this category, the big guest. Some guests are going to be insanely popular. Such as Stan Lee at LFCC ‘14, who had an entire building to himself basically. When you get a huge queue like that, the guest can’t take a lot of time with everyone. If they did, many people would go home disappointed at not getting to meet them at all. Therefore, the convention company and the guest want to get through as many people as possible. You cannot have a huge guest and expect to get above a minute with them, which is perfectly fair.

·       The Conversationalist: This is easily my favourite type of guest. They’ll answer your questions with a smile, ask you questions in return, and are happy to chat for an extended period of time (extended = above 2-3 minutes), regardless of where the conversation leads or how long you’ve been talking. Obviously, there has to be some cut-off point if there is a queue behind you, but you leave the experience feeling euphoric and like you gained a lot more than just the autograph you queued for.

Now you know and can bear this in mind for the rest of the review. Don’t you feel enlightened?

By this point, it was about 10:00am, giving me an hour to meet Anthony Head and Miltos Yerolemou before another flood of people arrived. As I’d read that Anthony Head had the biggest queue of the day a day prior, I decided to head (pun-believable!) over to him first. I must say, knowing that Anthony Head had a larger queue than the likes of David Hasslehoff, Alice Krige, and Robert Englund fills me with such pride for my primary fandom, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”. Go team! Anthony was already using a virtual queuing system because so many people wanted to meet him, and Showmasters were calling numbers 1-20. You can join the queue any time after your number has been displayed, but not before. Typically, I had number 21, but the lovely Showmasters crew member let me join anyway because there was only three people in the queue at the present time due to the virtual queuing system.

Anthony Head: Out of every celebrity I’d met up until this point in 2013, Anthony Head was the most intimidating to me. I’d never been starstruck by anyone else at this point (it’s happened a few more times since 2013, but not many). Don’t get me wrong, Anthony Head is incredibly disarming and charming, but he represented such a large part of my childhood that I couldn’t help but feel a little overwhelmed and intimidated, especially as he was the first “big” cast member of the show I met. Due to this, when I first met Anthony in 2010 and 2012, I said very little. I was too shy, too awkward, and too nervous. Alas, 2013 was the year I found my voice. Not just with Anthony Head, but with all the guests. Now, in 2016, I can talk with the guests for as long as they want to. When I got to the front of Anthony’s queue, I was determined to make this one count. After all, I’d already left his autograph table on two previous occasions feeling as though I should have said more. It worked. What followed the charming “hello” from Anthony and the mumbling “hello” from me was a five or six minute conversation, where I managed to say a lot of what was in my head on the last two occasions. FINALLY! We talked about “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, we talked about “Little Britain”, we talked about which “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” cast members he was still in touch with (pretty much everyone – Alyson Hannigan and Alexis Denisof even stay at his house when they’re over in England!)...it was bliss. Three years after I first met Anthony, I finally held my own in a conversation with him! As I thanked him and made to leave the autograph table, Anthony stopped me and said, “Don’t you want a picture?”. I wasn’t going to ask for one as I had a studio photo booked and this was before the days I started to get multiple photos where possible so that I had a backup in case one turned out shit. Of course, I accepted instantly, and we ended up taking two! What was most surprising about this was that Anthony was the first celebrity I ever met who voluntarily offered a picture! The previous times I met Anthony, he didn’t have that option due to the size of the event and his queues, but on this occasion it was just small enough that Anthony had the time to do such things. Very, very classy thing to offer. It shows me that Anthony is there to meet the fans and give back, as opposed to being there solely for monetary purposes. It’s rarer than you’d think. Guest type = Conversationalist. What a legend.

Elated, I left Anthony’s table in search of Miltos Yerolemou. We looked high, we looked low, we searched the entire building...he was nowhere in sight. Then, when all seemed lost, we found Miltos sat two places away from Sabu! Muppet, thy name is Shangel. This convention took place 48 hours after I had an eye test and was told my vision was basically perfect 20-20. I think they might have lied to me.

Miltos Yerolemou: Miltos had just finished talking to the attendee in front of me, so his queue was empty when I approached...which is not always a good thing, as I like to think of what to say/go through my notes while I’m in the queue and waiting for my turn. Without a single doubt, Miltos is one of the most friendly, warm, caring, funny, cheery, happy, most naturally excitable people I’ve ever met in my life. I felt so genuinely appreciated and he seemed so genuinely enthused to be there and to be talking to me, that all feelings of nervousness evaporated instantly. Of course, we talked about “Game Of Thrones” and his time on the show. We discussed that in the books, Syrio is a good character and has a great relationship with Arya Stark, but it’s nothing like the substitute father dynamic that emerges in the show. It’s something so warm and so natural that you can’t help but be heartbroken when Syrio ‘dies’. I maintain that until we see a body, he’s not dead. I also mentioned that the night before I’d seen the trailer for his new short film, “The Boogeyman”, which is a horror-thriller short, starring Miltos and James Cosmo (Lord Commander Jeor Mormont from “Game Of Thrones”). I watched the trailer on purpose in order to give me something unique to talk about as I was sure that everyone else would discuss “Game Of Thrones” alone. Miltos loved the fact that I mentioned it as it was probably something new to discuss, so he jumped on it and started talking for ages. He mentioned how exciting it was going from his naturally happy personality to playing a creepy psychopath talking about how he murdered his children. He also mentioned how great it was to work with James Cosmo, especially after their recent “Game Of Thrones” connection. As I was leaving, like Anthony Head before him, Miltos asked if I wanted a picture. That’s two guests in a row that OFFERED a free picture. That’s the only time this has ever happened, and I can count the amount of guests who offered a picture (without me having to ask) on one hand. Miltos, however, took it one step further and came around the table for the picture to be taken. No over-the-counter pictures for ol’ Miltos!

To start with, Miltos said, “Let’s do a normal photo first”, so we did. Two, in fact. Next, Miltos requested “a buddy-cop movie photo, where we’re both playing the bad cop”. Finally, Miltos requested “an over-the-top crazy and enthusiastic photo”. For those of you keeping score, not only did Miltos offer a picture at the autograph table, not only did he leave the comfort of his chair and desk to come around to the fan side for the picture to be taken, but we also took four different pictures using three different poses. Thrown in the autograph as well, and you have one autograph and four pictures for £10. One of the best bargains I’ve ever seen at a convention. Total legend. On a side note, the lighting at the Motorpoint Arena is awful for camera photos (in my experience anyway), so I had to spend some time after the convention playing with the lighting settings in order to make the pictures with Miltos halfway decent, but I got there in the end. Guest type = Conversationalist.

With my goal achieved and all three autographs acquired by 11am, it was time to head over to the Iron Throne prop area to get my picture taken on the Iron Throne. This turned out to be one of the biggest queues of the day, especially as the studio-quality photo of you on the Iron Throne was just £5. I went for the pose of ‘seething badass’, which turned out masterfully, if I do say so myself. It certainly turned out much better than the one I had taken at “LFCC” a couple of months earlier, which was shit for two reasons :- 1) The photographer was subpar and there was a humongous black shadow covering the bottom half of my face. 2) The pose I went with made me look entirely uncomfortable carrying the burden of the throne.

With the first of my studio photos not taking place until 1:05pm, we had a couple of hours to kill before we needed to be back at the Motorpoint Arena, so we headed out into Cardiff to shop and get some food. Much to my chagrin, we ended up eating at an American-style diner called “Ed’s”, which served shitty food, but excellent milkshakes. The milkshake arrived in a big metal jug and everything, it was glorious. The food left me feeling a little unhealthy, a little gross, and just about fat enough to look bad in my studio photos. Thankfully, both studio photos turned out well. After the shopping spree was finished, we headed back to Beth’s car so that I could re-apply my eyeliner ready for the photoshoots...don’t judge me! How often do you get the opportunity to have a professional-looking photo taken with Anthony Head? You’ve gotta look your best, damn it!

We returned to the arena just before 1pm and headed straight up to the first floor where the studio photos were being taken, as my 1:05pm photoshoot with Sabu was just about to begin. For some reason, the two studio photo areas (and the talk stage/cosplay area) were on the first floor. The downside to this was that the corridors needed for queuing were small. If I was claustrophobic, I’d have been screwed. Sabu’s photoshoot was fine, as I was 10th in a queue of around 30 people, but for Anthony Head’s photoshoot, it got a little rough. The photoshoot went well, Sabu seemed a little less dejected, and we performed his classic wrestling pose – pointing to Heaven as a tribute to his uncle and WWE Hall of Famer, the original Sheik. He thanked me, I thanked him, and I was off on my way back downstairs.
My final photoshoot was still a couple of hours away, so we headed over to the Gamer’s Bus to play a little “Rock Band” and “Guitar Hero” for a while. The Gamer’s Bus, in essence, is a dedicated area which has been set up to play retro games, arcade games, and imminent releases, for free. There’s also a bus with more games inside, hence the title. I must admit, while I rarely venture into that area because I’m usually too busy, it is totally badass. Between the Gamer’s Bus and the merchandise stalls, we managed to kill the two hours necessary before my photoshoot with the amazing Anthony Head. Even though the photoshoot didn’t start until 3:20pm, I headed upstairs at quarter to 3 because I knew it was going to be busy as it had sold out the previous day. This turned out to be the best decision I made all day. I was roughly 30th in line and by the time 3:20pm rolled around, the queue was three corridors long and must have been 400+ people. Couple this many people with the small corridors and you have a recipe for a very smelly, stuffy environment. I must admit, I took great satisfaction in telling people who asked that the back of the queue is “down that corridor, turn left, follow the next corridor around, and stop at the corridor after that”....I know, I’m a douche, but it was hilarious watching people’s faces drop. Especially as I was so polite and friendly while explaining this. Anthony recognised me yet again – “It’s you again, mate! How are you? Are you having a good day?” – which was really great and made me feel especially special as I didn’t hear him say that to anyone else. The photo turned out pretty great too!


With everything accomplished and my feet aching, we decided to have one last look at the merchandise stalls before leaving. I ended up buying a cool gold “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” pen, in addition to some unique coasters for “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, “Angel”, “Firefly”, and “Chuck”. Four coasters for £10. Can’t go wrong with that, especially when you can choose the picture(s) that go inside them. We drove the hour back home and I framed my studio photo with Anthony Head that same night. Overall, the event wasn’t as amazing as “LFCC 2013”, but it was certainly memorable and worth the money. Would I go again? I have done. I attended the March edition of “CFCC 2015”.


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