Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Film & Comic Con Cardiff 2017 - A Detailed Review

Guests met and discussed in this review (with the franchise I most associate them with personally) :-

• Indira Varma (Ellaria Sand from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Clive Russell (Brynden ‘Blackfish’ Tully from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Elizabeth Webster (Walda Frey/Bolton from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Alistair Petrie (General Draven from “Star Wars: Rogue One” and James Sholto from “Sherlock”)
• Bai Ling (Jhiera from “Angel” and Myca from “The Crow”)
• Jimmy Vee (R2-D2 from “Star Wars” and Bannakaffalatta, Moxx of Balhoon, and others from “Doctor Who”)

Two quick notes before we get started...

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With that being said, let’s dive in...

At the time of starting this review, it is Monday. One day removed from the conclusion of ‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff’, which has become something of a staple of my convention diet over the past few years, largely due to the fact that it’s only an hour or so away from my house in Gloucestershire, England. Like the previous edition, ‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff’ was a mixed-bag of an event. Entirely average in every sense of the word. For every positive aspect (such as the guests, the talk hall, and the crew), there was a counteracting negative aspect (the venue lighting, some of the Motorpoint Arena staff being rude, the lighting, a lack of guests compared to the previous events, the lighting...). As you can probably guess, my biggest gripe of the event is the atrocious arena lighting. Half of the arena has white lights, the other half (where the guests sit) has yellow lights, both of which are dull, making the arena seem really dark and depressing. The Motorpoint Arena has, without a doubt, the worst lighting of any convention I regularly attend. It’s the only event where I have to play around with the lighting on my pictures with guests at their respective autograph tables after the event because they’re always so gloomy-looking.

Outside of the lighting (...Did I mention I don’t like the lighting?), I had a pretty decent time at the event! For the first time in years, literally, I wasn’t bitch-slapped with a number of high profile guest cancellations right before the event. The lone cancellation for me this time was Ben Hardy. For the final week before the event, I kept going to the Showmasters forums every few hours and seeing if Indira Varma or Bai Ling had cancelled. Thankfully, mercifully, they didn’t. Well, actually, Bai Ling cancelled on the Sunday, but as I met her on the Saturday, this didn’t affect me whatsoever.

When I attended ‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff’ at the end of 2016, it felt dead. Really dead. It was likely just my imagination, but even at peak times I felt as though I was wandering through a convention-like ghost town. Alas, this edition seemed busier, with peak times on the Saturday certainly filling up the arena nicely. ‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff’ took place over the weekend of the 4th and 5th of March. The weather was dreary on the Saturday and windy to the point of exhaustion on the Sunday. Nevertheless, largely thanks to the press passes I was afforded, very little time was spent outside the venue queuing to get in. Much to the chagrin of the regular attendees (I’m sure), myself and my friend Hannah were able to stay warm, mosey over to the venue as doors were opening at 9:00am, and go straight in. Does that make me feel guilty? Yes, actually...but not so much that I won’t apply for press passes on every occasion. What you’ve got to understand is that I’d attended conventions for a decade before getting my first press passes. I’ve paid my dues, damn it! The 3:00am departures, the standing outside in the rain for 3 hours waiting for doors to open, the flights, the 8-hour roundtrip car journeys...I’d invested 10 years of my life, thousands of pounds each year, and poured my heart into the convention scene long before I ever received my first press pass.

While I have my gripes with the venue and the guest line-up, I’m a glass half-full kind of guy, so I’m going to address the positives. Firstly, the Showmasters crew were great. It’s very rare that I have a bad experience with a Showmasters crew member over the past couple of years. Most of these people are passionate convention-attendees themselves that are not getting paid for their time over the weekend. They have a stressful role, they work hard, and I appreciate it. Secondly, while the guest list was lacking, the guests I did meet (or meet again) were varying levels of awesome. The ‘worst’ experiences were still pretty decent, while the best experiences were tremendous. A special shout-out to Clive Russell and Elizabeth Webster, who were easily the standout guests of the Saturday and Sunday respectively. The photoshoots all ran on time, the two talks I attended both started on time, the talk hall is really nice, and the merchandise stalls had a decent amount of variation.

Now that I’ve got the introduction out of the way (yep, still not started the play-by-play), let’s dive into the meat of the review itself, shall we?

Myself and Hannah left Gloucester at 7:30am on Saturday morning, giving us time to arrive in Cardiff, park, chill a little bit, and get to the venue in time for doors to open at 9:00am. The car journey was smooth (even with the Sat-Nav randomly changing its mind on the motorway and with my phone battery randomly jumping from 90% to 40% within a couple of minutes!), parking was simple – particularly for a city, Cardiff is beautiful, and we arrived at the Motorpoint Arena just before 9:00am. The Motorpoint security let us in just before official opening to get our press passes, and we were on our merry way into the main hall...where we were swiftly attacked by the shitty lighting. Someone should keep a tally as to how many times I say ‘lighting’ during this review.

In a shocking twist, my itinerary for the weekend was surprisingly small! This does not happen very often, new readers. I’m used to attending conventions where I’m trying to fit 15 autographs, 6 studio photos, 2 talks, and meeting up with friends into the day! In comparison, I had three photoshoots on the Saturday (Indira Varma, Bai Ling, Jimmy Vee), two autographs, two panels to attend, and to go and say “hi” to Clive Russell. The Sunday was probably the most relaxed convention day in history for me – a studio photo with Alistair Petrie, plus going to say “hi” to the lovely Elizabeth Webster. That was literally it.

On another sour note, Clive Russell’s talk was advertised as 13:00-13:30 on the photo and talk schedule that was released a few days before the event. By the day of the event, it was changed to 12:15-12:45. In itself this isn’t a big deal and Showmasters do say in the small print that the times can change, but it’s so rare that people usually forget to double-check at the event. Thankfully, it caused me no issue, but if it were at an event like “Wales Comic Con”, where my schedule is much tighter, it would be a clusterfuck of last-minute rearranging to get everything done.

As many long-time readers will know, I mostly attend conventions for the guests. Don’t get me wrong, the Cosplay aspect of conventions is fantastic, looking around the stalls is great, and that infectious convention atmosphere is tremendous, but I wouldn’t go through all the travel, planning, and money if it wasn’t for the guests. Over the past decade, I’ve become very good at talking to the guests. I pride myself on my ability to have a decent conversation with pretty much everyone actually. However, I hate going to guests right after arriving at the venue and I hate going to someone’s autograph table if it’s empty (unless I’m just going over to say “hi” anyway). I need an hour to warm up if at all possible. Due to my schedule being so chilled at ‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff’, I was able to look around the merchandise stalls, talk to some of the crew I knew, and get the conversational juices flowing. At 10:00am, with my brain now in gear, it was time to start the fun, nerve-wracking part of the convention.

Indira Varma: There is no denying that Indira Varma was the biggest draw for me at this event. If Indira was never on the guest list, I probably wouldn’t have gone. Indira has been in a plethora of hit television shows, films, and theatre performances, she’s a big name, and she’s a rare convention attendee. She was a real coupe for the show, particularly as there were fewer guests announced than usual. In addition to being a delight to talk to, Indira was also the 74th cast member from “Game Of Thrones” that I’ve met. I didn’t set out with the intention of meeting so many, but now I’m actively trying to meet everyone from the show....except extras and people that were in one episode, etc. Although, if I’m at a convention with those people already, I’ll totally meet them too. It’s a stupid goal, it’s an unrealistic goal, and it’s an impossible goal with the recent passing of Peter Vaughan (who I hadn’t met), but it’s still fun to try and meet as many of the cast as possible. It’s my favourite show currently on television and I’ve never met a cast member that wasn’t great. The most shocking part of that story is probably the fact that I have a girlfriend and don’t live in my parents’ basement, right? In addition to getting an Ellaria Sand 8” x 10” signed, I was also getting my House Martell art print signed. I bought it a couple of years ago at the hilariously named ‘Stoke-Con-Trent’ and have subsequently had it signed by Alexander Siddig, Toby Sebastian, Keisha Castle-Hughes, and Jessica Henwick. With Indira’s ink now firmly upon the piece, there’s just Pedro Pascal (a dream guest of mine) and Rosabell Laurenti Sellers left! Upon handing Indira the piece, she took great interest in it as it was something she hadn’t seen before and because it was largely unique. Indira told me and Hannah about some of the cool things she’d seen over the years, including an Ellaria Sand cartoon that someone had illustrated and shown her earlier in the morning.

I expressed my love of her work in “Game Of Thrones” and asked what it was like to film the scene where Oberyn’s head go-boom. Hilariously, Indira said that although the end result looks spectacular, the actual process of filming the scene was tediously boring as they had to do it so many times over a three-day period. She also said that technically it was very hard on Pedro Pascal and Hafþór too as Croatia was boiling hot and they were fighting for hours and hours, three days in a row! In fact, Hafþór was starting to get a little concerned over how much weight he must be losing, especially as he’s a strongman and power-lifter by trade. The plus side of the long shoot was that so many characters were together for the first time, giving Indira and the others time to get acquainted, “play scrabble”, and explore together. I believe this would have been right around the time that this amazing picture was taken....

Indira was aware of the show before being cast, but hadn’t actually sat down to watch an episode. The story of how she got the part is quite amusing and it’s coming up later in the review (Indira’s panel). We discussed her recent casting in “The Treatment”, we discussed her love of radio and voice-over work as you only have your voice and the nuances of it to rely on, and we discussed her distain for unnecessary gratuitous nudity on television and film that you see so much these days. Indira certainly lived up to the expectations I’d set upon her after waiting to meet her for so long. She was courteous, engaging, friendly, and while she didn’t quite reach that ‘conversationalist’ level, it was definitely a really, really positive experience. She was offering pictures at the autograph table too! Gotta love the fact that Showmasters are one of very few companies that still don’t allow guests to charge for table pictures. Kudos. Guest Type = Responder.

(Regular readers, you can skip this section)

“Shangel, what’s a ‘responder’?”

I’m glad you asked. Many years ago, after attending numerous 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.

Feel free to let me know your experiences with guests in the comments below or on social media!

Bai Ling: Within minutes of leaving Indira’s autograph table, we headed over to Bai Ling, who hasn’t aged a day since I saw her on “Angel” 18 years ago. She’s 50 now, but doesn’t look a day over mid-30s. It’s insane. Most Asian (and black) people I’ve seen over the years seem to have swallowed the fountain of youth or something! I’m calling it now, in 23 years when I’m 50 and Bai is 73, she’ll look younger than me. If my father’s genetic makeup is anything to go by, I’ll look a decade older than I actually am by then. That coupled with my awkwardly shaped and oh-so-large nose will definitely not allow me to win any ‘Mr. Middle-Aged’ beauty pageants. Bai was, as anticipated, lovely. Even with just a hint of a language barrier between us. Actually, Bai Ling speaks pretty damn good English! Bai Ling is BaiLingual, you could say...oh, I do entertain myself. I showed Bai the “Angel” logo at the bottom of my red tie (still one of the coolest birthday presents I’ve ever received) and we started discussing her time filming on the show, particularly as it was during the show’s infancy. Bai talked warmly of her experiences on “Angel”, but mentioned that the contact lenses were a nightmare and that the make-up and prosthetics took a long time to apply. Nevertheless, she singled “Angel” out as one of the high points of her acting career. We also talked about her role in “Star Wars” being cut, and Bai is under the impression that George Lucas cut it because she’d been on the cover of Playboy between filming the scenes for “Star Wars” and the movie being released. Much like Indira before her, Bai was also offering table pictures. Two guests down (both my autographs for the weekend!), two really good experiences. Guest Type = Responder.

Soon after, it was time to head to the first floor for my first studio photo of the weekend, Bai Ling, at 11:50am. An event the size of ‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff’ is such a smooth process for Showmasters by this point. They almost always start on time, the photos are developed almost instantly, the photographer is almost always tremendous, and the experience has an air of experience and professionalism. The photo session with Bai went seamlessly, Bai’s outfit left little to the imagination, and it was time to head up another floor for my first panel of the day, Mr. Clive Russell.

As I mentioned before, Clive’s talk was announced on the forums as starting at 1:00pm. By sheer coincidence, me and Hannah headed upstairs to double-check everything and found that it was starting at 12:15pm. We entered the talk hall, Clive was welcomed onto the stage soon thereafter, and the festivities began. Highlights from Clive’s panel! :-

·        The panel started with Clive talked about his recent appearance in “The Good Karma Hospital”. During his time on the show, he was naked. Totally naked. Amusingly, Clive said that when he was in his 30’s or 40’s, it might have bothered him, but at 70 years old, he doesn’t give a shit anymore. Fair play to the man! However, his contract stated that he would be naked, but he’d only be shown on screen from the waist up or from behind. The director couldn’t get the angle for a particular shot that he wanted, so he’d need to expose Clive’s Blackfish in order to get the shot, which was causing problems as it wasn’t in his contract. Clive told them to just amend his contract and he’d sign it, but the process is evidently a little more complex than that. Eventually, it was all resolved and Clive appeared in the show to-tully naked...I wonder how many more ‘Blackfish’ and ‘Tully’ puns I can get into this review?
·        Clive talked about filming his scenes for “Game Of Thrones” season six and noted that the ‘Battle of the Bastards’ was filmed there a week previously. He heard stories from many of the crew as to what a nightmare filming the BotB was. Evidently, they spent $1,000,000 on earth-looking foam for the battle, but the night after they got the foam into position, it blew away(!), so they were forced to fall onto the muddy ground. It sounds like it was an awful time shooting the BotB, but at least the end result is simply breathtaking.
·        Clive then went on to talk about the ‘Red Wedding’ from “Game Of Thrones” season three. David Bradley had to recite the names of Walder Frey’s daughters and granddaughters seventy five times and never messed them up once. Fuck. That. Even though Blackfish leaves the feast hall to take a piss just before the Red Wedding takes place, Clive stayed behind after his filming was completed in order to watch the ‘Red Wedding’ be filmed. He said that ‘The Rains Of Castamere’ will be burned into his brain for many years to come as the music still haunts him.
·        During the panel, Clive spotted me and recognised me from “Reading Comic Con” at the end of 2016, so he said “hi” and we had a brief discussion about the fate of Blackfish in the “A Song Of Ice And Fire” book series, as it’s different to the television show. Randomly being singled out during the middle of a panel was an interesting experience. It made me feel all special!
·        Clive was upset from a dramatic perspective that Blackfish dies off-screen as it’s relatively underwhelming. I remember watching the episode and being really pissed off that it’s just mentioned in passing that Blackfish was killed during the fighting. I need to see him die to be able to grieve, damn it! However, from a technical standpoint, Clive is happy that he didn’t have to perform any complicated fight scenes as “elaborate fighting is beyond me now”. Clive referenced filming “The Mists of Avalon” and during rehearsals of a particularly complex fight scene, Clive couldn’t keep up with the other actor, who was fifteen years younger than him. Plus, this was filmed fifteen years ago, so if Clive struggled in his mid-50’s, he definitely wasn’t looking forward to a huge battle sequence in 2016! So, from a dramatic perspective he found Blackfish’s death lacking, but from a personal perspective he was quite relieved.
·        Clive mentioned that he found it somewhat unrealistic that Blackfish’s garrison of men would yield Riverrun to Edmure, a character that has largely been treated as an incompetent imbecile thus far. Personally, I just love the fact that Clive cared enough about the part and the show to give these things so much thought!
·        Clive also talked about transitioning from a leading man to an ‘aging’ actor, resulting in different types of characters and roles being offered to him. He didn’t say this with any bitterness or sadness. In fact, he’s probably the greatest example of an actor transitioning gracefully that I’ve ever come across! He just seems to be content that he’s still acting and having a great time. It’s wonderful to see someone so enthusiastic and at peace with his place in his professional world.
·        Clive expressed his desire to work with Liam Cunningham (Davos Seaworth) in “Game Of Thrones” before Blackfish’s untimely demise, as the two had worked together years earlier. He also wanted to work with Charles Dance, mostly so that he could have killed Tywin Lannister.
·        Clive also told a sweet story about Jerome Flynn approaching him while filming “Ripper Street” to tell Clive that he saw him perform on stage many years earlier and that he found Clive ‘inspirational’ and played a part in Jerome Flynn wanting to be an actor.
·        Finally, Clive talked about his respect and adoration for Amanda Redman. He’d worked with Amanda many years earlier, but had recently worked with her again while filming “The Good Karma Hospital”. As an infant, Amanda was badly burned and still carries the scars, yet she never allows them to be covered up while she’s filming. Clive said there’s something so powerful and inspirational about that. He also said that Amanda and the rest of the cast would often finish filming “New Tricks” by 4:30pm, which is “unheard of” in the television industry. Clive placed a large part of the reason why at Amanda’s door as she’s so good and inspires others to be better.
·        It was a fantastic panel! Really informative, really interesting, and also containing sprinklings of humour. Clive mentioned to me later in the day that he prefers solo panels to the ones where he’s a part of a group (like at some other conventions) as it allows him to flow and not get stuck thinking about what to say while all the good answers are taken.


That picture isn't actually from this event, but it's me and Clive!

After an hour or so of browsing the merchandise and chilling on the first floor balcony, it was time for me and Hannah to head back to the talk hall for our second and final panel of the weekend, Indira Varma. Highlights! :-

·        Indira mentioned that while they were filming season four of “Game Of Thrones” in Dubrovnik, during the Oberyn-go-boom scene, they had to keep closing an area of the ocean behind the shot so that random boats and ships weren’t being caught by the camera. They’d film it once, let the ships go past, film it again, let the ships go past, etc. It turns out that Bruce Willis was holidaying in Dubrovnik at the time and he had to wait for “Game Of Thrones” to finish filming before he was allowed to cross. Bet Bruce wasn’t used to having to wait for other people to be ready. “Game Of Thrones” officially left Bruce Willis waiting. LOLs. He was not amused.
·        After filming in Dubrovnik, Indira and Pedro Pascal didn’t want to take a taxi back to the hotel as it was too hot. Instead, they persuaded some locals to take them back on their boat. The only problem was that the locals didn’t speak English, so Indira and Pedro had to try and act out what they wanted to do, while Indira joked that she tried to entice them with looks and revealing her leg. She did the leg actions on stage, it was hilarious.
·        Indira mentioned how easy to work with and willing the ‘whores’ of King’s Landing were to take their clothes off. She said that the “Game Of Thrones” casting directors found it hard to find people to play whores on the show because most actresses won’t do that much nudity (“we don’t get paid enough!”), while most pornographic actresses have tattoos or fake breasts.
·        Indira prefers playing villainous characters as she finds them vastly more interesting.
·        Indira swears. I like that.
·        Indira said that most actors in the U.K. stay quite grounded as there is no hierarchy here. Television actors, film actors, theatre actors, radio actors...the move from one to the other is lateral, so an actor doesn’t need to feel ‘shameful’ if transitioning from one to the other. It’s just a part of the journey! One minute you’ll be playing the lead in a television show, the next you’ll be playing a minor character in a theatre performance. Honestly, Indira came across as so humble during that moment. She said that most actors in the U.K. just feel incredibly blessed to get to tell stories for a living so they have little to complain about.
·        Indira explained how she got cast on “Game Of Thrones”. She’d recently finished filming “Human Target”, which wasn’t one of her favourite roles or experiences. She returned to the United Kingdom and discovered that little had changed. Lots of period dramas, lots of Jane Austen. The downside to this is that Indira never gets cast in shows like this because she’s of Indian-Swiss ancestry and “doesn’t look right, apparently”. Indira was friends with a 1st A.D. working on “Game Of Thrones” and she knew a lot of the HBO executives from her time working on “Rome”, so the 1st A.D. gave the HBO executives Indira’s regards and asked if there was an impending role that Indira could audition for. They offered Ellaria, but said that Indira wouldn’t want to take it because it wasn’t a very substantial role – “Are you kidding me?! Of course I’ll take it! It’s only the most popular show in the world!” After David and Dan realised they had access to Indira and that she was willing to take the part, they made the part bigger and kept the character around. Indira transitioned to a long-term contract with the show and the rest is history. Ellaria Sand is still alive now at the conclusion of season six and has been announced as returning for season seven! Suffice to say, it all worked out pretty well for her.
·        Indira enjoyed her time working on “Bride & Prejudice”, particularly as most Bollywood actors work in the exact opposite way to Western actors. Western actors work from the inside-out, thinking about the character’s thoughts and feelings, and how these thoughts and feelings will manifest in physical movements. Bollywood actors work from the outside-in, thinking about the character’s movements and facial expressions first and foremost. Furthermore, Indira mentioned that the level of fame and attention that Bollywood actors get in India is totally different to that of the U.K. and U.S.A., as one of her co-stars was mobbed wherever he went. Fans would chase the car down the street and shake it, he’d have hundreds of people follow him everywhere, etc.
·        Indira loves doing radio work as she only has her voice and its inflections to rely upon.
·        Indira loved working on “Torchwood” too and mentioned that John Barrowman was constantly farting and getting his penis out. She was also disappointed that she never had a substantial scene with Jack Gleeson (Joffrey) on “Game Of Thrones” because she thought he was tremendously talented.
·        Much like Clive Russell’s panel, it was the perfect blend of interesting, informative, and amusing. Both panels were really, really good. I’ve been to panels before – particularly solo panels – where the guest came across as bored, boring, or shy. The result of this is that the panel isn’t memorable in the least. Thankfully, in the cases of Clive and Indira, they both seemed relaxed and like they were enjoying the experience. Great stuff.


4:05pm brought with it Indira Varma’s photo session, directly followed by Jimmy Vee’s. Both went off without a hitch and the photos turned out pretty good! Three photo sessions down, two talks down, two autographs down, and the merchandise stalls had been perused a few times. This left just one thing on the agenda for the day: go and talk to Clive Russell. As I’ve already gotten Clive’s autograph a number of times and had recently seen him at “Reading Comic Con”, I just wanted to go over and catch up. Particularly after we briefly had a conversation at the bottom of the stairs after his panel and I said I’d go say “hi” later in the day. I’m so glad I was able to find the time to do so, as talking to Clive was probably the biggest highlight of Saturday.

Clive Russell: Clive exudes no star-power and I mean that as the highest form of compliment. There’s no barrier between you and him, and he’s not attended enough conventions to create a “con persona”, where you can tell that the guest is keeping themselves at a distance and being semi-falsely polite. It’s very much a case of “what you see is what you get”. We talked about “Game Of Thrones” and how it’s heavily rumoured that Blackfish will be the point-of-view character for the prologue of “The Winds Of Winter”...or at least be heavily featured in the chapter. Also, George R.R. Martin noted a few months ago that he’d thought of a great twist for the book series that he hadn’t considered before, but the show would be unable to do it as the characters in question have been killed off. It’s been suggested that this ‘twist’ could involve Robb Stark’s wife, Jeyne Westerling, and Blackfish Tully. It’s definitely a shame that the show killed off Blackfish in such a blasé way, especially considering he was built up as such a capable commander and tactician. I digress. Thinking about it still annoys me. Just like killing Stannis Baratheon off-screen. I’ll never understand decisions like that. We talked about “The Hatton Garden Job”, which I believe is being released sometime over the next couple of months. It’s based on a true story, where an underground safe deposit facility in London was burgled by 4 elderly men, who escaped with up to £200 million’s worth! Clive plays the part of Kenny Collins. Clive told us that Kenny returned to the scene of the crime later – in the same car – to make sure they hadn’t been I.D.’ed as the thieves. These elderly robbers were clearly not very tech. savvy, nor did they seem to have much common sense when it came to getting away with the robbery after the fact. I’ll definitely check it out after it’s been released as it sounds fascinating! Clive mentioned that in the panel he recognised me instantly. That’s why I wear the same thing at every convention! Many guests, many crew members, many attendees remember me. It helps with blog promotion and building the brand! Just for the record, I change the suit after every couple of conventions. It’s the same colour, but it’s not the same one. If it was, it would stink and be grey by now. Clive took an interest in the blog and the work I’ve been doing, and he asked for the blog’s URL, which I happily provided. I really need to start remembering to take business cards to conventions. I have them, but I always forget. Useless.

We also talked about the convention scene and how Clive has been finding the experience, having done a few different events over the past year. As mentioned before, Clive also referenced that he prefers doing solo panels to group panels. Clive’s crew member for the day was Justin, who is a mainstay as far as Showmasters’ crew are concerned. He’s a tremendously talented crew member and always seems to be stuck with the high-stress jobs at the big events (such as the large photoshoot areas at ‘LFCC’). Crew like Justin and Phil are vital to the success of an event. I mentioned that the last time I really saw Justin was when he had long hair and a really long beard for charity. Justin showed Clive some pictures of the look on his phone, to which Clive guffawed. Finally, I gave Hannah a lead-in to tell Clive that she’s somehow distantly related to him. I believe that Clive and Hannah’s grandmother have the same great-grandmother...something like that. “‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff’: Bringing distant relatives together as they try to work out how they’re related”...that should be the new show tagline. It’s catchy, it’s succinct. Much like the previous couple of times I’ve met Clive, he was tremendous! I’ve been blessed to meet many, many actors and childhood heroes over the years (over a thousand!), and Clive is definitely in that upper-echelon of the greatest guests. I actively encourage everyone to go and meet him at a convention if the opportunity presents itself. You won’t regret it. Guest Type = Conversationalist.

After departing Clive’s autograph table, Hannah and myself headed back to Gloucester, ready to start a second day of ‘Comic Con’ goodness after a good night’s sleep...albeit, a very brief day of goodness, having just two things to do at the event on Sunday.

For the Sunday, we were joined by my friends Dom and Scott. Dom and Scott weren’t coming into the convention itself, but they were joining us for shopping in Cardiff after the hour we spent inside the Motorpoint Arena. Thankfully, Scott drove to Cardiff and back. While I enjoy driving, I am not a fan of driving to conventions because I’ve already got a thousand things to think about and remember to do. I take every opportunity for someone else to drive instead. Most of the time, I get a friend to drive me and in exchange I cover their entry for the event. It’s a good deal for both, as I have one less thing to worry about, while they save some money. Scott, Dom, Hannah, and I left Gloucestershire at the later time of 9:00am and arrived in Cardiff just after 10:00am. We went to Costa, they had some breakfast, then me and Hannah headed back to the Motorpoint Arena...I hope you appreciate all these details! Just for total transparency, I also peed just after we got to Cardiff. The pee was largely transparent too. I was well hydrated.

Once inside the Motorpoint Arena (11:00am), the agenda was simple: go and say “hi” to Elizabeth Webster, then head to my studio photo with Alistair Petrie at 11:50am. The rest of the day was assigned to shopping, relaxing, and Yo! Sushi. As far as convention days are concerned, this was positively luxurious.

Elizabeth Webster: This was Elizabeth’s second convention, making me 2-0 and maintaining my 100% attendance record. The first time I met Elizabeth, she was engaging, talkative, and a joy to be around. This time she was all of those things and more because she already had a convention under her belt and knew what to expect. One of the first topics we talked about was actually conventions! With Showmasters now going all European on us and co-hosting a plethora of events in Germany, it is a great time for an actor to become a part of the Showmasters family. Many actors use the worldwide convention circuit as their primary source of income in 2017, so I recommended to Elizabeth that it might be worth trying to get booked on some international shows. Not only would it allow her the opportunity to meet many fans of “Game Of Thrones” and her other work, but it’s a nice way to explore the world on someone else’s money. It’s win-win for everybody involved as long as the guest makes enough money to cover their expenses and guarantee (if they have one).

I first met Elizabeth in April of 2016, meaning that she’d filmed her horrific death scene in “Game Of Thrones”, but it hadn’t aired yet, so she had to be coy with people throughout the event. This time, Elizabeth had free rein to talk about everything “Game Of Thrones” related, which was great for me as a diehard fan. I know I’m being hypocritical, as I complained about characters dying off-screen earlier in this review, but I think that Walda’s death (and her newborn son’s) is the exception to the rule. We saw enough of the build-up to it to know what was coming and I think that seeing a newborn baby ripped apart by dogs might have been a tad too much, even for “Game Of Thrones”. The audience’s imaginations here were creating more vivid traumas than the show would be able to. Elizabeth and I also caught up more generally, as I filled her in on the blog (she also wanted the blog’s URL so she could check it out!) and my looming end-of-Master’s-degree exams on June 7th, while she filled me in on her upcoming projects. Finally, we discussed the secrecy surrounding the filming of “Game Of Thrones”. Elizabeth wasn’t even allowed to take her call-sheet home after filming in case it got leaked online. The call-sheet literally just contains who is working in the scene, it doesn’t give away any massive plot points. Car checks were also commonplace. Thankfully, it wasn’t quite as bad as some of the Marvel television shows and movies. Maya Stojan told me last year that when she was working on “Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D.”, she could only access the scripts at one time, from one computer, and could only print one copy, from one specific printer. Wow. To be fair, in this technology age we live in, where spoilers are everywhere, I can understand these steps being in place. It’s just a shame that it can sometimes be an inconvenience for the cast and crew. Talking to Elizabeth felt just like catching up with an old friend at Starbucks. She’s really easy to talk to, seems genuinely caring about people and her fans, and I truly hope that her career continues to flourish because people like her deserve the best. Guest Type = Conversationalist.

We ended up chatting for so long that Elizabeth had to dash off for her photoshoot! Right after Elizabeth’s shoot was Alistair Petrie’s, my final one of the weekend. Even though photoshoots are brief, casual affairs, I got really positive, warm vibes from Alistair right from the beginning. He complimented my attire and tie, smiled throughout the entire photoshoot, and seemed genuinely enthusiastic and excited to be at ‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff’. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Alistair popping up at many conventions in the future as he truly seems to enjoy them. After the photo was insta-printed, Hannah and myself headed back downstairs, said ‘goodbye’ to Elizabeth, I bought some “Game Of Thrones” action figures, we rejoined Scott and Dom, shopped in Cardiff, ate at Yo! Sushi, and headed back to Gloucestershire.

To conclude, ‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff’ was a mixed-bag. From an organisational standpoint, from a Showmasters crew standpoint, the event was a success. The guests I met were all awesome, with Indira, Clive, and Elizabeth – the “Game Of Thrones” trifecta – being particular highlights. Honestly, ‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff’ will never get an upper-echelon ‘final score’ because I despise the venue lighting so much. It may sound like a minor inconvenience, but to me personally it’s not. It’s a monstrous annoyance. I also think that regional events like ‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff’ are sometimes neglected by Showmasters from a guest line-up standpoint. Obviously, the likes of Jeremy Renner, Sigourney Weaver, and Michael J. Fox will never be at an event outside of ‘LFCC’ because the numbers wouldn’t be there to make money off of them. However, I do think that more effort can be made. When you look at the likes of ‘Wales Comic Con’ and ‘Em-Con’, both of whom are still seen as ‘indies’, their line-ups are incomparable to the recent showings for ‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff’ and other regional Showmasters events. The money is there, the demand is there, but the line-up isn’ my opinion. Also, in my opinion, give it 5 more years and ‘Wales Comic Con’ and ‘Em-Con’ will no longer be considered ‘indies’ but will be seen as direct competition to Showmasters and MCM. It’s an exciting time to be a convention attendee in the U.K., as competition is good. Alas, the only downside is that large American companies such as ‘Walker Stalker’ and ‘Heroes and Villains Fan Fest’ have started to wash ashore in the U.K., and have brought with them increased prices and extortionate fees. £60 for a picture at the autograph table? £90 for a professional photo? Count. Me. Out.

Would I return to ‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff’? Give me a line-up worthy of re-attending and I will. If you could get the Motorpoint Arena to change over their shitty lights that would be a great help too. ‘Film & Comic Con Cardiff 2013’ still holds the distinction of being my favourite (Anthony Head!), while the last three I’ve attended have all been relatively equal. Consistently good, but not great.


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