Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Film & Comic Con Cardiff 2017 (September) - A Detailed Review

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

• Joseph Marcell (Geoffrey from “The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air”)
• Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett from “Star Wars”)
• Joe Altin (Pypar from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Ross O’Hennessy (Lord of Bones from “Game Of Thrones” & Locke from “The Bastard Executioner”)
• Staz Nair (Qhono from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Wilf Scolding (Rhaegar Targaryen from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Dean S. Jagger (Smalljon Umber from “Game Of Thrones”)
• John Leeson (The Voice Of K-9 from “Doctor Who”)
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 here. Yes, I haven’t written one in a while due to my Master’s degree, but I am starting up again really soon now that the Master’s degree is over.
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With that being said, let’s dive in...

Before we get started, a big thank you to Anthony Lovesey for allowing me to use his pictures from the Joseph Marcell and Game Of Thrones panels. Much appreciated!

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome back to another convention review by your friendly neighbourhood Shangel. This time around, I shall be dipping my toe back into the Showmasters regional circuit for my 5th “Film & Comic Con Cardiff” – my 3rd straight, but 5th overall. Ordinarily, I like to get a convention review finished and uploaded within 2-5 days of the convention concluding, but on this occasion it has taken two weeks! My recent review of “Gloucester Comic Con” and my imminent review of “Coventry Comic Con” have also been delayed due to a change in career for me, which has involved new training, a new environment, and a new lifestyle. No matter, dear readers. Moving forwards, things will be back on track! Not only that, but I should find myself having more free time than ever from this moment onwards, so you may very well find that the long-outstanding “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” and “Angel” episode reviews make a triumphant return before the end of the year as well.

“Film & Comic Con Cardiff” took place over the weekend of the 23rd and 24th of September at the Motorpoint Arena. Giving away the “final score” already, you will find that I ranked this event as an impressively average ‘6.5/10’, which is the same score I’ve given the last two F&CCC’s as well. If I had but one word to describe Showmasters’ bi-annual event at Cardiff’s Motorpoint, it would be “samey”, as every event there seems to feel identical now. It’s very much like time stands still in the months between events and I return to the exact same layout, the exact same shitty lighting, the exact same stalls, and the same level of guests. This isn’t a problem created by using the same venue as year upon year other events that keep the venue consistent feel different. They feel as though they’re evolving. Events like “London Film & Comic Con” (which is also a Showmasters presentation), “Wales Comic Con” and “Em-Con: Nottingham” seem to grow and expand, and evolve, and experiment, and transform, whereas the “Film & Comic Con Cardiff” outing is feeling increasingly stale. Stale to the point where I wish that nobody will be announced that I wish to meet so that I can skip the event entirely. On an increasingly busy convention calendar in the UK, I tend to get more joy from the indies than I do from Cardiff by the conclusion of 2017, which is a real shame as once upon a time the “Film & Comic Con Cardiff” show was an up-and-coming powerhouse for Showmasters, boasting guests such as Anthony Head, Brian Blessed, Robert Englund, Bernard Cribbins and Alfie Allen. Over the past three years, I feel as though less and less effort has been put in. There’s been little change or evolution, which is a feeling that is shared by many people I know in regards to Showmasters’ regional events. It feels as though Showmasters’ focus is on LFCC, Collectormania, and their co-hosting German events. Don’t get me wrong, their focus should be on these events as they are much larger, but significantly more effort and love could be inserted into the regionals too, otherwise what’s the point in running them in the first place? This can be reflected in the slowly dwindling attendance numbers when compared to the 2013 edition I attended. I look at the indies in the UK right now – let alone the big events – and I see no effort being put in here in comparison.

In preparation for this review, I re-read my review of the last “Film & Comic Con Cardiff” and the following paragraph struck me :-

“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.”

Word-for-word, I could write the exact same review of this event too. The reason why the event has scored a 6.5 is because of the guests, the talks, and the crew. The negatives of the event are exactly the same as well – for the love of God, will someone change the fucking arena lights or put the guests in the brightly lit end of the main hall?!

Now that my mini-rant is over, let’s dive into the play-by-play of the weekend, shall we?

Like the previous two events, I attended “Film & Comic Con Cardiff” as press. Due to the lack of guests that interested me (either I didn’t know them, they didn’t represent fandoms I was interested in, or I’d met them before), myself and my best friend, Hannah (#TeamBesties), didn’t need to be at the Motorpoint Arena until 2pm on the Saturday, which is so abnormal for me that it didn’t feel like a convention day whatsoever. The traffic coming into Cardiff was atrocious and it took 45 minutes to drive 300 metres down the road, so myself and Hannah hopped out of the car at the traffic lights, while Scott and Dom found a place to park. My main reasons for attending F&CCC were Joseph Marcell (a Saturday only guest) and the three smaller Game Of Thrones guests – Staz Nair, Dean Jagger and Wilf Scolding (the latter two of which were only attending on Sunday, which meant I had to travel from Gloucester to Cardiff and back on both days!). As I was going to be at the event anyway, I’d also decided that I was going to get John Leeson’s autograph, as well as go and say “hi” to my muscled-mate, Ross O’Hennessy.

The first scheduled activity on the agenda was Joseph Marcell’s Q&A panel. Over the past decade, I’ve attended hundreds and hundreds of panels like this at conventions....literally. I’ve been to panels where I couldn’t stop laughing, I’ve been to panels that were informative and captivating, and I’ve been to some real snoozefests that make you check your watch every 30 seconds, begging for the sweet release of death. Joseph’s panel lay somewhere in between those two extremes. It was a very interesting panel, which was a great comfort to me considering I basically travelled to Cardiff in order to meet Joseph Marcell. Before attending the event, while on “garden leave” from my old job (I’d handed my notice in, but they told me I didn’t have to come back and work it, they’d pay me to sit at home for it instead), I re-watched all six seasons of the “Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air” for the first time in many years. Like many people from my generation, the Fresh Prince was part of my BBC2 evening entertainment from 6pm-7:30pm every week day, with a line-up that consisted of greats such as “The Simpsons”, “Robot Wars”, “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, and “Malcolm In The Middle”. Since buying the DVDs about a decade ago, I don’t recall seeing a single episode of the Fresh Prince ever since, so re-watching the entire series was like a trip down memory lane. Suffice to say, I was thoroughly excited to meet Joseph at this year’s “London Film & Comic Con” and I was devastated when Joseph had to cancel at the last minute. Thankfully, Joseph’s appearance was re-scheduled for Cardiff instead and my first time seeing the legend that is Mr. Joseph Marcell in the flesh was when he came on stage for his panel. Highlights! :-

·        Joseph made reference to the fact that “The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air” is one of the top syndicated shows of the past 20 years and is still shown on television pretty much everywhere in the world on some channel or another to this day.
·        Joseph’s favourite episodes of “The Fresh Prince” are “Did The Earth Move For You?” (the earthquake episode), “The Baby Comes Out” (where Nicky is born), and “Def Poet’s Society” (“caaaaaaannon to the right of them, caaaaaaannon to the left of them, caaaaaaannon in front of them!”)
·        Joseph mentioned that he met Will Smith before he met the rest of the cast and the two hit it off immediately.
·        Someone in the audience asked Joseph who his favourite and least favourite cast members were and Joseph refused to answer – rightfully so, really. If the question were simply, “who were you closest to on the cast?”, I imagine that Joseph would have answered, but adding the “least favourite” part was a bad idea because it was basically asking Joseph to throw a former colleague under the bus. I don’t blame Joseph for not answering that! Unfortunately, after Joseph refused to answer, the audience member tried to push the point by following up with, “we all really want to know!”, at which point Joseph replied with, “well you’ll have to keep wanting to know then!”, so it all became rather awkward for a second.
·        Evidently, the late, great James Avery (Uncle Phil) originally auditioned for Geoffrey. As interesting as that dynamic would have been, I’m overwhelmingly pleased that James was cast as Uncle Phil and Joseph was cast as Geoffrey, as James’ fatherly relationship with Will and Joseph’s one-liners are of key importance to the show.
·        Joseph recently lived in Oregon for a while in order to perform in a theatre production there. Apparently, the people of Oregon are obsessed with “Mrs. Brown’s Boys” at the moment.
·        Joseph talked about the differences between working on television in the United States vs. the United Kingdom. In the U.K., he doesn’t ask for an assistant or a car to pick him up, etc., as there’s often not the budget to do that, plus it’s not considered to be the ‘norm’. In the United States, if you don’t ask for an assistant and a car to pick you up, you’re considered a fool!
·        Joseph Marcell’s initial contract for “The Fresh Prince” was for six seasons, which is exactly how long the show ran for in the end.
·        Joseph toured the world a few years back for a production of “King Lear”, where he portrayed the titular character. He ultimately portrayed the character for two years.
·        Joseph came across very well during the Q&A. He seemed very appreciative to the audience that turned up to see him talk. He said that it’s a common expression that one audience member at an event like this represents a thousand fans, so he was grateful for all the people that came. Joseph wasn’t afraid to give an opinion, he talked about what the acting world is really like, and he didn’t sugarcoat things. It was fascinating.

Joseph Marcell: Soon after leaving Joseph’s panel, myself and Hannah headed back downstairs to the main hall, where we perused the merchandise stalls for a little while before heading over to Joseph’s autograph queue, which was only a handful of people long by this point in the day (2:45pm). I’ve mentioned before that guests who have never been to a convention or have rarely been (this was Joseph’s second UK convention to my knowledge) tend to fall into two categories – either they have no barrier and will talk and talk because they’re so excited to be there and don’t know any better or they will have the deer-in-headlights look and won’t give you much to work with because they don’t know what the protocol is. I’d put Joseph more into the latter category. He didn’t seem shy or reserved whatsoever, but nor was he particularly talkative. He replied to my comments, smiled, gave great eye-contact and laughed enthusiastically, but he didn’t push the conversation onwards. He was the very definition of a ‘responder’, which is pretty much what I expect from a guest experience. Wonderful guy and was offering table pictures – even better, guests can’t charge for table pictures at Showmasters’ events, which is a huge help for the attendees that are on a tight budget! If only that arena lighting wasn’t so shit...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!

Soon after leaving Joseph’s autograph table, it was time to head up to the first floor for my studio photo with, you guessed it, Joseph Marcell! It was Marcell-fest 2017! My day had thus far consisted of a Joseph Marcell talk, a Joseph Marcell autograph, and now a Joseph Marcell studio photo...are you sensing a theme? While walking down the corridor to the back of Joseph’s studio photo queue, I heard my name being called. I had a quick scan and couldn’t see where the call had initiated, so I shrugged it off and kept on walking. A few seconds later, I spotted where it had come from – Mr. Josef Altin, who amongst many other roles portrayed Pypar of the Night’s Watch in “Game Of Thrones”. Josef was at “Film & Comic Con Cardiff” as a regular attendee with his fantastic young daughter. For those keeping score, I’m 2/2 for bumping into Joe randomly at the past two F&CCC’s! Joe and his daughter were queuing up to get a studio photo with Joseph Marcell just like everyone else. I told Joe that based on how his career is going lately, very soon he won’t be able to do that as too many people will recognise him! I exchanged pleasantries with Joe and we caught up on each other’s lives for the past couple of months since I’d seen Joe last before I headed to the back of the queue and my photo with Joseph Marcell was taken. It’s always a privilege to see Joe Altin and he’s someone that has become something of a friend and mentor over the past couple of years. I’m looking forward to seeing Joe again at “Reading Comic Con” next month! The studio photo with Joseph Marcell went very smoothly and came out great. With Marcell-fest 2017 now at an end, it was time to tick off the remaining two things on the itinerary – go and say “hi” to Ross O’Hennessy, plus get an autograph from John Leeson.

Ross O’Hennessy: Having only seen Ross a fortnight earlier at “Gloucester Comic Con”, it felt more like going over to chat to a mate than to meet a celebrity at an autograph table. As this was Ross’ first Showmasters event, we largely chatted about how the experience was going for him and the prospect of him branching out into doing international conventions too. Ross is a stand-up guy and doesn’t like to commit to conventions unless there’s a very strong chance he’ll be free to honour his commitment, which has limited Ross’ international appearances thus far because even though Ross has had opportunities to go abroad, the timing hasn’t worked out yet. I won’t go into more detail than that about my time with Ross because it’s more high-end, behind-the-scenes convention stuff, such as contracts, money, and agents, which would be very unprofessional to share publicly. It’s always wonderful to bump into Ross. Not only is he a great conversationalist, but he’s also so down-to-Earth and humble. I intended to grab a picture with Ross at the autograph table, as I haven’t taken a picture with Ross since our first time meeting, which happened to be Ross’ first ever convention, “Wales Comic Con 2015 Part II”. Due to the arena lighting being so shitty, I decided to skip it and get a picture with Ross the following weekend at “Coventry Comic Con”...could have saved myself £10 if someone sorted out that shitty arena lighting! *grumble, grumble*....Guest Type = Conversationalist.

John Leeson: I love John Leeson. I’ve seen John at conventions quite a few times over the years, including twice on stage for a Q&A, the most recent of which being earlier in 2017. However, for some bizarre reason, I’d always decided to leave his autograph until the next time. This is something that I did for years with certain convention regulars. Then, last year, out of nowhere, I just started ticking them off the list. I don’t even know why! I think because a few people I’d met over the years started to pass away, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity to meet some of the elder statesmen, so, in 2016, I ticked Dave Prowse, Jeremy Bulloch, and the late, great Kenny Baker off the list. On this occasion, as my day was so quiet anyway, I went over to meet John face-to-face for the first time and he couldn’t have been nicer! We chatted about the auditioning process for voicing K-9 in “Doctor Who” – a role in which he is celebrating his 40th anniversary this year! John said that his agent called him one day and ecstatically informed him that he’d been offered not one, but two roles in “Doctor Who”! John was so excited that he couldn’t talk for a few seconds. He could see his career blossoming before his eyes! At the point John was fantasising about receiving awards and gaining national fame, his agent informed him thus, “well...with one of the roles you’ll be voicing a monster (the Nucleus)...and with the other you’ll be voicing a robot dog...” John could instantly picture his career nose-diving into the ground. Amusingly, John has made a living off of that robot dog for 40 years – travelling to conventions around the world, continuing to voice K-9 for “Big Finish” audio books, and it is easily his most recognisable role. So the amusing story has a very happy ending at least. We also discussed John being a wine educator as a secondary form of employment and what led him down this unusual path. John’s autograph was just £10 and because it was Showmasters the table picture with John was free too, so I snagged one of those. Great price, a wonderful gentleman to meet, and a thoroughly pleasant experience! Guest Type = Conversationalist.

With everything on the day’s agenda completed, it was time for myself, Hannah, Dom, and Scott to head back to Gloucestershire – not before stopping off at Yo! Sushi for dinner – and for myself and John to brave the journey back to Cardiff the following morning.

Unlike the previous day, the journey getting into Cardiff was positively easy. No traffic, no drama. The journey home would be a much different story, but more on that later. The day’s itinerary was equally undemanding as Saturday’s, with just three autographs to get, three studio photos, and two panels to attend. The autographs that needed to be collected were from Wilf Scolding, Dean Jagger, and Staz Nair, who also happened to be the same three people that I had studio photos booked with later in the day. The first thing to do for the day was attend the “Game Of Thrones” panel, which consisted of, you guessed it, Wilf Scolding, Dean Jagger, and Staz Nair, whom all had natural chemistry together. Highlights from the panel! :-

·        The very first thing I noticed was that Staz is a ball of energy. Like, crazy hyperactive and excitable, which made for a very memorable and enjoyable panel experience. Out of the three panels I attended over “Film & Comic Con Cardiff” weekend, this was easily the highlight.
·        All three actors expressed their gratitude in being cast for “Game Of Thrones” and they all referenced that just having the show on your acting résumé opens doors for you that would otherwise be closed.
·        Wilf mentioned that he’d never seen the show before being cast. After getting the part, he binge-watched the first six seasons. This meant that upon originally being cast, Wilf had no idea how important Rhaegar was to the story. In my opinion, by the season seven finale, Rhaegar was the most important character that had never been seen in the show.
·        Staz mentioned that having himself, Dean, and Wilf on stage started to feel like “Blind Date”, so he started talking in a camp voice and expressing his love of taking long, romantic walks on the beach. That guy is frickin’ hilarious.
·        Staz’ favourite scene to film was during the season six premiere, “The Red Woman”, where he gets to whip Emilia Clarke – or, I should say, Qhono gets to whip Daenerys. Everyone laughed at this choice because it sounds kinky as Hell, but Staz’s reasoning was really sound. Having the whip in his hand made him feel more comfortable in the role and less nervous about being a part of the biggest show in the world right now.
·        Dean’s favourite scenes that he was involved in were all from “The Battle Of The Bastards”. The main fighting scene(s) in the BotB took 2.5 months to film in total. Dean was on set for one month filming his sections. One month of fighting, mud, slipping, choreographing, and braving the cold of Northern Ireland. Dean mentioned that when he was filming his battle with Kristofer Hivju (Tormund), after one particular take, Dean started laughing to himself and couldn’t stop. When Kristofer asked what was so funny, Dean mentioned that all of the extras surrounding them, while acting weary from battle, were swaying like an army of zombies from “The Walking Dead”. This job Kristofer laughing as well and they couldn’t stop for a few minutes.
·        Wilf’s favourite scene that he was a part of was easy as he’s only been in one scene on the show thus far. At least it’s a good scene!
·        Staz talked about his fake beard on the show. Staz said that he can’t grow a beard like that in real life as he’s “not a real man” and the beard he’s wearing on the show is made out of yak’s hair. He said that somewhere out there in the wilderness is an angry yak with a bald patch on its fur. The process of putting the yak hair around Staz’s face was a three-hour process in total!
·        One of Emilia Clarke’s “Daenerys’ wigs” costs £7,000 to make! Staz questioned who gets the money for the wig and then did an impression of an angry yak not getting paid for his body hair being removed. Totally hilarious.
·        Getting Wilf into full Rhaegar costume and wig was also a three-hour process.
·        Dean loved filming “The Battle Of The Bastards”, but was a little disheartened to see that Smalljon Umber (his character) never got to trade blows with Jon Snow during the battle – particularly as it was because of Smalljon that Ramsay had Rickon in the first place, which is what ultimately led to Rickon’s death.
·        Saddest character deaths :- Wun Wun’s death broke Wilf, Ygritte’s death crippled Staz, and Oberyn’s head-go-boom was the most memorable for Dean. Dean did a fantastic impression of the Mountain exploding Oberyn’s head. The “boom” he did into the microphone made everyone jump.
·        Staz had little experience riding horses before being cast on “Game Of Thrones”. He said that the constant up-and-down motion of being on the horse really hurt his coccyx.
·        Staz questioned how well Qhono would fair on 21st century Earth and labelled the movie, “A Dothraki In New York”. He then did impressions of a Dothraki having to buy an iPhone or take a female out on a date. Man, that dude just lights up the stage.
·        Dean said that a few weeks after auditioning for “Game Of Thrones”, he received a call from his agent at 6:37pm. His agent told him, “You’ll find out tomorrow whether or not you got the part on the biggest show on television.” Dean said it was the longest night of his life! If you were the agent, why not wait until the following day to call Dean? Seems cruel. The following day, Dean’s agent called him to let him know that he did not get the part. After Dean was crushed, his agent said, “only joking!” – Monstrous!
·        Staz said that two years ago, not long before being cast in “Game Of Thrones”, he was living on a single bed in his friend’s corridor. What a success story he is! Same for Dean too, but more on that later in the autograph table section.
·        Wilf still works as a chef to this day, even alongside his acting career. Not only does this make him smart as he’s earning money while getting a foothold in the industry, but it also means he’s grounded enough to not think he’s “above” doing a regular job while appearing on the biggest television show in the world. While Wilf was telling this story, it struck me just how much he sounds like Harry Lloyd, who portrays his younger brother, Viserys, in “Game Of Thrones”. Wilf is actually English, not Welsh. When all the news was breaking about him appearing in “Game Of Thrones”, he was erroneously portrayed as a Welsh actor. He’s not. He’s English. He’s English and sounds just like Harry Lloyd.
·        All-in-all, it was a terrific panel! The perfect blend of fun, funny, informative, and real. There were personal stories, stories from the set of “Game Of Thrones”...and some jokes thrown in along the way too. One of the better panels I’ve attended this year for sure.

After the “Game Of Thrones” panel concluded, rather spur-of-the-moment, myself and John decided to stay and watch the Jeremy Bulloch panel too. Highlights! :-

·        I’ve got to point out that the Showmasters gentleman hosting the panels throughout the weekend was terrific. Great job!
·        Jeremy’s panel was unique in that he stood up for the entire duration. It was also unique because the first half of the panel involved bringing up volunteers from the crowd in order to speak lines and act out impromptu scenes, while the second half was reserved for the Q&A section.
·        Jeremy mentioned that he used to play rugby in Cardiff during his youth.
·        Jeremy said that he almost didn’t take the role of Boba Fett. At the time, Jeremy was part of a theatre performance and didn’t want to take time away from it in order to say a few lines in a sci-fi film. If it was a bigger part or more lines, he’d have jumped at the chance, but as it was a minor part (or so he thought at the time), he needed a little convincing. Ultimately, he was able to get four days off in order to film for “The Empire Strikes Back”, which is, amusingly, still his most recognisable role almost 40 years later!
·        When Jeremy first put Boba’s jetpack on, it made him topple over backwards because of the weight of it!
·        Jeremy also appeared in three separate James Bond films and he stated that Sir Roger Moore is “possibly the nicest man I’ve ever met.”
·        After the laughter and hyperactivity of the “Game Of Thrones” panel, Jeremy’s felt totally different. It was more reserved and more intimate. There’s no denying that Jeremy is a living-legend of sci-fi and the convention circuit! I’ve been attending conventions for about a decade now and during that time Jeremy, Dave Prowse and Kenny Baker have probably been to over 50% with me, and at least one of them has been at almost every convention I’ve ever attended. With Kenny sadly no longer with us and with Dave retiring from conventions at the conclusion of 2017, Jeremy is the last man standing, and the UK convention scene will have lost something truly special when Jeremy decides to hang up the helmet as well.

With both panels now at an end, my schedule for the remainder of the afternoon was a doddle. Three autographs from the Thrones boys and three studio photos with the Thrones boys. The first of the studio photos (Dean Jagger) was at 3:30pm, with the other two being in quite quick succession afterwards. This left me an hour to collect the three autographs before the studio photos began.

Dean Jagger: The elusive Dean Jagger! I was first supposed to meet Dean at “Wales Comic Con” at the end of 2016, but, sadly, Dean had to cancel. Since meeting Dean in Cardiff, he’s also had to cancel his appearance at “Wales Comic Con” at the conclusion of 2017, so I’m really happy I took the opportunity to meet him here! I must have chatted to Dean for a solid 10 or 15 minutes and the first thing that struck me about Dean was that he’s so humble. A few years back, Dean was working in a mattress factory between acting gigs, which is still something he does to this day when he finds himself having a little free time. He said it helps to keep him grounded, which is totally admirable. Myself and Dean talked about the process of being cast in “Game Of Thrones”, we discussed what it was like filming for a couple of months in Belfast, and what it was like filming such an intricate, detailed fight scene like the one in “The Battle Of The Bastards”. Dean also mentioned that he’s just been cast as the lead in a new television show, which will start filming in South Africa at the end of this year. Obviously, he couldn’t go into too much detail, but it sounds like it’s going to be a huge deal for him, which is lovely to see. I grabbed a picture with Dean at the autograph table and the lighting was inevitably shit. No matter, I still had the studio photo booked for later in the day. This was merely my back-up. My chat with Dean may have been my longest of the weekend and it was a pleasure to meet him. In fact, all three of the Thrones guys I met on Sunday were fantastic. They may not have had huge roles in the show, but they all have great stories to tell. I’ve often found that the “smaller” guests tend to be the best experiences because you get more time with them, they’re cheaper to meet, and they’ll tell you everything. Guest Type = Conversationalist.

Wilf Scolding: Sat right next to Dean was Wilf. Both convention virgins, both soaking up the experience for the first time...and both were super cool to meet. It was very surprising and joyous to see Dean, Wilf, and Staz have a steady stream of people at their autograph table throughout the day. None of them really seemed to dry up at all, which is what I’d have expected by a certain point in the day. Wilf had attended the premiere for his new movie, “Bees Make Honey” at the Rain Dance Festival in London the previous night, so I asked him how that went, which he seemed really appreciative of. I don’t think anyone else had spoken to him about it during the day, so I think he liked the fact that I’d done a little research into his career and talked about something other than “Game Of Thrones”. Wilf said that they’re taking it to film festivals for the time being before hopefully getting it released to the general public in the future. Inevitably, our conversation – which was also quite long – eventually turned to “Game Of Thrones”. I asked Wilf how difficult it was to keep his appearance on the show secret for the 6 months or so before the episode aired, especially after he was heavily tipped for the role a few months before he showed up on screen as someone had stalked his Twitter and worked out that he’d started following other people from the show during the time that the Rhaegar flashback would have been filmed. Wilf said that it was tough and he told virtually nobody. Once it got leaked that he was likely portraying Rhaegar, his management team told him not to respond or acknowledge the people tweeting him about it whatsoever, which must have been tough when he was being bombarded with questions.

I mentioned to Wilf that if “Robert’s Rebellion” ends up being the prequel series that is chosen to be produced, he may find himself having a much larger role in the “Game Of Thrones” television world moving forwards. Wilf loved that idea and requested that I hunt down David and Dan to request this specific prequel and his involvement in it. Wilf talked about filming in Belfast and how dedicated the crew were to making Wilf’s Rhaegar look as much like a true Targaryen as possible. While his involvement in the show thus far has been limited, Rhaegar is such an iconic character that he’s instantly become important to the show. I thanked Wilf for his time, grabbed a picture with him at the autograph table, and headed over to my final autograph table of the weekend, Mr. Staz Nair. Guest Type = Conversationalist.

Staz Nair: Not only is Staz a complete ball of energy and an excitable puppy in equal measure on stage, but he’s also just as crazy one-to-one at his autograph table. He’s so much fun to talk to! One of the most natural, effortless, enjoyable, crazy experiences I’ve ever had at an autograph table before – and there have been over a thousand! As I started chatting to Staz, a small boy in Cosplay walked past and made Staz melt. Therefore, the first few minutes of our conversation was dedicated to conventions. This was Staz’s second ever con (both have been via Showmasters) and Staz talked about how much he’s loving the environment and atmosphere at the events. Not only does he get to meet fans and have some great conversations, but he also sees the effort and passion being fuelled into Cosplay, and he gets to see the friendships that are being created by people who happen to share some similar interests. I talked about how and why I started conventions a decade ago and the conversation got pretty deep. The conversation shifted to “Game Of Thrones” and I asked Staz how fun it was to film in Spain and Croatia while wearing yak hair and armour – spoiler: not pleasant. Wearing a full-on beard and moustache, made out of itchy yak hair, while it’s 35 degrees outside, doesn’t exactly scream “fun”. Staz also laughed as he told us that at the end of the day, when he’d take the yak hair off, he’d be left with a white tan-line beard and moustache while the rest of his face was brown. After about 10 minutes of chatting, I thanked Staz for his time and told him I’d see him in the studio photo session later in the afternoon. Just as I was leaving, Wai Ching Ho (Madame Gao from “Marvel”) came over and said to me, “I wish I had as much energy as this man does! He never stops!” Gotta say I agree with Wai (whom I met a couple of months earlier at LFCC) there! He’s like the Energiser Bunny. With everything taken into account, Staz was probably my favourite guest of the weekend. Crazy, ridiculous, hilarious, over-the-top friendly, and really approachable. Great guy. Guest Type = Conversationalist.

Soon after leaving Staz’s autograph table, it was time to head to the first floor for three studio photos in pretty quick succession. All the photo shoots ran smoothly and on time, all the guests were interactive and in high spirits, the crew were great, and the hour just flew by. It was time for myself and John to brave the 60 minutes back to Gloucester...or it should have been 60 minutes. Just outside of Newport, there were roadworks on the motorway, which resulted in three lanes merging into one. This meant that it took us nearly two hours to get a mile or so down the road! I don’t recall ever being in such bad traffic before. I was going a little bit crazy and I wasn’t even the driver! I’ve discovered that I don’t handle bad traffic well. John’s car is only a year or so old, so it has all the fancy gadgets and statistics that my 2002 Honda Civic Vision doesn’t have (which, interestingly, I bought from John a few years ago). Turns out, the 60-minute journey home took three hours in total and our average speed for the journey was 26mph. Ugh. Shoot me now.

Rumour has it that “Film & Comic Con Cardiff” will only be returning once next year instead of the two separate editions that have historically been the case. If this means that more effort will be put into the line-up and overall presentation, I’m all for it. The next F&CCC takes place over the weekend of the 12th and 13th of May and will once again be at the Motorpoint Arena. For the love of God, someone sort out the fucking lighting for May! The tragedy here is that this event could be something truly special if the effort was once again put in as it was a really, really strong event for the first year or two that it took place. Showmasters do such an amazing job with the bigger shows like Collectormania and LFCC. Some of my favourite events ever have been Showmasters and it seems as though more effort is being put into the regionals lately if ‘Film & Comic Con Newcastle’ is anything to go by. I can only hope that Cardiff follows suit. Whether or not I return to Cardiff in May will be entirely dependent upon the guest line-up, particularly as the April/May region of the UK con scene is stacked already.

My review of “Coventry Comic Con” should be up within a couple of days. Then I’m off to “Loughborough Comic Con” on October the 22nd, followed by “Reading Comic Con” at the end of November, and, finally, “Wales Comic Con” during the first weekend of December to cap off the year in style. Stay strong, stay safe and stay happy!

-        Your Friendly Neighbourhood Shangel


1 comment:

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