Monday, 13 August 2018

Film & Comic Con Cardiff 2018 - A Detailed Review

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

• Paul Kaye (Thoros of Myr from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Tara Fitzgerald (Selyse Baratheon from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Vladimir Furdik (Night King from “Game Of Thrones”)
• Ingrid Oliver (Osgood from “Doctor Who”)

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

Another review, another apology. 2018 has been a nightmare when it comes to getting reviews written. I’m three behind. This one, “Collectormania”, and “London Film & Comic Con”. This is for a multitude of reasons but the most important of which being that I’m in the process of moving to a new house, which takes up a lot of my free time and energy. Alas, this review is now finished and the “Collectormania” review should be up within the next week as well. I’ll try and get the ‘LFCC’ review up within a week or so after that. This review is going to be a relatively brief one by my lofty standards simply because I don’t have that much to say. I went to “Film & Comic Con Cardiff” for one day, Saturday, as press. During my time there, I got three autographs and had four professional studio photos taken. No panels, no merchandise buying, no frills. Due to this, there’s not a lot to say. I’ll start with an overview of the event and a handful of positives and negatives, then I’ll get into my three autograph table experiences with the Thrones Trio, and finally I’ll talk about my photo session experiences and finish with a little conclusion to round out the piece. Should be three or four pages max (excluding pictures) compared to my average of 15-20 pages.

“Film & Comic Con Cardiff” took place over the weekend of the 12th and 13th of May at its traditional home of the Motorpoint Arena. This was my 6th time attending this particular leg of the Showmasters regional circuit and my 4th consecutive edition of F&CCC. Now, I have something of a love-hate relationship with this particular con. For every positive aspect (such as the crew) there is a counteracting negative aspect (such as the atrocious arena lighting). Everything always feels the same at F&CCC. To the point where it’s hard for me to distinguish one event from the others I’ve attended there. It’s a shame as I feel with a little effort – and an upgrade on the lighting – the Cardiff show could easily be returned to its former glory. When I first attended F&CCC in 2013, the guest line-up was stellar, the lighting was brighter, the event had an aura of energy and excitement. Now, I feel as though the atmosphere and vibe is one of age, of stagnation, of complacency. 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 at this point, 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. The only thing that keeps me going back is that for the last few shows, there has been a smaller “Game of Thrones” guest or two that I wanted to meet. That’s pretty much it. Come on, Showmasters. You’re better than this. With a little effort, the Cardiff event could thrive once again. Oh, and 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 my day, shall we?

“Film & Comic Con Cardiff” was an interesting event for me in some ways. For one thing, I took the train to get there! For another, I went by myself. Nobody seemed to be free and the friend of mine that was going to attend with me had to pull-out at the last minute. Catching the train to the con was actually much more relaxed than I was expecting. I even befriended a Cardiff local on the train who started talking to me because she recognised my forearm tattoo as the logo of the band, “Breaking Benjamin”. Getting to know her a little bit during the hour train journey was also helpful because it meant that she could direct me as to how to get from the Cardiff train station to the Motorpoint Arena as I’d never done so before. Helpful locals for the win! As I didn’t need to be at the con until around midday, I also had the rare opportunity of a lie-in and moseying over to Cardiff at my own leisure…I could get used to that! As mentioned above, my primary reason for attending “Film & Comic Con Cardiff” on this occasion were the “Game of Thrones” guests. Sure, I was going to meet Ingrid Oliver (Osgood from “Doctor Who”) too while I was there, but the big draws that convinced me to make the journey were Paul Kaye, Tara Fitzgerald, and Vladimir Furdik. A first-time Comic Con appearance for Tara, the first in a very long time for Paul, and Vladimir had thus far somehow managed to evade me.

Getting to the arena was a painless affair, which is always a blessing. Comic Cons are stressful enough with all the travelling and scheduling, and adrenaline peaks and falls. Nobody wants to add “nightmare journey” to that list as well! The first scheduled activity on my rota wasn’t until 15:35, which gave me a few hours in order to get the three autographs completed and to have a look around…even though it’s the same stuff to look around event after event, after event.

Tara Fitzgerald: Honestly, I was excited to meet Tara. Firstly, she’s an incredible actress with a storied career on stage and on television in the UK, but, also, it was one step closer to completing the Baratheons! I’ve met Mark Addy (many times, he’s “Wales Comic Con” family) and Gethin Anthony. Kerry Ingram is a friend of mine. Even if you include the bastard children and Cersei, I can tick them all off the list. Unless I’m forgetting anyone, only Stephen Dillane and Tara Fitzgerald were left to meet. I can’t see Stephen ever attending a Comic Con, so it will be highly challenging to complete the set entirely, but meeting Tara was still an excellent addition to my collection. We chatted about this being Tara’s first Comic Con and why Tara decided to take the plunge into the con scene. Interestingly, Tara said she’s rarely been asked to attend them before, which is surprising considering her career. It’s also worth noting that Tara is much more beautiful in real life than she is on “Game of Thrones”….that actually goes for a lot of the Thrones cast. A lot of the cast on-screen are made to look dour and dirty, and like they’re living in a war-torn country. We also discussed Tara’s time on the show and her approach to playing a character that is, until the very end at least, quite the bitch. Tara also took an interest in my life and asked what I did for a living. I explained that I’m a Youth Therapist and Support Worker in Gloucester and discussed some of the intricacies of what my day-to-day working life is like. I also explained that I help out with other Comic Cons in the UK, particularly with the guest side of things. Chatting to Tara was great. She was really engaging, gave great eye contact, and she genuinely seemed happy to talk to me and get to know me for 10 minutes. One of the positives of F&CCC is that usually the guest’s queues aren’t very long, which means copious time to chat if they’re the type of guest that likes to. Also, shockingly, Tara’s autograph was only £10! And she was offering table pictures (which are always free at Showmasters)! Bargain! Guest Type = Conversationalist.

(Regular readers, you can skip this section)

“Shangel, what’s a ‘Conversationalist’?”

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!

Paul Kaye: Out of all the people announced for F&CCC, Paul was the one I was most excited to meet. I mean, sure, Paul was also announced for “London Film & Comic Con” too, but that event would be drastically busier, which would mean limited time talking, longer queues, etc. So it was an excellent opportunity to chat to Paul a little more and to have a significantly more relaxed experienced. I was excited to meet Paul because Thoros of Myr is one of my favourite characters from “Game of Thrones”. Plus, I remember watching Paul in “Two Thousand Acres of Sky” with my mother as a child. Paul and I discussed Paul’s time on the show and the differences between filming during seasons 3 and 6. We also talked about what it was like to film in Iceland, which Paul referred to as the most beautiful place he’s ever been and he said that they passed the long periods of darkness by creating music and playing instruments – “the Brotherhood Without Banjos”. Love it! We also discussed Paul’s time on stage with fellow “Game of Thrones” alumnus, Kerry Ingram, in “Matilda”, where Paul portrayed Mr. Wormwood. Paul’s autograph was £15, which was a little less than I was expecting. I must say, sometimes when it comes to headliners, I feel as though Showmasters could have slightly lower prices and still be profitable. However, with that being said, when it comes to medium guests and smaller guests, Showmasters prices are consistently very reasonable! Throw in the fact that if a guest is offering table pictures, they’re always free, Showmasters usually gives you a cheaper experience than most other Comic Cons in 2018! I was very happy with the prices for all three Thrones guests. Paul was a lovely guy to meet! Very witty, very engaging. Great man to talk to! He was also offering table pictures too! Guest Type = Responder.

Vladimir Furdik: The Night King. Well, the Night King since season 6. I’d already met Richard Brake (the actor behind the Night King during seasons 4 and 5), but somehow my schedule had never lined up with Vladimir and I’d yet to meet him. What a great meet! Vladimir was chatting away about all his stunt work, what it was like filming on Thrones, and what it was like filming and choreographing the “Tower of Joy” swordfight during the flashback. Vladimir talks about his work with such passion and excitement, which is genuinely quite inspiring. I love it when people are living their dream! Considering I’ve met Lena Headey (Cersei), Jack Gleeson (Joffrey), Iwan Rheon (Ramsay), and now both Night Kings, I can probably say I’ve met every top-tier villain that appears on “Game of Thrones”. I’ve also met most of the secondary tier villains like Pilou Asbaek (Euron) and David Bradley (Walder Frey) too! What a blessed life to lead for a nerd…. Guest Type = Responder. Vladimir was also offering table pictures.

After three wonderful autograph table experiences, it was time for the four photos! Not much to report here. All 4 started on time. None of them had queues bigger than 30-40 people, so it was a painless process. All 4 guests were courteous and polite. All 4 were completed within just over an hour, starting with Paul Kaye’s photo at 15:35, then Vladimir’s at 16:05, Ingrid Oliver’s at 16:15, and finally Tara’s at 16:45. Photos are printed instantly before you leave the room. Done. Dusted. Easy. Time to go home!

The three guests from Thrones I met were all great. My brief encounter with Ingrid Oliver in the photo session was also great. From a guest perspective, F&CCC was a success. A very enjoyable day. It’s just a shame that it appears as if Showmasters no longer puts much energy or effort into the Cardiff events because it could so easily become a powerhouse again. The event sells well irrespective of the line-up and effort put in, so Showmasters are making a profit either way (from what I can gather), so perhaps feel as though no effort is needed, and they can instead put their energy into the shows that bring in the big bucks for them: Collectormania, LFCC, and now LFCC Spring. It’s a shame though. I’m torn between hoping that more effort is put into Cardiff and also hoping that it remains the same, so I don’t need to go anymore. The UK Comic Con scene is slammed. Packed. Overflowing. F&CCC does run the risk of being lost in the shuffle. I’m hoping that doesn’t happen.

Stay strong, stay safe, and stay happy!

-        Your Friendly Neighbourhood Shangel


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