Rethinking Super Megafest

11-Nov-11 11:06 AM by
Filed under Celebrities, Potpourri; 2 comments.

For the past several years, I've made an annual tradition of attending the Super Megafest, a sci-fi and nostalgia convention held in Framingham, Massachusetts. It's not a massive affair, but for its size and location, it's still fairly enjoyable, with several aspects to entertain the showgoer: vendors of various geek goods; celebrities on-hand for personal autographs (not free or even cheap!); Q&A sessions with said celebrities; and more.

R2!But I found 2010 to be mildly disappointing, due to a variety of logistical decisions. The Q&A sessions are scheduled for specific times and days, but the event coordinator chooses not to publicize those schedules ahead of time, such as on the Super Megafest Web site; my email requesting this data confirmed that it is not available in advance. Although I realize celebrities' schedules often cannot be determined until the last minute, it's frustrating for me to not know if I should be at the conference on Saturday at 10 AM or 5 PM, or on Sunday. Without the Q&A, I need only an hour or two to absorb the event in its entirety; it's unreasonable to block out an entire two-day weekend for whenever the Q&As might be.

The comfort of the celebrities is of course the organizers' priority, so rather than have the stars stand for an hour during Q&A, they're allowed to sit. But the session is held in a conference room large enough that folks in the back can't see someone seated at the front. A simple riser that would elevate the celebrity would be a simple fix.

Last year, I calculated the cost of admission plus that of Christopher Lloyd's autograph and decided it was worth getting the "VIP speed pass", which included admission and autographs by Lloyd and Lea Thompson. The "speed" aspect allowed me to bypass the line for this celebrity, which would otherwise take hours to traverse. But there was no fine print indicating that this privilege was valid only from 9:30 AM to 10:30 AM! The Web site informed me only that I was paying for "a beat-the-line speed pass". Such vague terminology bordered on the deceptive.

Christopher Lloyd at the Q&A.Despite all that, I was still glad for the opportunity to meet the stars. Few people had paid for the speed pass, which also granted exclusive access to Lloyd's Q&A session, which made for an intimate setting. Everyone got to ask a question, with mine being: "Does an actor of your renown still have to audition for parts, or are they written for or handed to you?" Lloyd said that sometimes, the writers say to themselves, "Oh, this script calls for a drunk? Let's get Lloyd." But more often, he still needs to audition, as it's not always clear whether he or someone else will be right for a part. Lea Thompson never showed up, so my pass got me two Lloyd autographs instead.

I also met Marina Sirtis, better known as Deanna Troi from Star Trek: TNG. She was very friendly and fun, laughing and smiling and calling everyone "hon". When I saw the various 8"x10" glossies she had available to autograph, I chose an off-camera shot from First Contact, commenting, "You were so funny in that film!" She responded, "I was more myself in that Star Trek movie than in any other."

I had some time to kill between sessions, so I sat in on a Q&A by Kristin Bauer, who plays Pam De Beaufort on True Blood. I'd never seen this show so wasn't very interested, but she redeemed herself with the credit of playing Lt. Laneth on an episode of Star Trek: Enterprise.

I ended the show by getting Peter Mayhew's autograph. The taciturn Wookie didn't have much to say and didn't offer to personalize his signature, though he did do so after I handed it back with the request.

The headliners for this year's Super Megafest are Patrick Stewart and Sean Astin. After a month of waffling, and with just a week to spare, I coughed up the dough for another VIP speed pass. I'm a bit disenchanted with Super Megafest, though, and would not have been roped in for another expensive pass for anyone other than Captain Picard.

Revenge of the Nerds

28-Mar-07 9:05 AM by
Filed under Star Wars; 1 comment.

There's a new trailer for Heart of an Empire, a documentary about the Fighting 501st, an international club whose only membership requirement is that you have a Star Wars film-quality Imperial costume, from stormtrooper to Darth Vader. As far as I can tell, these costumes are not sold anywhere, nor are instructions for their manufacture provided by the group; you need to be both a hardcore Star Wars fan AND a talented costumer. The movie looks like a lot of fun, showing the group's diverse aspects. I was especially touched to see stormtroopers participating in one of my favorite charity events.

But I was surprised and angered by what this documentary reveals of the public's perception to such dedicated fans: televised newscasters openly mocking the 501st as single, lonely geeks and nerds. I thought such juvenile behavior was the province of schoolyard bullies. Of course these stormtroopers are single, if such vapid, condescending ignorami are the only available bounties. But we can do better, as exemplified in this recent Vegas Popular article (which is actually meant to delineate why Star Trek is better than Star Wars, but I see little distinction between the two fan groups):

The devotion of Trekkers is an easy target for derision, but I would argue that you'll find a much higher average IQ level among Star Trek fans… And if they take the series' philosophy to heart, they're probably treating each other with kindness and tolerance and making the world a better place.

If you're going to be dedicated, might as well indulge: Heart of the Empire isn't the only Star Wars documentary. There's 5/25/77, which celebrates the release of A New Hope, the 30th anniversary of which looms. There's also The Force Among Us, which recently released a trailer (if a ten-minute video can be called such) featuring a montage of interviews with assorted Warsies. All these films seem to be this universe's take on the Trekkies documentary.

And not a documentary, but no less cool: Star Wars USB drives. Represent!