I recently had the opportunity to go to the Walker Stalker Convention 2016 in Boston…if the name isn’t clue enough, it’s a fan convention geared towards The Walking Dead universe and the horror genre in general. It’s only the second convention I’ve been to – the first was PAXEast 2015 – and first where I took the opportunity to truly interact with celebrity guests and other fans. I had a great experience all around and am glad I went; enough that I hope to grab myself a two day pass next time and would absolutely attend other conventions in the future.
Obviously, two experiences makes me a novice, at best, but I’d like to share certain things that I discovered during said experiences. You can call them survival tips for the soul if you like, or merely suggestions to get the most enjoyment out of your day…I call them: The ABC’s of Conventions.
Always Be Considerate
Not just with pleases and thank you’s towards others – though those are important – but in being patient and giving others the benefit of the doubt. Some lines will be very long, they will move very slow, and you won’t always get the things you want. It’s easy to lose your cool over the frustrations of not having things go according to your expectations, but to enjoy your time at a convention it’s important that you put things in perspective.
A common occurrence leading to frustration is when fans go long with a celebrity guest. There’s honestly little to do about this except be patient and trust the volunteers will step in if needed. There a few ways to help put it in perspective though, which may help lower frustration levels. Consider the possibility that this is the first time the person’s met a celebrity…maybe they’re rambling and hanging on because of excessive nerves. Or perhaps they believe this will be the only time they’ll meet their favorite performer/author and want to have every moment possible, causing them to go overboard. It’s also possible that the fan and celebrity are, in fact, friends and are taking a few extra moments to catch up or make plans for later.
While nothing is assured, I found two instances in which a fan was rewarded for their patience and understanding under these sorts of circumstances. After waiting quite awhile to speak with Steven Ogg – The Savior (who isn’t Dwight) to The Walking Dead fans, Trevor from GTA to the gamers – he had to go on break. I was a touch disappointed as I’d be gone when he returned, but realized he had things to do so just smiled and said I’d leave him to it. It was at that point Mr Ogg made a point to apologize himself and stayed a spare moment or two to chat with me. Another pair of fans spent a substantial time in line to see Michael Cudlitz – aka Sgt Abraham “Motherdick” Ford, from The Walking Dead – only to find out he had to leave as they reached the front. Because they’d gotten so close and (they said) made no fuss about being turned away, they were both awarded free VIP passes for the following day or a future Walker Stalker. These rewards, little and big, are not guaranteed, but I seriously doubt they’d have happened if a scene was made.
At Walker Stalker I discovered that certain guests don’t do meet and greets, meaning you have to pay for an autograph or photo to see them. This was initially discouraging and had me wondering why that would be. I overheard some fans suggesting such celebrities were only interested in making a few extra bucks, but that seemed a little unfair. For those with numerous fans meet and greets might actually lessen the number they see because things tend to be less streamlined. There’s also the possibility that they are introverts, shy, or otherwise uncomfortable having to chat with total strangers. Having the “photos and autographs only” rule could save them from that discomfort.
Other celebrities may come across as curt or disinterested when you get to speak with them. It’s easy to write them off as rude or otherwise disinterested in their fans, but I think that’s a great oversimplification. These guests sit/stand at a table for hours upon hours meeting virtual strangers with few breaks and little in the way of food and drink. That’s on top of the traveling they’ve probably been doing between work, family, and numerous other events. It really should be no surprise that they can get drained, have an occasional bad day, and are unable to consistently put their best foot forward. It by no means excuses any direct rudeness or aggression, but might explain why they’re not at the level you expected when you meet them.
Ask Before Clicking
This one focuses solely on photo-taking. For celebrities the rules are pretty much always posted, so I’ll skip those with a: follow the posted rules; if the rules aren’t posted or are confusing, just ask nearby volunteers for clarification, and you should be fine. …My own focus is on taking photos of the art at different vending tables or fans who are cosplaying.
First and foremost…Don’t take pictures of other people’s art unless you’ve already purchased it. Those venders are frequently the individuals who did the art and trying to make a living by selling their pieces at conventions. When someone takes a picture of their art there’s the risk that it gets posted online, spread around, and possibly even printed and/or used by another causing the artist to lose significant amounts of money. The same holds true for autographed photos and the like. …If you’re impressed enough you have to take a picture of it, just purchase it.
The other time you should think before you click is with other people, specifically the fans who cosplay. It’s easy to presume, because they’re dressed up, that they won’t mind and even enjoy having their picture taken…this is not always the case. While no one I met refused to have their picture taken, all of them thanked me greatly for asking first. Some also expressed displeasure at those who took pictures without asking, saying they found it invasive. After the picture is taken it’s also a good idea to have them check the picture for themselves and, if you plan on posting the photos online, ask permission. No one asked for a reshoot, but one did request I not post their photo online as it made them uncomfortable. Cosplayers are not there for your entertainment or own private photo shoot – unless you’ve prearranged something – so treat them as you would if they were not dressed up. (With child cosplayers, ask both the children and their parents.)
It all boils down to empathy, really. Having it for other fans and the celebrity guests you hope to meet. It seems simple, but can be difficult when you’re in the moment so take a breath or two to relax and think things through from others’ perspectives. Don’t let minor frustrations and disappointments ruin the good times for yourself or others. You are surrounded by like-minded people, enjoy it and them, with all of your fandom heart.
(Photo taken by me at Walker Stalker and posted with permission.)