Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Following the Nerd at the London Film and Comic Con 2011

On Friday July 8th I departed from Belfast and after my flight being delayed due to a spot of rain, then being given the wrong directions to Earls Court (thank you to the chap who sent me to the West End!!!) I finally made it to the London Film and Comic Convention at Earls Court Exhibition Centre.

I met up with Tony and his friend and I really couldn’t believe what I saw.  The original 1960’s Batmobile glaring at me right in the face!! Whoever the bright spark was to place a barrier rope just spoilt my fun but I managed to grab a quick picture of both the exterior and the interior, it even had all of the buttons and switches from the tv series.

I made my way through row upon row of vendors of every description, from those selling DVDs, old school videos, classic toys and collectibles, weapons of various descriptions (including one seller who specialises in making replica Highlander swords) to the more high end collectible of original art, cinema posters and autographs. I finally made my way up to the guests were I was greeted by a number of the guests who were attending the special preview event.

First on my list was Gil Gerrard (Buck Rogers from the 1970s tv series).  A very welcoming chap who really puts you at ease and you can tell he enjoys talking to his fans.  After getting a brief interview with him I then made my way to W. Morgan Shepperd (The Klingon prison guard from Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country), this gentleman (and I mean that, he truly is a gentleman) was very friendly and provided me with a number or brief anecdotes before once again getting his autograph and making my way to my next guest.

Before I continue I think it’s only fair to say that I had never attended anything on the scale of the LFCC before. With so many guests scheduled all over the weekend, not too mention talks, a stuntman demonstration, cosplay, live music, a Nintendo gaming area, trading card championship, a comic artist workshop and photo opportunities with guests, I knew that I would have to try and plan everything I really wanted to do in advance.

With time marching on at the preview event, I sadly had to say goodbye to Tony and his friend and continued on my own. Next on my list to talk to was Mark Shepperd (Badger from Firefly). Once again I had a brief chat and some friendly banter (once he heard my accent he had no problem showing me his George Best shirt). After getting his autograph (thankfully I had the foresight before I left Belfast to purchase an A4 folder and a pack of poly-pockets for protection) I moved on to the next guest on my list, Ricky Dean Logan (one of Griff’s henchmen in Back to the Future – Part 2).

Ricky was dressed like a rock star! He had a long black leather over coat, black cowboy boots and dark sunglasses, and from his appearance I was very unsure how he would react to an interview.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!  Ricky was a brilliant interviewee, very witty and loved talking about his experiences on Back to the Future.

After leaving Ricky’s desk I spotted a gap at Richard Hatch’s desk (he played  Apollo in the original series of Battlestar Galactica and also Tom Zarek in the updated BSG series).  Richard loves to talk to his fans and being a very big fan of both of the series I really enjoyed our interview, he especially loves talking about the philosophy of both of the shows and he it was a pleasure talking to him.

With time pressing against me, I made my way around the rest of the guests section to familiarise myself with other guests I really wanted to meet and also to get a look at the different areas before the main event on Saturday. 

I spotted Veronica Cartwright (Lambert from Alien) and had a long chat with her discussing her part in Alien and also the cherry scene in Witches of Eastwick and it was another wonderful interview.

With the doors about to be closed, that was my final interview for the evening and it was back to my room for some rest before the madness that would be the next day.

Saturday 07:50am

I arrived at
Earls Court
to find two extremely large queues had formed.  One was for pre-paid tickets and the other was for non-pre-paid, and at one stage it was harder to tell which one was longer. Thankfully due to my Press Pass I was able to join a third queue for Gold Tickets and once the doors opened at 9am it was like the evacuation of Hoth with everyone running off in different directions to different parts of the exhibition centre.

I immediately made my way to meet Christopher Lloyd, where I was told by those in charge that there would be no interviews with any of the guests today (one of the organisers informed me to the reason for this and I was quite shocked by it). So after a bit of a queue (I only had to wait 15minutes compared to a 3hr wait in the afternoon) I finally got to meet Christopher Lloyd (Doc Brown in Back to the Future).  I was able to ask him one question to which he replied, signed my autograph and I thanked him then made my way to the Talk Area.

The main difference between the Friday preview and Saturday were the crowds. Everywhere you looked were crowds of people queuing to meet a guest, or queuing for a photograph or, as was the case at 10am, queuing for the talk with Gil Gerrard and Erin Gray (Buck and Wilma from Buck Rogers).

I have attended some talks before where actors have worked with each other for a while and they have what I term as fake friendship, where the so called banter and anecdotes come off as very false and in some cases felt as if it were scripted.  I am extremely pleased to say that this was not the case with Gil and Erin.  The two of them are clearly good friends and were joking with each about not only their work on Buck Rogers, but also their private lives.  At one point in the talk Erin made a minor mistake about a scene in the show and Gil informed her that “Erin, any more and I’m going to have to spank you,” at this point the crowd were shocked and laughed, especially when Erin replied “Gil, you are always saying that, when are you going to do it?” to which the audience roared again.  With these two guests you really got to feel the sense of friendship you would make while working on a tv show.

After the talk had finished I then had an extremely busy day which was taken up with (literally) running from one guest to another, getting my picture taken, then snapping pictures of those in cosplay.

There were a large number of people (especially girls) who totally embraced the cosplay portion of the LFCC.  There were characters from Star Trek, Street Fighter, Portal and even Pok√©mon and, as with all outfits, some were of an exceptionally high standard (I think some people may have even had them professionally made).  Thankfully I was able to get a few photographs of some of the costumes but I felt I needed three pairs of eyes, for as soon as I saw one cosplay character, two more would catch my eye walking in the opposite direction!

By now the morning had flown in and I was feeling exhausted when I noticed that Erin Gray’s queue was fairly empty. Seizing my chance, I walked up to her and obtained her autograph (with a special dedication of ‘To Phil, Lots of Love, Erin Gray’ and walked away a VERY happy chappy! 

It was around this time (forgive me for my brain was in Uber-Nerd mode due to the number of guests I saw at every turn) that I was very fortunate to get an interview with John Leeson (The voice of K-9 from Doctor Who).  John was very generous with his time that he gave me for the interview and I was very grateful to him.

Having constantly looked at my watch I made my way to one of the many photography areas where in the space of an hour and a half I was able to get a picture with Gil Gerrard, Erin Gray (who instantly recognised me), Sylvester McCoy (The 7th Doctor and soon to be in The Hobbit), John Leeson and Sophie Aldred.

Now, as I may have mentioned earlier, Erin Gray was a lovely person and is still very attractive, but I have also had a really big crush on Sophie Aldred (“Ace” from Doctor Who and the companion to the 7th Doctor).  Sophie was a wonderful person to meet, very friendly. I had my arm around her for the picture, not too close as I didn’t want to appear I was too eager (yeah right, ever since I saw her character dispatch a Dalek with a baseball bat it was love at first sight!), the photographer asked if I could move in a little closer. Well, I mean, that’s all I needed, by now my heart is pumping crazy, Sophie rests her head on my neck and then the picture is taken. Except the photographer apologizes and says that he needs to take it again. By now I’m ecstatic, I’ve got my arm found Sophie, “Take your time mate,” I tell him, “I can do this all day”, to which Sophie giggles (she has the sweetest laugh), the picture is finally taken and I say thank you, walking out of the photo area on cloud nine!

With the pictures out of the way, I met up with some of my French friends from Facebook, had a laugh and we all went to the Auction together.  This was Bargain Hunt for Nerds! I won a number of the auctions which included autographs from Dirk Benedict, Sonny Landham, Patrick Stewart and Avery Brooks to name but a few.

While all of this was going on, there were live bands playing and the competition was taking place for cosplay.  Unfortunately I was unable to view all of the entrants, but I was able to get a number of pictures from those taking part. 

I was also able to take a peak at the Trading Game area.  There were rows upon rows of players with various packs of trading card games taking place.  I was allowed to sit in on a game for a while and I was amazed at how serious the players were taking it.  I managed to pick up the rules after a short time, but the speed at which they played astounded me and I thanked them for allowing me to witness how these professionals play the trading card game.

A short distance away I noticed that there were again a number of rows of tables with drawing materials.  This I found particularly interesting as there were a number of younger children eagerly drawing and colouring in the pictures they had just created with the assistance of some comic book artists.  I found this helpful for anyone who wanted to know how professional artists create a character, from what starts as a basic outline, in a matter of moments becomes your favourite superhero.

By now the afternoon was drawing on and the crowds just did not seem to disappear. I looked around and caught a glimpse of a burly security guard escorting Karen Gillan (the current Doctor’s Assistant) from area to the next, followed by a crowd of screaming fans.

Finally I collected my photographs from the collection area, had another look around the arena and returned to my room feeling extremely pleased with what I had obtained (especially the photographs).

Sunday 8:am

De Ja Vu had set in as I queued up for the final day of the LFCC and thankfully the  queues were a little less than the previous day.  Once the doors opened I made a bee-line for Walter Keonig (Checkov from Star Trek) and was able to get a brief interview with him. I got the impression that he is quite a shy person but he seemed happy to answer my questions and it was pleasure meeting him.

I then went over to Corey Feldman (sadly I was not allowed to interview him) where I was able to get a great autograph and dedication: I asked him to write “To Phil, I really hate Vampires”, to which he replied, “Phil, I really DO hate vampires”, great guy.

With the crowds not quite as big as the previous day, I was able to browse a little more and take in a number of the sellers.  I met some wonderful comic artists and obtained some of their works, I took their details and have passed them onto to Nerd HQ to try and get a future interview with them.  I also got to speak with a number of sellers, most of whom were more than happy to have a chat.

Having had a quick look around I was able to have a chat with Jeremy Bulloch (Boba Fett from the Original Star Wars Trilogy).  I have met Jeremy many times through the Emerald Garrison and he instantly recognised me and shook my hand, which made a number of the attendees pretty jealous.  As always Jeremy is a pleasure to talk to and I was able to grab a quick interview before a line started to build up behind me.

Taking another look around I noticed Sandel Bergman (Conan’s wife from Conan the Barbarian) and I nearly stopped dead in my tracks!  For a child of the eighties, Sandel played one of the most iconic and alluring parts ever in a sword and sorcery film.  I practically ran over to her, and like the typical giddy nerd that I am, I tried to conduct a professional interview.  After which, I asked if I could get a picture of her. Well. She threw her arms round me, (heart pounding now more than ever, big smile) and I’m saying that this is the best thrill ever, pleasure to have met her etc, and she commented that she loved my accent. Now folks, you can think whatever you like, but I’m telling you this, Sandel flirted with me!!

Time had taken its toll on me as I was physically drained (the sheer amount of walking/running from stall to stall) was really taking its toll on me when I notice that Hugh Mitchell (Colin Creevey from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) was available. So I made a quick bee-line to his desk where I was granted a brief interview. Hugh was a great guy to talk to and to be honest, was quite over-whelmed by the attention he had received all weekend.

With the day coming to a close I thought my eyes were deceiving me for I swore I saw the Terminator (I mean Arnie, THE Terminator).  I walked up to him, and lo and behold I was standing next to The Enter-Terminator from Britain’s Got Talent.  This guy was amazing; he had the voice, the build, everything and I had a great interview and even better pictures to take away with me.

I once again had a great look around and spent some time at the Nintendo Gaming area.  I wasn’t allowed to take any Screen Shots or interview any one, but I spent some time playing Legend of Zelda which was great fun, until a 12-year-old girl stood beside and constantly informed me of all the mistakes I was making.  Ok, so I’m clearly not the world’s best gamer but I can speak Klingon and that certainly impressed a couple of people I chatted to!

Noticing that time was not on my side I gathered my things and prepared to leave the LFCC.  With the crowds dying down it was easy to appreciate the number of man-hours it must have taken to put this entire event together. But the event would be nothing without the attendees.

That is one thing I noticed all weekend. Even though there were thousands of people from all over the world (in the queues for the photographs I was talking to a group from Holland and another one from Germany) everyone was talking to each other about their costumes or about a particular guest. Yes we were all there to meet our particular favourites, but it was a gathering for all Nerds.

There is no doubt in my in my mind that I had the best weekend ever and I only hope this report can give you an idea of the sheer scope of what I saw and took part in.  Thank you to everyone I met, from the staff and crew at the LFCC, the wonderful guests (too many to name) and also a big thank you to my fellow Nerds whom I got to spend a weekend with. May we all meet again in an arena in a galaxy not so far away, in a time not so far in the future…

Phil Wilce
Nerd correspondent 

All Phil’s interviews and pics will be posted on our Facebook Page (www.facebook.com/followingthenerd) and our youtube channel (www.youtube.com/followingthenerd) over the coming days… stay posted…

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