Last weekend was the most fun and memorable working experience I had in my entire life! I signed up as a volunteer for Oz Comic-con in early September and got to immerse myself in the event, gaining valuable work experience along the way. It was my first big ‘con and I was very lucky to have been able to do what I did!
I was on duty for both days of the comic-con, which was held in the Sydney Exhibition Center on Glebe Island. For those who don’t know, Oz Comic Con has been around since 2011 and while it may not be as big as Supanova or SDCC, they do get a few celebrity-status guests a year. This year’s big shots were Supernatural’s Jim Beaver and Mark Sheppard (who I never got to see the whole time I was there!) Evanna Lynch and Robbie Jarvis of the Harry Potter franchise, Jed Brophy and Stephen Hunter from LOTR and The Hobbit and Richard Dean Anderson of Stargate/McGyver. Also present were several popular TV stars, a visual effects team from Animal Logic, a number of comic book writers and artists and voice actors as well (including fellow Pinoy and prince of the fire nation, Dante Basco.) It was a pretty fabulous opportunity for me to be a volunteer at the event since I would get free access, a complimentary autograph (more on that later) and a chance to meet other fans and be introduced to other fandoms.
So, prior to the weekend we volunteers (or ‘vollies’) had been emailed manuals on how the event would be run, information on travel and shuttle buses and what areas we would be assigned to. I got placed as a stage assistant for Stage 2. My job was mic running (finding people in the audience who wanted to ask questions during a panel and screening these questions beforehand) ushering and guarding the entrances and exits. But in between working, I was able to walk around, get some photos with cosplayers and pop into a panel or two.
For the benefit of my buddies back home and for anyone who’s interested in volunteering for OZCC next year, this post and the next will be dedicated to a full rundown of my work experience on the panels, covering what I did, what I saw and what made Oz Comic-con fabulously great!
Saturday, September 26:
6:12 AM- Arrived at Central Station in Sydney, where free shuttle buses would go to and from Glebe Island throughout the day. ReedPop, the organization who handles OZCC, tries to take good care of its guests, attendees and volunteer staff, making sure everything is convenient and comfortable!
7:08 AM- At the Sydney Exhibition Center, I signed in and got my green volunteer shirt :) There were a ton of us teenagers and young adults in the same bright green shirt, all of us in the same place was like that scene in LOTR when Aragorn gets the ghost army.
8:00 AM- I met Beck, the Stage 2 emcee and team leader, and the other Stage 2 volunteers. At our station we were given a throrough briefing on how to conduct Q & A’s. From 8-9:30 am I was able to walk around the different stalls, getting my first look at the various exhibitions and shops before anyone else did.
…and as I was walking, I thought I heard a familiar grinding, wheezing sound. The sound of hope! I turned a corner and…
There were also a ton of cool stuff on sale (which I wanted but could not have)
10 AM- Let the panels begin! My first job was mic running (a job I ended up doing more than anything else, because I was tiny enough to pass between rows of attendees unobtrusively) for the Dragonball Z Panel with Mike McFarland and Todd Haberkorn.
These two guys were funny, talented and passionate about their job, able to put on their anime character voices at the drop of a hat to the delight of the audience!
11 AM- By now I had been assigned to usher in the line for the next panel, which meant I had to stand by the entrance and stay there for the duration of the panel. This next one was Voice Acting 101 with Olivia Hack, Dante Basco and Rikki Simons. I’m a big fan of Avatar: The Last Airbender, so when I found out that Stage 2 was getting Olivia and Dante (who play Ty Lee and Zuko on the show, respectively) I got even more excited for the comic-con weekend. However, today I didn’t get to watch all of the panel as I was busy showing people inside.
Some people just linger in the doorway wondering what’s going on. Some are content to stand at the entrance for a few minutes before leaving, which is really bothersome for the people lining up. I also had the job of reminding attendees to stop taking photos after the first five minutes of the panel, as per the OZCC protocol. Quite a few attendees get kind of snarky if you tell them this, but others are polite and apologetic.Nevertheless, I was thrilled to be able to observe the panel from afar. Olivia Hack had injured her ankle and was on crutches during the con, but that didn’t dampen her friendly and bubbly attitude. Dante Basco sounds exactly like his characters, and when he said ‘dragon up!’ (his catchphrase from the cartoon American Dragon) I almost lost my mind. He talked about his experiences with Mark Hamill on the show as well, and about how art truly sometimes imitates life. Plus, fellow ATLA fans will be thrilled to know that ‘The Beach’ was Olivia Hack’s favorite episode of the series :) There were a lot of people and a lot of questions, owing to the popularity of Avatar, American Dragon and Invader Zim, which Rikki Simons was a part of.
12 PM- Shortly after the Voice Acting 101 panel ended, a man in a Sonic the Hedgehog outfit approached me asking where he could wait. I asked him to wait in line until the panel started, then he told me he was a guest on the panel! Surprised, I brought him around to the back entrance where he could wait with Beck.
By the time the panel started I was beginning to feel a little dizzy and restless, and was beginning to think maaaaaaybe I should have something to eat. The information we’d been emailed prior to the panel had allowed for one hour break for lunch per dey of the comic con, a rule which was softly bent as time went on. 12 pm on Stage 2 was the team of Good Game, a popular show of gamers who review different video games (including the guy in the Sonic suit.) The audience for this was overwhelming, mostly families with young children, and the team was friendly and fun in answering their questions.
1 PM- The next panel was for Bryan Krause of Charmed fame, and seeing as I was not needed for this panel I asked Beck if I could go take lunch. For vollies, lunch is a free sandwich and one drink. Thank God for free sandwiches! I felt a lot better after that and decided to walk around the venue, taking pictures and looking at all the cool merch I couldn’t have.
2 PM- The International Creatives panel brought together four different comic book illustrators and artists from different comic book companies. For this panel, I was tasked to count audience attendance. I have to say this was a pretty boring, slow panel, for all I love comic books and comic book art. This panel had the least questions and the least attendees, but I was still able to learn a thing or two about what it’s like to work in the industry.
3 PM- Again I was mic running for this panel. The guest this time was Rachel Nichols, a science fiction actress most known for her role on the show Continuum. However, I also realized she’d been in G.I. Joe as Scarlett and Star Trek as James Kirk’s green-skinned one-night-stand. She was friendly and witty, and I enjoyed her panel as well. Rachel talked about how art can bleed into life, and how the many different characters she’s played always seem to stay with an have an impact on her.
4 PM- Now this was one I absolutely couldn’t miss! Jed Brophy and Stephen Hunter of The Hobbit and LOTR had a panel with wide attendance and a lot of positive reactions. I was mic running for this as well, and really enjoyed listening to them answer attendees’ questions. Like many of the panelists, Jed and Stephen are very invested in their work and characters. Jed is a tall, lean beanpole of energy for a guy his age and Stephen was wearing a ridiculous bee outfit– i loved it. We all got treated to a brief History of the Origin of Dwarves in the Tolkeinverse in their own words:
Jed: The dwarves came first, but we were so beautiful the world couldn’t handle us.
Stephen: Yeah, so then they put us to sleep.
Jed: They put us to sleep until the world could handle the beauty of the dwarves.
Stephen: So we were kind of like heavy metal. Nobody was prepared for heavy metal, but there it was.
As a mic runner for this panel, I facilitated a number of interesting questions which got interesting answers in return. Jed and Stephen reminisced about singing the Misty Mountain song, talked about the perks and pitfalls of working with green screen, and brought up fond memories of working with the late Sir Christopher Lee. They even poked fun at gorgeous Dwarf actors Dean o Gorman and Aiden Turner. Jed even did a hilarious impression of a Kili smolder! They talked about how Martin Freeman used incredibly colorful language to help get Richard Armitage in an angry mood for a scene. I found out that Stephen is in fact from Randwick, NSW. Last but not least, an audience member asked how they felt about the love story added into the Hobbit film, to which Jed and Stephen replied that while such a change felt important, they had their own reservations about it as well. As a fan who wasn’t too keen on that little cinematic alteration, this was actually kind of satisfying to hear.
Despite being on duty, I was having so much fun that I almost didn’t want the panel to end. The two actors left the stage to thunderous applause. Up next on Stage 2 were Rob Maschio and Sam Lloyd from Scrubs, but as we were clearing the area in between panels a senior volunteers asked if I wanted a break. And did I ever! Because on stage 1 was a panel I really wanted to see…
5 PM- I instantly made my way to Stage 1 to catch the first 25 minutes of Evanna Lynch (Luna Lovegood) and Robbie Jarvis (Young!James Potter) from Harry Potter! Myself and other volunteers had the entire back row to ourselves, where we could stand behind the seated crowd (yeah, such VIP, very wow.) The turnout for this panel was enormous, but the questions were moving rather slowly, which allowed time for both actors to give detailed answers.
It’s always amazing when actors in real life are just the same as the people they are on Twitter, and Evanna Lynch proved that. Even years after the Harry Potter success, she still wants to be a cat. All of us in the audience got to know them a little better– Evanna mentioned that JK Rowling drew inspiration from her love of arts and crafts when writing Luna’s room into the second book, and Robbie even mentioned writing Harry Potter fan fiction in his younger years, a revelation that was met with incredibly positive reactions from the fans (positive meaning screaming and cheering and gasping.) Both actors truly believed in the importance of their characters in the series, proving their understanding of Luna Lovegood and James Potter to be unique and layered. Robbie even talked about wanting to do a Marauders movie (about James Potter and his squad during their teen years) to bring audiences closer to the character and what makes him the man he grows up to be. This is one of the profound things I took away from their panel, no matter how short a time I stayed. And after leaving early to check back in with my assigned area, I realized I’d always be grateful that Evanna got the part of Luna Lovegood in the films. She totally gets the character, and I loved it.
6 PM- Returning to my assigned area I found out that I was not needed after all. Beck had the panel wrap up early as there was somewhere she needed to be. After checking Out with her and doing a short clean up of the strange and seats, I was free to collect my bag and go!
The facilitators had arranged for more free shuttle buses to drop off attendees and follies at the train station. I climbed into a bus surrounded by happy, euphoric teens in cosplay, all talking about their great experience. I was pleased that everybody had a good time and was all ready to take some shut eye on a relatively relaxing drive home.
And then one girl received a text message saying that Central Station was on fire.
STAY TUNED FOR PART TWO OF MY COMIC-CON EXPERIENCE!