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Behind Comic Con Curtains

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When Adam York contacted me about this documentary I was intrigued. I love documentaries and like to know how things work. The brainchild of Dave Harlequin and Jonathan E. Weaver they intend to not only show what the experience will look like for an attendee going through the doors for the first time but also what is happening in the background between the vendors, panelists, and players of these multi-media events as they prepare for the show.

Adam York is the Executive Producer of this film. As usual he will be wearing a lot of hats during the production.  Jonathan E. Weaver is a writer for MoviePilot.com, host of the podcast JonCast and will be directing the documentary.  Dave Harlequin is a fiction writer and journalist who is also a producer and the Assistant Director.

Comic Cons are for fans of all things from comic books to movies and TV series. These conventions consist of vendors, games, discussion panels, film contest, music, parties, and more...

To get an idea of what draws people to these events I turned to a friend of mine, Glen Hinceman. He is a part-time employee of Dave's Comics and has attended these events for years. Buying and selling comic books and memorabilia. He emphasized how great it is to be able to meet the creators of the work that you are interested in.

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 "A comic convention will give a comic reader the opportunity to actually meet and interact with the people who bring life to those comic characters they enjoy. This is a basic tenant of the comic fan experience. To meet the writers and/or artists that create the characters and stories and to thank them for their work." - Glenn Hinceman





Another friend that I thought of is Brandi Alyssa Young. She is an actress and enjoys the cosplay aspect of the conventions. Here you can see her in a couple of her costumes.

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"What I like about cons is that they give me an excuse to geek out to the extreme.  There are so many cosplayers and so many people that love the same 'weird' things I do and that others do.  Everyone is so nice, even if you're not in the same fandom and cons are just a wonderful and fun environment to be in.  And they can throw some awesome parties too, in case the con itself wasn't enough." - Brandi Alyssa Young





Filming starts this weekend at ConCarolinas in Concord, North Carolina. I talked with Dave, Jonathan, and Adam about the project.


Which Comic Con does this involve?

Dave  Specifically, we will be filming at ConCarolinas 2016 in Concord, North Carolina, a suburb of Charlotte, although this is really about all conventions and convention culture in general.

Jonathan  This Comic Con is a annual convention held in Concord, North Carolina. It's called ConCarolinas and truly encapsulates the normal convention. While the next week there is one of the largest "trade" shows for comics, this convention focuses on fandoms and diversity. Just like the San Diego Comic Con has blossomed out of the trade show into a media market, so have the small cons. Where in the past the focus was on comics, now it's truly in the hands of the creators. Part of Our mission is to show that to the world. Show them what comic cons have become and how people are now actually making a living off it.


Are you doing some backstory footage now?

Dave  Not yet, right now we're finishing up pre-production. We will begin filming on June 5th, with two or three cameras. One shooting specifically interviews in a suite that we've aquired, and the others getting roaming footage of the hotel, vendor hall, artist alley, and room parties at the con proper.

Jonathan  We haven't started filming mainly because our Director of Photography just became a father. We are actually planning on getting the backstory footage after the con on a few of the "newbies" who we will be following through the convention.

Adam  We do have plans to get some city shots of Concord to get a feel for the area where the Con takes place.


Is this a situation where you don't know what you're going to get until it happens?

Adam  It's going to be a participatory documentary based on the reactions of those involved, so short answer, yes.

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Dave  To expand on Adam's point a bit here... In some ways, yes. In others, no. We definitely have a vision and an overall feel that we'd like to capture here, and we've specifically sought out specific interviews from a very diverse list of individuals to ensure the many different sides of con culture are represented, but at the same time we definitely want to keep everything as natural and organic as possible.



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Jonathan  In a way, yes. I have an overarching plan but this is a documentary. I can only plan so much before life takes over. Our main chunk of the film will be mostly interviews but what the con gives us is what we get. We have two camera crews that will be working on the interviews and one working on B-Roll and more of the random footage and also the footage of vendors and our talent going to their events. We have the structure but we can only work with what the con gives us.





How far ahead of the start of the convention will the film begin? Will you be filming any of the participants as they prepare days or weeks before the convention?

Dave  I think we're just going to start with the convention, rather than the weeks leading up to it. We're looking to take viewers directly into the con as it's happening, and take a more in-depth look as it's going on.

Jonathan  This documentary is more of a focus on what's happening at the con. The beginning of the film will start on Day 1 of the convention. We don't want to really focus on that prep as much as we want to throw the audience right into the action from Day 1. The doc will open up to some of our cast arriving at the con, picking up press badges and ultimately getting thrown into the lion's den. 


That is going to be one busy shoot for you. Are you sure 2 or 3 cameras is enough?

Dave  I am. I'm very confident in the crew we've assembled for this. Everyone involved is very talented, and everyone knows what they're doing and understands the vision.

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Adam It is definitely going to be a busy shoot. We're working with the ConCarolinas organizers and scheduling to make sure we get everything covered. Johnathan's vision is to encapsulate the Con itself as a whole, to find out more about the people who make it happen as they do it. The idea is to let the viewer enter as if they are approaching a con for the first time, but with a lot of backstage access.




Jonathan  It's going to be one busy weekend for sure. The plan is to keep our set for interviews ready at all times in our room while our B-team will be rolling around the con capturing B-Roll and whatever the con throws at them. Dave and I will be switching throughout the day making sure both teams are getting what we need. It's going to be tough at times but we have an amazing crew who is up to the challenge.


Who will be editing? They will have a pile of footage to go through I expect.

Dave  (laughs) Oh, most definitely! I'd say the editor is probably the most important role on any film crew. As the saying goes, a film is often only as good as its editor. As for who ours will be, we are currently in negotiations for that job, but we personally know at least three different ones that would all fit really well. Really it's just a matter of who's schedule best matches up with ours.

Adam  More than likely we will have multiple editors working on this project, with Johnathan overseeing the final cuts. The editing crew on RingFinger ( another project I'm involved in)  is producing some really impressive results, so that's a possible direction to go in. Also our Director of Photography John Ross McLaughlin will have a major say in the editing process.

Jonathan  This is still in the deciding phase. We have a few options right now but we are kind of waiting to see who will have the time and who ultimately will be the best editor for the production. At this moment I am in talks with our Director of Photography to maybe take over the reigns. Regardless we will have the right person for the job in a few weeks.

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For our readers that are unfamiliar with Comic Con tell us what goes on there.

Adam  Quick overview,....A typical  Comic Con consists of panels, a costume contest, a film contest, vendors, celebrities and a very large number of cosplayers.

Dave  Well, that's actually part of what we'll be explaining in the film. Typically conventions are multi-day events - some weekend-long, others even longer than that - that feature vendors selling all sorts of fandom-related products, everything from comics and toys to DVDs VHS tapes to posters, video games, and various other collectibles. There are also discussion panels on all sorts of different topics, Q&A sessions, workshops on all sorts of creative endeavors, tabletop gaming, costume contests (and cosplay is where people dress up as their favorite characters in costumes they typically make themselves), and of course lots of parties. 

Many cons have celebrity guest appearances/autograph signings,   many have film festivals, many have special events unique to their particular con. You get the idea, I'm sure.

Jonathan  Comic Conventions are not just for comics anymore. What was once a trade show has evolved into a community of geeks, nerds and now even regular people are coming to conventions. Comic cons have been safe havens for the outcasts for decades but now it's cool to be geek. What was once a fortress of solitude now has become a big money maker for all types of media. And now with the access to technology and media now people can create some awesome stuff. Cosplay has become a huge industry as well as making fan films, fan creations and whatever people are creating these days. Filled with awesome costumes, awesome people and sometimes awesome celebrities from favorite shows and movies. Its truly become the mecca for all things geek and now there is pretty much a convention in every major city and even some small ones. For creators, this becomes a network to showcase their creations and for patrons it becomes a great get together to meet fellow nerds. 

This really depends on each different convention. This con has a variety of different panels from all aspect of the industry. Wanna learn how to make epic costumes? Wanna learn how to survive a zombie apocalypse? Wanna meet you favorite character actor from the awesome sci fi show? There are so many different options at conventions. Most cons have a film festival attached to it as well which brings a lot of awesome independent creators out to showcase their work. Sometimes you also get comedians, podcasters and generally anything that fits under the umbrella of geek or nerd.


What is cosplay?

Adam  Cosplay is something we're going to go in depth with because I really enjoy hearing how people develop their costumes and ideas. 

Cosplay is short for Costume Play. At the early San Diego comic cons [in the] 70's people would come to the conventions dressed as their favorite Super heroes or Super Villains. [It] took a long time to catch on, but Cosplay [is] dressing up like a hero or villain from comics, T.V. Or movies. Cosplay Is easily one of the more awesome things about Comic Cons.
 
Modern Cosplayers each try to out do each other in terms of their costumes accuracy to the source material, the costumes obscurity, or originality and functionality. Cosplay is almost a blank canvas, so you can become anyone from a Jedi to Wonder Woman, to Shadow from the book American Gods. The only limit on Cosplay is the imagination of the creator. 

One of the better Con stories I heard was from a friend who sat down at the bar during a Con, and saw two storm troopers to his right, Dream from Sandman to his left, and a Cardboard Robo-cop sitting behind him. That's when he knew he was in a place he belonged. And that's a large part of the magic of Cons, being surrounded by a world of fantasy. Cosplay is the element that really helps create that.

Jonathan  Costumes have always been a stape of comic conventions dating all the way back to the original San Diego Comic Con and the classic Star Trek Cons. Now though it has become an industry to the point where beautiful models are turning to cosplay as a way to break into the industry. For some it's about the love of the fandom, for some it's about the adoration the receive for wearing it and some just want an excuse to dress up. 


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What are your backgrounds in filmmaking?

Dave  My background in filmmaking isn't exactly a conventional one. I started in professional journalism back in 2009, and got to know a large majority of the regional filmmakers in the Carolinas through that, as well as several film festivals and conventions I was working with at the time. That, combined with my own writing in fiction eventually led me to working with a lot of different people in film. 
 
I'd appeared, usually as myself or a background extra, in a few other films and TV shows before, but it wasn't until 2014 that I really got started. I served as a consulting producer on the pilot of "The Nephilim Chronicles" - a sci-fi series starring Santiago Cirilo of "The Walking Dead" and scipt consultant/story editor on horror short "Between Hell and a Hard Place" directed by my good friend Jaysen Buterin. Both films did really well on the film festival circuit, taking home several awards and such, and the crews involved really enjoyed working with me. From there, I started getting offers from all over, and lots of different people wanting to work with me based on the recommendations of others involved with those two productions. That led to more recommendations from even more people, which led to even more. So I guess you could say I just knew a lot of people, sort of fell into this, and just so happened to be pretty good at it, so I've stayed.

Jonathan  I am film school dropout who is working his way into the film industry. Prior to this, I have been in a few films and tv shows and also a writer for Moviepilot.com. I really come out of the podcasting field as I have been running a show called Joncast for about two years now. Also I have a little side project called Our Charlotte Podcast which is still in its infancy.  Film has always been my passion but I have been waiting for the right project to come along. Now, I make my directorial debut with this documentary and hope to continue to make films. This whole project started as a little side video for Joncast but has taken legs of its own. I never expected to get the support for this project but everything has built up to this. We have producers all over the world who have donated their money to make this production happen. And it is because of the faith from everyone who has supported us that this is even happening. This is my "Just do it" moment and I hope to fully utilize it to its full potential.





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