A Look Behind the Con

Filling the time until we get the winners of the Olivier Awards, I thought I’d rescue a couple of comments on the whole “Con Business” from the obscurity of the comment section. They were made by Comic Business Expert Extraordinaire Mimi Cruz aka my Shrine Fairy. Mimi has been working behind the scenes of the mother of all cons, San Diego ComicCon, and others for many years and has a true insider’s view of how the cons work for attending celebrities. This is what she had to say in the comments on last week’s post that cited from a German newspaper article about HobbitCon 2015. con-artist

Let’s look behind the curtain…I’m not sure if this aspect of the celeb con has been discussed; conventions pay the celebs a fee to attend. The bigger the celeb, the bigger the fee or sometimes it’s just travel, hotel and food. (Which in itself is a hefty price as well.) Their participation is used to promote the con and sell tickets. The fees in question are varied, while other celebs attend for PR obligations when they agreed to work on a film. Some use the convention circuit to sell their head-shots and photo-ops and they make their living that way if they don’t have other work. One year Angelina Jolie was promoting Tomb Raider and last-minute, day before, asked to propel from a helicopter onto the roof of the convention center. She wanted to do it, but it was deemed too risky by con management/insurance. I don’t believe she would have been paid to do that particular entrance, but it would have been way cool if she could have. Another year, director, Robert Rodriguez set up (with permission) a Taco Truck in front of the convention center to promote his film, Machete, and the actors in the film made and served up tacos to the con attendees for free. It was a great publicity stunt and the actors had in all likelihood agreed to do publicity long before they knew they would be working in a hot taco truck in the middle of July. I have scheduled some celebs for comic store appearances or library lectures with the stipulation that if they have the opportunity to work in a film/tv show, they will have to cancel. But in those situations, we were not paying an appearance fee. I think it isn’t about any of them not wanting to do a con, but what ‘work’ is involved. If they have a film they are working on or if they do not. They know they have to get out there to publicise themselves and that is how they get more work. If they are not working on a film, attending a con can generate immense publicity. I am not talking about just being seen by 6000 people sitting in Hall H asking you questions from a floor microphone, but the press room set-ups where the celeb in question sits and is interviewed by dozens of reporters one right after the other for hours. I have set up interviews like that in SLC and it is so much easier than taking the person in question from place to place for interviews. Although some insist on wanting them in studio, just depends. But the person in question is usually exhausted after a few hours because it can be intense. To those wimps, I usually tell them to toughen up and keep going. Just kidding…or am I 😀 As a frequent comic con worker, it is hard-ass work, Kathy Jones got a taste of that last year. I know lots of people who attend these crazy events for fun and never go back. Celebs can (not the ones that usually attend to get their comic stuff and just wander around like the rest of us unwashed to buy what they want from the various booths) have it easy if they want to not fight crowds too; they can be met escorted with or without security, driven on golf cart type vehicles from place to place. Phone or text me endlessly for drinks and food while I’m trying to work. Yeah, it can be a lot of stress for them. At this point in my life, if it wasn’t work related, I wouldn’t do it anymore because the price of fun (like a few hours with people I enjoy) is more and more costly. Especially when some celebs crap all over you or dogpile on you at the podium in front of a large audience trying to get their movie clip shown. I didn’t want to work in this industry to work with celebs… [To get back to why Armitage did not attend HobbitCon:] Erm…maybe Mr A was just busy, that is my guess 😀

Thanks for that, Mimi. I take from your insights that appearances at cons is hard work for actors, and I suspect it is very much dependent on the personality of the individual actor if and how much they enjoy participating fully at such an event. I have enjoyed watching the antics of McTavish, Hunter, Brophy and Co – and I hope they’ll continue entertaining their fans for a while in that same vein.

32 thoughts on “A Look Behind the Con

  1. Thanks for posting this. It’s a little vague on the celebrity contractual relationship when the celeb is there promoting a specific film, i.e. did Warner Brothers pay Lee Pace to attend for The Hobbit, or did ComicCon? I always thought producers had to pay to get to ComicCon.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you.

    I’ve not WORKED a con (although a former Track Director at Dragoncon begged me to for several years) but I’ve done writers panels and for two years, I was a support post, as quite a few of The Team were good friends of mine and I was already there in the chat room during the planning. It’s a bugger and yes, some celebrities are paid and some are simply given room and board and a food budget and hope you make a lot of money selling your autograph on an 8 X 10. I’ve met some pretty awesome celebs that way.

    Liked by 2 people

      • I adore Dragoncon. Really. And it takes place in my backyard, but the last several years, I’ve not been able to go due to lack of funds and it gets more and more expensive every year. A few years back, they were giving away Eternal Membership for a couple of hundred bucks. Now it’s over 1000.00 for one and the weekend pass is over 100.00. 😦


    • This sounds a lot more like what I’ve been told about cons — we had a discussion about this at mine a few years ago an someone commented who exhibits at a lot of the smaller cons. She said it was a tossup as to whether or not celebs even broke even selling photos / signatures. My impression from the Tweets of the Hobbit dwarf actors is that they are basically going if their costs are covered by the con.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Actors have to be really careful anymore. One of the British Cons went belly up in the middle of their last con some years ago and didn’t pay the actors at all. It was reported that Lawrence Makore had to borrow cab fare to get to the airport at the end of the con.

        And then the Fellowship of the Festival – which took place in Toronto – pretty much attempted to screw everyone. (I was supposed to work that one, but got a job that I was going to have to do a major move) Ed (the – I don’t know what to call him, the head honcho or whatever) had thrown one (supposedly a fund raiser for an Adult Literacy charity) several years before and didn’t have enough money to pay the hotel it was at and they were in the process of suing him, so he threw a second one to pay them. I was part of a group that was doing fund raisers to pay for the NZ actors to come and then afterwards, he took the money and ran. Only the hotel was paid (and got them off his tail) The group I was with ended up continuing fund raisers to a) pay the celebrities their appearance fee and b) pay the artists and musicians the money they lost selling their merchandise. (It was a ticket thing and basically Ed was supposed to take his 10% fee and write them a check for the balance and he gave them bad checks he never made good on) That took our group 3 years, but we did it. It really soured me on doing anything behind the scenes of a con.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Loved the graphic. Looks like you have a lot of Andy Warhol inside you, struggling to get out. Mimi is definitely the “go to” person regarding the pros and cons of cons. What she doesn’t know about them probably isn’t worth knowing. I am proud to be one of her minions having worked my way up from slave, indentured servant to ” gopher”. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d say it’s much as interesting to follow Mimi as it is to experience a con… Still working on that one. Would love to make a photo essay out of it – behind the scenes at a con.


      • That would be so great. Sooner or later, you must come. I have some photos of Star Wars storm troopers chillin in Starbucks, helmets at their sides. The candids are the most fun because seeing zombies eating hot dogs or weird squid heads enjoying martinis is incongruous and funny. You would love it. Or The Adams family going through the buffet line on the heels of the Penguin and Batman.

        Liked by 3 people

        • ooooh, I love those images/scenes you are describing, Kathy. The funny thing is – when I graduated from college a few years ago, one of my fellow graduates did a project on cosplay. And I had absolutely no clue what that was all about and basically waved it off as stupid crap. How wrong I was. A year later I knew what it was – and how much fun it is. Not from own experience – I am far too dry for dressing up myself – but I really appreciate the effort, creativity and dedication that people put into it. I think it’s marvellous, really, and I would love to look at it in depth.


          • You will, someday. I am not a dress up person either, but love the people who put it out there with pride, enthusiasm and joy. Kind of like our fandom.

            Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, I cannot say I know everything about comic conventions. My philosophy is this, “You don’t know what you don’t know.” It is important to always be open to learning new things. Some of what I do is similar to other conventions, or scheduling a lecture or symposium at libraries or universities. I am sorry to hear about the person that absconded with everyone’s money. Hope they were caught and prosecuted. It only ever takes one bad person to ruin things for everyone else. (grrr)

      Liked by 1 person

    • What is so silly about that Kathy is that you are such a treasure! Two of my girlfriends could not make it last year and you saved my sorry butt, not to mention helped me with an uncomfortable situation. Your wisdom and willingness to listen to the situation I found myself in (not of my own doing) helped me extricate myself from future and unnecessary drama. Not to mention we have lots of fun. It is almost criminal to enjoy oneself as much as we do. Thank you for helping me at WonderCon this year too. You made me look good in front of Kevin J. Anderson and got published for your efforts. Lots of people in my neck of the industry have noticed too and while I get the credit for your interaction with Mr. Anderson, I know the opportunity would never have occurred if you were not so freakin’ awesome! Friends that can effortlessly who make you look good in your profession without breaking a sweat? Priceless! We just need to get Guylty in on the action.


  4. Thanks for this to both, sounds very familiar… and reminds me of the couple of weeks as broadcast assistant at a major festival which involved near 24h live radio, live events and all the backstage work and dealing with the public face to face during the period. No weekends,12-14h days and running round like a mad rabbit! I still feel sweat beading on my back at the 3-2-1 and we are live 😉 Stuff you always think is made up and just stories happens to you 😉 But i also have some amazing memories of people, both artists and public. I don’t think i could do it as a permanent job but i wouldn’t mind doing another stint of this sometimes, good to get in touch with the public and it is very satisfying to be able to do things for people on the hoof and make them happy 🙂 As for the artists some got paid and some didn’t for their publicity work and interaction with the public, some loved it regardless and others really struggled. There is no rule that apply to all i think 🙂
    The best part were certainly the people enjoying the experience a lot and i suspect this is very much how Cons work too, i’ll know more after the London film Con in July 🙂 And i wish i was a fly on the wall at the Sherlocked con 😉 Just not a big enough fan to fork out the money for it but looking at the schededule i think fans will be deliriously happy with it;-)))

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thanks for your insight Mimi Cruz. The American cons sound really like big (and a bit crazy but fun) events.
    The conventions in Bonn/Germany (Ring- and HobbitCon) are way, way, way smaller (no big exhibition centre, only a hotel), with a sort of familiar, cosy atmosphere and without that much press around.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Hi Perry, I am being vague because everyone is different. Some are contractual obligations, others are mutually beneficial, in theory anyway. The situations are not always going to be the same, as much as I would like them to be and to have everyone get alone, behave politely and all that, it hardly ever goes that smoothly. As for payments and fees, they are not always transparent, meaning what it costs to bring someone to a convention or lecture. Without boring everyone to tears, I hope that clarifies it a bit. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Herba, CCI in San Diego started out small (or a lot smaller than where it is now) and frankly, I do not think it is a better convention for being as big as it is. One of my favorite conventions is in Seattle, my home town. Emerald City Comic Con was really small, at first, couple thousand people I think. It feels like home when I am there even though I don’t live there anymore. Guess you can go home, but you can’t stay. Whenever anyone asks which convention they should go to first, I recommend a smaller convention. A.P.E., Emerald City, although they are growing pretty fast or another small convention somewhere else. I enjoy them because I enjoy the creative process of how comics are made, the art and the literary value I’ve always found in them. Like any other entertainment choice, anything you are interested in can be found in comics.

    Oh and I am a bore when it comes to dressing up. Or “cosplay” because I really need to either improve my one cosplay outfit or find something else to dress up as. It is a nun outfit and oddly enough, (much to my hubs chagrin) I am very comfortable in it. 😀

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