So closes the Motorcity Nightmares convention of 2010, and with it came some very harsh realities, the harshest being that if I am going to do conventions, I need to choose them better. See, I have been doing cons for years because, as an indie artist and writer you have to get your work in front of people and there are very few avenues available to you to do that. Conventions give you an audience with money and with an eye for something interesting and off the beaten path…usually. What I have been finding over the past three years though is that people are a lot tighter with money. I mean, I tell them that a painting, a small one, is ten dollars and I get a long sigh and an ‘oh’. We don’t value art as much as we value say, an autograph. It is what it is. But these smaller shows, as much fun as they are, just have not done it for me. The last MCN I made some decent dough, this one was all but a bust though, and I just invest too much money in getting a table to be able to do that anymore.
So how was the last day, and the convention in general?
Today was pretty rough for me, I won’t lie to you. It was a slow day in general, Kane Hodder and Tom Savini took early exits so there were less guests, and the overall feel was that this turkey was cooked. The day got bad for me when a guy whose work I and a friend admire (he does some prop work for a friend’s television show) and who we both had had good dealings with before but today he decided it was a swell time to berate my work in front of me. He felt compelled to tell me how he ‘didn’t get it’ and that it looks like the work of grade-schoolers. He was very unimpressed. I was stunned, as was my girlfriend, and all I could think to say was – ‘well, that’s a shame because I am a grown man, and that’s my style’. He didn’t quite get that I was unamused, for some reason. It was stupid and petty but sadly, he had said the same, essentially, the day before as had another cohort of his. I am just stunned that someone would take the trouble to confront someone with the fact that they don’t enjoy the person’s work. Especially shocking was that this came from a guy that 1. I had met and spoken to and that 2. works on the weirder side of entertainment. Just dumb, all the way around. It took a lot out of me though, his comments. Thankfully I made a few sales after that – a couple books, some buttons, and a painting to a friend – but better was the pep talk my friend Mac of Wolfman Mac fame gave me. He told me about some crummy experiences he had had (even during the weekend) and to hang in there. Once again he proved why me, Mandie and our friend Justin adore him so.
The day was long, but I spoke to some fun people, and it ended an hour early for us, so that was good.
But how was the show overall?
Since the economic downturn in the country and in Michigan specifically it’s been made clear that things are not as they once were. As far as the entertainment community seems to feel, Michigan is dead. We get fewer concerts, and for sure get less pop culture events. Knowing this, I admire the hell out of the people behind Motorcity Nightmares. These are people passionate about horror and their state, and who are trying to bring something neat here that we just don’t get. Outside of these shows the last horror con I remember was in 1991. There was a big one set to come here last year and it was cancelled due to their deciding it wasn’t economically feasible. It cannot be easy to put a convention together and I admire anyone who can pull it off. Last year’s show had to be pushed back, leading many to believe there would not be another show but to their credit they pulled together a show for 2010, against the odds.
As much as I admire the work and passion to put this together though, I have definite issues with the show as a whole.
When looking at the whole of the event, it was decent, but far from great. The guests that were there were fun, approachable, and had a good time with the fans and one another. The vendors were hit and miss but most were very polite and affable. I still don’t understand the indie filmmakers that have attitudes as if they are something special, especially in an environment where they are surrounded by their peers. The show was not really overrun by fans at all but many of those I saw had a good time. The film rooms were much improved, and the added variety was great. And I admire the hell out of the celebs that stayed for the whole show. I respect people who, having signed a contract, stick out the show and make the best of it. That’s the sign of a true professional.
Some issues cannot fall on the shoulders of the promoters and that is celebs canceling or not showing. Much like the first year a major guest canceled on them and then another one, a minor horror host, never showed. What bothered me here was that there was no mention of these facts on the show’s website or their Facebook page, which is pretty crummy since there may have been fans coming specifically for those people. You have to be completely honest with this stuff or you lose the respect of the fans, and when you lose that you are cooked.
Also the pricing of autographs has become ridiculous. You cannot have a good show, and have the vendors do well as well as celebs, when the celebs are charging outrageous prices for their signature. Sure, sell your merch, but charging to simply sign something is weak. And I know that there are definite sales I never had a chance to make because people spent their money elsewhere.
What does fall to the people behind the con is the value involved. I spent more money for a table with them than with a much bigger convention, where I will have a chance to make more. I still got the table because I believe in the con and want it to succeed and wanted to be a part of that. But with high table prices, and high ticket prices to get in make it a priority to make it a convention that people need to have been at. You want to make an event that is so packed, and so fun that people will regret missing it.
- They needed more celebs. And I get that that costs money but there are regional people and cult personalities that may not be huge draws but, added to a couple big draws, would add to the appeal of the show.
- You need to have move vending. I get that you can only do what you can but if it looks like you’ll have open spaces then offer spots for discounts. Hell, I don’t mind. The more of us there are the better it looks and the more for people to see and do. That a spot was used for promo items and another for a vodka company bothers me because those should have been used for things to make the overall experience richer for the guests attending.
- Bigger movies. For this show, they needed to call out George Romero, who canceled at the last show and owes them a favor. They needed to get Survival of the Dead there as well as maybe smaller films that got good word of mouth. Maybe show a couple cult movies if you can get people involved there. They tried this, to some extent, and that is a great step in the right direction, but they need more.
- If you cannot get more celebs, get more indie and lower key films and film creators. Make it about indie horror then and play to that end.
- Ask your vendors and friends and whomever to help promote it. I swear to god I was the only one getting the word out there at one point. I am sure that isn’t the case but we all need to get the word out. Hell, I know for a fact that con made $125 just off of people I had let know about the show.
- More to do for the guests. Much like too many of these small shows, the fans run out of stuff to do very, very quickly and, unless they want to spend the day watching movies (which is not bad at all, and is good that there was more variety in the film rooms this year, so that’s cool, but cannot be all that is offered), you have no reason to stay for long. The hope, and the push is to get people into the movies but if that’s the case, have a couple bigger flicks.
- More perks for vendors. As a vendor, I invested in this convention, and as such, I deserve more than the ability to enter the party for free because me, I don’t want the party. I want a shirt, darn it! Shirts, food, giveaways, just something else to say thank-you for investing in the show.
- Professionalism from vendors and celebs. As nice as both were, it gets old to see vendors leave a show well before it’s over, deciding it isn’t worth their time or effort any longer, and seeing the celebs bail early. Yes, it’s lame to sit around bored but if that’s the case, well, wander and talk to people. God forbid the celebs actually mingle and talk to people who may be fans of theirs.
- Ask for help. There were moments where this felt too much like some people throwing themselves a celebrity party. That needs to change. And the way to change that is to get input, ask for suggestions, and to keep working at it.
- Help promote your vendors and guests. I have gotten SO many site hits from just having a head shot and an art image beside my hot linked name on the Motorcity Comic Con site it’s ridiculous. That alone has gotten me potential sales. Or at least potential fans.
Overall, it was a decent time and the major negatives are not the fault of the promoters. I don’t doubt their passion, nor their drive, and applaud their doing these shows. Having said that though, they need to step their game up, a lot. This is a fun ‘little’ show but they either need to broaden the show or shrink the prices. And get some sponsors. This is a professionally run show, a respectful show, and at times a really fun show, but it could be a great show, with some work. A lot of work. I hope it happens, I just dunno that I will be there for it.
One last note, there was a local horror host that has a ‘horror variety’ show at the con and he and his cohorts ran their jokes and behavior into the ground. They, if anything did, turned me and others off to the show. It was good that they were so ‘interactive’ but I take great umbrage with their posting ‘notices’ on walls telling us that by being at the con we could be videotaped or filmed etcetera and had no recourse. That isn’t legal, isn’t ethical, and isn’t fair to vendors, celebs, or guests. If I have to sign a waiver to be part of a movie which filmed there then I should have to do the same for them. If I don’t want to be part of their skits then that’s my right, especially if I paid money to be there. The people were loud, rude, and more often than not made nuisances of themselves. Here’s my hope they are not there at future shows.