Keep Believing – In defense of small conventions

Keep Believing

Sometimes we need to fight. Not out of anger, or against some grand enemy but for what we are passionate about. We need to fight because sometimes we’re the only one that will and because if it’s our passion and our dream it’s worth fighting for.

Too often we hit road blocks, drop our heads, and wander off to something else. That’s fine…but there has to come a day when you are willing to fight for something you are passionate about or you’ll be left with nothing but regrets.

That’s a hell of a way to live.

It’s an empty way to live.

One of the things I am willing to fight for are small shows. As you know, I guess, I created and was part of the Flint Horror Con, a one day show here in Flint that brought horror and fun to folks for a low price. We created the show knowing that we were doing something most folks don’t do – a convention – in a place they don’t do them, and as a one day show and not a weekend. The odds were against us but we did it. We lived our dream. It didn’t last forever but nothing does and we ended things on our terms. Not many can do that. One of the things I loved about our show was that we knew what we were and were OK with it. We weren’t a mega show and we didn’t try to be. We grew when it made sense but stayed true to what we were – an intimate show about the fans and put on by fans.

Our show folded but there is still a place for shows like that.

There is still a place for small shows.

I believe this.

I believe it but not many do.

We are in the era of the super-con and that means that the smaller shows are losing interest, funding, and hope.

But hope isn’t lost.

Hope is never lost.

I get the interest in super cons because as a vendor and fan I like them too. From a vending standpoint you see big cons as a chance to potentially sell to a LOT of fans. Makes sense. As a fan you see all the guests, the dozens of guests in most cases, and think it’s a perfect chance to load up on autographs, pictures, and casual celeb encounters.

Alas, life is not as we usually think it will be.

Mega conventions bring in a lot of people but they also cost a lot to get in, to park, to stay near, and the celebrities and the photo ops eat up most of the spending cash people have leaving vendors to fight over the few people who still have money left over. It would seem as if the mega con would be one of those Oh My God sort of shows that you attend once a year but there are so many big shows now that they are starting to feed on one another. This one has THAT guy, that one has THIS guy, this one has THAT exclusive, that one has THIS exclusive and each show is billed as a can’t miss event. Which is what you’re supposed to do if you run those shows. Except, with so many huge shows, and all of them with huge guests you get two things – a plethora of lower rung guests who end up not drawing attention and vendors who don’t make their table fees back. The economics of the large shows has created a killing field where shows are dying left and right because they can’t compete. This is a war that is only going to harm fandom.

But fans are partially to blame.

And so are vendors.

Naturally I am both.

I LOVE big shows but the fact is that I don’t really go but to one or two celebs, and maybe one or two vendors. I just don’t have the money to do more than that. So it ends up being huge costs for everyone when I don’t even take advantage of it all. At the big FLASHBACK show in Chicago I ‘met’ Robert Englund and my wife and I got our pic taken with him in makeup and I did the whole package so that was great. After that I met Robert Kerman from CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST and talked with him for a bit, and I met and we got our picture with Lance Henriksen and got an autograph but that was it. There were about, well, twenty guests I didn’t even say hello to. Which is not to say they didn’t do anything, as I am sure fans turned out to some degree for everyone, but the fact is that these shows are so big and so expensive that many of the guests end up as little more than filler. The bigger problem is that the shows are so pricey to attend and the guests so expensive that fans can’t keep up and vendors don’t have people with money to spend on their stuff. When everyone is a mega show the whole eco-system suffers. Every other week is another ‘CANNOT MISS’ show and eventually fans will have seen all the big names and won’t care enough about the smaller names and then even the big shows will start to falter.

This dragon will eat its own tail.

There are ways to make the big shows work but the way they are growing, and with as many as there are it just doesn’t feel like this is something that can sustain itself.

Think small.

There is a charm to a small show that is desperately absent in the large shows. An opportunity to chat with fans, to meet and speak, even for a moment, the guests, and opportunities to not feel rushed from here to there to get this or that. I have vended at big horror shows and comic shows and everyone seems rushed and not relaxed. With small shows you don’t feel that same push, push, push. Which isn’t to say that the small shows can’t get good guests, they just get different guests. We focused on more cult personalities and props, things that created moments for people. You can still get ‘big’ names, you just don’t populate your show with so many people that they are the only draw. You also can’t create a show so big, so costly that it collapses in on itself.  That’s something a lot of people forget – the show has to continue so don’t break the bank. And then there’s the shows that WAY over-extend themselves and harm not just themselves but the whole convention circuit. Shows that want to be too big, too much, and want to compete on a national level with other shows when this ISN’T A COMPETITION. If you do it right you don’t compete, you accentuate. You can’t always avoid other shows but if you can you should. There’s no reason to compete when there’s an entire calendar to use. There’s no reason to be snotty and snippy and childish, as many promoters can get.

This is supposed to be about the fans and guests.

The one thing that sets horror apart is that we’re all family, of a strange kind.

The more we fight amongst ourselves, the more we harm one another the worse the scene gets.

We need big shows. We need the shows that can afford to bring in the superstar guests that make your mouth drop and eyes go wide. Only at genre shows do you get the biggest names making time to meet fans. Only at these shows do they want to meet the fans. But not all the shows can or should be mega cons. As soon as that happens fans get unrealistic expectations – Why isn’t THAT person at the show? How lame? – the vendors get unrealistic expectations – I paid that much money for THIS sort of show – and the fun factor falls.

The fun of a convention is in discovery as much as it is in going in with a plan. I have made so many friends at shows, and have met so many incredible people and the bigger the show the less that tends to happen. Not every show should be small, and not every show CAN be small, but they can be intimate, they can be fan-focused, and they can be fun.

And that’s the key, fun.

Cons are not as fun anymore.

They feel bulky, expensive, and jaded.

We need the small shows to bring back the wonder and fun of conventions and to remind fans that it’s an honor and privilege to be able to meet these people, to have merch like we have now, and the acces to indie horror like we have now. This is a special time to be a horror fan. Let’s not screw things up.

Keep it small and let the big boys fight amongst themselves.

And YOU CAN DO IT!

If I can put on a small show with friends so can you. With careful planning, favors, and a great concept anyone can do it.

Anyone.

…c…

www.meepsheep.com

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