[ACML] The gluttony of conventions (and other musings)

Jim Vowles Jr alabaster at tapestryofstars.com
Mon Feb 20 14:17:59 EST 2006

On Feb 20, 2006, at 12:37 PM, Jafax PR wrote:

> I believe you’ve hit the nail squarely on the head,
> Adam. One of the traits of newer fans is arrogance.
> They go to our well-run events and think it’s easy to
> do, so they decide they can do one better, with all
> the things they and their friends didn’t see at yours.

That's actually sort of how Otakon started, though, y'know?  They went 
to a con, said "we can do it better", and lo, they did.  And then they 
built an organization that has kept trying to top itself for the past 
dozen years. So that's not necessarily a *bad* thing, per se.

But it's arrogance with a sense of entitlement, and not much else in 
the way of common sense or business sense.  Even the big guys can't be 
everything to everyone.

> While I know there are still a certain number of new
> organizers out there who do it out of a love of the
> medium, or to fill a need in their specific area, I
> think you’re right that a majority of them do it out
> of a sense of ego. They just want to be King or Queen
> of Geeks, not realizing that it really means nothing
> to anyone.

Heh. King of the Geeks.

Look, I'll confess that I'm a bit of a ham on occasion, and I do enjoy 
the recognition sometimes.  (I was in theatre in college, so I come by 
it honestly.)  And there is the fun of schmoozing with you guys, or 
with guests and industry folks. They think "if *I* were staff, or 
worked the green room, or ran the con, then *I* would be able to give 
Scott McNeil my phone number or sell Mr Maruyama my screenplay or get 
that job going to cons for Funimation".  Go into it with that sort of 
thing as your goal, and you'll crash and burn pretty fast.

What most of the fans don't realize is that these are just people doing 
a job, and the guests generally don't WANT the ga-ga adoration. They 
like hearing that people appreciate their work, or value their 
contributions. They're just ordinary folk who happen to draw nice, or 
write funny stuff, or do voices, or run animation studios.  You 
interact with them on a professional level.  You're not there to geek 
out over them. (For the record, what impressed me most about TMR, who 
I'd never really even heard of, was that he was a talented guy who was 
a bit of a fanboy himself, and was gracious and happy about interacting 
with his fans.)

I suppose by whatever standard there is, running a big convention like 
Otakon gives me some serious geek cred. There are perks, undoubtedly.  
But on the other hand, not being able to walk 30 feet at other cons 
without interruption is a mixed blessing at best. Being in certain 
convention roles puts you in contact with some very interesting people, 
but it also means that you don't really get to enjoy the event anymore. 
  Trust me when I say that what *I* want recognition for is Otakon 2006, 
when it's over with. I'd like people to look back and say "damn, that 
was a solid con".  And even then, what I mostly want is to be able to 
go to Dead Dog like the con chairs before me, and say to my staff 
"thanks, folks, we did what we set out to do, and we did it well."  
I've already had the highest compliments I could expect -- the vote of 
confidence from Otakon's staff, and the nice things some of the guests 
said about me to my mother. :)

But that's not why I do it. I went for this job mostly because it 
needed to be done, and I felt I could do it.  People see the visible 
things and think "wow, what a cool job", and of course it is, but for 
every voice actor that stops by and tells me to say hi to my mom for 
him, there are 15 contracts that have to be reviewed, and half a dozen 
minor fires to put out. For every exclusive party I wind up invited to, 
I spend 30 hours a week attending to minutiae and paperwork, chasing 
down staffers who seem to have forgotten what month it is, and 
negotiating with industry and promoters.   Yes, I get featured in TV 
clips from local news, or quoted in the anime press and even in Aint it 
Cool News sometimes. But I also have to spend hours on the phone with 
our lawyers working to understand various risks that come with the 
turf.  (If I ever get bored with programming, I'll probably go into 
intellectual property law...)

It's work -- work that, if Otakorp, Inc.  paid someone to do it, would 
net me a tidy second full-time wage -- and it's a huge responsibility. 
There are legal and financial risks. There is the fact that your 
career, your social life, and even your family (to some extent) has to 
take a back seat to this "hobby" for a solid year.  And aside from all 
the attendees, you've got to deal with the inevitable internal 
politics, and strategic planning for the future -- plus the fact that 
your entire staff is counting on you to steer the ship through 
increasingly treacherous waters.

But you all know what the pressures are like.  I can only imagine how 
they scale up or down for your events, but I know *Otakon* well enough 
to be glad there are term limits for this job!

> They also have no idea what it really takes
> in terms of time, money, and manpower to put on an
> event, and think that wishing will make it so. The era
> of “if you plan it, they will come” for anime events
> has long passed in most areas, however.

Too true!

And just about all of us on this list remember when anime wasn't to be 
had at your local store, or downloaded off the web, or widely available 
in your native tongue on mainstream TV.

> When we get complaints from
> attendees that we’re not as good as one convention or
> another or we should have this thing or that, it’s
> very difficult not to snipe back at them, “And you
> paid how much to get in here? Was that – NOTHING!?
> Quit yer bitchin’!” Instead, we patiently listen to
> their complaints and suggestions, and change the
> things we can, provided it’s something we feel is in
> line with our primary vision. We are glad there are
> “real” conventions for our attendees to go to, and
> feel no pressing need to compete with or duplicate
> anyone else’s events or programming just because an
> attendee told us to. Sure, there are things we
> wouldn’t mind adding that other events may have, but
> we still need to remain focused on our goals and
> within our budget, while trying to be a unique event.

In that, your event is pretty much exactly like all the others.  If 
we're responsible stewards for our respective organizations, the first 
question we ask should not be "is this going to be popular?", but 
rather "how does this satisfy our mission?".

There will always be complaints. A portion of them will be valid ones 
-- not enough signs, event XXX started late, etc. But there are also 
going to be compliments.  And for every handful of irate and 
ill-informed rumormongers, there is a letter from a parent who is 
delighted that we run a safe, organized event that she suspects might 
actually be teaching her child something.

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