Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Gen Con, Day 3

One of the realities of convention life is that you're going to have to share your room. I've roomed with my fair share of snorers. Brian was neither the loudest nor most obnoxious of these. He was, however, the hardest to wake. The whispering didn't work. The yelling didn't work. The crossing-over-and-nudging didn't work. What did work was the violently-shaking-the-bed. The snoring stopped after that, but I only netted about four hours of sleep -- the bare minimum to function the next day.
And sadly, the first thing I did the next day was miss Tracy Hickman's fan-favorite event, one of the hallmarks of the convention, the Killer Breakfast. Every year, Tracy runs a Dungeons & Dragons campaign from the front of a ballroom and mows through hundreds of player characters in about two hours. There are no survivors. It's not if you will die -- it's when, and how violently. If you can survive the Killer Breakfast for more than 30 seconds, that's commendable. I think Christian set a record with two minutes. I was looking forward to getting killed in front of hundreds of fellow gamers myself, but sadly, that wasn't in the cards.
No, I was at the signing table -- the only Dead Gentleman at the table, I might ad -- nearly getting trampled by the new herd of gamers thundering towards the Wizards booth. Seems today's promo was an exclusive Hero Clix miniature. Watching the gamers galumph across the floor, I imagined a small tile-based board game called "Con Rush." In this game, players would compete to grab as many con promos as possible from different booths before their character died from a massive coronary.
BELOW: Signing my future away. That's John Frank with the Joker grin.
Saturday is typically the biggest day at Gen Con, but sales-wise, it didn't take the crown away from Thursday. By the end of the day, Paizo had sold 250 Dorkness DVDs. They'd also completely sold out DVDs of the Director's Cut of The Gamers and Dead Camper Lake. Haven't had that happen for a while.
The signings held steady througout the day. And in the middle of them, I signed the option agreement with Epic Level Entertainment for the next Gamers film, The Gamers: PWNed. I've been working on the script for the last couple years. It's set in an MMORPG, so the budget will be significantly higher than anything Dead Gentlemen's ever done -- hence Epic Level holding the reins on this one. We're pretty excited about it, expecially coming off the momentum of Dorkness. John Frank and Cindi already have meetings set up. If I have to miss Gen Con next year, I hope it's because we're knee-deep in PWNed.
I left the hall at five to get a nap in before the Big Screening that night. This would be the sole evening screening of Dorkness Rising at Gen Con, at 10 pm. And for me, the film would not be complete until I'd seen it screen with a Gen Con audience. The first Gen Con screening was two years ago, in '06, but due to a family tragedy I had to leave before the premiere. So I had a lot emotionally tied up in this screening. I needed it. I needed to be there, to see it in front of an audience. The Comic Con screening was great, but it was no Gen Con crowd.
Gen Con expected a massive turnout, so they gave us two ballrooms to screen in. It was the same setup as last year: seating for a thousand, with a large central screen and two smaller side screens at the halfway point where the halls met. We posed for pictures with fans as the line outside the hall grew, and grew, and grew -- we couldn't go in, because the live table reading of Knights of the Dinner Table was just wrapping up. The DGs trekked in when they finished, and then, predictably, things started to go wrong.
Remember the big central screen? Apparently, the con decided we didn't need one. All we had were the two small side screens -- and half the chairs in the place were past those. So we had two ballrooms, but one we couldn't use because it didn't face the screens. Also, hundreds of people stayed over from the KoDT reading for our screening, so the back seats were already pretty much full before we'd opened the doors to the folks in line. This did not bode well.
So the doors opened, and we explained to the attendees that the side screens were all they got. Folks filled in the back, and angled their chairs towards the screens, splitting right down the middle at oblique angles. That was weird -- watching a 600 member audience crammed into half the space, facing opposite directions.
Screening to the left!

Screening to the right!

Stand up, sit down, fight fight fight!

And so our screening began. We led with the trailer for Midnight Syndicate's The Dead Matter, directed by our buddy Ed Douglas. It's a truly original (and rather jump-inducing) horror movie. Don and Jeremy and I got to see it at GAMA back in April in Ed's hotel room, with Ed narrating the effects and scenes that weren't fully finished. We enjoyed the hell out of it, and that wasn't even the final version. So the trailer screened, and as we watched, we thought "Huh. They did the trailer in black and white. Odd choice for a movie in color."

But of course that wasn't the choice, as we discovered when we loaded the Dorkness screener -- the projector was stuck on black and white. So we abruptly stopped the screening to howls of protest. I pondered how quickly a friendly audience could turn into an effigy-burning mob. We powwowwed (it's a word) with the con's tech guys, and fixed the color in record time.

Then we noticed the aspect ratio was off -- the projector was projecting in 4:3 instead of 16:9 (fullscreen instead of widescreen for you non-dorks). The projector was chopping the sides off the image. The loading screen even read "ed Gentlemen presents," with the option to "Play Mov." We circled up to toy with the projector ... and that's when the chants of "Play mov! Play mov!" started. So we just took the aspect ratio hit and played the mov.

I sat down with Wifey in the dark, in the midpoint between the differently angled crowds. Here it was, my Gen Con screening. Please, dear God, let it not suck.

It didn't. I mean, sure, there were some problems. There was the aspect ratio, and the focus was a bit soft, and the audio wasn't as clear as it could be. The fans didn't care. What they cared about were gaming jokes and dead bards. Laughter filled the hall, loud and constant and appreciative. Wifey was so excited she screamed herself into laryngitis, the poor thing. The credits rolled a hundred minutes later to a standing ovation. Two, if you count the divided crowd.

So, completely high off the screening, we headed out to the most raucous party of the con: the White Wolf party. I'd been hearing about this one for two years, about the insane debauchery and the flashing bard junk in a go-go cage. So it was a bit surprising when the club we crammed into turned out to be nothing but three drab stairwells worth of suck. There was no balcony, no fresh air, no open windows -- and no air conditioning.

Now, my three great hates are crowds, heat, and noise. This party was nothing but. By the time I reached the somewhat cooler third floor -- which only felt like a sauna -- I was ready to leave. And oddly enough, so were the rest of the DGs. The party two years ago was in a different space, they assured me. This party wasn't happening. We had to get out or we'd melt.

So we headed over to the Embassy Suites with Jamie and Renae Chambers of MWP to carouse in their con pad. And that turned out to be the best party we could hope for -- friends, alcohol, and privacy. And flow the alcohol did. Tree drank Stevie under the table. Which, to be fair, isn't hard. I believe I texted "Balls 4EVER" to Cindi at one point -- Cindi, my producer. We ended the night in the loading dock outside the hotel, smoking Brian's "I'm a dad!/We made a movie!" cigars.

And it was there, in that atmosphere of effervescent camaraderie, that many of us had to part ways. Several of the guys had early morning flights to catch -- this was it for them. We hugged our goodbyes, bade our fellows safe passage back to the damp and drizzly northwest. We'd be at half-strength tomorrow on the last day of the con.

We got back to our hotel at 4 am. Brian, bless him, had felt so bad about the snoring that he'd bought us a pack of earplugs. We corked our hear-bits and collapsed under the weight of the day.

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