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Comic-Con 2011 Explained

By Jav Rivera

NOTE: A portion of this article is written as a personal blog, which I invite you to read.  If, however, you are only looking for information pertaining specifically to Comic-Con 2011, scroll down to the section titled "Exactly What Is Comic-Con?"  I apologize for straying from this website's regular format.

Heading To Comic-Con 2011

As a filmmaker, there have been moments in my life when I found myself stuck in a rut, creatively and motivationally.  In those moments, I have learned that I was typically in a place where my fire had died.  These reasons could be because of a lack of a challenge, frustration with a workmate (or boss), or any number of other problems that can occur during a project.  It’s also well known that cast or crewmembers sometimes take on a project for the money and other times for artistic reasons.

I readily admit that the path of my career has been lead by artistic reasons.  In my long-term jobs (i.e. company positions), I look at the needs of the department and determine if my skills will help fill in those gaps.  And when I take those jobs, I hope that I can also push the department further than they ever thought possible.  When those goals have been reached, I then look for more goals.  Sometimes, however, the company decides they aren’t ready to progress anymore, for whatever reason.  It’s then that I start to feel like I’m working.  Days feel longer, workmates become obstructions, and bosses appear lazy.  And for the most part these are all over-exaggerations of the truth, but it’s how I feel when I’m not being challenged.  This is also the time when I feel like my time with the company has reached its pinnacle.  And sometimes I stay longer than I should in hopes that things will improve.  And sometimes I stay because I want one more paycheck.  And that’s the last of it for me, when I know I’m sticking around for the money.

When I leave a job I’m always left with the feeling of a man without purpose.  A hollow tree, leafless and with dying roots.  Finding that reason to grow and smile again can be more challenging than even someone like me can handle.  And so on Wednesday, I found myself looking for hotels and travel tickets to San Diego where the 2011 Comic-Con was taking place.  And Wednesday evening I started to feel something I hadn’t felt in months: excitement.  But the trip didn’t come without its own challenges.

Gotta Get Up, Gotta Get Out

Thursday morning came and I woke up with a smile.  Knowing that at 7:20AM my train from Los Angeles to San Diego would be pulling away from the station.  I got up from bed and did my usual morning routines and as I exited the bathroom I looked at the clock, which read 6:35.  I grinned until I remembered that I wanted to leave by 6 to have enough time to drive to the station, park at the overnight lot, print my ticket at the station’s kiosk, and casually walk to the train.  Apparently I set my alarm for 5:30 instead of 4:30.  Oops.  As I rushed to dress and head out the door, I kept repeating to myself that leaving by 6 was more time than I actually needed and that the drive to the station was only 20 minutes away.  I thought, “I’m still good, I’m still good.”  As it turned out, the drive took 30 plus minutes because every slow driver decided to get on the far left lane.

I got to the station at 7:05 but the overnight parking lot was not marked properly and took me another 7 minutes to find it and park.  I hauled ass to the long hallway.  Midway I asked an employee where the kiosk was because if there was a closer one, it was nowhere in sight.  She pointed me to the end of the hallway.  I ran to the end (past Track 1) and got in line to ask where the nearest kiosk was.  Fortunately the man in front of me had a later train and let me get ahead of him in line (thanks dude!).  I told the lady at the booth that my train was at 7:20 and could use some help.  Well, she didn’t disappoint.  She not only pointed to where it was but also jogged me over and did all the button pushing and sent me on my way with a good luck (thanks lady!).

I ran all the way back to Track 12; I have asthma, by the way, and was already past my limit. It was 7:17 the last time I checked the time.  Midway through that hallway my breath gave out and I couldn’t run anymore.  I kept walking as briskly as I could but in my mind I was already convinced that I missed my train.  I ran up another long hallway, this time with an incline. I get to the top of the incline and wave like a madman to one of the conductors.  He waved to me as if he was saying, “Yeah-yeah, Idiot.  You’re gonna make it so stop waving.  Just hurry up.”  I hopped on the train and found a seat.  I checked my phone for the time and it read: 7:19.  The train didn’t wait any longer than 7:20 before is it started to pull away. Whew.

As I was trying to catch my breath to stop wheezing, a little girl in the next seat asked in the most innocent of voices, “Are you going to Comic-Con too?”  And just like that, all my frustration and anxiety washed away.  I grinned and said yes.  I was back in my happy place and my original excitement for the convention returned (thanks little girl!).

Exactly What Is Comic-Con?

Okay…I got to San Diego and found my hotel and headed to Comic-Con 2011!  Having never been there, I didn’t know what to expect.  I didn’t even know what to do.  I learned very quickly that there are two main parts to this convention: the show floor which is basically a collector’s paradise where new and vintage comics, graphic novels, collector toys and the like could be bought.  And like most trade shows, main companies like Hasbro, Marvel, etc. had areas displaying their latest video games, toys or gadgets.  This was less intriguing to me since I’m not a gamer nor a collector.  But I did, however, enjoy the displays and crazy costumed fans walking around.  My favorite was this cute brunette with a cavewoman outfit, but we don't need to get into that.

Show floor at Comic-Con 2011
After walking around this massive area for more than an hour, I decided to finally look at the program that I received with my badge.  There was so much more to be discovered.  Workshops and discussions were spread throughout the day.  Some covered specific topics like voice acting and how to get into the business.  Others showcased up-coming projects with some of the cast and crew present to take questions from the audience.  This was more up my alley.  

My first day, I visited various workshops and ended in Hall H, which is apparently famous for having previews of the biggest films yet to be released.  The area itself is amazingly huge.  It was always busy and yet never full. And this is where I recommend any film lover to plant themselves.  Both Friday and Saturday were spent in Hall H from morning to evening. I remember as I walked into Hall H on Friday, my eyes widened when I looked at the screen and saw Steven Spielberg.  A few moments later Peter Jackson joined him to discuss their new upcoming film, The Adventures of Tintin.  And by the way, pretty much every film I'm about to mention had incredible previews and promising results so keep an eye out for these projects.

The day followed with incredible previews and Q&A sessions with Edgar Wright (producer of Attack The Block), Colin Farrel (star of remake Fright Night), Aziz Ansari and Nick Swardson (co-stars of 30 Minutes Or Less) and Marc Webb, Emma Stone, Andrew Garfield and Rhys Ifans (director and stars of The Amazing Spiderman).  Aziz and his cast mates were especially entertaining during their Q&A sessions. If you can find a Youtube video of that session, I highly recommend watching it.

Saturday, Hall H had several fun projects to preview including Twixt (directed by Francis Ford Coppola and starring Val Kilmer), which is an interesting concept and conceivably a disaster waiting to happen.  Basically, Coppola's idea is to mimic the days of symphonies when a conductor would change the music's composition on a whim depending on the audience's reaction.  Using technology, Coppola wants to do an exercise going to various locations to present Twixt as a re-editable film - changing the scenes to fit an audience's taste as it is being played.

Francis Ford Coppola at Comic-Con 2011
Val Kilmer at Comic-Con 2011
I was more interested in the next film, The Immortals, directed by Tarsem Singh, who also directed The Fall (which was covered in a previous article here on 2FL).  The Immortals sees gods and men fighting side-by-side against the titans.  It's the first time gods have been depicted as young and as fighters.  It's also one of the most visually stunning previews I saw at Comic-Con.

It was then followed by a preview for Knights of Badassdom (directed by Joe Lynch and stars Peter Dinklage and Summer Glau).  The film follows a group who participate in a LARPing (Live Action Role Players) event.  Things turn bad when a magic spell goes wrong...or right depending on your point of view.

The best part of my Comic-Con experience was the energy for all these projects.  Even the films that I had no interest in had a certain excitement because of how sincerely thrilled the cast and crew came across.  The crowd was a huge element to that energy.  If there’s one thing I would say about the attendees is their holds no bar honesty.  Some may even say they're brutally honest.  If they don’t like something they make sure you hear it.  But on the other hand, if they love something, you’re going to hear it three times as loud.  This excitement is great for filmmakers anywhere young and old. 

The person that stood out the most for me was Tarsem Singh.  He is known for being extremely visual and the topic kept coming back to his style and his imagination.  It is this that made me realize what I need to do if I want to gain attention as a director.  I have ideas galore but none of my visual style has ever been explored in previous projects.  The energy and focus I lacked was now fulfilled.  The next step is a plan of action.  But finding that spark was just one of the reasons I wanted to visit Comic-Con. 

Film preview and Q&A session with Tarsem Singh, director of The Immortals
My True Reason For Visiting Comic-Con 2011

Another reason and really the main reason I visited Comic-Con, however, was much more personal.  In 2005, I left Wisconsin to move to Austin, Texas.  A week or two before I left, my close friend and former college schoolmate, Raz came to visit.  I remember that final hug before he drove back to Chicago where he lived.  In 2010, I moved to Los Angeles and even though it moved me further away from the mid-west, it brought me closer to my Chicago buddy.  Raz has been a Comic-Con attendee for several years and this year he had a booth in the Artist's Gallery section of the show floor.  Raz illustrated my children’s book Luna (www.jav-rivera.com), and has since gone on to establish an incredible style and prove to many that he’s a phenomenal artist waiting to be discovered.

Raz Ortiz and his first collection of drawings entitled "Drawn Amuck!"
Raz Ortiz's table at Comic-Con 2011
Comic-Con was a great trip for me but the highlight and the true spark I needed was in the arms of my dear friend Raz.  Seeing him surrounded by other artists at a world famous convention was inspiring.  Not only was it nice to hang out with him and have dinner with his friends and work colleagues but it was also a great motivational experience.  As I laughed with him like we used to back in our college days, I thought about how easy things can be if you can just laugh.  And to him I thank endlessly for reminding me that despite almost missing a train or getting frustrated by a job, the true reason to smile is a good friend.

If you would like to view Raz Ortiz’s work (and you should), visit www.razillustration.com