Lines. Crowds. Crazy people in costumes mixing with your run-of-the-mill geeks.
That’s the San Diego Comic-Con to most of its attendees. But there is another Comic-Con going on behind the scenes. This is the SDCC experienced by the panelists, the stars and (oddly) the press. It’s the Comic-Con I got to see this year. And it is kind of mind-blowing.
What are the features of this mysterious and hidden Comic-Con?
When you go to the San Diego Comic-Con, you have a good chance of seeing a star or two wandering around (Hint: Hang out in the Hilton Bayfront or Omni Hotel lobbies if you’re missing them). You will definitely see those stars on distant panel stages and at autograph booths.
It’s cool. But it’s not a personal, close-up experience.
In contrast I have, as a member of the press, gotten the chance to talk to just about anyone I wanted. Most of these chances were in formal settings interviews arranged by Comic-Con and the appropriate studios. It is hardly intimate to question Kevin Bacon in a room filled with 100 people, but at least I got to ask something (Kevin Bacon!!!).
The Comic-Con press rooms aren’t that hard to access either. A few TV shows and high-end movies can afford to be exclusive, but most need almost every interested party to fill the room. If you have a burning love for a show on Adult Swim or the Internet or sometimes even a major network, you don’t have to be from TV Guide (or even BuddyTV). A quality blog is enough.
The parties at the San Diego Comic-Con are the stuff of legend. Hidden behind burly security guards, the elite of the SDCC world enjoy free drinks and grilled-cheese sandwiches (the finger food of choice this year). Exits can be a good location for the dedicated autograph hunter, but entrance is difficult to gain.
The parties are more than free sandwiches. They’re also a safe zone for celebrities — without the possibility of the mobbing crowd, actors and producers get to hang out like normal people.
This means, for us actual normal people who manage to gain access to the Comic-Con parties, that we can interact like any other party guest. Thus, at the Warner Bros. party, I could chat with Matt Davis (of The Vampire Diaries and the new midseason show, Cult), have Stephen Amell (Oliver Queen in this fall’s Arrow) laugh at how I share a name with his show’s heroine, and nearly get run over by Ian Somerhalder while waiting for a drink.
DISCLAIMER: However cool and “inside” I may claim to be, it’s not like the big-shots invite me to all of their parties. There are way cooler shindigs I’ll never experience. Oh well.
Forget the stars and forget the parties — avoiding all those lines is the absolute best part of the hidden San Diego Comic-Con.
No one at this hidden Comic-Con has to wait hours in one of those epic Ballroom 20 or Hall H lines. In all honesty, I waited in only three lines for more than five minutes: the press conference line for Firefly (because Firefly is awesome enough for lines), the badge pick-up line on Wednesday and a lunchtime line for a burger outside of the Hilton.
Granted, I might have had to wait like anyone else if I needed to get into a panel. Press access to those things is more-or-less impossible if you’re not actually important (I’m not.). But why go to a crowded panel if you can get the same experience in a tiny press room?
What’s the moral of this story? Is this entire article just the bragging of a TV journalist giddy with the excitement of insider perks?
Partially, of course it is. But there are a few more reasons that have nothing to do with bragging.
There’s also the desire to share a somewhat hidden and very fascinating world. By necessity, this world can be hard to enter — it only exists due to its exclusivity, after all. If over-excited little people like myself didn’t write about it, only mystery would remain.
In addition to exposition, this story has a moral: Blog. If you’re passionate about any of the many pop culture aspects of Comic-Con, get online and share that love. Do it well enough, and you might just get yourself a press pass. That’s the first key to the door of the hidden Con. And then you’ll really have something to write about at the San Diego Comic-Con.
(Image courtesy of Comic-Con International)