Everything Shiny from Whedon Con

You might have seen Nick’s super informative post about Whedon Con, but for those of you who haven’t and don’t feel like opening another tab and adding to your already full browser window…. Whedon Con is a convention that focuses on the Wonderful Works of Whedon. If you sing along to a blog by Dr. Horrible or dream of a trip aboard Serenity, this is your con.

What makes it even more special though is that this is all in the name of charity. The efforts here went to support the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center, which provides after school support for children in grades 3-12, and My Friend’s Place, which supports homeless youth in an inclusive environment.  Basically, Whedon Con bills itself as a convention for fans, by fans, “with the aim of harnessing the power of fandom for charity.”

So how is it?

Well, this was only the con’s second year. It definitely wasn’t the size or scope of any con I’ve been to before, but keep in mind that I’ve really only stuck to broad “comic cons”- nothing as specific as Whedon Con.  However, what it lacks in size it makes up for with the sheer accessibility of it all.  In one way it was the most inclusive con I’ve been to. You could see it in the “all genders” signs on the bathrooms or their support for My Friend’s Place, which specifically aims to help the high risk and marginalized community of homeless LGBT youth.  In another sense, the organizers took great pains to allow attendees an unparalleled access to the special guests.

They offered special Cards Against Humanity games and cocktail nights with the celeb guests that allowed anyone the legitimate chance to hang out with some of the cast from their favorite Whedonverse movies or shows.  This went far deeper than the long line of fans waiting to walk along a table of 6 actors from their favorite show and meet them all greeting line style.

Whedon Con Podcasts

There was also a cool variety of panels.   Some were directly related to the Whedon-verse,  like screenings of Buffy, Firefly, Serenity, or Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog or panels like “Speculation of Season 2 of Firefly” and “Ladies of Whedon.” Other panels incorporated special guests like a live taping of the “Big Bad Buffy” podcast or “Behind the Stunts with Jeff Pruit and Sophia Crawford.”  Still others ranged from industry related (“Finding and Pitching to a Producer”) to fan-based (“Character Acting in Cosplay”) to everything in between (“TRAPPIST-1 System” or “English is Easy: A Historical Exploration of They/Them”).

Truthfully, the variety of panels they managed to fit into a smaller convention really impressed me.  Not everything was necessarily intriguing to me, but I think that fits right into what seemed like the best part of the convention – everything was possible for everyone.  I didn’t worry that I wouldn’t make it into a panel or have to prioritize and choose just one to wait in line for while missing all the other things I wanted to see.  And when I did go to a panel, there was plenty of space where I could comfortably listen and take part in the panel.

For example, on Saturday we got to see The Movie Guys recording their podcast live.  If you don’t know who they are, The Movie Guys podcast basically is their group talking and joking about the new releases everyone else is talking about. Here, despite rushing in at the last moment, I still found a spot in the second row. I could comfortably laugh along as they talked about Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and the fact that Baby Groot was the best part of the movie. Duh!  Sunday I got to see panels like “Hackers, Don’t be a victim” or “Crowd Funding and Fan Acquisition with Legion M.”

Whedon Con Panels

In Hackers, they had a member of the LAPD discussing ways to be aware and defend yourself against hacking attempts and the audience was able to discuss and question certain hacking attempts.  Side note: if someone calls you saying its a friend or family member and they sound funny because they “have a cold” but know all this personal information and even an approximate location that person might be and now they immediately need you to send money for their bail and the best way to do this is with a Visa giftcard and just read them the numbers once you’ve bought it….. this is a scam.  You can thank me later for passing that on.

In Legion M’s panel, they discussed how their company is embracing the crowdfunding scene but offering something a bit more than a trinket, a shirt, or early access to exclusive footage (read: Kickstarter or Indiegogo). Instead, they offer donors shares in their company. To really get into what they’re all about deserves a blog post of its own. Point is, it was such an intimate setting that we were able to ask plenty of questions. Like having a conversation with a group of friends – no microphone line necessary.

The Exhibit Hall

Now of course, no convention is complete without an exhibit hall.  This one was named “Sunnydale Mall” and had a nice selection of vendors.  Again, nothing too overwhelming in size, but the tables that were there all displayed a connection to fandom.  The artists there clearly cared about what they were making and selling and it made the “mall” more worth it.  One in particular had 3D paintings and carvings- all handmade and intricate.  He in particular also contributed a peice to the charity auction at the end of the convention- a cool Mutant Enemy carving with a moveable zombie that the convention staff got signed by most of the special guests. Grrr, argh! It ended up taking in some of the highest bids at the auction.

Speaking of, the auction was an awesome display and included things like signed Firefly loot crates or vintage Buffy memorabilia.  It was hosted by UK comedian Bill Paddon who helped the auction raise more than $1700 to go straight to charity while keeping the audience laughing and interested.


Conclusion

My overall takeaway then was mostly positive.  I’ve said it already, but I’ll say it again… it was a small convention.  Whedon Con is in it’s infancy and that does show.  Some parts were a bit unorganized and there wasn’t an overwhelming attendance.  But feel free to think of it as one of those toddlers that you know are already a little advanced.  It had a great variety of panels and used the coziness to make it a better experience for fans.  It did it all in the name of charity and relied on its volunteer staff entirely.  Definitely a convention that I would love to see grow. I can’t wait to see the name that it can make for itself and how much good it can do in the name of fandom.

Pop Culture Meets Charity at WhedonCon

I was recently listening to the Dumbbells and Dragons podcast. I got totally excited when I saw that Kenny (Rotter, the host) was recording an interview with Christopher Cullen. Christopher is one of the folks representing WhedonCon. What’s that? WhedonCon is a Whedonverse convention, designed by fans for fans. It aims to harness the power of fandom to raise money for charities while creating a fun and interactive environment for attendees.

WhedonCon Guests

The convention will include a number of on and off screen guests attached to Joss Whedon projects. The Guest of Honor is writer/producer David Fury. David is an Emmy, WGA and Saturn awards winning writer/producer best known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off Angel. Comedian Ben Paddon is the Master of Ceremonies. Actors include Andrew Boden (Dollhouse), Gigi Edgley (Farscape), and Nicholas Brendon (Xander on Buffy). Other guests include Sophia Crawford (Sarah Michelle Gellar’s stunt double) and writer/director Tim Minear. View the full guest list HERE.

WhedonCon Events

WhedonCon features a huge vendor room, appropriately titled Sunnydale Mall. The con will also host a Blood Drive benefitting Cedars-Sinai Blood Donor Services. Cosplayers will have plenty of chances to meet up, including special tracks like Cosplay over 30. The list of panels is immense. Topics include “How to Make a Low Budget Movie”, “Behind the Stunts” and “Concept Development.” Join the Gaming room for Open Gaming, Firefly LARP and RPG, and Buffy RPG sessions. Pack your swimsuit! Private Cocktail parties and All Ages pool parties close out Friday and Saturday nights.

Join the Big Bad Buffy podcast for a live session Saturday morning and the Drinking with Comics podcast Saturday night. Feel like some prose? Join an open reading with the Two Idiots Pedalling Poetry. Sharpen your story creation with the Wehdonesque Sketch Writing Workshop. The Movie Guys bring their newest comedy show, “The New Movie Show” to goof on all the latest films and upcoming summer movies. In Memorium services for Ron Glass (Firefly) and John Vulich (special makeup effects for Buffy) take place on Friday. The full schedule of events can be found HERE.

Charity Efforts

The WhedonCon creators pride themselves on the charity efforts fulfilled by the convention. In memory of Ron Glass, this year’s charity will be one that was near and dear to Glass’ heart. Auction proceeds will benefit the Al Wooten Jr. Heritage Center. Items include autographed merchandise, pictures, and more.

The Baby Item Drive benefits Newborns in Need – San Fernando Valley Chapter. Items include purchased, handmade or crafted items such as baby hat, scarfs and blankets. The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence will be on hand for a performance. This organization offers comprehensive services to nearly half of the homeless youth population of Los Angeles County.

WhedonCon takes place on May 19-21, 2017 at the Warner Center Marriott in Los Angeles, CA. Tickets and volunteer opportunities are still available. Contact the convention staff HERE.