As geeks and nerds, we are a passionate people. There are few more passionate than those who attend conventions. Each year, hundreds of thousands of us flock to convention centers, hotels, and college campuses around the world to surround ourselves with fellow geeks and nerds whose passion rivals our own. There are many that wonder why so many people attend pop culture conventions and why they have become so important.
The largest of these conventions, considered “geek mecca,” is San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) with more than 126,000 people in attendance in 2011 and badges for 2012 selling out within 90 minutes of registration’s opening. Morgan Spurlock (Director, Super Size Me, 30 Days), along with a dream team of geek media producers such as Stan Lee (Comic Creator, Spider-Man, Iron Man, X-men), Joss Whedon (Director, Avengers, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serenity), Gill Champion (Executive Producer, POW!) and Harry Knowles (Head Geek, Ain’t It Cool News) combined forces to document the SDCC experience from the perspective of the geeks who live it, in an effort to find out what makes the con experience magical in the documentary, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope.
Graphic Credit: Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope
The documentary crew consisted of at least 15 camera crews, compiling more than 400 hours of video to tell the story of five people headed to SDCC 2010, each with a particular mission. Camera crews began filming the subjects at home as they prepare to make their trek to SDCC and follows their experience throughout the 4 days at SDCC.
Holly Conrad, a costume designer and cosplayer, sets off for SDCC with her friends hoping to turn heads in the Masquerade. Their entry is inspired by the popular video game Mass Effect and features highly detailed costumes. The Masquerade is not all fun and games. While it is an entertaining event for those attending SDCC, the Masquerade offers Holly the opportunity to showcase her talents before industry professionals. A good showing will get her one step closer to her dream job as a costume designer for films and television.
Chuck Rozanski owns Mile High Comics, one of the largest comics dealer in the United States. The past few years, the comics industry has seen a decline in traditional comic sales. SDCC has grown bigger and bigger every year, drawing in more of the popular culture fans, while the comics audience wanes. Chuck and his crew pack up their comic treasures and set up shop in the dealer’s hall. Their mission is to survive. Can they make enough money to justify the expense of a presence at SDCC? Will it be enough to keep Mile High Comics open for business?
Skip Harvey, is a life-long geek. He is a bartender at a geek themed bar, but his true ambition is illustration. He packs his dreams and his art into a portfolio and embarks on SDCC with hopes of impressing fellow artists and publishers. He yearns to break into comics. Does he have what it takes to be discovered?
James Darling and Se Young Kang are two geeks who fell in love. Their mutual nerdery has kept them together and happy. So happy in fact, James has decided to propose. What better backdrop for a proposal than the extravaganza that is SDCC? The film follows the couple as James attempts to make the arrangements, all while keeping it a surprise. Will he be able to pull off an epic proposal in front of thousands?
Eric Henson is a family man and member of the United States Air Force with a longstanding love of comics. Another illustrator who timidly makes his way among the horde and subjects himself and his art to industry portfolio reviews. The weekend has one purpose, to serve as job interviews. He seeks to meet with comics publishers, hoping to make an impression that will leave the pros seeing the next great illustrator in him.
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope is a passion project from start to finish. I was lucky enough to attend a screening where Morgan Spurlock was in attendance. He spoke about meeting Stan Lee for the first time and how he himself was one of the geeks. While many of Spurlock’s other projects have been a bit more exposing and had many within the geek community worried, this documentary is all sentiment. In a way, the film is a love letter to geeks the world over … reassuring one another that there is a place for us all, where others understand the sometimes overwhelming fervor for nerd culture.
Woven among the story of the 5 attendees are “confessions” from other SDCC attendees. These are brief interviews with others, most in costume, talking about what is special about SDCC. Mixed in with the everyday folks are a few people you may have heard of, such as Kevin Smith, Eli Roth, Seth Rogan, and Olivia Wilde among other celebrities. There are several themes throughout these candid interviews: geeks have more power to influence than we think we do and Hollywood is growing wise which is why so many studios and corporations make it a point to have a presence at SDCC. Remember, “With great power comes great responsibility;” one of the major draws of SDCC is the sense of belonging it instills attendees with; and we are all fans.
There are a number of reviewers who have been giving Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope less than stellar reviews, accusing it of being too soft on any particular point to really find a following. As always, the mainstream media would paint the hardcore fans as freaks with little or no social skills. For my part, I believe one of the things this documentary does right is appeal to their targeted audience. Sure, the audience may be small in comparison to the number of “norms” that walk the earth. This film is not for everyone and it does not set itself up to be. It was not made to convert non-convention attendees or to convince anyone that cosplay is cool. It was made to salute those that fly their geek flag high and proud, even if we only get to do so for 4 days out of the year. In that respect, Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope is a success!
Comic-Con Episode IV: A Fan’s Hope is in select theaters now. Check your local theater for showtimes. The documentary is also available On Demand. For a listing of On Demand providers, visit the official website at http://www.comicconmovie.com. Look for the film to be released on DVD around July, just in time for SDCC 2012.