While most people were getting ready to fire up their bar-be-ques, drink copious amounts of alcohol, and set fire to colourful explosives in celebration of America’s freedom from the tyranny of British rule, I and thousands of others descended on the Wyndham Indianapolis West in Indiana for the very first Days of the Dead convention which boasted one of the most impressive guest lists this side of a Weekend of Horrors with genre luminaries such as Reggie Bannister and his wife Gigi, FX guru John Carl Buechler, P.J. Soles, Linnea Quigley, and Heather Langenkamp.
I was there to see I Am Nancy with the fans for whom it was made. I’ve seen it by myself. I had the honour of co-presenting the West Coast premiere at BleedFest so I got to see it at a film festival, and I showed it to friends of mine who weren’t fans before (and they loved it), but there’s just nothing like the energy of watching it with other fans. I’m getting slightly ahead of myself, however.
I arrived in Indianapolis on Thursday, the day before the festival. The hotel is within walking distance of five other hotels...and nothing else. Well, almost nothing else. I was given a room on the first floor which I didn’t think anything of because I did a quick walkthrough and discovered that it was far enough away from the majority of the action to not be a bother. So then I realize that I hadn’t eaten since a granola bar that morning so I order room service. No answer. Huh. Okay, so I go to the restaurant. No one’s there. Apparently, one needs to be a semaphore to get food in this joint. I go back to my room and try to call room service one more time. No dice.
The Wi-Fi in my room was brilliant, though, so I was able to find a restaurant near by that received some pretty good reviews on Yelp. After some troubles with GPS, I found the proper directions to get to the restaurant, a car race-themed greasy spoon that I don’t want to name. The food was...okay. Very greasy, surprisingly enough (or not at all if you could hear the sarcastic voice in my head), and the chocolate shake wasn’t nearly chocolatey enough.
After an unsatisfying dinner, I went across the street to the gas station and bought some water and went back to my room where I almost promptly passed out and slept solidly until 8 the next morning.
Friday, the first day of the con. Doors didn’t open until 6, 5 o’clock for VIP pass holders (of which I was one of 100) and eventually, I discovered that you could pick up your VIP badge at 3 pm. I went to the restaurant for breakfast where I ordered Belgian waffles and orange juice. There was a buffet, but I’m not a big fan of communal food. The orange juice was so tart I thought my face was going to fall off (and I love tart / sour stuff!)
With HOURS of time to kill, I went back to my room and watched some Death Proof (but actually stopped before the best parts because I have this habit of picking up accents and didn’t want to pick up Zoe Bell’s accent in advance of meeting her...)
Finally, three o’clock rolled around and I got my VIP badge and swag bag, took them back to my room, and went into the lounge / bar thingie for lunch. I grabbed a corner seat and order fish and chips which, on the face of it, doesn’t sound like a great idea considering Indiana is, for all intents and purposes, landlocked, but whatever. I live on the edge.
I was joined soon thereafter by a nice, talkative gentleman named Jewell. It turns out I hijacked his spot, but we got on well and decided to hang out during the con. After a surprisingly delicious lunch and great conversation, I went back to my room to retrieve my bookbag and a surprise to show Heather Langenkamp and I met back up with Jewell and we headed into the convention.
Our first order of business was to walk around to see who all had arrived. Some folks were late due to weather or buggered up flights and the vendors were still setting up. Once the reconnaissance was done, I got ready to see Heather, but the line was a bit strange. For whatever reason, it was in front of Amanda Wyss and Thommy Hutson. I actually stood back because I didn’t get that that was where the line was, but I was able to help a few fellow fans out by taking photos of them with Heather.
Then, it was my turn! I got an I Am Nancy poster which I asked her to sign with her line, “I’m into survival!” and took out the surprise to show her: my St. Auggies’ sweater. Her face seeing it was priceless! She asked me if I wanted her to sign it, but I demurred because I actually wear it! I’m afraid of losing her signature in the wash! I know, I know...that’s supremely geeky of me. I embrace it. It’s a really comfy sweater!
After Jewell got to meet Heather, we went and got into line to see Reggie Bannister. I wanted to meet him because I got to see / ran a film he was in at my festival called Walking Distance (the film has since been picked up by Lionsgate and is now known as Psychic Experiment) and wanted to tell him how much I enjoyed his performance. We met a few more people like the lovely P.J. Soles and Ginger Lynn and then, when Jewell got into like for Roddy Piper, I went over and met the amazing Zoe Bell, a Kiwi stunt performer who doubled Lucy Lawless in Xena, Uma Thurman in the Kill Bill flicks, and herself in Death Proof among others.
I admire stunt people intensely. They’re willing to do the crazy things I and other writers dream up that most Stars are unwilling (or unable) to do. Stunties do NOT get paid enough and absolutely do not get enough recognition for their efforts (think I’m joking?)
We had a nice, but quick, conversation and then I met up with Jewell again. He decided to get out of the Roddy Piper line because the other VIPs kept using their line cutting perk. He was a VIP, too, but neither he nor I took advantage of that particular perk during the weekend (actually, I think he did for Ace Frehley, but I can’t blame him for that...)
That night was the midwest premiere of I Am Nancy so we went in early (now that's a VIP perk I can get behind!) and grabbed seats in the second row from the front on the aisle. Superfan and Nancy cosplayer Diandra introduced the film and Heather, who sat in the chair in front of me to watch it with the rest of us.
It was so fantastic to see the film with the fans, with the people who understand. The energy was wonderful! At the end, we gave her a standing ovation, then she thanked us all for coming and headed out pretty quickly so she could personally thank everyone as they walked out.
If I didn’t already adore her before that, I certainly did after.
After the movie, Jewell and I headed over to Quincy’s (it’s a bar inside the hotel) for An Evening with Roddy Piper which was billed as a stand up act, but was really more like a stream-of-consciousness recitation of his early years in wrestling. Think of An Evening with Kevin Smith, but less scripted and well-rehearsed. You can’t fit all that on a poster so stand up act it is. I’m not a fan of wrestling, but when I was a kid, I did watch the show every once in a while. Plus, They Live is one of my favourite John Carpenter flicks.
It was HILARIOUS. I’m so glad I didn’t miss that! He was refreshingly up front in the stories he told and I think there were quite a few minds blown wide open by the stories he was telling. There were a few rude people in the audience who kept shouting names out to him, hoping for stories about these people and other than veering off the story he was currently telling, he handled that pretty well. If he were to release an autobiography, I’d most likely pick it up. Considering I have no interest in wrestling, I think that says a lot.
The party was over at that point so I went back to my room and went to sleep. Well, tried to, anyway. It turns out that Quincy’s backdoor was across the hall from my room. Yeah, I didn’t sleep very well that night. People kept running up and down the hall and shouting and all that great stuff. The next morning, Heather was kind enough to ask me how I slept and promptly admonished me for not getting a room higher up... I’ve learned my lesson, Heather!
The next day was the Big Day, the one most people show up for. Saturday. I got in line for Heather first, of course, adding a Just the Ten of Us photo to my increasingly excessive collection of autographs. My current count is now ten (two of which were not attained in person) including one I got from her on the last day of the con. But, but, but...Just the Ten of Us!
Anyway, I roamed a lot on Saturday and got more autographs than I normally have any interest in...says the girl with ten autographs from one person (but two don’t count!) I also walked the vendor room and thought about what I wanted to get, if anything. I had to keep in mind that I was flying home. Of course, I didn’t think about that when I bought the I Am Nancy poster. Thankfully, I was able to carry it onto the plane and home without damaging it, but it was dicy for a while as I thought about actually *gasp* folding it.
Saturday featured the panel I was super excited for: Scream Queens! With P.J. Soles, Linnea Quigley, Heather Langenkamp, and Mark Patton. I can hear the cliche record screech now. Mark Patton played Jesse in A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge, a role which would be, stereotypically, played by a girl. There are so many good ideas in Freddy’s Revenge that, for me, simply didn’t work in execution, not to mention how it simply doesn’t fit in the canon. The make-up and score, in particular, are fantastic. And the actors are better than the material they’re given. The film just didn’t work.
Anyway, the scream queen panel was fantastic! There were thoughtful questions asked and some really insightful answers from the panelists. YouTube has some video of the panel. (Just so you know, I’m the one who asked about the panelists’ favourite/least favourite practical effects.)
At the end of the panel, the participants were good sports and screamed for the crowd, even in spite of having just said to everyone that you really need to prepare your voice before doing the scream queen thing. By the time they did that, I was already on the way out. I had my VIP pass and was able to sit up front (and without a camera other than the one on my phone), it was time for those who didn’t have one to come up and get photos and stuff.
After an incredible lunch with a surprise guest, it was time for photo ops. Originally, I’d planned on using my VIP voucher for a free photo op with Tom Savini. I mean, he’s Tom Savini for crying out loud! My point n’ shoot had crapped out before I went to the con and I’ve since replaced it with a camera that has a viewfinder on the front as well so I didn’t get any photos with anyone at the tables. My next con or event, whenever that will be, I can take photos and not worry that most people really don’t know how to take pictures (not to mention that I’m pretty picky.) I found out for sure that Savini had to cancel due to car troubles which was a bummer...maybe the third time our paths cross will be a charm.
I used my photo voucher to get a picture with Heather Langenkamp. She’s one of the very few people I get really geeky over so it’s hard to walk that line between fan and filmmaker. However, I recently heard a quote from Guillermo del Toro from when he was at the San Diego Comic Con that makes me feel a little better about loving this genre and the people in it: “I don’t know how many years I’ll direct or be able to produce but I know one thing. The one thing I can finance is I’ll be a fan my whole fucking life.”
I love him.
The photo op line ran a bit long (which makes me incredibly happy for Heather! Her lines all weekend were really long which means a lot of work for her, but at the same time, how awesome is that?!) so I thought I’d missed the Return of the Living Dead announcement that was supposed to happen before a short film package that I wanted to see. Luckily, they hadn’t started yet and while I had guessed what the announcement was going to be about thanks to a few clues that were dropped, I was still incredibly excited to see the trailer.
Thommy Hutson and some of the crew behind the incredible Never Sleep Again documentary are putting together a retrospective on The Return of the Living Dead 1-3! The trailer they showed was amazing and I can’t WAIT to see it! The trailer’s been pulled from the official website, but definitely keep your eye on it for more information.
I stayed for the short film package and then roamed some more before heading back to my room to put my stuff down and then head to the VIP party. Luckily for me, I found a seat with Jewell and two awesome people he met that day, Nikki and Randall. There were a hundred VIP passes sold for the weekend and the majority of them were, for lack of a better term, camped out by the door. Plus, there were mountains of muscle men standing at the table behind me so I couldn’t see a bloody thing.
The VIP party seemlessly transitioned into the Girls and Corpses Beauty Pageant which was totally not my thing so I headed out of there around ten thirty or eleven to try and get some sleep.
Sunday was the most chill day. In fact, most of the guests arrived late or had left early and the vendors were packing up by four. I saw Heather Langenkamp again (big shock) and asked her to sign the photo op picture of us with "Be Nancy," the slogan from I Am Nancy. I'm a fairly introverted person and I've been working really hard on that because you can't be introverted and make movies, especially when you're the one doing everything and you have to prove yourself worthy the trust required to work with actors. I haven't had to pursue funds yet, it'll be fun when I go to get money for the feature. I always have to remind myself that if someone says no to a question or request, I'm no worse off than before I asked so I just have to jump in with both feet and hope I land without spraining something.
I also got to meet Mark Patton. I may not like Freddy’s Revenge, but I started to really admire him after seeing Never Sleep Again and I like him even more after the Scream Queen panel. I didn’t meet Amanda Wyss...she’d had shoulder surgery fairly recently and I didn’t want to bother her or make her sign anything. I thought it was incredibly awesome (and brave) of her to come anyway, but I just couldn’t put her in any more pain than a weekend of signing and photos and accidental brushings had already. I will meet her at some point! Besides, I have to tell her how awesome she was in CSI (as Donna Marks AND as Tina Vincent!)
Afterward, I went to the Fango Film Festival to see the film Dead Genesis. This was a flick that I’ve been waiting patiently for since I saw a clip which turned out to be the first five minutes of the film. The first five minutes were the best of the entire run. It was pretty good, not the game changer a lot of people seem to be touting it as, and it’s very clear that the director doesn’t understand found-footage or mockumentary-style filmmaking.
After the film, I went to the vendor room and was disappointed to see that the vendors were packing up so early, but I was able to buy a couple of prints from Chris Kuchta - a beautiful print of his painting of Bub from Romero’s Day of the Dead, a print of Hellraiser’s cenobites for my friend Rickey, and this amazing print of this Night of the Living Dead painting which I then had signed by John Russo (producer), Russell Streiner (he plays Johnny in the original film), and George Kosana (who plays the Sheriff in the original.)
With the convention winding down, I went to say good-bye to Heather, but she was already gone, and then I went to my room to relax for the rest of the night and came home the next day! A weekend later, I shot my short film JustUs, the trailer for which you can see here. The weekend after that was Viscera (which is two entries before this one...) Just trying to put everything in context since this post is so bloody late.
This was an amazing festival and, unless you knew beforehand that it was their first time out, you wouldn’t have been able to tell. They did a fantastic job and I hope that maybe I can return someday! The hotel was a little too isolated, I suppose, but if I do get to go back, I'll know that ahead of time!