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FanExpo 2019: Pause For Thought

So. Now back on home territory after spending the end of August out in Toronto. No matter where else I travel to during the space of a year, the summer trip to Toronto is always a thing. A chance to catch up with friends, hit FanExpo, do a little networking, etc.

Let's stick with the FanExpo thing for now, since this is the thrust of this particular entry. Bear with me because, for the most part, I haven't been back in town long. So I'm kind of against the clock, as it were. You'll see.

It finally happens. Jeff Goldblum (in jacket and hat) appears at FanExpo.

Given that I wasn't entirely impressed with last year's FanExpo, I was wary on the approach to this year's outing. Ideally, I'd message my concerns to the organisers - since they invite feedback - and then update you after the fact with their response. Still, there's much to juggle in terms of business I put on hold to actually take some downtime. Anyhow.

To be fair, the Expo was better than last year. There was a little more variety in terms of dark/horror programming. Q&A with cast members from the original Blade Runner film. Advance screenings, e.g. for Mike Colter's upcoming Evil, as well as for the new John Travolta film The Fanatic. Guests such as John Travolta himself, as well as Jeff Goldblum. A welcome appearance, given last year's Expo. New content also included a behind-the scenes Q&A panel for VFX, courtesy of Jennifer Maillet whose work includes The Walking Dead. (Yes, a look at all the zombie/walker effects and such). Even the food options were better - no longer just your bog-standard pizza or such. Healthier options too, like sushi: definitely welcome. But the Expo still fell short of the mark for me. Let me explain why.

Branching Out. No longer sticking with the likes of pizza, FanExpo now adds healthier options such as sushi to its offerings. Which I prefer, so there.

For those unaware, the Expo runs across 4 days. You can pick which days you go on, but I and my friends hit the Expo for the full 4 days. So:

1. still an shortage of dark/horror programming. Don't get me wrong: the advance screenings of the likes of Evil and The Fanatic were a good step in the right direction. However, both of these were on the same day - Saturday. Why isn't such programming more readily available across the full four days? Which leads me to...

2. Abrupt endings for the larger Q&A/panels. Namely John Travolta and Jeff Goldblum. In both cases, while an hour slot had been assigned to both, each session was cut after half an hour from the scheduled start time. Why? I say the scheduled start time because in allowing for the room to fill up and the audience to take their seats, it'd be something of a late start anyway. Don't get me wrong: both guests were charming and engaging. But both sessions were brutally short. I'm aware that time needs to be allowed for the audience to file in and out of the various rooms. So I'm thinking...

3. Were all the rooms used? I know last year that some areas of the MTCC (Metro Toronto Convetion Centre, where FanExpo is held) were flooded. But as far as I'm aware, the flooding and any resulting issues has been resolved. So why weren't areas such as the lower theatre in the North Building used. (FYI, this particular theatre has hosted William Shatner (more than once), as well as Morena Baccarin (V, Deadpool), the cast of Lost Girl, and Anthony Stewart Head).

4. Where/how do the organisers compile their dark/horror programming? Not just a question of why wasn't more available across the four days but rather, why wasn't there more available, period? I concede that guests may cancel for whatever reason, but the Expo lists cancellations as well as who's slated to appear. The pickings on that list give me pause for thought.

As far as the realm of dark/horror medium goes, the genre is very much alive. Has been. And no doubt will be. In the realm of film and TV from the last year or so, you can pick the likes of director James Wan (Insidious, Saw, etc.) or actor Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, Hereditary). For more legendary individuals, there are the likes of director Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead franchise, Drag Me To Hell), as well as actor Jamie Lee Curtis (Halloween franchise) and Tony Todd (Candyman, Final Destination). Closer to home for the Expo are the likes of legendary horror director David Cronenberg, whose works include Scanners and The Fly. (yes, the same 'The Fly' that Jeff Goldblum was in). For the likes of TV and streaming services, you have Dexter, Charmed, Buffy The Vampire Slayer/Angel, Supernatural, Black Mirror, American Horror Story, Stranger Things, etc. In short, there's plenty.

The Ontario Chapter: hanging at the Expo's HWA booth with authors Brian Clement and Karen Dales

All In At The Lucky Clover: The standard Saturday evening HWA meet before the final day of the Expo. l-r: Nancy Kilpatrick, William 'Bill' Snider, Pat Flewwelling, me, and Sephera Giron.

Outside of the Expo, time was also spent with the local (Ontario) chapter of the HWA. I actually bailed early on the preview of The Fanatic so I could catch up with the guys. A good sit-down and catch-up: shop talk and such. Not everyone from last year made it this year. A nod to my fellow hustler Andrew Wilmot: who actually swung by the last day of the Expo (Sunday). Conversation on everything from the likes of Iron Man and the MCU to Buffy/Angel and the hustling of an independent author.

So there it is. There's still additional business to pick up (as always), but the plan is to give FanExpo organisers the feedback on the Expo. In much the same way as a beta/critical read of a new manuscript: not only outline what didn't work, but also what did. Constructive feedback. That's the plan. Who knows? Things might go according to plan. Ha.

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