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FireflyFirefly Flanvention 2005 : the Experience an IGN report
Sunday 4 June 2006, by Webmaster
Big Damned Heroes at the Big Damned Flanvention
Having the chance to sit down to dinner for two hours with a member of the Firefly cast isn’t something every fan gets to experience. Yet, thanks to the brilliant ideas and hard work of Vicki Fisher and Denise Adams of Booster Events, my memory of having a casual dinner chat with Adam Baldwin is something I will cherish for years to come.
Wow, that’s a lot of autographs!
The first Firefly convention (of hopefully many more), labeled the Big Damn Flanvention, was held in Los Angeles, California, December 9th - 11th. While many different convention organizations offer such unique experiences as cocktail parties, professional photo opportunities and dinners, the Flanvention had them all beat thanks to one very specific, and important, aspect: almost the entire cast of Firely was present. Gina Torres was the only star unable to attend; and when I say the only one... well, you’ll see what I mean.
Jewel Staite, Summer Glau and Morena Baccarin at the opening ceremony of the Big Damned Flanvention - photo courtesy of Matt Beals
The Opening Ceremony was held on Friday, and we were introduced to the headlining guests as well as the signing guests. The Firefly headliners included Nathan Fillion (Captain Malcolm Reynolds) (who was unable to attend on Friday, but showed up bright and early Saturday morning), Adam Baldwin (Jayne Cobb), Sean Maher (Simon Tam), Summer Glau (River Tam), Morena Baccarin (Inara Sera), Ron Glass (Sheppard Book), Alan Tudyk (Wash Hoburn) and Jewel Staite (Kaylee Frye). The signing guests that were present for the entire weekend were Jonathan Woodward (Tracey on Firefly), Keith R.A. DeCandido (author of the Serenity novelization), James Leery (Clem on Buffy), Dennis Christopher (Cyvus Vail on Angel), Raphael and Yan Feldman (Fanty and Mingo from Serenity), Christina Hendricks (Saffron on Firefly), Jason Carter (Repo Man on Angel) and Camden Toy (various roles on Buffy).
The signing room was the place to be when you didn’t have a panel to run to or a photo op to stand in line for. All of the signing guests were friendly and approachable, and loved to simply sit and chat with you about anything. Raphael and Yan Feldman are two of the most adorable guys I’ve ever met, who simply mingled with the fans at all opportunities, and always said hello and asked how you were when they saw you. In fact, there wasn’t a guest there who wasn’t more than willing to simply sit down with you and talk about anything as long as they had the time.
Dennis Christopher waves hello from the Signing Room at the Big Damned Flanvention
If the signing room was simply too crowded - and that happened a lot because everyone wanted a chance to chat with the guests - you could spend your time perusing the dealer’s room. I was impressed with the variety of items that related to the Jossverse on sale in the dealer’s room, including the opportunity to purchase all nine covers of the Serenity comic for only $16.00! Thank you, Darkhorse Comics! Every item available was tempting, so I mostly tried leaving my money back in my room.
Lots of money flowed through the doors of the Dealer’s Room
Open bar, dude!
The cocktail party was held Friday evening, in a darkened room that was, perhaps, a bit too small for the two hundred people crammed into it. I felt sorry for the poor bartender as the line for drinks was almost instantaneous, and very long. He was a trooper, though, even managing a joke every now and again. There was food offered as well, in an impressive display, though the buffet was set up in the center of the room, which made the line for the bar awkward, and the traffic flow almost nonexistent.
Adam Baldwin at the cocktail party - photo courtesy of Matt Beals
None of that really mattered, though, because there were stars! Well, really, it isn’t often that one has the opportunity to stand around sharing beers with Alan Tudyk or Ron Glass, or have a quiet chat with Morena Baccarin and Sean Maher. It was obvious, at first, that the majority of attendees were a little nervous about the idea of just walking up and starting a conversation with the actors, but once a few people got up the courage, there began a nonstop rotation of admirers around them. I was beyond impressed with how friendly and personable they all were. Slipping into conversation with Adam Baldwin was just as easy as it would have been with any friend of mine.
Dennis Christopher cuts a piece of his birthday cake during the cocktail party - photo courtesy of Matt Beals
The majority of the actors remained throughout the entire two hours, and some even pushed it a little bit longer. It also happened to be Dennis Christopher’s birthday, and so he was presented with an enormous cake, and we all sang an extremely off-key rendition of Happy Birthday.
Mr. Demille, I’m ready for my close-up
Saturday morning, bright and early, were when the photo ops with the headliners were to begin. Unfortunately, due to Nathan unable to be there on Friday when the special people (read: Big Damn Passholders, who have more money than me) got to have their photos done, the schedule was changed. On the whole, it was a minor, and very understandable inconvenience, the only problem being that the convention really had no way of getting this information out to the attendees other than a small dry erase board in the lobby. This, of course, did nothing for those people who were driving in that morning, or might have slept in late, thinking the photo that they purchased with their favorite actor was at a latter time.
Fans wait in line for photo ops with the actors
Luckily, my photo op with Adam Baldwin had been scheduled for an early hour, so I was present in the lobby when the times were switched around. I grumbled about my hair falling flat in the two hours that I had to wait, but that was just me being vain and petulant! Frankly, I didn’t care how long I had to wait, as long as I got my two point five seconds standing next to Adam for a picture!
Booster Events went out of their way to make the pictures even more fun by adding special photo opportunities with two cast members instead of just one. These were limited, but well worth it in that the cost was cheaper to get two together, as opposed to one, and they made for very fun pictures. The special photo ops included the Hot & Horny package with Sean Maher and Jewel Staite, the Sibling photo with Sean Maher and Summer Glau, the Cosmic Connection photo with Morena Baccarin and Nathan Fillion, and the Let’s Be Bad Guys photo option with Adam Baldwin and Nathan Fillion. My favorite, obviously, was the latter, and was far too much fun as I was squished between two of the sweetest, funniest and most adorable men ever! (Not that I’m biased, or anything.) Photo opportunities were also offered with the twins, Raphael and Yan Feldman, and a last minute special was added with Mr. and Mrs. Reynolds, which included Nathan Fillion and Christina Hendricks. The photo ops ranged anywhere from $30 - $80, and were well worth it! Mine are already framed and hanging in my office.
Pass the salt, please
For the reasonable price of $165 (trust me - so worth it!), you had the option of dining with a star of your choice at the banquet on Saturday night. Honestly, I couldn’t let this very rare opportunity pass me up, so I went ahead and paid for the ticket, not really certain what the experience would be like. And I have to say, the entire evening surpassed my expectations! The big surprise of the banquet was the last minute addition of writer/producer/director Tim Minear, who joined us for the evening, and even spent time after the banquet chatting with fans.
Sitting down to dinner with one of your favorite all-time actors is a little nerve-racking at first, and I suppose if this had been with any cast other than those of Firefly, it might not have been so pleasant an experience. Every single one of these individuals has an extremely rare talent for making you feel comfortable and relaxed around them.
I really have no idea what the conversation was like at other tables, aside from the reports my friend who sat with Sean Maher provided (and she enjoyed every minute) but the two hours spent with Adam Baldwin were fabulous. Not to mention, my other dinner companions were extremely pleasant and enjoyable. Adam let us know immediately that he was more interested in getting to know each of us rather than talk about himself, so it was a steady stream of conversation involving our interest in Firefly, why we thought it was cancelled, how the film would do on DVD and various and sundry other topics. No one seemed shy about joining in.
The food was pretty much what one would expect from a hotel catered banquet, with the dessert being the best part, and again there was an open bar, so a good time was certainly had by all. The worst part of the entire experience was how quickly it all seemed to come to an end.
Just wanted to say hi!
The autograph session held on Sunday had to be the most grueling moment of the weekend for the cast, and I have to give them props for holding up through it. For four hours, our big damn heroes sat behind tables, signed their names over and over again, and still had smiles and special greetings for each and every one of us. The line was long, but the wait was well worth it, because I hadn’t had the chance to speak to all of them yet, so it was good to finally be able to offer a small hello to Morena, Sean and Summer. Though they’d been at the cocktail party, I hadn’t yet found the courage to approach them!
Morena wrote down my suggestion about watching Alton Brown (because he truly is the best part of Food Network), and it was kind of special to me that she would take my recommendation seriously enough to make note of it. Summer was still as stunning as ever, and just seemed seriously awed that so many people would want to say hello to her. Of course, saying my last hello and goodbye to Adam was the worst because, hello?? Fangirl, here! He had a radio going beside him, and was just as relaxed as can be. He even personalized my autograph with little jokes between us that will probably leave any guests who see the picture hanging in my house wondering what the hell he meant.
Have I mentioned how much I love this cast??
Panels, panels and - Oh my god! It’s Joss!!!
As wonderful as the cocktail party, photo ops and banquet were, no convention is a real convention without panels, and the Flanvention had those in spades! Not to mention, this was the opportunity to see the cast interacting with one another, which is a lot like sitting down in front of a comedy hour, or five.
It can’t be said enough how gracious this cast is. You can easily see how appreciative they are of their fans, and how much it means to them that so many people love Firefly. More than that is how much they love Firefly, and the characters they had the opportunity to portray. You’ll hear a lot of actors say that they love a certain show or movie they were a part of, but the cast of Firefly doesn’t need to say it. It’s visible in their interactions with one another, with their fans, with their enthusiastic responses to the questions they’re asked, and just the expressions on their faces when they reply.
The first panel we were treated to was on Saturday afternoon with all of the men of Serenity - Nathan, Adam, Sean, Ron and Alan. If there is one thing I learned from this panel, it’s that Nathan and Adam are not allowed to sit together if anyone else wants to get a word in. Okay, so Nathan on his own pretty much encapsulates the entire conversation, but he and Adam together form their own comedic duo, with Adam as the straight man to Nathan’s funny man.
Nathan Fillion, Adam Baldwin, Ron Glass, Sean Maher and Alan Tudyk during the Men of Serenity panel - photo courtesy of Matt Beals
In the beginning, Adam mentioned that while he was in South Africa last year, filming The Poseidon Adventure, ‘Uncle’ Nathan had taken his son out go-karting in the desert. This led to Nathan providing the audience with an impersonation of Adam’s son, sitting beside Nathan in the kart, yelling at him to slow down, to let the other karts pass, etc. It was absolutely hilarious, and Adam was laughing uproariously along with the rest of us, until suddenly he wiped all expression from his face, held the microphone up, gave Nathan this stare and commented “You saying my kid’s a wimp?” Everyone lost it at that point, including Nathan.
A little later, a question was asked as to if the actors had taken anything from the set of Firefly or Serenity. For the most part, as the actors replied, they got a hold of one or two things, or nothing at all, to which Adam commented that they were all amateurs, and went on to list the t-shirts, Jayne hat, and head of the statue of Jayne that he had. After he was finished, Nathan was the last to answer the question, and proceeded to list items that all of the other cast members would have liked to have, such as the steering wheel which should have rightly gone to Alan Tudyk. When Alan heard this, he spun around and shouted, “What?!” It was classic!
Later in the day, the women of Serenity had their chance on the stage, and were just as delightful to watch as the guys had been. Jewel Staite, Morena Baccarin and Summer Glau all positively glow. They are seriously some of the most beautiful women I have ever seen, and their smiles and laughter simply light up the room. They’re funny and smart, and obviously good friends from the teasing that happens between them.
Summer Glau, Morena Baccarin and Jewle Staite talk to fans at the Women of Serenity panel - photo courtesy of Matt Beals
At one point, they were asked what their hobbies were, and it turns out all three women enjoy cooking, and watch the Food Network. Unfortunately, they don’t all quite agree on the best shows offered by the channel. Jewel loves Rachel Ray, and even said that was the one person that if she ever got to meet her, she would be completely star struck. Morena did not agree with this statement, claiming that if she wanted to make a meal in thirty seconds, she’d make a sandwich. (I whole-heartedly agreed with that remark!) Summer loves Giada DeLaurentis, and shouted out “Food Network, baby!” Aw! A girl after my own heart.
Saturday’s panels ended with one of the most touching moments of the weekend. The cast got together to do a commentary to one of the fan-favorite episodes, Out of Gas, and when the opening credits began, the entire audience sang along to the theme song. I have to say, there were few dry eyes in the room, including my own, by the time it was over. There was just something about almost five hundred fans, sitting together, watching Firefly and singing the theme song, with the cast right there. Luckily, we all sounded much better than we did singing Happy Birthday.
Sean Maher, Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin clown around prior to the cast episode commentary - photo courtesy of Matt Beals
The commentary was an extremely good time. It was great to hear little tidbits and memories from the cast, and teasing between them as it went on. At one point, Nathan got serious and commented as to how special this was, having them all together at that moment, doing this, and he got sniffly, and we all got sniffly. Apparently, there were a lot of allergies going around or something throughout the weekend.
Sunday provided us with three more panels with the Firefly cast. Another hilarious hour with the guys, though this time Sean was missing from the group. When this was mentioned, Nathan started in about getting rid of excess baggage and how when one has a gangrenous toe, you just have to cut it off. Apparently, there is simply no way to combat Nathan’s teasing - he’ll do it if you’re there, he’ll do it if you’re not. He really is completely charming and adorable, and missed his calling as a stand-up comedian! Luckily, Adam and Nathan were separated for the panel, so Ron and Alan were able to get a few words in this time around.
Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion, Ron Glass and Adam Baldwin give a second Men of Serenity panel on Sunday - photo courtesy of Matt Beals
The Good Doctor panel included Sean, Jewel and Summer, and provided yet another hour of laughter. The three behaved like siblings the entire time, teasing one another, laughing, and ganging up on Nathan, who really deserves it when you hear half the stories they share!
Sean Maher at the Good Doctor panel - photo courtesy of Matt Beals
Summer seemed to be the highlight of the panel, sharing moments like her worst job ever, which occurred when she was playing Snow White at children’s parties. She knew magic tricks and such to perform for them, but one day a woman demanded that she sing the Snow White songs for her daughter. Unfortunately, Summer didn’t know any Snow White songs, and the woman yelled at her, and she was fired. Summer told the audience that she hadn’t realized that people could be so mean.
Summer Glau and Jewel Staite at the Good Doctor panel - photo courtesy of Matt Beals
She went on to share a story with us about her first encounter with Nathan. It was at an audition for Firefly, and when she arrived, she had thought he was an employee with FOX because he’d been sitting at the table, handing out water to people and such. She explained that she was very nervous, and shy, and was having trouble speaking to the others there. At one point, Nathan walked past her, and she commented as to how nervous she was and he replied not to worry, they weren’t up for the same role. Summer’s expression on her face as she recounted his words was absolutely priceless! She then went on to add that when she arrived for the read-through after getting the part, she saw him and went “You!!” Summer Glau is seriously the cutest thing ever!
The final panel of the convention, indeed the final event, was at 7:30 on Sunday evening, which was to be a panel with the entire cast of Serenity, including Raphael and Yan Feldman. It was a real treat to see all of them up there on stage together, even though Nathan was giving the twins trouble about really only needing one of them. We all settled in for what promised to be an enjoyable hour when Nathan suddenly began talking about the man who was the real reason we were all together. Almost instantly, you could feel the anticipation begin to flicker through the room. There was someone standing at the door to the back, and Nathan turned toward it, and even before he completely got out the name, Joss Whedon, every fan in that room was on their feet, clapping and hollering in surprised joy.
Joss Whedon makes a surprise appearance on Sunday at the cast panel - photo courtesy of Matt Beals
I admit it, I was crying. Hey, I wasn’t the only one! There they were, all on stage, with Joss sitting down with them, and we had them all to ourselves for one whole hour, our numbers cut significantly with the latest of the day, and the whole setting was just so intimate and... perfect. No video was allowed of the panel but, by that point, nothing really mattered because the master himself was there to answer our questions, and interact with his cast, and this was absolutely the perfect way to end what had already been a stellar weekend.
Adam Baldwin, Morena Baccarin, Sean Maher, Alan Tudyk, Summer Glau, Jewel Staite, Joss Whedon, Nathan Fillion, Ron Glass, Raphael and Yan Feldman at the final panel - photo courtesy of Matt Beals
Even with Joss Whedon on stage, the audience continued to spread the questions out to everyone. Sometimes, the questions were to Joss regarding some of the cast, or characters they’d played. One person asked him who would win in a fight - Caleb (Nathan’s character on Buffy), or Hamilton (Adam’s character on Angel). Joss glanced at both actors and said “Why don’t we find out? Gentlemen...” and Adam promptly ran over to Nathan and proceeded to pretend to beat him down. Of course, Nathan had to respond that Caleb would win because he had God on his side. Joss also discussed his experience with his guest spot on Veronica Mars, and how he’d only gotten the role because he’d mentioned how much he loved the show online. When asked why every show he wrote seemed to involve female superheroes, he (correctly) responded that it was because women were superheroes! I love this man.
The panel drew to a close with Nathan explaining why he was sitting up there in front of us, eating a salad. During the short break he had, he ran home to grab his copy of the gag reel from Serenity that was given to cast and crew only. See, this is how special this cast is. I remember spying him running through the lobby of the hotel prior to the panels, and when he said where he’d gone, I was absolutely blown away that he would go to such trouble to share something that special with us. The gag reel itself was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen, and I’m positive I wasn’t the only one who hurt myself with laughter.
Sadly, the end of the panel signaled that the weekend was over.
Breaking up is hard to do
The end of the Big Damned Flanvention was the most difficult parting I’ve ever experienced with a convention. The interaction with the actors was something so rare and memorable, that I highly doubt it will ever be surpassed. I met and made so many wonderful friends there; sweet, friendly people who were all brought together by their shared love of Firefly. Such a thing would never have been possible without a cast of individuals as special as these. To Nathan, Adam, Morena, Sean, Jewel, Ron, Alan, Summer, Tim, Joss and everyone else who took the time out of their busy schedules to share a little bit of themselves with us, thank you from the bottom of my heart.
You know you don’t wanna miss this....
Booster Events is a relatively new company to the convention world. Their first event, the Angel Booster Bash, was held over the summer, and offered the same experiences for their attendees - cocktail party, banquet and photo ops. While the tickets for these opportunities aren’t cheap, they are well worth it. I know that most people would probably hesitate to purchase such things, worried that the stars wouldn’t participate as promised, but if the open bar and great catered food aren’t enough to entice you, I just want to go on the record as assuring you the actors seem as genuinely interested in attending these events and getting to know their fans, as the attendees who paid for the opportunity are.
The best thing about this event was how intimate it was. At only at total of 500 tickets sold - the majority of which were never there at the same time - you never had to worry about not getting an chance to speak to the actors, or fretted about being nothing more than a nameless face in the crowd. I thought it had to be fairly nice for the actors as well, as a few hundred fans clamoring for your attention may not be as exciting as hearing thousands cheering for you, but it’s got to be a lot more comfortable.
With this being Booster Events second convention ever, I can’t wait to see what the next year holds in store for them...