Thursday, April 16, 2015

In Which Jenn Goes to MegaCon! (Part 1)

I went to my first convention last year as press and it was a small convention hosted at the Orlando Orange County Convention Center, called LeakyCon (now renamed GeekyCon). That convention was a blast. I had the opportunity to interview an amazing cast of the web series Emma Approved. I got to listen to hilarious panels featuring young adult authors John Green, Maureen Johnson, Gayle Foreman, and Rainbow Rowell, among others. I got to listen to creative teams like Starkid and women like Amber Benson speak at panels. I had the chance to meet up with two of my Twitter friends. It was wonderful and it was a wonderful introduction to what conventions are supposed to be about -- a sense of community, of shared interest, of shared fandoms.

So when the opportunity arose for me to apply for MegaCon as press, I leapt at the chance and was approved. Last weekend, the convention (the second-largest convention in the entire United States right behind San Diego Comic Con, can you believe that?) was held at the Orange County Convention Center in my lovely home of Orlando, Florida. My friend and Just About Write contributor Laura Schinner flew in for the convention and we had the opportunity to hang out together, meet some amazing people, listen to some stellar panels, and walk away from the weekend with a hug from our new favorite Amell.

If you're ready, let's take a journey through my weekend!

* I'm breaking this up into two parts to make it easier to read/follow/I don't exceed a posting limit. ;)


Laura flew in on Friday morning/early afternoon while I was at work so I didn't get the opportunity to attend the convention until around 6 PM. By then, most people were filtering in and out of the building. But it was still fun to have the opportunity to see a small sampling of the crowds that will be present throughout the remainder of the weekend.

Though I didn't get the chance to spend the entire day on Friday at MegaCon, Laura and I did go to Shake Shack afterward and the Shake Shack near my apartment has one of the pettiest views ever, so I think we're the real winners here, don't you?


Saturday was by far the busiest day at the convention for both of us and not just because that was the day we bounced back and forth from panel to panel. No, Saturday was INSANE at MegaCon. Most people chose to attend the convention on this day alone, apparently (the Sunday crowd was busy but not nearly as busy as Saturday) and with good reason -- the OCCC was absolutely hopping from the moment we stepped into it.

Woahdang, look at that group of people!

Since the first panel we were interested in attending was at noon, Laura and I left my apartment pretty late and got to the convention center in just enough time to sneak through the doors of a smaller room. The first panel we attended was called "Writers Panel -- Character Development." (Laura and I spent the majority of the panel leaning over to each other and whispering about which of the shows we watched could learn a thing or two from the advice given.) The panel was really interesting, actually. I don't read much science fiction or fantasy and the authors on the panel all wrote for that genre at least once. But the advice that they provided and the topics covered were applicable to writers of any genre. Here's some of what was discussed:
  • The panel talked about understanding the "shape" of your story. What the panelists meant: conflict drives your story and it drives it upwards or downwards. Sometimes your stories look like the letter "W" where there are peaks and valleys. Sometimes they look like check marks -- giant moments of falling action and then immediate rising action. Sometimes your stories are double check marks -- rising, falling, rising, falling, etc. It was really interesting because I've never thought about a story being a shape before, necessarily.
  • "Conflict is the heart of any story."
  • On how to write believable relationships, writer T.S. Robinson said: "Go to a Wal-Mart and just hang out." There was a really interesting discussion about how to write believable relationships and Robinson suggested observing people and being in community with people who are vastly different from you. So much can be gleaned from learning about other cultures and genders and social classes, etc. that you cannot glean from your own experiences.
  • "As a writer, one of the things you need to learn how to do is shut up and listen and watch."
  • "Write what you know? No, build on what you know and write from there."
  • What I thought was great was that the focus of the panel was about creating believable relationships and relatable characters. In order to do that, you need to construct varied and nuanced characters by learning as much as possible about as many different kinds of people as possible.
  • The discussion about writing villains was focused on the idea that writing a villain doesn't mean writing a character who is "evil," but simply writing someone who makes decisions that are different from yours.
  • One of the most important lessons in the panel was about killing off your characters. Someone in the audience asked if the writers ever worried about backlash for something they did in their stories -- if they ever didn't do something because they feared the readers would be mad at them. The writers on the panel essentially all said the same thing: they don't care about making a reader upset. Their goal is to tell a character's story as honestly as possible, no matter if it offends someone else or not. "Don't shock just to shock," the advised, though. All of the writers agreed that the worst thing possible is to use shock value in your story.
  • One of the best pieces of advice though I heard about writing was at the panel. In discussion of the same topic, the panelists discussed censorship in writing and whether or not they've ever felt the need to edit their own stories based on whether or not they would receive criticism. "The moment you edit your story based on what others think of you is the moment you lose something genuine in how you want to write." That was so interesting to me -- the writers talked about how your true voice -- the kind of writer you actually want to be -- is the one you are when you don't censor yourself.
  • One of the writers on the panel criticized The 100 for developing Octavia Blake too fast and Laura and I nearly jumped out of our seats to protect her. #warriorprincess
  • Perhaps the greatest advice that can ever be given to writers who desperately want to hold onto an idea that they had for their story that just doesn't work: "One of the worst mistakes you can make as a writer is falling in love with a scene that doesn't fit your story arc and holding onto it." AHEM, HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER. But really, this is great advice. The panelists mentioned that you shouldn't throw that scene away. If you really love the way something is written but it doesn't fit, there's no rule that says you have to scrap it entirely -- rip out the page and file it away to be used somewhere else. Just don't ever force something that doesn't belong just because you love it.
Laura and I ducked out of the panel early in order to try and find the press room (it didn't exist) and walk around the convention floor after that. On the floor, I was so upset because I had run into a trio of Arrow, Arsenal, and Canary cosplayers and couldn't grab them in time for a picture. Luckily for me, I found some amazing other cosplayers on the floor. Convention floors, by the way (places with merchandise and stalls of fanart, comics, etc.) are not for the claustrophobic.

DON'T BLINK. DON'T EVEN BLINK. A wonderful Ten, lady!Eleven, a Weeping Angel, and Captain Jack Harkness

I stopped this girl because she looked SO good as Katniss that for a moment I actually thought she was Jennifer Lawrence

Laura and I then ventured from the convention floor up a few levels for the special Doctor Who panel. The first panel of the weekend was special because it was limited -- we had to purchase tickets ahead of time. We were corralled into a holding room (okay, nothing makes you feel quite like a sheep than going to a convention, let me tell you) before the volunteers opened the ballroom for us to file into. The special Doctor Who panel featured Alex Kingston (River Song), Tony Curran (Vincent van Gogh), and Karen Gillan (Amy Pond). Here's what we saw and learned:

Seriously these people are so endearing
  • Alex took the role as River song because when she read the script for "Silence of the Library," she cried. She said that she figured since she had such an intense reaction to the script, it would be a great character. Spoilers: she was right.
  • When asked which episode the panelists would be in if they could be in any of the episodes, Karen said that she would like to be in Alex Kingston's first episode, just "in the background in a spacesuit." Alex said she would love to be transported back to the very first episode of Doctor Who.
  • There were raucous cheers when Karen mentioned she would definitely be in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Tony Curran's response? "Is Nebula going to be ginger?"
  • The panelists were asked to do impressions of each other and Karen did a fabulous impression of Alex's "hello sweetie" voice. Tony made a Freudian slip and said: "Do me," to Alex which elicited a lot of cheers and laughter from the audience.
  • When asked who each panelist would want as a companion if they were the Doctor, Karen Gillan's first answer was: "Oh, I don't know! Elvis, maybe? No. All of time and space? I'm taking Jesus." Alex then countered by saying she would take Bob Marley as her companion and our moderator said: "You'd open up the TARDIS and all this smoke would pour out."
  • Alex was asked what her reaction was when she found out that River was Amy's daughter. First of all, she and Karen then discussed how each of the cast members responded -- Matt thought he knew the secret but he didn't; Arthur Darvill actually did know. Alex's reaction, though? "I think I said 'holy sh*tballs.'"
  • Alex Kingston, we learned, was the queen of double entendres. When the panelists were asked which Doctor they would travel with if they couldn't travel with their own (Karen bemoaned that question because she wanted to choose Matt Smith, but ended up settling for Ten; Tony wanted to travel with Tom Baker's Doctor), Alex responded with a sultry: "I've had them all."
  • Some fans wondered how much the actors knew about their characters, specifically as to whether or not River would make a reappearance with Twelve. Alex was extremely coy and would only utter: "Spoilers." Alex noted how resilient River is as a character and how she's never really, truly, and finally dead. The actress also jokingly told the audience that River knows everything, including the Doctor's name. (She was joking and elaborated on the joke in the panel the following day, saying that Steven Moffat didn't know The Doctor's name but that River did.)
  • Karen Gillan talked about what it was like to be introduced on the series and she thanked her cousin -- who played young Amelia Pond -- for making the character's first appearance so memorable and touching for the audience.
  • When Tony Curran had the opportunity to talk about "Vincent and The Doctor" (the only episode besides "Silence in the Library" that has ever made Alex Kingston cry), he talked about how his role allowed him to have open conversations with fans about depression. He expressed how touched he was by that and how touched he is that people continue to talk to him about it. As a complete and total fan of the episode, I'm glad that his appearance was able to get people to talk about something that is typically taboo.
  • Karen Gillan got some applause (and raucous cheers from me and Laura) when a question was asked about the tragically cancelled ABC sitcom Selfie. She was asked whether or not she wants to return to comedy, and Karen replied that she absolutely does. She loved being a part of the show and wants to do more comedy in the future.
  • One of Karen Gillan's most quotable moments? "Acting feels like being drunk, to me."
  • The question was asked as to what the panelists would be doing if they weren't actors. Karen said she would love to be a therapist ("I just love listening to people's issues and problems!") She finds the human mind fascinating and would love to give advice. Alex revealed that she was obsessed with claymation as a child and actually suffers from numerical dyslexia. If she wasn't acting, she was always fascinated with making claymation figurines and art and would be doing that. Tony says that he would probably end up being a carpenter or doing some sort of work with his hands, as he loves that and finds it rewarding.
  • Alex Kingston gave some beautiful advice to an asipring actress/artist: she recommended that everyone who wants to be an artist of any kind read and travel and LIVE. She said that will translate to your craft. Everyone on the panel also emphasized the importance of reading and how underrated it is these days when everyone wants to watch something.

I loved them so much and my love only grew from Saturday to Sunday.

After the Doctor Who panel, Laura and I decided to grab a quick dinner downstairs before venturing back upstairs to the holding area we were told would house the corral for the Flash vs. Arrow panel, with guests Danielle Panabaker (Caitlin Snow), Robbie Amell (Ronnie Raymond), and David Ramsey (John Diggle). Since Arrow and The Flash are two of our favorite network series at the moment, we knew we wanted to get the best seats possible and that meant sitting in line. 

Thankfully, the best part about conventions? The fact that everyone there is just as enthusiastic as you are about fandoms and television series. Honestly, that was my favorite part about MegaCon -- the feeling of being surrounded by people who have the same interests as you are and not being remotely judged for it. You'd be hard-pressed to find someone at the convention who wasn't in cosplay or wearing a fandom-related shirt. The feeling of being surrounded by those people -- YOUR people? Well, there's nothing quite like it. Speaking of being surrounded by our kind of people, Laura and I met some friends in line (that's another thing about cons: you ALWAYS make friends in line) at the corral and got to talk to them extensively about The Flash and Arrow. We: debated the merits of the time travel and its effects on both series; discussed why Felicity Smoak is the best; traded fanfiction recommendations; talked about Tumblr; vented about why Ray Palmer was the worst, etc.

Our line friends were great and so much fun to be around. (On discussing whether or not Brandon Routh was typecast as a douchey character, our line friend Chris argued: "He was Superman!" Us: "Yes, but was he a DOUCHEY Superman?" On secrets and secret identities: "Nobody can tell the truth on Arrow and The Flash has the exact opposite problem. Everyone knows EVERYTHING." "Except Iris.") Since we were close to the front of the corral, we didn't really notice how full the room had actually gotten. The room was nearly packed ten to fifteen lines deep when we were ushered into the actual hall. And that was extremely impressive because the panel itself had just been added a few days prior to the schedule, since originally Robbie and Danielle weren't set to appear.

We ushered into the hall and Laura and I grabbed some great seats a few rows from the front. And then, the panel really kicked off. Here's what we saw and what we learned:

David's face in this photo is my actual favorite
  • The panel kicked off by discussing the success of both The Flash and Arrow, and how much the panelists knew about their characters and the comic lore before they accepted their roles. Robbie admitted that he didn't know anything about Firestorm until after he accepted the part. David, meanwhile, was applauded (and cheered for in the audience) because his character has become such a huge part of the Arrow-verse and he credits the fans and their love of Diggle for allowing his part to grow.
  • David Ramsey also said that it's a great time for comic books on television with all the D.C. (and yes, even Marvel) shows. "It's a comic book renaissance."
  • Stephen Amell and Katie Cassidy were slated to appear at MegaCon initially but had to cancel due to filming committments for the finale of Arrow. David, Robbie, and Danielle all admitted that they had to keep tight-lipped about their shows and their finales and that they weren't allowed to spoil anything. David really didn't give anything away apart from the fact that they were shooting something big and Diggle wasn't in that scene. Why he wasn't there is up to speculation, of course (and I know people will always leap to the: "Something happens to Diggle!" one, but David didn't give a direct impression either way).
  • The cast talked about the most difficult parts of shooting for them. For Robbie, the most difficult part of acting as Firestorm is acting pre-special effects. He imitated (hilariously, might I add) what it looks like when Firestorm "flies" away. He got the chance to see what the scene looked like after animation and recalled being extremely impressed by how the scene was turned from something that was -- in his mind -- hilariously bad to really epic.
  • A fan asked what superpower the panelists would want their characters to have that they don't already possess. David Ramsey's answer? "The superpower I would want Diggle to have is the ability for him to change Oliver's mind about ANYTHING." Amen, David. AMEN.
  • When Danielle attempted to answer the question, she hesitated and Robbie covered for her by saying that she'll eventually HAVE superpowers (to loud cheers in the audience). Danielle noted that the audience "will see Killer Frost sooner than you think..."
  • David Ramsey noted that: "The core of our show is Oliver, Diggle, and Felicity" and that they kind of get back to that toward the end of the season.
  • David then got the chance to talk about what it's like to be on set and whether or not they've ever had moments, as actors, where they can't keep it together. David mentioned the fact that when you see a scene in an episode, chances are, it was the one good take between him and Stephen Amell and that the rest was just of them goofing off. Until John Barrowman came to set. (David also noted that until Barrowman came to set, he was the oldest cast member.) David mentions that John Barrowman is now the biggest goofball on set, not him or Amell.
  • Important interlude time: When someone asked who everyone's favorite superhero was, Robbie -- without missing a beat -- answered that his was Batman. And he then proceeded to show us just how much of a Batman fan he was by pulling out the band of his boxers which, yes, did say 'Batman' on them. Just so you all know.
  • David Ramsey got asked a backhanded compliment question about whether or not he changes his voice on Arrow because his real voice sounds much higher and less intimidating. (David, hilariously, took it all in stride and then proceeded to lower his voice to a threatening tone and talk to us.)
  • When asked about their favorite scenes on their series, Robbie said that his was a scene that they haven't aired yet ("which may include a family member of mine..."), Danielle's was Caitlin and Barry's karaoke scene, and David's was the scene he shot with Stephen Amell in Nanda Parbat where Dig asks Oliver to be his best man.
  • The moderator for this panel was the moderator for all of our panels and he was hilarious. He also tried to make sure no one asked any weird or uncomfortable questions to the actors. (Like requests for hugs/kisses/etc.) Danielle, it was revealed, was at her first convention so we all cheered for her and the moderator kept jokingly telling people to not scare her away with their questions.
  • When a fan asked about the weirdest or creepiest fan experience they've had, Danielle and Robbie said nothing but David told an epic story. Thankfully, someone got it all on video.
  • David got the chance to talk about Dig's evolution because a fan asked about whether or not David wanted to see more of Diggle in the field, since he's been kind of on the sidelines a lot. It was a good question and David Ramsey's answer was great. He talked a lot about how he's not upset that Dig has spent time on the sidelines this season. He's in a very different position in season three than he was in season two and David noted that the writers have a plan for at least five seasons, and with those plans, the characters will grow and evolve at different paces. "You have to evolve the characters and it takes time to do that," he said. David then noted that he knows Dig will get the chance to be in the field more in the future as his arc and his stories continue to grow and change, but for now, Dig's arc is focused on his family and that means not being in the field as much. And he's completely happy with that.
  • Robbie, on what it was like to go from a show like The Tomorrow People to The Flash: "First I got fired... then I got lit on fire... so things are hot."
  • The cast got the chance to talk about what it's like doing crossovers between the shows and they briefly talked about the spin-off and the idea of doing crossovers with shows like Supergirl, too (since a fan specifically asked about The CW eventually expanding into other networks, etc.) All three actors agreed that while it would be nice to cross over if that happened, scheduling just two shows at the moment is difficult -- you have to schedule Grant to be in one place and make sure Stephen can be there, and that's only two actors. While they would all love to work with other superhero shows, it all comes down to how much they can reasonably fit in while still staying true to their own series.
  • Robbie revealed that there's a stunt he wants to do but hasn't yet: stunt driving. But since Firestorm can fly, that won't likely be in the cards. Robbie's tune changed a bit when David told a story of one of the stunt guys on Arrow who severely hurt himself while doing a stunt (the scene where Dig jumps off a bridge dressed as The Arrow and onto a moving car) and then still came to work as if nothing had happened.
  • David got a bit ominous and cryptic when discussing what was in store for season four of Arrow. Though he admitted that the series will have a new big bad, David also warned that Team Arrow isn't out of the clutches of Ra's al Ghul quite yet to even concentrate on moving onto a new big bad and that: "By the time we're done with Ra's al Ghul and season three, there's almost... irreparable damages..."
  • What really impressed me was that a fan asked whether or not David had any training to play a soldier and David took the opportunity to discuss what he did to mentally prepare for Diggle: he studied PTSD. He wanted to learn more than just the physicality of being a soldier and knew that in order for Dig to relate to Oliver and to Oliver's own PTSD, he would need to understand it as an actor. It was really a pretty cool moment to hear David talk about how he researched the disorder in order to ensure that Diggle, as a character, was not just relatable to the audience but able to connect with Oliver too.
  • Danielle talked about how she connected to Caitlin Snow, who's very much of a stoic scientist. She said that she connected to Caitlin because of her desire to care for people and take care of Barry. She didn't connect with her, necessarily, because of the character's medical prowess but because of her heart.
  • The audience wanted a John Barrowman-related story, so that's exactly what we got! David told the tale of how Barrowman's farts don't smell. I would explain further but honestly, that's just the moral of the story.
  • And now, what you all were waiting for: David may have accidentally (or on purpose because I don't know if he was allowed to say anything) let it slip that he knows who Felicity's father is. During the final question of the panel, a fan asked who would win in a fight: Caitlin Snow or Felicity Smoak. The entire audience let out a massive "ooooooh." Danielle obviously had to go with Caitlin though, she admitted, it depended on what kind of fight it would be. Still, she thought Caitlin could win either way. David pledged his allegiance to Team Felicity, and then began to ponder who would win in a fist fight or in a battle of the wits. Fist fight, he admitted, would be close, but a battle of the brain... Danielle leaned over, comedically, because David hesitated to say that Caitlin would win if it was a battle of the brain and then he dropped this truth bomb officially saying that Felicity would beat Caitlin if it came to a battle of the brain: "Once you know who Felicity's father is, you'll know why she can beat Caitlin or anyone in a [braniac-wise]." And then, the audience ERUPTED. Like, full on erupted in cheers (it was really, really loud) and David dropped a mic, literally, and that is how we ended the panel. From the insinuation earlier, it's perfectly logical to presume that Felicity's father is the big bad of season four and that David knows this because he was just reading the finale script earlier that week. Don't quote me on that, but I believe it to be true.
These people are really pretty. Like, VERY pretty.

Danielle was such a precious snowflake.

All I will say is ARMS, Ramsey. ARMS.

Did I mention how ridiculously good-looking these people are?

Right before David told us about Felicity

That wrapped up my first two days at MegaCon and part one of this massive post! Never fear, because I'll be back sometime within the next few days to talk about the Firefly panel (which made me love Alan Tudyk something fierce) and the second Doctor Who panel (where I got to ask Karen Gillan and Alex Kingston a question, whaaaaat!)

Until then, folks, hit up the comments with your... well, comments. :)


  1. Lovely recap and I'm so glad you talked about the writers panel. I know most people really go gaga for the actors but if I were to geek out over anyone it would probably be writers (it was one of the best parts of working in a bookstore. Would you mind listing the writers that were there? I'm just curious because my first love is sci fi and fantasy novels.

    Such good stuff from all of the shows. You have good taste my dear. But you already knew that ;)

    1. Becca, one of my favorite people. :D

      We definitely wanted to check out some of the smaller panels too, and this was one we were interested in since both of us are writers. It was cool too because we definitely aren't fantasy or sci-fi people but the advice they gave was pretty universal.

      The writers at the panel:
      - Glenda Finkelstein
      - TS Robinson
      - two more writers who I honestly wish I had written down the names of. If Laura remembers, I'll let you know! ;)

      Thanks darling!!! Can't wait to write up part two!

    2. Thanks for that. I don't know their work but it makes sense that the advice would be generally applicable. Story is story after all, right? It doesn't matter the medium, humans have probably always made them and probably always will.