Escape to Farpoint: Con Report Day 1

Holy. Effing. Crap.

Before I go any further I’m just going to whole-heartedly recommend attending Farpoint if you are in the DC/Maryland/Northern Virginia area. Heck, even if you’re not exactly local I’d recommend it.

First things first, Farpoint is by no means on par with many other cons I’ve been too as far as size is concerned. It fits nicely into the rooms of the Crowne Plaza in Timonium and each day’s panels only take up one side of a paper. This is one of those cases where size really doesn’t matter. What Farpoint might lack in grandiosity (yes, it’s a real word) it more than makes up for in comfort, entertainment and just plain warm fuzzies.

I had been a little worried about the prospect of getting up to the convention after the massive snow accumulation that the mid-Atlantic region had seen the previous week. Luckily, the roads were pretty clear all the way up. The parking lot of the Crowne Plaza was a bit treacherous but the good folks who run the hotel were trying their best to clear as much of the snow, ice and slush as they could.

Maggie and I headed out of my place around 7:30 and got up to the con hotel 8:30ish. Registration wasn’t scheduled to open until 9am (or was it 10am?) and we hadn’t eaten anything yet so we stopped in at the hotel restaurant, Northern Lights, for some breakfast. We weren’t yet in our complete costumes and, by the looks of things when we took our seats, everyone else was getting a later start as well.

As soon as we took care of registration we headed to the back of the hotel’s atrium to check out the dealer’s space. There were some wonderful t-shirts that I would have liked to get if I had more funds at my disposal. There were also some patches, as there always tends to be. I don’t currently need patches for any of my planned costumes, though. The only uniform on my list that I might need something for is my Light Company coat from Night Watch and, as far as I can tell, there are no actual patches on the coat or costume in general. Nope, for that one I’m going to have to hand-stencil the words “Light Company” on the back in the Russian alphabet. Fun fun fun!

I wandered past a table where some Browncoats were hanging out. One of the guys looked at me in my Jedi get up and asked kind of shyly “Do you like Firefly?”

I chuckled. Do I like Firefly. I told him I did and he handed me a little postcard thingy with the poster for a Firefly fan film called “Browncoats: Redemption.” I’d heard about it before, through an email from the NoVA Browncoats Meetup Group. I’ve seen the teaser trailer but he said the actual trailer was going to be screened at the panel “Big Damn Films” later that day. I took the card and really would have liked to attend but I had already made plans to attend another panel scheduled for the same time.

If you’d like to know more about the fan film I encourage you to check out the group’s website. You can view the trailer, learn more about the cast and the premise of the film, and read about the charities that these folks are supporting.

Our tour of the dealer space only took up 10 minutes and we didn’t really have anything we wanted to go to until around 10:30 so we headed down the hall to see what was going on in one of the other panels. We ended up stopping by the art show. There were some absolutely stunning pieces in the show and, again, had my finances been in a better situation I would have gladly plunked down some money to buy a few prints.

Both Maggie and I were excited about a half-hour program listed in the schedule as “Alice in Wonderland Puppet Making.” Puppets? Sign me up! Unfortunately, when we showed up to the room we learned that it was a program for kids and the puppets were going to be made out of construction paper and popsicle sticks. There wasn’t a description of the panel in any of the literature the folks at Registration had handed us so we hadn’t known what to expect. Honestly, that was the only drawback of the con – not

"Come to the dark side....we have cookies!"

 knowing what exactly some of the panels were going to be about.

We headed back out to the atrium to people watch while we waited for the next panel we wanted to attend. Maggie and I were dressed as a Sith and a Jedi, respectively, and we got stopped a few times to take pictures. I kept trying to sidle out of the photo but people seemed to like the idea of having both a Sith and a Jedi in the same picture.

Squeeee!

As we wandered around we spotted the cutest darn Padawan I have EVER seen. I asked her dad if I could take a picture of the two of them together and commented on the training ball she had attached to her belt. He volunteered the information about how to make one: you take one of the balls you’d find in one of those playplace ball pits and use craft foam. That’s all there is to it. Needless to say I will be making one of those training balls myself. She also happened to have a tiny lightsaber clipped to her belt (which made me feel even stupider for forgetting my lightsaber at home). Adorable!

After we took their picture her dad asked if he could get a picture of her with Maggie and I. The little girl was really frightened of Maggie’s Sith get-up but I told her not to worry…I was a Jedi and I’d protect her. That’s another picture I’m going to have to look for online.

Maggie and I were lucky enough to catch the “Workmanship Nuts and Bolts” panel at 11. It was the most helpful and informative panel I’ve ever sat in on, in all my years of going to conventions. I’ve been in several masquerades by now and people always ask us if we’re planning on entering anything for workmanship judging. We never do, mainly because we’ve never really known what kind of things the workmanship judges will be looking for. It’s intimidating to go into a judge without knowing what exactly counts for good workmanship.

Case in point – when we entered the masquerade at Shore Leave folks kept saying we should have entered some part or another of our Blink Angel costumes for workmanship judging. We were both hesitant to do so at the time because we didn’t really think we were going to be on par with the other folks. After sitting in on the workmanship panel, though, I’d be willing to put my mask or my arms or possibly even the top half of the dress in for workmanship judging. I think Maggie’s construction of the wings could really go far with workmanship judging.

Here are some wonderful nuggets of wisdom and advice that we picked up from the folks running the panel:

  1. Don’t think you have to enter the whole costume. If you’ve got a wonderful prop or an elaborately beaded headpiece that you want to show off but the rest of the costume is kind of blah, enter the prop or headpiece or whatnot.
  2. Don’t worry if a costume isn’t 100% finished. If you’ve got a part of the costume you’re really proud of but the rest of the costume is not completely up to the same level just call it a “work in progress.”
  3. Bring in documentation and visual references for the costume! This is especially important if you are going to enter in the category of Re-creation. This way, even if the judges aren’t familiar with the original source, they can look at the picture and see that you re-created the costume faithfully.
  4. Only bring in reference pictures that are going to work for you. This was a neat little way of side-stepping some of the problems that might pop up when the judge takes a close look at your source material. The example that was given to us came from Rachel Wyman. She was dressed as Donna Noble from the episode “The Poison Sky”. She showed two pictures of Donna – one showed that Donna is wearing a thick black ring on one of the fingers of her left hand. That is the picture she would use as her documentation, as it shows that the ring

    This isn't the exact picture Rachel Wyman showed us as an example of "what not to show the judges" but it still shows the reason you wouldn't want to use it -- the different shape of the ring.

    is black and wide, but not the exact shape. If she showed another picture with a close-up of the ring the judges would see that the real ring was kind of bulbous, whereas Rachel’s ring was a flatter cut.

  5. If you will be wearing a wig as a part of the costume make sure you bring in a picture of what the hair looks like in the sunlight. Most pictures of Donna in the Tardis, for example, make her hair appear much darker. In order to show that the wig matches the actual color of the character’s hair you would need to also bring a picture that showed Donna outside in natural lighting.
  6. Judges will understand if the color on your reference pictures is not completely the same – they take into account that there is a good deal of difference in tones and brightness from printer to printer. Just be sure to tell them if there’s a lilac overtone to all your pictures, etc.
  7. Don’t think that something has to be handsewn to qualify for workmanship judging. Marty Gear (one of the folks on the panel!) said he once saw a costume where the whole thing was hand-sewn and looked horrible. When he asked the costumer why she didn’t sew it on the machine she said “Hand sewing is more difficult.” That may be, but if your stitching sucks it’s not going to matter how long it took. Unless you’re doing a historic garment from the 1400s or something similar the sewing machine is your friend. (The panelists did, however, reference a woman who makes beautiful reproductions of the Lord of the Rings costumes and handsews everything. Apparently she thinks sewing machines are too fast. Her handsewn stitches look just as good as those on a machine and there is never any rolling or puckering when she sews on velvet and other difficult fabrics. Her stuff is flawless. If you can consider your stitching flawless feel free to handsew your seams. I know mine isn’t so I’m fine using a machine).

The final piece of advice they gave was my absolute favorite: “Remember, the judges are always on drugs. Sometimes you just want to say ‘ Really? Did you watch the same masquerade as me? It wasn’t funny, it wasn’t clever, and the costumes sucked!'” I suppose that might explain how the Cult of Snuggie people won at Dragon*Con.

After the workmanship panel we sat in on a program called “Star Wars and Such.” We watched the trailer for the new Tron movie that’s coming out (I had seen it, Maggie hadn’t) and the video for Brad Paisley’s “Online.” According to the gent who was running the program a lot of sci-fi/fantasy fans think the video is bashing fans but he thinks it’s actually very fair to them. His feeling is that the video is basically saying that we shouldn’t be afraid to be ourselves. That the best things happen when we don’t pretend to be who we’re not. I happen to agree with this interpretation of the video. I’ll leave it to you to decide for yourself but I always get a kick out of the song. Plus, Brad Paisley’s just hot.

We took a short break from the convention to go check into our hotel. We returned to Northern Lights for lunch and then hit up the Sci Fi Jeopardy panel. We cheered on Tom Atkinson (whom we met back at Shore Leave). He went on to achieve a record 48,400 points by the end of his game. I kind of wish I had volunteered to be one of the contestants for the second game of Sci Fi Jeopardy. I knew a surprising number of the answers.

After Sci Fi Jeopardy Maggie and I headed down to the main ballroom and sat in on Lee Arenberg’s Q and A session. Lee is perhaps best known at the moment for playing Pintel in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He is extremely funny and has some wonderful stories about growing up with some of the best actors in the business today (he went to school with Sean Penn and Robert Downey Jr.) meeting and befriending some legends of the silver screen (Sir Laurence Olivier) and his body of work. He’s a real down-to-earth kind of guy and believes that actors have the responsibility to be what he calls “class acts.”

Lee Arenberg had the best quote of the day:

There needs to be more nose-punching and beer-buying, in that combination. — in regards to U.S. foreign policy.

Basically it means we shouldn’t be afraid to call people on being jerks and we shouldn’t hold grudges after everything’s settled. Pretty good advice, if you ask me. He also had an idea for how to save NASA: make going to Mars into a reality television show and send up Jay Leno, the cast of Jersey Shore and the Real Housewives of Orange County. Then sit back and have them be voted off one by one. They’d be put into life pods and be booted off into space.

We moved up to the front of the ballroom during the break and settled in to watch the hilarity that is Luna C. You might remember me mentioning their “Harry Potter in 45 minutes” program back in the Shore Leave con report. This show was more their usual style simply because they covered a lot of different fandoms. One of my favorite bits was a sketch about Fringe. I’ve only just started watching this show but it’s being added to my long list of “stuff to watch when I have time.” I’ve got to say that the actor portraying Dr. Walter Bishop from the show (Rick Siebigteroth) had his character spot on. He even sounded like John Noble. I won’t go into details about the skit other than the fact that it involves a kitten, a vial of liquid that’s supposed to make things bigger and a furry glove puppet. Hopefully the group will put a video of the sketch on youtube, alongside their other videos. I’m going to try to get my hands on one of their dvds soon.

By the way, Kevin Smith (the one from Xena, not Silent Bob) and Karl Urban have both guested with the members of Luna C in the past.

Maggie and I meandered a bit back out in the lobby for a few hours. We people-watched a bit more and I wrote down some questions for when I finally came in contact with a Klingon. We had seen one earlier but I didn’t screw up the courage to interview her then and couldn’t find her in the evening. I did however get the chance to interview a woman who was dressed as a Snow Trooper from Hoth. That interview will be up after the second Farpoint con report.

The Masquerade started at 8pm. We hadn’t noticed as many people wandering the halls in costume as at other conventions we’ve attended but

Shiny!

 there was a nice showing in the Masquerade. All the costumes were nice and the presentations were pretty good. There were two costumes entered under the Champion’s Cup division. This is basically the hard-core costumers who already have a fair number of big wins under their belt. One was a re-creation of Kaylee’s dress from the Firefly episode “Shindig.” It was absolutely beautiful. The other group included Rachel Wyman and the aforementioned Tom Atkinson as well as two others. They ended up winning the most humerous award for their skit…which was eerily similar to a skit that Maggie and I had thought of entering this particular Masquerade with.

While the judges went off to deliberate — the judges, by the way, included Felicia Day, Sam Witwer and Lee Arenberg, amongst others — Marty Gear came out to run the charity auction. He went through most of the items but decided to save the biggest draw – lunch with Felicia Day – until she came back out. After Marty finished the main part of the auction the Boogie Knights came out and played a few songs. I’d always heard of them but had never gotten to hear any of their sets (One of the Boogie Knights served as the emcee for the masquerade, in addition to playing a set during the intermission).

Finally, word came that the judges were finished. Marty took the stage again, this time with Felicia Day. Now, before I go any further I want to mention that the charity auctions at Farpoint have raised $3000 per year for the past two years. They wanted to hit that same goal this year but

Marty Gear auctions off lunch with Felicia Day as part of the charity auction

 Marty said they understood that we were in the middle of a “Vampire Economy…it sucks.” The goal was then to just raise as much as they could. Well, they had managed to raise about $2000 with the previous items and lunch with Felicia Day was already up to $300 by the time auction time came around.

It was only about four or five bids in when it rose to $1000. Felicia Day was really surprised, and then it continued to climb. When it got to about $2000 Lee and Sam, who were still backstage, started calling things out to her from the wings.

When it got to $2600 they poked their heads out from behind the curtain. As it went higher they actually came out completely and stood to the side of the room, watching the bidding war. It had basically come down to a couple in seats on the other side of the aisle from Maggie and I and a young man in the back of the room who couldn’t have been more than 25. I don’t know where these folks get their money but the final bid wound up being $5000.

I’ll say that again, because I think it bears repeating.

The final bid for lunch with Felicia Day was $5000. And the kid in the back had looked like he was seriously considering continuing to up his bid. I managed to find a video someone took of the last five minutes of the bidding. If you look at the left side you can see Lee and Sam up by the curtain. Maggie and I are back a few aisles on the left side but you can’t see us.

With one item the folks at Farpoint managed to eclipse what had been raised the previous year. When you combine that one bid with all of the other money raised this year at Farpoint you wind up with more money than the last two years PUT TOGETHER!

If that isn’t impressive I don’t know what is.

Of course, watching the reactions of Sam, Lee and Felicia throughout the entire bidding was entertainment enough for me. I thought Sam’s eyebrows were going to climb into his hairline and his jaw was going to fall on the floor. Felicia literally did fall on the floor at one point, doing a very realistic faint. The look on the emcees face when he came out from backstage to announce the masquerade awards was just priceless.

Since Lee, Sam and Felicia had been on the panel of judges they were called to help distribute some of the awards. It would have been nice to have the chance to see them on stage, all up close and personal, but I really enjoyed kicking back this time around and just getting the chance to watch the goings on. One of the awards that was given out that night was the “Robbie Greenberger Originality Award” — I’m pretty sure I got the award title correct. Robbie Greenberger was the son of DC Comics editor Bob Greenberger. He passed away in 2008 at the age of twenty after a battle with leukemia. Understandably his passing had a huge impact on the local fan community – the same community that Farpoint caters to. Many of the people who attend Farpoint on a regular basis knew Robbie and so the award, given out by his father, was quite touching. It went to two young kids who had a Farpoint-specific entry – FARP. It was quite original and they actually wound up winning a few awards that evening.

Photographs weren’t allowed inside the ballroom during the masquerade so

People (including Felicia Day) crowded around the Cultist of Cthulu to check out his props, which included a hand-made Necronomicon with distressed pages and fake spells.

Maggie and I scurried out to the atrium once everything was finished to snap a few pictures of some of the costumes. We got shots of the Shindig dress, as well as the “Cultist of Cthulu” who won, amongst other things, Best in Show. The costumes we really wanted to get a shot of were the orcs but they ran off back to their rooms pretty quickly. I don’t blame them, though. They’d been walking around in their costumes and heavy prosthetics all day and I’m sure they were anxious to get everthing off and take a much needed break.

We spotted the Indiana Jones we had chatted with back at Shore Leave. He was dressed as James Bond this time (and his wife was absolutely gorgeous in a beautiful powder blue halter dress). At one point I saw him coming out of the Northern Lights bar carrying two martinis and I’m kicking myself for not having my camera out to get a picture. Hopefully someone else managed to take one and I’ll be able to find it online. I also got Maggie to take a picture of a wonderful steampunk costume that I had seen wandering around all day. I complimented her on the welder’s jacket and I absolutely loved the tool belt she had on.

That ends the first half of the Farpoint con report. Check back for Day Two!

**And just a reminder that the birthday anniversary contest is still open. Check out the details over on the “CONTESTS” page**

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2 thoughts on “Escape to Farpoint: Con Report Day 1

  1. Thank you for the nice review of out show! It made me feel very good to know that I did well as Walter, It’s always fun to act in a sketch that you wrote as well. I hope we continue to entertain you for years to come.

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