Monday, July 16, 2007

Don’t Give Up the Day Job

I have just returned from Celebration Europe (30 years of Star Wars), where we finally had all the Jabba puppeteers in one place at one time. Not that many people care. In the USA and 'mainland Europe' people who design costumes, or special effects, or operate creatures seem to interest people far more than in the UK. The Brits love of 'celebrity' means they like ‘actors’ (even if the person stood around with a rubber mask, or helmet on their head, in the corner of a scene). [HERESY WARNING] I mean, I like Jeremy Bulloch, he’s a charming man, but what does Boba Fett do, exactly? Ahem. Here in the UK a puppeteer seems about as interesting as a carpenter or electrician or scene painter. And anyway, most people think Jabba got done with computer graphics, not blood, sweat and slime. I found it a rather Ricky Gervais experience of non-fame.

Still, I enjoyed the company of fans, and witnessed relatively little geekdom. I mean, just because I personally wouldn’t queue for two hours for a ticket, an hour and a half to get in the door, half an hour to buy coupons, and four hours to get to Mark Hamill for the honour of paying £85 for his signature on a rather flimsy picture doesn’t mean I can judge people who do. I don’t like soap operas (or real opera, come to that) or horror movies, or theme parks - but they remain hugely popular, and as my hobby is conjuring, I can’t really talk about geeks!

The people we did meet proved really nice, and as I hadn’t expected to make much money (most people who want my sig have got it by now) I simply enjoyed a little reflected glory sitting with Dave Barclay, because of us having worked together. As he still works in films, and lives in LA, he has remained harder for Brit fans to meet (and get an autograph from).
Having my VIP ID checked by Hi IQ Security
I didn’t feel impressed by the organisation of the event. My name is spelled wrongly on the website (not THAT uncommon with my surname), and similarly on the poster and programme they gave us. Dave Barclay also had his name wrong (Barklay), as did Christine Hewett, and Jeremy (Bullock?), etc. We had been prevented from selling our own pix, but none at all had been provided for Simon Williamson (or Simon Williams, as the programme calls him!) The pix they had made seemed very flimsy (like a page from a magazine) which made it quite embarrassing to ask for £3 (just for the pic) - thank goodness people mostly brought their own stuff to have signed. Fans have got used to Official Pix on good paper, great colour balance, and a hologram, etc. Throw the bum out, his pass must be forged, that's not how you spell his name - look at the poster!And these should come as part of the price of the autograph, not as well as! We don’t have control of these issues, but we may well get the blame (or accused of greed) on the fan forums. They had also set us puppeteers up in the 3 coupon price range (£15!) but we immediately told them we wanted to drop to 2, and scribbled out the price they had posted. I mean, come on guys!

So yes, several reasons to feel aggrieved. The “wide range of food” in the Green Room? When I got there, a bowl of crisps and some dodgy looking meat sandwiches. When I said I was a veggie I ended up with ‘cheese and Marmite’ sandwiches (I have never eaten that combination before!). Sigh. And the coffee was the usual Brit offering, lukewarm and watery. I had to go buy double expressos from a proper coffee stall (Thanks fellas!)

On the night before we started I rented a (cheaper) hotel room just so I could get to work for 9 a.m. without dragging myself across country at the crack of dawn. I met up with some people in the bar, and had a good evening, and even managed to put a couple of the Welsh guys on my guest list (hope you had a good day, Stuart and Andrew!)

I can’t list all the people I met (you know who you are) but I really enjoyed meeting up with Martin again (we had started a conversation at a Cardiff convention, but got separated – we just spoke this morning - having got separated again, yesterday - as he tracked me down at the library (day job) – and hello to Julie!), John Coppinger (sculptor), Mike Edmonds (tail), Dave Barclay (chief puppeteer), Toby Philpott (left hand man and tongue)and seeing Sîon and Della out of the blue, and chilling out with Cutulph and Joanna at the Fox bar, and enjoying John C’s 60th birthday, and meeting Simon and Janie in the lift, and on and on and so on…

At least we got a photo of the four of us ‘Jabba crew’ standing in front of the life-size Jabba display!


jambedavdar said...

Hi Toby,

Sorry I didn't make it back to talk to you guys. After queuing for over an hour for the Anthony Daniels talk it was clear within minutes that it was to be one mortifying moment followed by another. My friends and I promptly left the 'talk' and the convention as a whole. We weren't impressed with things at all. i am sorry to read that your experience wasn't too good either.

If you would permit me, I would like to make some sort of donation to your site to thank you for your help and hospitality. I didn't want to queue and do the token thing and line somebody elses pocket.

Let me know what I can do -


Toby said...

heh heh J

don't mind my cynicism, I just turned into a grumpy old man. I didn't really expect to make money or anything (now that "the sixth storm trooper from the left" goes out signing, and the big stars make all the money), but I do go for a fun experience, and if I also make money, fine. This may sound cheesy, but the fans make it for me, and I deliberately try to go out and meet them socially as well as during the day.

On Saturday I went to lean on that barrier where I met you, only to find that people had been told they were not allowed into the signing area if they weren't queuing for Mark H. At that point I gave up, and started working the barrier like a street performer. I reckon I could have made more money busking the queues with a bit of magic and juggling, and then coming around to take orders for tea and sandwiches (which I could have stolen from the Green Room!) :-)

There's really no need for a contribution - I know Dave B will really enjoy the DVDs you brought him.

Anyone who does want a pic (a good quality Official Pix pic with hologram, or my customized ones on glossy photo stock) can however use my PayPal account with the link on the website, here
or go to the Home page click on ROTJ, then click through on the "Get an autographed picture" link...

For £10 you get the signed pic in a stiff envelope, with a COA, mailed to anywhere in the world. That seems reasonable to me (although it might sound a bit much with the current dollar/pound exchange rate), as I buy the photo, the envelope, the stamps, and queue in the Post Office. That doesn't sound too greedy does it?

Jamie said...

Yeah! I was told that I had to join the big queue or no queue! Buggers! I will be in touch. J

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