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MediaWest*Con 33 post-convention wrap-up

Originally posted by cannellfan at MediaWest*Con 33 post-convention wrap-up directly on my own LJ blog, and now shared to the MWCtripdiary group...

We're back from MediaWest*Con 33, and, as usual I was too busy over the entire weekend to post daily "here's what happened" entries. My original plan had been to go back and retroactively post daily MWC33 updates on my LiveJournal blog. But, ultimately, I decided to just do this one single post that encapsulates this year's convention in its entirety. It's gonna be a fairly long post, with multiple graphics and embedded YouTube videos, so if you want the whole story, then continue past the LJ-Cut here...

Leading up to Departure

Less than a week before the con, a friend had warned me to double-check our reservation at the convention's host hotel, the Ramada. Apparently, there were reports of screwed up hotel reservations. Our reservation was an odd one -- we hadn't gotten a room at the Ramada in the convention's hotel lottery, so a friend had added our names to her room, then after we guaranteed the room with our credit card, she had removed her name from the room leaving it to us. Or so we had thought. My call to confirm our reservation on Monday before the con led us to discover that somehow our room had been cancelled -- the Ramada staff literally told us ours had been cancelled as part of a block of rooms cancelled "by the convention", a claim which the convention organizers quickly refuted on an extensive and unhappy Facebook discussion thread. Long story short -- this was a much bigger problem than could be imagined, affecting a large percentage of attendees -- even many of the con staff's hotel reservations got messed up! In the end, after consideration confusion, we ultimately got a confirmed room at the Hampton Inn across the street from the Ramada -- the Hampton being the first "overflow" hotel. Our thanks to all of our friends who tried to help us out and get us a room at the Ramada!

I started my annual tribute video preparations later than I've ever started before, and for the two weeks leading up to the convention, I was concerned that I would be unable to finish even that single video for the Fannish Music Video competition. As it turned out, I gave myself "just enough" time, and I finished editing that vid late on Tuesday night, and burned my competition disc on Wednesday morning, before our Thursday departure.

Trip to MediaWest*Con 33 - Thursday

Becky and I debated whether to try to make the outgoing trip to this year's MediaWest in two days instead of just a single 12-13 hour drive. Ultimately, we realized that there was no way we'd be ready to leave on Wednesday, even late in the day, so we were stuck with a single-day trip yet again. My eye condition is such that driving in the dark has become progressively problematic. If I am in familiar territory, particularly in-town situations, it's not bad. But driving on the highway in the dark, in unfamiliar areas, is an increasingly difficult thing for me.

Due to a number of different issues, we got a much later start than anticipated. Instead of leaving between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., as we've done many times before, we ended up leaving shortly before 4 in the afternoon. Although that sounds awful, it actually worked to our benefit, as the only place in the entire 710 mile trip where we hit heavy traffic was in Omaha, 50 minutes from home, where it was rush hour. Everywhere else, traffic was mild.

Arriving at the Hampton Inn at shortly before 5:00 a.m. Lansing time (a trip of just under 12 hours for us -- a new record for shortness!), the front desk clerk informed me that as of midnight, all reservations that had not been claimed had been voided by the Hampton's computer system and we did not have a confirmed room. Fortunately, she worked a miracle, and got us a room anyway, still at the convention's guaranteed rate! We unpacked the car, and by the time we were done, the hotel's continental breakfast was starting to be served, so we had breakfast and then crashed in the room for 5 or so hours.

Day One - Friday

Having finished my one-and-only Fannish Music Video and finalized my competition disc before we left Lincoln, I didn't need to stay in the hotel room editing vids on Friday, and could actually enjoy part of the first day of the con. Becky and I wandered across the street to the Ramada after Noon and picked up our registration packets. A wipeboard at registration said that rooms had opened up at the Ramada, for those who might want them. We ultimately decided to stay in the Hampton -- as one friend said - "the Hampton's a 5-star hotel and the Ramada's only a 3-star hotel, without minifridges in the rooms!" We ran into several friends and chatted, checked out the Dealer's Room -- much smaller than at the hotel the con's been at for the past 21 years, but still serviceable. We tracked down Fannish Music Video coordinator Sheryl Adsit's room and dropped off our competition disc for the Friday night vids premiere show. We attended a panel discussion of Oldie TV (cable channels showing classic old fan-favorite shows like Adam-12, Big Valley, Mission Impossible, etc.), roamed some more, then attended part of a general discussion panel for Arrow. I then made a run to a nearby Office Max to have the Fannish Video voting ballots printed off.

The 8 p.m. start of the Fannish Music Video premieres got pushed back, as Sheryl had received a late submission disc through the mail that afternoon, and she was re-jiggering the show order. I served as her mouthpiece in the video room when she called me on her cell phone to ask me to let the assembled throngs know about the delay. Eventually she and the discs were all down in the video room by about 8:20 and the show began. It would have been a good show, with 90 minutes of Gen vids by 7 different producers, and 90 minutes of Slash vids by 7 different producers. Unfortunately, the DVD player that was hooked up to the projector and sound system refused to play the discs from two of the Gen producers (and was glitchy on some other vids being shown), and also refused to play the discs from two different Slash producers as well. The vids that were successfully shown were all very good, although one new producer -- Eva Kenieva -- did far too many vids focusing on the character Loki from the Thor and Avengers movie. However, the technical difficulties really spoiled the show, especially for the producers whose discs would not play. One slash vid producer who got shafted in the show took all her friends up to her room to show her video, abandoning the rest of the Premiere Night show.

I have subsequently talked with both Sheryl and Lori and Gordon (the convention organizers), and we're going to see if we can modernize the show for next year, including allowing for electronic submissions (instead of solely on DVDs), and the showing of vids via a laptop instead of a DVD player exclusively.

Fortunately, my vid played perfectly fine -- a two-part annual Tribute video. I'm embedding it here in this post, but I recommend viewing it directly on YouTube, at a slightly larger size so the clips aren't quite so squished.

Day Two - Saturday

My first programming on Saturday was the traditional "Dissection of Last Night's Fannish Vid Premieres". Although we did discuss the vids that were successfully shown, a large part of our discussion was about how to prevent the disasters of failed discs at future MWC vid shows. None-the-less, it was an interesting discussion with both other vidders and folks who were just mere vid fans.

This was followed by more hallway conversations with friends and visits to the Dealers Room for both Becky and me, then we attended most of a Big Bang Theory discussion panel. After that, I led my traditional annual "In Memorium" panel, discussing the actors, writers and other entertainment industry people who'd passed away in the prior 12 months. This one was well-attended and many people spoke up to share their memories of the stars we'd lost. We had a two-hour free block of time before the next panel I was seated on, so we shopped some more, talked to more friends, and did some work on our costumes for the masquerade back in our hotel room across the street. At 4:00, I was the lone panelist on a discussion panel for The Walking Dead, but it turned into a real nice talk with about 8 or 9 other fans of that AMC zombie series. After this panel, Becky and I met longtime friend Elyse (wraithfodder for supper in the Finley's attached to the Ramada. We had a nice hour-long visit over good food, after which Becky returned to our room at the Hampton Inn, to work on costumes, while I went to a 6:00 panel I was scheduled for about The Amazing Race.

7 or 8 of us had a very pleasant discussion of Seasons 21 and 22 of The Amazing Race, and also talked about Phil Keoghan and his personal philosophies in some depth. After that panel ended, I joined Becky in our room at the Hampton, where she was scrambling to put some additional touches on our costumes for the Masquerade competition, which was scheduled to start at 10 p.m. -- we had about 2 hours to get ready.

Becky had been wearing a variety of combinations of costume pieces throughout the weekend, all with a historical and/or steampunk flavor. My own Masquerade costume was also steampunk (the American West flavor -- think Wild Wild West or Brisco County Jr., rather than the Victorian British or Jules Verne flavor). Here are some photos of Becky in her various "hall costumes":

Becky's Friday Steampunk Costume 2Becky's Saturday hall costume 5Becky's Sunday hall costume 1

We eventually got into our competition costumes, and drove across the street to the Ramada, showing up in the "waiting area" for the Masquerade competition, only to discover two of our con friends were part of a quartet of women all also going the Steampunk route. Becky had worked hard to come up with a little "introductory" piece for our characters, and on stage we acted out a little bit, turning this way and that to show off the costumes. It was all over and done with way too quickly, and we waited in the hall until the judges came to look at our costumes in more detail and ask us questions about how we assembled it. This being a fan-friendly convention, all 7 Masquerade entries won some sort of prize -- there were the typical Best in Show (won by a teenager who sewed a Les Miserables costume from scratch -- and who sang a song from the song as per presentation! -- she's been coming to convention since her parents pushed her around in a stroller) and Most Humorous, but the judges then made up categories to fit everyone else into. With my red bowler had, we won the Move Over Mr. Steed Award -- Steampunk Avengers! Yay!

After the Masquerade ended, we roamed the convention halls for a while in costume, stopping to talk to various friends in the halls or their rooms. Then, we returned to our own hotel to crash and decompress. Here's some photos of us in our Masquerade costumes:

Our MWC 33 Costume Masquerade Entr 13During the Masquerade - 6Our MWC 33 Costume Masquerade Entry 6

[ Many more photos are in my MediaWest*Con 33 photoset on Flickr -- including all of this year's Door Decorations! ]

Day Three - Sunday

I had panels at both 11 a.m. and Noon on Sunday -- the 11 panel was with Elyse and one other unscheduled panelist, on Person of Interest. This was a fun hour spent discussing the adventures of Harold and Mr. Reese, and where the series is going to go, now that Harold has let loose a self-reliant artificial intelligence on the world! The noon panel was on the creative process for Fannish Music Video editors, but turned into a verbal workshop more than anything else. The dozen or so people in the room talked about software, hardware, and various other elements of how to make vids.

After that panel, I gathered up the Fannish Video Ballot box, and discussed with Sheryl the extremely minimal number of ballots turned in, combined with how the Sat and Sun vid showings were not posted (nor advertised for anyone to know when to show up) -- ultimately we decided to cancel the awards for 2013 due to a combination of all the technical issues the vid show suffered and the lack of voter participation. A grand total of 6 ballots were turned in, which is NOT representative of the entire audience of vid fans -- there were at least 75 in attendance at the Friday Night Premieres, before the tech problems caused people to start to leave!

It was then back to our hotel room, where Becky and I hammered out a few more of the skit ideas for the Whose Line is it Anyway live improv event later on Sunday. We then made a supply run to the nearby Meijers. After getting back to our hotel, I attempted to print out the WLiiA script on the business office computers/printers at the Hampton, only to have both printers fail. With the WLiiA event scheduled to start momentarily, I called one of our stars, Dave Gold, by cell to have him entertain the early arrivers. While Becky finished writing out the large sign-board cards for a couple of the games, I headed across the street with bags of supplies and cameras, and used the printers available in the lobby of the Ramada to print out the script, arriving in the room where the WLiiA was going to take place, about 15 minutes late. Becky got there shortly after, and after setting up our video camera and getting our supplies in order, we got the games started. Here's a photo of (almost) everybody who participated this year:

MWC 33 Whose Line Cast and Crew

We had more people willing and interested to participate than we've ever had before, so we played a number of games (Freeze Tag, Scenes From a Hat, World's Worst, Fairy Tale, etc.) that allowed for large groups to interact. But we also worked in a lot of our old favorites. Despite feeling ill-prepared this year, as though we didn't have enough to fill our two-hour improv slot, we still ended our show with unused skits, including our Helping Hands skit, which we'll bring back to torture Dave with next year. I also mentioned a desire to do the dreaded Mousetrap skit in 2014, and had a volunteer to play opposite me in that skit! Two highlights from the 2013 show included the game literally called Whose Line, in which Dave, playing The Doctor, ended up going through all ten of his regenerations -- this was hilarious, and I've already put the clip of it on YouTube (embedded below). We also had another great iteration of Playbook, this year with Dave and Armand playing out a "boss firing a subordinate" scene with Armand only able to read lines out of a playscript. Also hilarious, and I'll be sharing it to YouTube soon!!

(or view it larger at Youtube directly)

Steak 'n Shake - Our ShakesAfter the WLiiA event was done for another year, Becky and I drove to the nearby Steak 'N Shake for my annual SnS fix -- we don't have any Steak 'n Shakes anywhere nearer to Lincoln than about 2 1/2 hours to our south, so the trip to MediaWest*Con each year is my one chance to enjoy their great fries, burgers and shakes. Becky had to try their temporary specialty flavor -- Red Velvet Cake shake.

Back at the Hampton Inn, we quickly visited the Horrock's grocery story across the street from the convention -- lots of great fresh stuff and an extensive wine/beer department -- we'll definitely remember them for future room parties! -- then started the process of packing up for the homeward trip, and also made another pass across the street to the Ramada to snap photos of the remaining door decorations that we'd missed on previous passes through the Ramada's halls. (Again -- see my link earlier for my full photoset from the convention.)

Day Four - Monday

While Becky continued to pack in our hotel room, I walked to the Ramada to attend the 9 a.m. Dead Dog panel, only to discover it had been pushed back to 10 a.m. Eventually, the panel began, with a lot of hostility regarding the whole hotel mix-up. Otherwise, attendees seemed pleased by the con overall, including myself. I threw a couple of comments out, said goodbye for another year to a few friends, and headed back to help Becky with the remaining packing. We got out of the Hampton Inn only about 30 minutes after their supposed check-out deadline, with no penalties. We drove across to the Ramada, where we stopped at the convention registration room and pre-registered for MediaWest*Con 34 already, and I chatted with Lori about researching ways in which I can be of direct assistance to Sheryl in bringing the MWC Fannish Music Video shows up to a more contemporary status. We made a final pass through the Dealer's Room, saying our goodbyes to Dave and Jeanne Gold, and to a few of our friends in the Forces of the Empire room as well. And then we hit the road.

Time for a post-MediaWest*Con treat at one of our favorite I-80 route restaurants: Mi Margarita!Before leaving Michigan entirely, we stopped at the Coloma exit to visit the Chocolate Garden -- a specialty shop dealing with gourmet chocolates, as well as a few other little food shops at the same exit off of I-94.

We had light rain throughout Michigan and Indiana, and much of Illinois, and we decided to stop overnight in Peru, IL, where we've stayed several times previously. We enjoyed some delicious Mexican food from one of our favorite restaurants -- Mi Margarita -- and I had my first tequila sunrise in a couple of years. Despite bringing our swimsuits, we never made it to the hotel pool at the Hampton during the convention, so we at least sampled the jacuzzi at our motel in Peru!

Day Five - Tuesday

After breakfast at the hotel (a La Quinta), we hit the road for the final leg home. We stopped at the LeClaire IA exit on I-80 (Iowa exit 306), and visited the business Antique Archaeology -- the guys behind the TV series American Pickers. We were both extremely disappointed in this place, and I certainly would not go back. In addition, while we visited there and at several other shops in downtown LeClaire, we were right alongside the Mississippi River, and there were clouds of tenacious gnats everywhere -- they were crawling into my beard and nostrils...it was disgusting. We got out of LeClaire after about 90 minutes and the only other stop on our way home was at Adair IA (the Smiley Face watertower stop), where we pulled onto a side road to shoot some photos of the numerous white wind turbines set against a stark backdrop of grey and black storm clouds.

Turbines and storm clouds outside AdairDespite the scattered light rain, we seemed to be at the edge of a threatening storm system all day long on both Monday and Tuesday -- it was constantly large grey and black cloud banks to our south and southwest...but we never got completely caught up in a nasty storm. In the Omaha area, we decided to stop to pick up carryout BBQ from Po' Boys in Gretna, but when we got there, there was a sign in the window that that they were closed for technical reasons. Another good BBQ join a short distance away was also closed already. So, we came down highway 6 from Gretna to Lincoln and picked up carryout from the Parker's Smokehouse branch in Ashland. We got home with plenty of light to start unpacking, snarfed our BBQ (which was extremely disappointing!), and settled back into our home routine, watching the season finale of Grimm on the DVR.

Overall, I had a really good time at MediaWest*Con this year. Several more friends have abandoned the con, for a variety of reasons, but there are still enough of my friends attending that it was definitely worth my time and expenses to make the trip again. The Whose Line is it Anyway? event is still the major highlight of the convention for both Becky and me! Despite the hotel issues, and the technical problems in the Fannish Video show, the overall impression MWC left me with this year was a positive one. I'd give the convention a solid "B", the Fannish Video Show a "D", the Dealers Room a "B+", the Masquerade an "A-" and the Ramada facilities a "B+". Meeting up with friends was "A++". I'm afraid that, for the umpteenth time in a row, I never made it into either the art show or art auction, although from what I've heard, both were much smaller than usual for a MediaWest*Con.

It was interesting to learn, at the Dead Dog, that the Ramada had lain dormant for two years up until about 6 months ago, when new owners took over and began an extensive rehabilitation of the facility. Considering that MWC was only the second event to have taken place at this "new" Ramada, and that a lot of facility work is still in the process of being done, I think it will be a much better facility in 2014. It sounds as if the owners of the Hampton Inn would love to have us do door decorations there, or have evening room parties there -- in fact they've offered their limited function space as additional space for official MWC programming to take place! I would definitely prefer staying in the Hampton to staying in the Ramada.

Despite hemming and hawing about pre-registering at the end of both the 2011 and 2012 cons, I didn't even hesitate in re-upping for 2014 this time around. If I am successful in helping to revamp how Fannish Vids are presented at MWC, I hold out strong hopes that 2014 could be a very good year for this convention. Now I just need to be better prepared with more video submssions and a finished Whose Line script before we get to Lansing, and I have to hope that either more of my longtime friends give MWC another try, or that the efforts to bring in "new" attendees continue to be successful -- there were are lot of folks in the halls there this year I didn't recognize! I realize that a great number of my friends have a lot of reasons for leaving MediaWest*Con in their rear view mirrors, but it's still proving to be one of the highlights of my year each year, so I'll remain a voice in support of the con!


( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 5th, 2013 02:07 am (UTC)
I join you in hoping for a revamp of the fanvid showing. It was only my second con, but even last year I found myself wondering why, with all the technology available to us, that DVDs (or CDs, or whatever we want to call them) were the only thing that could be used. I would think doing everything digitally would be easier and would cause far fewer glitches.

This year's vid showing was disastrous. While I agree that Eva Knieva (sp?) was a talented vidder, I take issue with having so many videos focus on one character. I had to leave before the slash vids were over, but I found out the next day that the same vidder had another 45 minutes of slash, primarily of that same character. I don't really like to set limits on vidders, but unless he/she is going to do a variety of fandoms or genres, then a limit might be necessary.

I felt sorry for the vidders whose discs wouldn't work, and again, that can be solved with updating how the vids are presented.

As for the votes, I know one of them was mine. However, I handed mine in almost at the last minute and didn't see very many in the box. I agree that handing out awards would have been quite useless.

I certainly appreciate your tribute to the performers we lost during the past year. I know that's a lot of work.

The art show was sparse in its offerings, compared to last year, and the auction was short, too. As far as I could see, there really wasn't as much fannish stuff as there was last year. A lot of people made jewelry, papercrafts, and other things that didn't seem to have much of a link to the con. A lot of that stuff didn't received any bids, either.

I follow an obscure fandom, and there was only one art piece for sale for it. I ended up talking to several artists and encouraged them to make things for my fandom as well as a few others. I hope those chats will result in more art next year. I mean, if there's art for my fandom, I'll bid on it, and I think a lot of others would, too. I don't come to the con to bid on necklaces, pretty though they are. I think it would help if a survey were taken regarding what con attendees would like to see at the art show and whether or not they would actually bid on things.

Thanks for your extensive update. I hope next year's con will be a bit more settled, and I think that will happen once the Ramada finds its feet.

Jun. 6th, 2013 12:40 am (UTC)
I look forward to your tribute vid every year and I'm so very grateful for all the work you put into it. It's always wonderful.

I'm glad to hear that you were talking to the concom about modernizing the vid show, it desperately needs it.
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )