Monday, 24 April 2017

Behind the Mic.

This blog will start with a slightly conceited opening so please forgive that and just keep reading. I was in conversation recently with someone and I was asked if I would accompany them to one of the large pop culture expos. When I declined they asked why and I told them that unfortunately I found it difficult to enjoy these events now as I was constantly being stopped and complained to regarding the poor quality of MC's at many of these shows and when would I be returning. This coupled with enduring panels that are so poorly conducted makes the whole experience extremely negative.
My companion noted that the poor quality of the hosts didn't seem to stop people from attending. The conversation that followed is the essence of this blog.

No MC should ever be so conceited to believe that they are the reason people are at a guests panel. The guest or guests draws the crowd. The MC will never influence the audience in their reason for being at that panel, but they can and do have a major effect on how enjoyable those in the audience find the panel. The operation of a panel or presentation is often determined by the number of guests, the size of the room, the nature of the guests and the nature of the crowd. When holding the microphone all of these issues need to be considered. 

Many believe that to be a host/mc merely requires you to know which end of the microphone to speak into. This could not be further from the truth. There are many people who have a great understanding of the world of audio visual of theatre and radio and television but are indeed  terrible hosts/mc's. I could fill the rest of this blog with names of professionals and non-professionals alike that I have seen fail dismally as a host/mc. This does not diminish their talents or abilities it just shows that those talents are in other areas.

So where does it all start? What do you need to understand to try and make the panel as enjoyable for both those in the audience as well as those on stage?

Firstly know why you are there. Your role is that of a bridge between those in front of the stage and those on the stage. Australia is one of the few countries in the world that uses hosts/mc's at theses style of events. Most simply have static mics off to each side of the stage where people line up to ask questions. This can lead to many unsatisfactory interactions for the audience and those on stage. Having a host/mc allows greater control and better delivery of the questions for the on stage recipients. 

In the majority of cases the host/mc is not there to conduct a one on one interview with those on stage, this might be their dream to sit and chat with their favourite stars but is not what those in the audience are there for. Now before I continue I will say that there are occasions when those on stage want that one on one to start with for their own reasons.

Research anyone and everyone you will be having on that stage, know what to ask  and what not to ask and when to do so. Much of this comes from working with other more experienced hosts, if you get the opportunity spend time in other panels, not to find fault but to find the moments that work and understand what made that the case and then craft that to your own style.

It is very important that you understand that you will not be universally loved. Many in the audience for their own reasons will not like you. It might be your style or the fact that last time round you didn't let them ask a question or maybe they stood in the line to long to get in and your the one they are taking it out on, but for the most part if you do the job well you will normally have their respect and that is pretty much the best outcome.

Never overindulge yourself on a panel. Their are times when a guest or guests will turn to you and interact to achieve something they may want. Don't keep it going. Don't continue a gag or a song between you and those on stage longer then achieving the point. This again robs those in the audience of their time and their chance of a question.

Be prepared to take the questions in a totally different direction, if you have done your research you will know things about those onstage that the audience may not. Give both those on stage and those in the audience the opportunity to explore things that may not normally arise in a panel.

Lastly, at least for this blog, be aware of where you are and the time constraints you are under. You should have by at least the third response from the stage have a good understanding of how long it is taking to respond to questions. This vital when it is coming to the end of the session. You want to be able give those on stage sufficient time to wrap things up and not cut them off mid sentence because you are out of time. Be warned however sometimes you can get caught out and a guest who has been taken ten minutes to answer suddenly only takes two when you've said it's the last question.

I remember once being told by the late Jon Pertwee something that helped shape what I do with hosting and that was " Peter, no one comes to these events to meet Jon Pertwee, they come to meet Doctor Who. But if you and I do our jobs correctly they will leave having gotten to know both of them."

And most importantly, know which end to speak into and where the on off button is.

Friday, 25 November 2016

The Apollo's Part Three.

October 15th 2016 was the night it was all supposed to come together and it did sort of. The Apollo Awards was a new idea for many people, fans weren't really sure just how to involve themselves whether this whole thing was a practical joke  or just the demented idea of a really old MC.

Dean Haglund & Peter Budd
The crowd wandered in, some stopping to be photographed and chat others choosing to be just a little silly.  Dean Hagland and myself doing our best two Ronnies impersonations. It was a casual start to the evening, everyone not really sure of where the night would take us or what lay in-store. Some of our presenters made an impact in other ways. 

Lauren Stardust
Lauren Stardust and her Enterprise hat was certainly a highlight of the red carpet.  The photo doesn't do enough credit to this wondrous creation, which came complete with blinking warp narcels.

A special moment was when the creators of the Apollo Awards shared the red carpet to officially get the evening started. It had taken 9 years and a lot hard work, a lot of disappointments and many variations to finally get to this night. The night however had arrived and it was time to strap in and enjoy the ride.
Apollo Creators
Melanie Teychenne-King and Peter Budd 

With those attending all in an seated it was time for the festivities to begin. The night opens with the new trailer created for the Apollo Awards by Lunacraft Productions. Then Dean Haglund took to the stage as the Master of Ceremonies for the night and the insanity began. The next two and a half hours was a joyous ride of laughter, silliness, mistakes and mayhem. Dean took total control, Bob Hope would have been jealous of how masterfully he handled the evening. We are sure the Oscars are beckoning. It was time to introduce the presenters and have the winners announced. 

Tom Taylor presenting the first award.
Our presenters were a cross section of many well known personalities from Australian fandom, from Pop Culture Expos and international renowned talent. All undertook the role with total irreverence that was needed. Several moments of hilarity ensured as minor malfunctions occurred with equipment, presentations and even some of those who were "drafted" from the audience to take part. 

All the nominations and winners can be found at The Apollo Awards website:

So the night was now over, well sort of, no one seemed in any great hurry to leave. In fact a great deal of time and energy went into much frivolity with many grabbing awards and posing with them and other members of the audience, presenters and even random strangers. 

But all to soon the news had come that everyone needed to  leave and many wondered if they would see this night again or if The Apollo Awards had, had their moment to shine and would now only be remembered as a  night of continual laughter and a brave attempt to give Australian fans a chance to have their say and tell the world that their thoughts and opinions were as a valid as those of anyone else anywhere in the world.

Well if the image below from the facebook and website are any indication it would appear that we will once again get to have a chance to join together for a night of high energy fun and maybe a whole lot of new ideas.

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Going Supanova

For those of you who know me you will be aware that I have been hosting sci-fi events for a very long time. Recently I had the opportunity to become part of the Supanova Pop Culture Expo team, now if you think this will be a behind the scenes expose of Supanova Pop Culture Expos then you will be sadly mistaken. I am going to chat about some of the moments that have been a highlight for me.

Hosting at an event like Supanova is totally different from any other sort of event. You know there are thousands of people running around and all you want to do is go and play with them.

There are stunning costumes and costumes that are wonderful efforts. There are people with imagination and creativity oozing from every pore of their body and you spend your time marveling at each and every one of them.

Then it’s your moment in the spotlight, the time when everyone was wishing they could do what you do and many believing they could do it better, your day has started introducing guests, travelling the tightrope between giving the guest the best experience you can whilst they are on stage and making sure that as many people as possible ask their questions.

Finding ways you hope will bring joy to all involved. 

Recently I had the pleasure of hosting a panel with Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin and an opportunity arose for one of those moments. I had bought to the front of the stage the most angelic 12 year old girl to ask a question.

She smiled and melted Nathans heart and he waited to hear what this divine innocent child would request from him, the question came “how horribly will Castle die?” The auditorium erupted and Nathan stood in stunned silence and then answered, “what makes you think he will die?” A moment to remember created by a child and a very gracious star. 

Each guest approaches their talk in different ways, some who have been around for many years love to tell stories that can go on for quite a while and in doing so answer many of the standard questions they know they’ll get asked.

Wil Wheaton is the perfect example of this. On the Gold Coast I was along for the ride as this veteran of the convention circuit took the audience along for and entertaining and wondrous journey for 20 minutes whilst answering one question. But at no point did anyone feel they were missing out, that their opportunity was going away because Wil was answering many of the questions they would ask. When his story concluded there was thunderous applause and laughter.

Others want to respond to as many questions as possible, it is usually those guests that have you running from one side of the room to another, and you know they are enjoying your torture.

Then there are the Spartacus boys who simply take over and you can have a sleep.

For me every panel is a joy, with established stars learning more about their history, with up and coming guests sharing in their dreams and hopes for the future. There are many who relish the chance to share their other works or talk about the dreams they have for the future.

In April of this year (2015) I was honored to share the stage with 5 time Oscar winner (Sir) Richard Taylor as he introduced "Thunderbirds are Go" the 2015 reboot of the now 50 year old Anderson series. Here was a man responsible for many of the ground breaking effects in modern science fiction and fantasy films and yet his love of and for this series had driven him to possibly the ultimate fan achievement, merging the memories of older fans with the hopes of a new fans. To that end I should also give a shout out to Vic and the team at Star Trek Continues a show that is a close as you could get to original Star Trek.    

I love to interact with the audience, even those who want to kill me for one reason or another, I love to see the excitement in the fans eyes, hear the tremble in their voice as they get to ask their question. That moment when as they have their moment of one on one with the guest any vestige of cool disappears and the fan excitement takes over. I have actually had someone faint after asking their question they were so overcome.

So let me say here, there are no silly questions, if it is a question of importance to you, you may get a silly answer but remember you have just allowed your favorite star the chance to shine that little bit brighter.

So come armed with what you want to know, even rehearse how you are going to ask it and then keep your fingers crossed that you’ll get your chance.

In the words from one of my favorite songs, “don’t stop believing”

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Send in the Clones

Since my earliest days in fandom, costuming has always been something that has been there. In 1988 I attended my first full convention ( I had dropped into one in 1986 but did not stay) and I did indeed go to the evenings activities in costume. My Captain Scarlet uniform was was something I had always wanted to do and I must admit the look on various faces on non convention goers at the hotel was indeed amusing.

But do you know what the prize was that night, a voucher to the movies.

In my 25 years of fandom I have been to over 250 conventions of all sizes and one of the constants has been the enthusiasm of attendees to come in costume. For many it is not about winning any competition or their 15 minutes of fame on stage it is just the opportunity to portray their favorite character. On the left is my friend Scott in Classic Battlestar uniform. Scott runs highly successful conventions in Melbourne but hasn't forgotten that having fun is all part of the outfit and being a fan. 

This group on the right  is from Brisbane and whilst they compete in the group cosplay competitions it is still all about fun and the idea of  having a good time together. I know there are times they could happily murder each other in the lead up but in the end it is all about taking a concept and seeing it to reality and sharing that with those  around them.

But I am seeing what is for me a disturbing trend now entering Australian events. That of the "professional" costumer. Those that seek not to simply enjoy their costuming but who almost demand that you "worship" their skill and abilities for producing what they are wearing. As a professional host I get paid to run around and talk and have everyone look at me and I enjoy the attention, but at no point do I decide to belittle or degrade those around me who don't possess the same skills. I have however seen and heard people in costume do exactly that to others who's costume has not met the standards they feel it should.

The girl on the left was attending a convention in Las Vegas I was at, I asked if I could get a photo she said yes. I took a photo and she then berated me for taking the photo before she was ready. Five minutes later she had prepared herself and struck a pose that she deemed suitable for her to be photographed. I have no problem with wanting to show yourself and costume off to the best advantage, but to complain and take your time in preparing for a photograph I find annoying. People should be rewarded for their efforts but I hope we never get to the stage of people expecting a reward for their efforts.

I liken this to something that occurred at an event I ran many years ago, a group approached the organizing committee to have a sizeable display area to show off their spectacular models.  What was displayed was indeed amazing and certainly added to the weekend. One week after the event we were contacted again about the next year. We  said we would be delighted to have them back. We were then sent a contract for their appearance with a sizeable fee. Their reasoning was that their product was a draw card for the event. We declined. I hope we do not see this occur with costumers, a belief that they and their creations are greater than the events that they are attending. I hope we will never lose those like the group below who make it a joy to see them and not make us feel as if we have been deemed worthy to be in their presence.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Apollo's Part 2

The Apollo Awards were born. The opportunity for fans worldwide to show the main stream media that we did have a voice and it was a loud one. That we weren't just a bunch of strange people that dressed up and lived in the basements of our parents or similar places.

Science fiction and fantasy products ruled the world when it came to making money for studios etc and we wanted it known that we deserved to have our thoughts and opinions heard and respected. So we set off to help the world have their say. That's the two of us on the right,in an early planning meeting  at the home of our creative consultant, see we had people with important titles working on this, this was a planning day to start chasing the funding for the project.

Then something interesting happened, we discovered it wasn't enough to  simply have this great idea, one we knew the world would embrace and rally around. We found out the need for the business structure that went with it. The hours spent creating business and marketing plans and strategies for how to approach which company and organization. When and where to meet , how to say what needed to be said but in such away that it was not asking for a hand out. And thus was born 101010 Productions Pty Ltd.

This was created for the sole purpose of staging "The Apollo Awards". For those really clever ones reading this you will of course have worked out the 101010 is binary for 42, the answer to life the universe and everything. Yes we are that conceited to name our company that way because we had all the answers.  With this side of things completed  we went in search of sponsors ( if only Leonard Nimoy had hosted this in search of) and we found tremendous support and enthusiasm and encouragement for the project but alas no money. 

We became even more creative and redesigned the whole show but it was just not possible to be able to stage the event and the associated voting that went with it. So by know you are all thinking wow this is a bit of a bummer blog, lost dreams and hopes. Shattered  beliefs and expectations. But it's not. Many things that were created along this journey are still happening and in no small way this honours what we started out doing.

Soon I'll be blogging about "The Pythia Festival" about the "Australian Fan Awards", and a host of other activities all of which were born from and created to support "The Apollo Awards"

Are "The Apollo Awards" dead and gone? Let me  quote one of my life long hero's, Captain James T. Kirk.

"There are always possibilities" Spock would say.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Apollo's All Part 1.

In my recent New York blogs I mentioned "The Apollo Project" and thought I would take the opportunity to talk about what was one of the most exciting and yet disappointing times of my life.

Let's be very clear on one thing, I'm a fan, I have been since seeing my first episode of Dr Who over 40 years ago. I grew up with original Star Trek, all the shows of Irwin Allen such as Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea and Lost in Space etc all the way through to today's adventures.

So it used to always annoy me that my shows received only limited if any sort of recognition from any or all awards shows. In 1988 I feel into the convention scene as I have mention in past issues and found like minded people to share my frustrations and excitements with. We had our own awards and spoke long and loudly to anyone who would listen but this still wasn't enough.

In 2004 I meet and started working with an awesome individual who shared many of the same ideas as myself. Together we started forming a concept to showcase the best that fans could offer in the way of costuming, model making, writing, and short films. These would all be presented at an awards ceremony after an Australian wide competition. It was and still is a great idea and may happen, but as we worked on this an greater undertaking was born, "THE APOLLO PROJECT". Imagine the Oscars meet MTV. Below is a part of our pitch document.

The Apollo Awards Ceremony is a gala red-carpet event presented in front of a live audience hosted in picture-perfect, subtropical Queensland, Australia.

The inaugural event will honour NASA astronaut Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, famously recognisable from the first moon landing in Apollo 11, and three actors: Richard Hatch, Jamie Bamber, and Michael Forest - all of whom have portrayed characters named "Apollo".

This was to be a worldwide effort to raise our voices and and show our support not just for the special effects but for everyone who contributes to sci-fi/ fantasy being what it is. The image on the right was the design of the award. You can see from the names above we certainly had some support for the project.

This was the start of what was going to a 
integrated website that would allow the world to talk and vote and show the mainstream media that we were more than just people who dressed up on the  weekend, but it was an expensive exercise and we were in the market at the wrong time.

I'll continue with the creation and journey the "The Apollo Project" took me on in my next blog. Plus tell you how it changed me and my world and how it still continues to do so.

Saturday, 6 July 2013

New York New York Part 2

The show started and what a show it was, I am yet to experience anything like it, at one point they closed the venue because it had reached it's capacity of 120,000 people.  
The costuming or cosplay if you want to call it that was amazing. My favourite piece of "performance art" was a fellow dressed as the Joker who had a life size Robin dummy. He would stop drop the dummy on the ground and start beating it with crowbar recreating the scene from the original death in the family. He would then just move on to the next spot. Fans making the effort to be a part of the festivities by simply wear a pair of Hulk hands up to the most elaborate outfits you could imagine. 
The variations and effort that fans went to was truly inspiring. Even pets get in on the joy and excitement of the day.

The diversity of what was there, from gaming to comic books to film and television. Endless rows of artists showing the wares. Fans pitching their fan films, an entire area dedicated to pod casters who were doing "live shows" from the event. This was a wonderland of epic proportions.

But the time came for us to launch of project and to do this we had the help of long-time friend Richard Hatch. 

Amongst the thousands at New York Comic Con a crowd gathered to see what all the fuss  and giant countdown timer was all about, the Apollo Project was launched, no not an attempt to land a man on the moon, but a global voting and awards event for Sci-fi fantasy. I will discuss the Apollo Project in a future blog. Whilst the project is yet to be fully realized the memoires of that weekend and the fans and frenzy of such a large convention will long stay with me.

I never got to a single panel or workshop or saw much of the event itself. I did a quick stroll around when I had the opportunity but not long enough to  fully take it all in. Yet the excitement, fun and wonder was infectious.  To miss quote a certain Time Lord " One I shall come back again, yes I shall come back"