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Fan Days IV Recap

Fan Days IV Recap

On October 8th and 9th the Irving Convention Center in Irving Texas hosted the 4th iteration of Fan Days.  Fan Days this year was a mostly Star Wars focused convention featuring special celebrity guests, fan groups, Q&A panels, and numerous vendors.  Fans from around the country, and even from other countries, gathered together for two days to celebrate their love for the Star Wars franchise.  As with most conventions, there was not enough time to do absolutely everything, but here are my memories of what I did get to see and do.

Stephen Stanton, Catherine Taber, Meredith Salenger, and Tom Kane at the Clone Wars panel


Author Panels
I was sad to see there wasn’t much of a representation from Star Wars authors at Fan Days.  Luckily, they did have two of the best.  Aaron Allston, who has written books in the X-wing, New Jedi Order, Legacy of the Force, and Fate of the Jedi series, and Tim Zahn, who has written numerous Star Wars books and is considered by some as the “godfather of the modern Expanded Universe.”  I was excited to hear from both of these authors and attended the two panels that they were on together.  The first of these panels was called “Ask the Authors” and was exactly that.  In a small but crowded room, fans got to get up and ask their questions and get them answered by the two authors.  You can actually watch the entire panel over at YouTube thanks to our friends at TheForce.net.  Here are some of the highlights.

Allston said that much of the direction of the story in Fate of the Jedi is dictated by Lucasfilm and Del Rey and not just the authors.

Tim Zahn doesn’t like the idea of time travel or “flow walking” in Star Wars.  He really really doesn’t like it.

Aaron Allston’s favorite Star Wars film is Empire Strikes Back. “…it has the best character development.”

Tim Zahn on the subject of rebooting the Star Wars Expanded Universe – “A reboot would be very messy.” “There would be immense pressure from the fan community not to do a reboot.”

Awhile back, Allston pitched the ideal of a novel about the events of the Original Trilogy from the perspective of Darth Vader.  Zahn thinks he should repitch the idea to Del Rey and the crowd heartily agreed.

When asked what he would have done differently with the Prequels, Zahn said he would have done Jar Jar differently.  “The most irritating thing about Jar Jar is that he doesn’t grow.”  Zahn also said the Yoda/Dooku battle in Attack of the Clones would have been better if it wasn’t as acrobatic. Have Yoda stand still and show his mastery.

Zahn – “Now that certain of my characters have been offed, there is less incentive to write in that era”

The other panel they did together was called “What Not to Put in a Story.”  This panel was less Star Wars focused, and more advice to aspiring writers.  Still a great panel, it was very enjoyable to listen to the two authors critique modern movies and books.  Two things I learned from this panel were they don’t like Clive Cussler’s writing too much, and Zahn is a big fan of Doctor Who.  Star Wars literature did eventually come up…

Zahn – “Maybe before they kill Han, Luke, and Leia they should destroy the Falcon and see what kind of fan reaction they get”

Allston said that at the beginning of The Clone Wars animated series there was not much communication between that team and the books department.  He said now communication is much better.  They actually had to change some things in the Fate of the Jedi series because of some things that were coming up in The Clone Wars show.

Allston was in talks with Del Rey to possibly continue the Republic Commando series. He ended up doing the Wraith Squadron book instead.

Author Aaron Allston

Hughes the Force
One of the big events at Fan Days was a screening of the fan made film Hughes the Force, written and directed by J.C. Reifenberg.  The film is basically a mash up of Star Wars and John Hughes films, specifically borrowing from the plot of Weird Science.  At the end of day one of the convention, they invited everyone up to an auditorium to watch the short film followed by a Q&A with the crew of the film.  I have to admit that I haven’t seen too many John Hughes films, so some of the humor may have been lost on me, but the film was very well made and funny.  Tons of Star Wars references and even cameos by some of The Clone Wars voice actors.  I definitely recommend checking this film out.  I even had a chance to talk to J.C. Reifenberg and the producer of the film Ruark Dreher while on the convention floor.  They are both extremely nice, talented guys and I look forward to seeing what they can come up with in the future.

Costumes!

Convention Floor
If you were looking for that hard to find Star Wars toy, a unique Star Wars t-shirt, or are hoping to meet a Star Wars artist or celebrity, the convention floor at Fan Days was the place to be.  The floor was arranged so the celebrities were on the edge of the floor (Billy Dee had his own room) and the artists and vendors had booths organized in the center.  Very easy to navigate and find what you were looking for.  There were more artists and celebrities than I will mention here, but some of the names that stuck out to me were Ashley Eckstein, Stephen Stanton, Tom Kane, Tom Hodges, Spencer Brinkerhoff, Denise Vasquez, Randy Martinez and Matt Busch.  Some were easy to get to and others had long lines, but all of the celebrities and artists were very friendly and more than willing to spend a few minutes talking to the fans that came up to them.

Any mini fig you could ever need

Volunteering
This year I wanted to see what it would be like to be a volunteer at a convention so I signed up to work a shift on the second day.  There are many possible jobs you can get, anything from watching a door to sitting with a celebrity, and I was ready to do whatever they asked.  Luckily for me, I got the job of sitting with one of the guests and helping them as they talked to fans and signed autographs.  The guest that I got to sit with was Jon Berg, who did a lot of visual effects work on the Original Trilogy.  I had not heard of him before but after talking to him for a few minutes I quickly realized how important he was to the Star Wars saga.  He had done design work on some of the most iconic things in the movies including Imperial Walkers, Ithorians (he laughed when people asked him to sign “Hammerhead”), Duros, the holo-chess set, and a lot more.  The conversations I had with him were amazing.  It was like an interactive behind the scenes session.  He was one of the nicest people I have met and very down to earth.  He even offered to get me coffee at one point which is what I was supposed to be doing for him.  This was only his second convention and I hope he goes to many more.  If you ever get a chance to talk to him I highly recommend it.

Jon Berg with a fan

The Convention
This was my first time to Fan Days, and I was very impressed.  It was well organized, well run and spacious.  I never had the feeling that it was over crowded like some of the bigger conventions I have been to.  A smaller convention like this allows you to relax and take everything in.  The best thing about these conventions is getting together with your friends and other like-minded fans, and Fan Days was full of them.  I am not sure when the next Star Wars Fan Days will be (my guess is 2013 since there is a Star Wars Celebration in 2012) but you should go.  Hopefully I will see you at Celebration 6 before then.

-Aaron Goins

 

Fun from Fan Days – SWR #18

Play

Here’s the latest episode of the Star Wars Report!

This episode features our extensive coverage of FanDays 2011!

We talk about our time at FanDays and play a TON of interviews from the con floor.

We talk to Catherine Taber,

Matthew Wood, and David Accord

Meredith Salenger,

Stephen Stanton,

Steve Sansweet,

J.C. Reifenberg and Ruark Dreher

Aaron Allston and more!

Email:         starwarsreport@gmail.com

Facebook facebook.com/starwarsreport

Twitter:      twitter.com/starwarsreport

Forum:       www.eucantina.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1233

 

 

 

Ask the Authors – SWR #17

Play

Here’s the latest episode of the Star Wars Report!

This episode features a recording of the “ask the authors” panel at Dragon Con 2011.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sadly, this wraps up our D*C coverage. We really had a great time and we’re hoping to make it next year!

Email:         starwarsreport@gmail.com

Facebook facebook.com/starwarsreport

Twitter:      twitter.com/starwarsreport

Forum:       www.eucantina.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=1233

Fan Days Update!

Ashley Eckstein Brings Star Wars “Geek Chic” to Fan Days

September 28, 2011 — Almost half of all Star Wars and sci-fi fans are women who are just as eager as the guys to show their devotion to their favorite movies, television shows and books.

Now actress Ashley Eckstein, a featured guest at the upcoming Star Wars Fan Days in Irving, Texas, answers that call with her new “geek chic” clothing line, Her Universe, which offers female-focused apparel and accessories from the beloved Star Wars saga and other sci-fi genre.

Ms. Eckstein provides the voice of “Ahsoka Tano” in the Cartoon Network’s popular animated series, Star Wars: The Clone Wars. She’ll bring samples of her unique product to Fan Days Oct. 8 and 9 at the Irving Convention Center where she’ll sign autographs, meet the fans and talk about her new clothing line.

Married to former Major League Baseball player, two-time World Series Champion and World Series MVP David Eckstein, Ms. Eckstein grew frustrated with the lack of merchandise available for the growing number of female sci-fi fans. When she couldn’t find Star Wars clothing for herself, she decided to create her own line.

Ms. Eckstein has always expressed herself through her sense of style and now shares her love of all things sci-fi with other geek girls. She’s made it her mission to fight for the underdog and spearhead the call to create a place for female fans in a pop culture community typically dominated by men. Her stylish line of “geek chic” apparel and accessories features fashionable female-focused gear from such powerhouses as the Star Wars brand, and Syfy properties Battlestar Galactica, Warehouse 13 and Syfy’s original movies.

Some people may think science fiction is a “man’s world,” but Ashley is proving there is more than enough room in Her Universe for everyone.

To view and order Ms. Eckstein’s clothing line, please visit www.heruniverse.com. For information on the upcoming Star Wars Fan Days, please visit www.fandays.com.

_________________________________________________________________________

Media information:

Ashley Eckstein is available for interviews prior to Fan Days and at the event. Please contact Dan Madsen to schedule an interview.

 

To download images, please go to: http://www.heruniverseshop.com/syfyimages.aspx

 

Interview with Sam Witwer

The following is a transript of our interview with Sam Witwer at Dragon Con 2011. Huge thanks to Aaron Goins for writing this up for us!

You can listen to the audio version on episode 14 of the Star Wars Report podcast at about 14 minutes into the episode.

Riley: We are here with Mr. Sam Witwer aka Starkiller aka Davis Bloom.  You were even a sparkly vampire yesterday.

Sam Witwer: Oh yeah. So I’m doing a bunch of pictures and stuff and Sam Huntington, my costar on Being Human, is getting glittered up by this lady, this woman, and there was a bunch of people over there and so they are calling me over.  It’s my turn to get glittered up, and I really don’t want to you know.  “No no no no,” and they are pulling me over and then I look and Carrie Fisher comes right up to me and starts glittering me up and I’m like “Oh ok.”  Well I guess I can’t say no to Princess Leia, so I got heavily glittered.  I was covered in it.

Riley: Something I’ve kind of wondered is, a lot of roles you take, say with Smallville Davis Bloom and your current role in Being Human and Starkiller, a lot of those are characters you can really relate to and like often but they kind of have this dark core to them.  How do you get into character and how do you portray someone who might be considered pure evil.  How do you maintain that likability?

Sam Witwer: I think you have to play them all as good guys.  Davis Bloom was sold to me as a good guy when they offered me that part.  I think you have to think of these people as people who all have good intentions but are dealing with various challenges.  Starkiller for example was a good kid deep down but was a guy who worked for a terrible organization.  He worked for Darth Vader and he did all these bad things.  Vader raised him badly so he was confused I think that’s something we can all relate to in terms of a character and the challenges they face.  We all want to be better than the way we are right?  I think that’s it.  The character always has to be reasonable to the actor that is playing them.

Bethany: I know I have many favorite characters and I can never pick which one is my absolute favorite, but do you have a favorite character to play?

Sam Witwer: Aiden. Being Human is an extreme challenge because I not only have to play this addict, this guy who is trying to recover from being an addict, but there’s also this vampire thing that makes it so that I have to reinvent the character at various times, periods in history.  When they gave me the script he talked like a normal guy and I’m like great he talks like a normal guy, but then you have to ask yourself “why?,” because a guy that is 257 years old is not gonna talk the way that we do.  He has so much more life experience.  He’s so much more, um, so much more stuff to draw from and a command of the language that’s so much greater than ours.  So then I reasoned, well he’s hiding.  He’s learned to disguise himself based on the time that he lives in.  Depending on what a 25 year old is like in 2011, that’s what he’ll give you, or in the 70’s or in the 50’s, that’s what he’ll give you.  We get to go this season into the 30’s, so we get to see an entirely new version of the character.  We get to keep adding layers and layers and layers to this guy which is really really fun.  But then also from a pure fan perspective, I love Starkiller.  I really love that guy.  I think he’s cool.

Riley: He’s a very unique character and I think fit really well into that time period between Episode III and Episode IV, because it was a very dark period in the history of Star Wars.

Sam Witwer:  The interesting thing about Starkiller, I always conceived of him as a photo negative of Luke Skywalker, right, and I think the reason that character caught on to people these days, back in the day in the 70’s we had Luke Sky walker who was this well-meaning bright eyed farm boy.  He had a good upbringing and he goes off and he’s naïve and he has challenges, but he goes off and he goes on his hero’s journey.  The thing with Starkiller is, this is a guy who was raised by a terrible terrible man.  He works for this awful organization, he basically works for the Empire.  Look, in the 70’s I wasn’t there.  They were definitely cynical, they had things to deal with, but I don’t know that they had the media machine that we have these days where we just have this blanket of white noise that covers us, and we don’t know who to listen to.  We don’t know who our friends are, who our enemies are, who’s lying to us, who’s telling us the truth.  We just have this sickening feeling that we are being manipulated, and that’s Starkiller all over.  So in a weird way Starkiller is Luke Skywalker for the 21st century.  I think we all relate to this feeling of not knowing what we should be doing.  If you really break down that character it’s brilliant.  Hayden Blackman really nailed it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bethany: We were in your Smallville panel the other day and you mentioned that something you geek out about was Star Wars.  I was wondering, why do you like Star Wars?

Sam Witwer: Why do I like Star Wars?  Because it’s an amazing parable for not being a @#$% (Nerfherder).  It’s like six movies, the theme of it is, don’t be a @#$%.  But no, it really breaks down mythology but also morality in some very easy to work with terms, and I really enjoy that.  If it didn’t have that heart to it I wouldn’t be interested in it.

Riley:  Speaking of Star Wars, another project that you have done is Clone Wars where you voiced The Son.  What were the differences between The Son and Starkiller in the way you approached the characters?

Sam Witwer: I was afraid that The Son was gonna sound too much like Starkiller so I said to Dave Filoni,  “Yeah I don’t know man, I’m afraid,  is it ok if he sounds like Starkiller?  Cause it’s my voice.  How should I do this?”  And he goes, “You know, Starkiller had a connection to the Dark Side of the Force and you are basically playing the Dark Side of the Force as The Son.  So it’s ok if a little bit of Starkiller is in there.”  When he said that I was like well then if Starkiller’s connection to the Dark Side means we can hear a little bit of him in The Son, then we should also hear Darth Maul, we should also hear Darth Vader, we should also hear the Emperor.

Riley: All with very distinct voices by the way.

Sam Witwer: Oh absolutely, and never to do a full on impression of those characters, but to give a moment where it dips in, where he says (in The Son’s voice) “Anakin, join me and together we can end this destructive conflict” or whatever he says.  It’s very Vaderesque.  You dip into the Vader rhythm.  (in The Son’s voice) “Join me.”  There are moments when he dips into the Emperor.  He says something like (in The Son’s voice) “How simple you make it light and dark as if there is one without the other”

Riley: Kind of has that Ian McDiarmid cadence there.

Sam Witwer: Exactly.  And I did the Emperor for Force Unleashed so I was really happy to just dip into these different characters.  Little Darth Maul moments and little things that weren’t necessarily in the fan’s faces.  That was subtle enough that it would evoke these feelings from the other movies, you know.

Riley: I know you probably can’t answer this, so I won’t get you in trouble.  I’ll phrase it this way.  Would you like to return to Clone Wars, even if it’s not The Son, but return to do voiceover in The Clone Wars?

Sam Witwer: I’ve already returned to The Clone Wars to do voiceover.

Riley: Oh really?

Sam Witwer: I am currently, as we speak, working on episodes, many episodes for a character that I have not played… well… it’s… what can I say without getting fired?

Riley: We don’t want you to get in trouble or anything.

Sam Witwer: I’m told the announcement is gonna happen in a couple months.

Riley: Nice tease!

Sam Witwer: It’s an amazing character.  It is an amazing, amazing character.  I’ll put it to you this way.  I was driving over to a buddy’s house and Dave Filoni calls me up, gets me on the phone, and he says, “Listen, so we want you to come back to work and we need you to play…” and he tells me the character’s name.  And I almost had a car accident.  And he says, “Can you do it?”  And I’m like yes.  And then I worried about later whether I could do it or not.  But I was like yes, yes, I will do that.  So it is a tremendous opportunity and I can’t wait for you guys to find out about it.

Bethany: Awesome.  We are really looking forward to that.  I’ve played piano since I was very small.  You went to Julliard and you are a musician yourself.

Sam Witwer: Well I went to Julliard for drama.

Bethany: Ok, I was wondering why did you choose drama over music?

Sam Witwer: Well, I’m a little bit of a jack of all trades.  I do everything a little bit good.  For example I am not the best musician, or I am not the best this or the best that.  Really as an actor you have to be able to pretend.  At any one point you may be playing a musician so you have to pretend that you are an incredible musician, or you must pretend you’re this guy or pretend you’re this athlete.  So if you can do everything a little bit well, that fits better for an actor.  As a musician I am very second rate.

Bethany: I think I would probably disagree.

Sam Witwer: I don’t know.  Check out The Crashtones on iTunes.  The Crashtones is my band.  I’m trying to kick out a second album.

Bethany: Hear that guys.  Check it out!

Sam Witwer: Check it out!

Riley: Well Sam Witwer, thank you so much for coming on.  Appreciate it!

Sam Witwer:  Thanks a lot guys.