From Fan to Film Crew – Bringing a New Universe to Dragon*Con
By Lauren Leasure
I’m Lauren Leasure, and I am an actress, artist, production coordinator, and costume designer for Kendall Pictures’ Decktechs. But when you get right down to it, I’m just a big ol’ nerd.
I love science fiction. You name it, I’ve watched it. I didn’t start that way, but now the geek runs deep. That said, I am living with a dark, dark secret. Sometimes I’m embarrassed at the amount of sci-fi that I consume. Is it a good thing, I wonder, to devote so much attention to one genre? Shouldn’t I be more concerned with programming that accurately represents the reality of my world? The truth, however, is only a few channels away: I could just as easily be watching Jersey Shore, Toddlers and Tiaras or The Real Housewives of Mansionland, which purport themselves to be reality, but are just as unbelievable and far from the real world as any episode of Battlestar Galactica. With sci-fi, I have to suspend my disbelief just as much as any other program, but I get the bonus of having spaceships, time travel and robots thrown into the mix. It’s that love for sci-fi that brought me to Decktechs.
I heard about Decktechs on the Internet. A brand new, original sci-fi show trying to find a foothold online? Naturally, my interest was piqued. For the past few years, sci-fi television has been thirsty for a quality show with a unique script, and suddenly, here it was. Imagine my surprise, then, when I discovered the show was filming just minutes from my home in Savannah, Georgia. What’s more, the casting notice detailed a female supporting role, Jos: an independent, self-sufficient, bad-ass of a character. The sci-fi geek in me jumped into action, calling forth images of Princess Leia, Kara Thrace, and River Song.
As it happened, the notice was for that very day, with a little over an hour left for the auditions, so I rushed there. Unlike the sci-fi heroines of the past, Jos was a new and original twist on the old “tough-girl-exterior” genre staple. My excitement was ratcheted up even further.
After the audition, I made it plain how enthused I was about the whole project and told the producer and director to call me even if they just needed someone to bring them doughnuts on set. Much to my surprise, I was offered the position of Production Assistant. I was stoked! As fate would have it, our extremely talented head of wardrobe, due to the demands of school and work, found herself unable to devote the time necessary to the fledgling project and it was my time to step up. Something in me stirred. Something heretofore hidden and dark. Something… nerdy.
I’ll tell you a secret, as long as you keep it between you and me and don’t do anything silly like post it on the Internet. I love going to conventions. Yes, silly nerd conventions. Another secret: when I go to those silly nerd conventions, I wear homemade costumes, a hobby first indulged at age 4, piecing together the costume of Gadget from Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers, and fueled by a lifetime love of theatre.
If I’m honest, “cosplay,” a term preferred by the sort of person who owns brightly-colored wigs, double-sided tape and corsets but doesn’t list their profession as “exotic dancer,” is the only reason I’m any good at costuming. We’ve all seen the stereotype of the people who attend these conventions portrayed on Galaxy Quest or that infamous SNL skit where William Shatner screams “GET A LIFE, will you people!? For crying out loud, it’s just a TV show!” to con-goers. You expect to see everyone from The Simpsons’ Comic Book Guy to the Dwight Shrutes of the world. And sure, at any con, there will be Klingons stomping across the lobby, but it’s so much more than that. These stereotypes are fewer and farther between than you may realize. Believe it or not, everyone attends these things: your banker, your doctor, your lawyer. And this is especially true of my all-time favorite convention, Dragon*Con.
Dragon*Con is, essentially, the east-coast San Diego Comic-Con, except it doesn’t have to pretend it’s not a press junket. It’s huge, it’s hot and it’s four of the best days of the year. Dragon*Con is North America’s largest annual science fiction and popular arts convention. Held every Labor Day weekend in the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, the Atlanta Marriott Marquis, the Hilton Atlanta, and the Sheraton Atlanta Hotel, it attracts over 40 thousand attendees with its multitude of celebrity guests, exhibits, art displays, merchandise, and collectibles.
With events planned around the clock, there are thirty-five fan based programming tracks, 3,500 hours of panels, workshops, gaming, a parade in downtown Atlanta, film festivals and art shows. And not one of those things can be accurately described in text. You’ve just got to be there.
And, now, for the first time in nearly a decade of attending cons, I am a spinning cog in the next big thing to hit sci-fi – Decktechs, a show of which I am an absolutely huge fan, and would be even if I weren’t working on it.
Several weeks ago, with Dragon*Con quickly approaching and Decktechs post-production nearing completion, my creative gears were turning and my imagination was in overdrive (or should that be hyperdrive?) when, suddenly, an idea appeared, and my twin passions found a way to work together. I went to my producer and director, presented the idea and they gave their blessing.
It was at this moment that everything came full circle. From sci-fi fan to sci-fi contributor, I could now die a happy girl. In on the ground floor of something amazing, I kept in mind the lesson of Serenity: fans can be more than just supporters and can move the industry if they try. So, I wanted to use this opportunity at Dragon*Con to introduce a legion of sci-fi aficionados to Decktechs first hand. But I’d have to come up with something strong and new, something unique to the show.
In Decktechs, the Eliptacom corporation runs the Solar Beacon, a massive underfunded solar collecting vessel on which our protagonist, Don, and his fellow deck technicians work. For Don, Eliptacom is a distant, out-of-touch company more concerned with the bottom-line than the welfare of its more “blue-collar” workers, like Don, who labor to maintain outdated equipment in a slowly crumbling facility.
What better way, then, to expose con-goers to the show than to bring to them the corporation that controls every aspect of Don
’s life? Eliptacom
would go to Dragon*Con
. Or, as I will now call it, Elipta*Con 2011
: a chance for the galactic leader in spacefaring industry to get in touch with Earth’s most enterprising individuals.
Utilizing a concentrated viral campaign, including commercials on the convention’s TV channel featuring Decktechs footage never before released in its entirety, Eliptacom will make its presence known at Dragon*Con. A street team, some members of which will be wearing screen-used costumes from Decktechs’ pilot episode, will promote the company (and the show) in lobbies, on sidewalks and standing in line for panels. Business cards, handed out to con attendees and left in conspicuous locations, will feature the Eliptacom logo, website address and a QR code directing interested parties to more information on Decktechs. Finally, during the con, an Eliptacom spokesmodel character will provide an inside look at the convention, for a follow-up video to be released after Dragon*Con.
In the grand scheme of things, these are baby steps, but who knows, maybe one day, people will be wearing my Decktechs costume designs at Dragon*Con. And God help the overly critical and judgmental con attendee who tells me the DT costume I’m wearing isn’t accurate. Trust me, they exist.
But whatever people make of this campaign, however they react, this is an opportunity for me to present a show that I know and love to a community that I know and love the same. I owe so much to Kendall Pictures and Decktechs, and I believe in the work we’ve done. To be able to take that work to the people who fostered in me an interest in this sort of thing in the first place is a rare treat. Dragon*Con, beyond being an environment chockful of dedicated media consumers who can make or break shows, is a melting pot of sci-fi, costuming, pop culture and plain old fun. I believe Elipta*Con can not only fit in seamlessly, but flourish amidst the Klingons, Cylons and Autons.
Now if only I could find something to wear…