A Day In My Life: Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo

Posted: June 19, 2011 in A Day In My Life

The more I’m out there exploring Calgary, the more interesting things I find to do and fascinating people I meet. Our city is full of talent that so many of us were (and still are) unaware of. I’ve been mulling over how best to go about talking about everything I’m discovering. I contemplated starting another blog, as this one has been primarily about web, technology and social media. But the hell with it, part of outing my inner geek is finding other ways to geek out. It’s at the very least a weekly occurrence for me, and so I bring you a different take on my blog – A Day In My life.

This weekend found me at the Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo (CCEE). The expo is in its fifth year, but I’ve never had occasion to go. My brother was the one into comic books growing up. I think my mom still has a box of his comics, all carefully stowed away in their respective plastic coverings. My best friend was a huge Star Trek fan when we were kids. Everyday after we came home from school, we’d watch Next Generation at her place. She even had a Star Trek themed birthday once. I can’t say that going to a convention with her ever crossed my mind as something I’d be into. Only since cutting off my cable a couple of years ago have I started to explore a few movies already in my collection (namely Batman, Spiderman and the X-men).

In the days leading up to the Expo, I inquired amongst my various groups of friends who would be attending. My frisbee team, not a single one. In fact, I got a funny look for even posing the question. Many of my social media friends, however, y’all were there to partake in the “full frontal NERDity” as Steve Hodges is so fond of putting it.

Three days of manning a booth, being surrounded by hundreds of fans from sci-fi to gamers to comic lovers gave me a glimpse into a world that many of you have been passionate about for years. It feels a bit odd approaching it as an adult. For so many of you, the nostalgia of childhood favourites has just as much of an allure as seeing your favourite characters from a modern-day series. I don’t really have either (although I would have been admittedly excited to see anyone there from Firefly). But I thoroughly enjoyed my immersion into your world and I’ve uncovered a couple of different topics, festivals and activities that I’d like to pursue.

Theatre – What’s theatre doing at a comic convention you ask? I would’ve asked the same thing too, except that it was a promotion for Swallow-a-Bicycle Theatre’s current production, i-Robot. Considering the promo in Mark Hopkins‘ newsletter was written in binary, it didn’t seem so out-of-place. Mark is the king of knowing the ins and outs of events on the Calgary Arts scene, or at least having a fantastic list about them once a month. If ever you’ve been one to think there’s nothing to do in Calgary, Mark’s e-newsletter is a pretty solid place to start. How can you get on such an awesome sauce mailing list? Why, email him!

Anime – I spent my weekend next to a table for Otafest. Beyond episodes of Astroboy, I had never had much exposure to the world of anime. I first came across Otafest as I was digging for festivals in Calgary before Christmas. From their website, it was a bit difficult to glean what the festival was all about. However, the thundersticks they were giving away all weekend and the ongoing music from Nyan Cat (it’s the only music I heard for 3 days) made me pay closer attention. It seems I missed this year’s festival, held May 20-22. But it’s already on my calendar to check out next year. It’s back from May 18-20, 2012.

Drawing/Animation – When I was in high school, the words “quick draw” had an altogether different meaning than what the table to my left was promoting. The Quickdraw Animation Society had a still animation demo setup. You’d draw a few lines and take a picture with a camera attached to a Mac, draw a few more, take another picture. And repeat until your drawing was finished. Then hit play. Your drawing now drew itself! You could do the same thing with comic book characters they had cut out from some old comic books. It was fun to watch the different scenes people came up with throughout the weekend. A banner at the back of their booth was promoting a Giraf festival. Actually, it’s Giraf7. My first thought was a fundraiser with the zoo? Shows you how much I know about it, it’s really an animation festival in November. The Giant Incandescent Resonating Animation Festival (Giraf). Say what now? Don’t worry, I still don’t know what it means either. But the stills were intriguing. Did you know that it takes 24 frames to make up 1 second of animation? For real! Imagine how long it takes to do a film? That’s a lot of time and energy–anyone willing to put that much work into a project is worth checking out in my books.

Still on the animation front, there was an artist up from San Francisco in the booth behind mine (does that mean it’s on the animation “back” rather than the front?). Fabian Molina is a young (I say young only because he’s younger than I) animator who once worked at Banana Republic. Importance? None in the context of animating. He worked there for 6 years before he mustered up the courage to quit and pursue animation full-on. In that sense, it’s an important lesson. If you’re nowhere near an industry that allows you to do what you love, the sooner you get out, the better off you’ll be. He let me read through a bit of his book, Animating in the Nude (anything goes at CCEE). All I could think was: “A book? How does this kid have a book already?” Naw, that’s not really what I thought. Instead, it gave me some good insight into what goes into making animations, 2D or 3D. There’s plenty of work to be done from concept to finish, and so much more before pen or pencil even touches paper in terms of character development and the likes. He also just joined Twitter.

I was attempting to embed the promo video for the book, but it appears WordPress isn’t enjoying it so much. Please do have a boo at it over here.

Next to Fabian was Mark McDonnell, whom I didn’t get nearly as much chance to talk to, but would say hello whenever I poked my head through the curtain between our rows. He does something called gesture drawing. Is it in any way related to Fabian’s guide to animating? No clue. If you know more about the field than I, I’ll let you be the judge. At any rate, he describes his book as having a strong focus on storytelling. We all know connecting with anyone–friends and family, strangers, an audience, companies, customers, etc–is much easier to do over a story. I’m curious to see how story-telling through animation might relate well to social media.

It was Mark’s 3rd visit to Calgary. Now that I know who he is, I’ll be looking for him next year, not to mention keeping an eye on his blog from time to time.

I was also pleasantly surprised to see Tony Johanson wandering by. Did you know he’s in on a comic book? I’ll let him spill the details when he’s ready, but would you have ever guessed? Me neither! The things you learn about people…

Not bad for experiencing CCEE from my table, hey? I learned a lot and I’m looking forward to seeing what lessons each of these organizations, people and industries can teach me as I continue to broaden my geekdom.

The Calgary Comic and Entertainment Expo returns April 27-29, 2012. See you there!

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