Newcastle Film and Comic Con 2015 – Review
Newcastle Film and Comic Con is an annual event held in the Metro Radio Arena. This month Jonathan and I were offered Press Passes to cover the event and meet some of the stars of the big and small screen. Other fans attend the event in elaborate costumes, shopping for memorabilia and merchandise and to learn more about their favourite shows and movies – we were certainly excited for the opportunity to meet other fans. Check out our cosplay article to highlight some of our favourite costumes this year!
So Jonathan and I arrived at the venue stupidly early (newbies!) but were shocked to see that even at 9am a queue had already formed. It was great to see so many people in costumes, even on our journey through the city every few metres there would be a new superhero (or Harley Quinn) walking with a determined stride on their way to the convention. Security gladly opened the barriers when they realised we were press pass holders and we scurried on into the Metro Radio Arena. First comments (it has to be said) the Metro Radio Arena is a wonderful venue with a lot of multi-purpose space. However, it is bloody freezing! Wrap up warm if you find yourself in these parts…
But yes, after awkwardly standing around for a while some of the events team found us loitering and offered some guidance and a rough overview of the days agenda – it was clear that we were new to NFCC. With my celeb hit-list at the ready, we marched forwards into the main area of the convention.
Some readers may know that I am a well practiced public speaker, a former teacher and very experienced at thinking on my feet. However, the overwhelming anxiety when faced with hordes of cosplayers, stalls full to the brim of merchandise and obviously a human wall of celebrities was horrendous! But with our biggest brave-faces we walked on through towards the celebrities to speak to our first ‘Pitboss’ (essentially the gatekeeper for our interviews) to find out if anyone would allow us a short scoop.
First on the hitlist was the lovely Kate Dickie, famous for her roles as Lysa Arynn in Game of Thrones and Ford in the hit movie Prometheus. We were thrilled that the Pitboss let us chat with her and she was very accommodating. She first got into acting when a letter went round her primary school when she was just 10 years old advertising a drama group in Eire on a Saturday Morning. She described herself as “always being a show off and very dramatic” and so they snapped her up quite quickly. Since then she has been lucky with the opportunities she has had and the people she has met along the way which has led to some fantastic experiences. While Game of Thrones and Prometheus have been truly rewarding experiences for Kate, she couldn’t help mentioning her first ever movie ‘Red Road‘ directed by Andrea Arnold who taught her a lot about acting and the industry.
We also had a quick chat with Dave Prowse, famous for his role as Darth Vader in the Star Wars franchise. He actually started his acting career as a body builder and model in London and went for the audition for the Star Wars big-bad on a whim. Dave claimed that he never imagined the sci-fi movie saga becoming such a huge hit with global success and fandom and is still amazed by the passion of the fans and the continued successes the movies achieve. When asked what his favourite part of acting was, he laughed and honestly responded – “the money!”. Hey, at least he doesn’t beat around the bush.
We caught up with Ross Mullan too, famous for his monster performances such as the White Walker in Game of Thrones and The Silence in Doctor Who. He told us all about his favourite shows – even when he was younger he was obsessed with Bewitched and Scooby Doo – in particular the monsters faced by the group. It’s no wonder his later career centred heavily around the portrayal of monsters and SFX in cult television. His favourite shows nowadays are American Crime (which he watched in 5 days!) which is apparently taking the American Horror Story blueprint of a new story each season – I guess it’s one for me to add to my lengthy list of shows to watch. He also thoroughly enjoyed Breaking Bad – another show I’ve not finished. Bad geek.
Ross said that even though he knows the ins-and-outs of cult television from being both in front and behind the camera, he still manages to be immersed in fictional worlds, and claims that he”is still obsessed with things but now in a different way”. He has lots of work in the pipeline, most of which he couldn’t talk about with us as he was sworn to secrecy, but one Sci-Fi short had him quite excited; featuring a look into the future of transportation. Definitely one to look out for!
Colin Baker (the 6th Doctor in the Doctor Who series) unfortunately was not able to speak to us privately, so we instead attended his talk during the event. He was certainly well practiced in speaking at these events and had a particular flair with the audience (he could double up as a comedian I swear!). His talk was packed with fans and he clearly made an impression for his performance in Doctor Who all those years ago. His talk was led by the audience and a gentleman who shared the stage with him. During his talk he discussed his relationship with Peter Purvis, who was also present at Newcastle Film and Comic Con this year due to his performance in Doctor Who in 1966 as Steven Taylor, an earlier time travelling companion of the Doctor who was then portrayed by William Hartnell. He described Peter as “a good man” as “they laugh a lot” – good to see bonds between BBC casts.
Colin responded to an audience members question about the on-going debate of whether the Doctor should regenerate as a woman – even within the guest talk the audience were split with their opinion on this. Colin however, was all for the idea – “I would certainly opt for a female doctor, but the ratings would certainly go down.” Interesting – what do you think? Respond in the comments below.
Finally, and bringing our first day to a close, Colin read a speech from the show demonstrated by Peter Capaldi in the two-part episode “The Zygon Inversion”. A breathtaking end to a phenomenal first day!
So, here we go again. Not quite as early this time, and no where near as nervous either! Determined to hand out more of our shiny new business cards to both celebrities and guests and to take a lot more photos, we once again entered the arena.
Much to our disappointment, Samuel Anderson who played Danny Pink in the Doctor Who series was a last minute cancellation at the event – we were really looking forward to meeting him. However, there were still many other familiar faces so we moved onto the next guest on our hit-list Peter Purvis, who was in one of the first guest talks of the day. Peter discussed how he gained the role of Steven Taylor in Doctor Who – claiming it was all simply due to being “in the right place at the right time”. His first role in Doctor Who was as a character called Morton Dill, and despite being very different to his most prominent role, the producers offered him the job due to other cast members leaving with 3 weeks notice – it all happened very quickly. He told us that he had to change a lot to portray Steven and is still amazed that his role lasted so long – he only saw it as a one-off deal. He was “staggered” that 50 years later Doctor Who was still so popular, and despite losing interest in the show in it’s earlier days he was impressed at where it has ended up today.
Next up was the Game of Thrones talk with Ben Hawkey (famous for his role as ‘Hot Pie’) and Ian Beattie (who played Meryn Trant in the series). What was striking from the get-go was the way we as an audience associate the characters with the actors – it was impossible not to have an immediate dislike for Ian due to the portrayal of Meryn in the series, which I suppose is a credit to his ability as an actor. It was also interesting to see how laid back Ben was about his acting career, stating that he became an actor as he was “an attention seeking child with no academic prospects”. He told us that originally his passion had been stand up comedy and he had more-or-less fell into acting due to his interest in the industry.
The horror, however, was when it was revealed that Ben had never watched an episode of Game of Thrones. Never. I’m still puzzled by this, but he claims he intends on buying the box set when it is all over and released in full. Ian, however, is a huge fan and watches the show with his wife – insisting on no spoilers from the producers he only ever reads the scripts of his own scenes.
When discussing the death of his character, Ian agreed that it was a truly satisfying end for Meryn – though he claimed that if Meryn had touched any of his children it would have taken about a week for him to be killed – I certainly agree with that one! Ian discussed how difficult the abuse scenes were to portray and his horror when he first opened that script – especially given that he has 3 children of his own at home. It was clear how challenging the role had been for the actor, who described his time on set as being very intense – “every so often I did just have to excuse myself and go to the bathroom to burst into tears”. In order to mentally prepare himself for the role he focussed on the rage, as he told us that it is impossible to understand a character unless you are ‘that way inclined’. In my opinion he certainly did a fantastic job.
Ian discussed the “perfect” casting of the show, as both him and Ben had auditioned for other roles than the characters they later played. He told us that initially he was furious but then realised that every single character in the show is played by the perfect actor for that role, and that it is truly a testament to the producers and casting team. He described his Game of Thrones journey as “some of the best 5 years of my life” and told us that the team become a real family – he has made many good friends from his time on the show. We later caught up with Ian for an exclusive interview, which will be on SetBeyond.TV very soon.
Our final run-in with the stars was with Tom Burke and Alexandra Dowling, who play Athos and Queen Anne in the TV show The Musketeers. Alexandra started the discussion by describing her experience on Game of Thrones as Roslin Frey and her adoration for her co-star, David Bradley, who she said was “kind, generous, supportive, funny and humble – and he was the best part of her time on set. When asked why the pair got into acting, both actors claimed they looked up to actors from an early age, perceiving it as a particularly fun career. Tom has also grown up in an acting family with his father David Burke playing a huge influence on his career to date. Alexandra told us that “children are always acting, but as you grow up acting is a way of releasing yourself [from any insecurities], escaping and putting on different persona’s”. Both stars had interesting stories about their audition for The Musketeers and Tom described how challenging auditions are in general – “when you are ready enough to go in but would almost rather you had another day”. Rather you than me, Tom.
Later that day we caught up with Dale Martin, a fellow first-time visitor at the event, to find out what brought him to NFCC this year: “I really like the cosplay – some of them are very cool. I also like getting pictures of myself with stormtroopers.” Unfortunately, Dale said he was too self conscious to do cosplay himself so if he was to do it it would have to cover his face! Dale, along with other visitors, claimed that last year’s event was slightly better, but was not disappointed. “I’m very happy I came. I bought a cool T-shirt aswell – that I’m happy about!” One recommendation for next time was for more posters on sale, in particular larger wall posters – listen out Showmasters!
Merchandise and Sellers
One of the highlights of such events is the vast array of merchandise and memorabilia on sale for fans and collectors alike. From comic books to decorative swords there really was a bit of everything at Newcastle Film and Comic Con this year – I was particularly impressed by the small retailers who have set up their own companies supporting their own fandom for cult television and movies. I managed to buy some Steven Universe merchandise which I’ve never seen in a shop in Newcastle yet, so I was very pleased! Also, a big shout out to ‘The Fizzle & Crank Emporium” who looked awesome in their Steam Punk attire.
To conclude, we really enjoyed ourselves at Newcastle Film and Comic Con 2015. Being surrounded by stars, committed fans in costumes and enough memorabilia to fill a small stadium, it really was a geeks dream. All that would have improved it for me would be a bigger bank balance to let loose on those merchandise stalls… maybe next year!