Packed Room Before the Karl Urban Panel

I awoke surrounded by a pile of beer cans, hot glue guns and a mountain of trash. I breathed in the smell, it was heaven. It was Friday morning of Dragon Con.

For those not in the know, Dragon Con, held in Atlanta every year on Labor Day weekend, is a multi-day celebration of all things geek. It’s the antithesis of San Diego Comic Con. SDCC is an extention of the Hollywood hype machine. It’s where “they” pitch the “next big thing” for the masses. Which is fine. Dragon Con however, is an appreciation of things already created.

I’ve seen countless people quip that there was something different at DCon this year. I felt it too. In years past, typically there was one super big name celeb there (Shatner, Stan Lee type deals). Big names who were somewhat past their prime. But this year, Karl Urban (DREDD!) was there. The man is a shiney geek demi god, arguably in the prime of his career. Several cast members from “Arrow” were there, which is on the verge of its third season premiere. And the James Gunn, hot on the heels of “Guardians of the Galaxy” being the highest grossing film of the summer, was a huge presence at this year’s event.

That’s what’s changing about the Con, it’s getting more mainstream. This is my fifteenth year. So I have some perspective on how DCon has grown. It used to be fairly small and relegated to one hotel. This year there were over 70,000 people in attendance and it spanned 5 hotels. For me, it started as a way to find original “Star Wars” figures for my friends and myself. Now it’s so much more.

Jeff Kaminski and a Judge Dredd Cosplayer

Even with the growth though, DCon is still true to it’s roots. The fans. Most notably, the Cosplayers. The guy dressed as Judge Joseph Dredd is almost as popular as the guy who played him.

I had the privilege of representing Geek Smash along with Editor-in-Chief Jeff Grantz at the event (you can relive some of our live tweeting of certain panels here). We were able to attend a few press conferences and get some questions asked to big names, most notably for me, master director Terry Gilliam. We recorded some of these press conferences and are still deciding what to do with the footage. I hazard we will be cutting a video clip for you to enjoy sometime soon. Until then, I wanted to share some of the highlights of this year’s Dragon Con with you…

Terry Gilliam Press Conference

Terry Gilliam had some wonderful/inspiring things to say about his new film “The Zero Theorem” (check out my review of this fantastic film here) and the film industry in general as well:

– He noted that Billy Bob Thorton was in talks to be cast as Qohen in “The Zero Theorem” originally. Bahaha, imagine ol’ Billy Boy with a shaved head and no eyebrows…

– He thanked Quentin Tarantino for making Christoph Waltz (who ultimately ended up with the shaved features) a bankable actor. This is how the system works. Want a rich guy to invest in your movie? You got to make it “bankable.” Imagine if that’s how painters had to function… “No Picaso, our polls indicate no one wants to see guitars. Now accordians! That’s what’s bankable!”

– “I didn’t storyboard very much at all… over the years I’ve become more confidant.” I was a little shocked to hear Mr. Gilliam was storyboarding less and less. Especially given his animation background. He cited not having time as one reason.

Terry Gilliam Panel

– He commented across several panels that he is really into “Breaking Bad” and praised the storytelling in it (one of the few things he did praise, aside from his iPhone, which he talked about quite a bit actually).

– “I’m going to fight for my mistakes, not theirs.” Wow, what a statement! He was talking about fighting with producers about his vision for the film. Still, it’s sad to me that a man of his artistic caliber still has to fight and claw to make an 8.5 million dollar film the way he wants to.

– He also noted he is still working on his “Don Quixote” film and would love to do either a Philip K. Dick story or a video game.

Photo by Grace Moss

Unfortunately, we didn’t get to attend a press conference with Karl Urban, but we did attend one of his open panels. Here are some key notes from it:

– First off, Karl started off with some of his “Dredd” monologue, in the form of “Citizens of Peach Trees, I am the law.” My god, I lost my s#@! hearing that live! Grantz might have a bruise on his leg from where I grabbed him (Editor’s Note: I did, but it’s clearing up now). I geeked out hard. Urban comes across as a really cool guy, who is legitimately into geek culture.

– “If it does happen, it will be fantastic.” This he said in regards to “Dredd 2.” The crowd erupted, he went on to note “On DVD (“Dredd”) sold 750,000 copies… wait a minute, someone dropped the ball!” On a downer note, he stated how “Dredd 2” will need to find alternative funding. Basically having to do with the foreign rights. Bah, I keep waiting for the day that film is greenlit.

– He noted that the costume for “Dredd” was the most uncomfortable of all the movie armor he has had to wear. He also talked about how he had to rely on his body to help show his emotions as the Judge helmet covered 80% of his face.

Karl Urban Panel

– “As soon as you start making decisions out of fear, you’re screwed.” Both a Warrior and a Poet Karl Urban is.

– What I really, really, really frakking loved was Urban’s praising of JJ Abrams. Karl and Peter Weller both mentioned how much Abrams dislikes using computer graphics (A trait shared with Terry Gilliam). This is what myself and a lot of my geeky friends wanted to hear in regards to the new “Star Wars” films. Karl went on to add about the new Star Wars films “You’re in for a treat.”

– He stated the that “The Fellowship of the Ring” was his favorite of the LoTR trilogy. And that Boromir’s Death was his favorite scene. I agree 100% on both.

– He really wants to work with Ridley Scott on a film, stating “Blade Runner” was one of his all time favorite films. It’s an interesting thing, “Blade Runner” popped up in almost every panel Grantz and myself attended. Yet, it was a financial flop. Maybe money isn’t everything when it comes to art…

Kaminski and Tricia Helfer

We also had a moment to chat with Battlestar Galactica’s Tricia Helfer. I had to nudge Grantz to make sure she wasn’t in my head (ala Baltar), he confirmed we were indeed at her press conference. The common thread was her new SyFy show “Ascension.” I’m not too familiar with it, but the concept does sound very cool, and she did a great job pitching it to the press. It follows a large mother ship of eartherlings who have fled Earth in hopes of finding a new place to live.

The style for the show is based largely on the ’60s. I’m in, I’ll watch the first few episodes with great interest. I did directly ask her about the influence BSG has had on other science fiction themed shows, but you’ll have to wait ’til we cut our audio files (for the podcast) for that answer.

I really loved all the panels with the above mentioned guests. Karl was cool, Tricia was terrific and Gilliam was incredibly inspiring.

To me, every year DCon gets a little bigger and a little better. Sure the lines get worse, but the people who run the convention do seek to improve it and bring in more celebrities each year. They have already found a new space for the merchants to set up shop in, which should make it easier to peruse geek themed products.

I’ve already been going through Dragon Con withdrawals and am already planning my costumes for next year.

-By Jeff Kaminski