Recently we got a text about conventions via mail and would like to share it with you. There might be some information that’s also relevant for you…
Also available in German.
General rule: be nice, be kind and remember everyone is doing one hell of a job there.
Gifts for actors
Keep them small, keep them simple, keep them safe. Food, sweets, cookies? Please don’t. One thing: people have allergies you may not now about. If you know a person has allergies but not which ones, stay away from that area even more. If you know they like a specific thing, remember that they probably get that thing from everyone and their aunt and there’s only so much of any one thing that a person can eat. If it has to be, use store-bought. You know, with an ingredient list on it (for reason, see above). Do not give self-made things. There’s hardly anyone in the world worse at self-care than actors at conventions, but don’t make it even harder for them (and the staff who are, among other things, also supposed to make sure nothing happens that shouldn’t). Yes, if you give off the impression that you expect them to open your gift and try, they will probably do that. On average, even if they know the thing isn’t /likely isn’t for them, they’ll suffer rather than disappoint you. So don’t do that. Please.
Not too long ago, there was an incident at a con (that was on a different continent from me and I wasn’t there, but it’s certainly been talked about a lot among us). A day into it, one of the guests developed symptoms. Bad ones. First thought was stroke, but then quickly the word was “environmental influences”. That is, in that context, a fancy way of saying poisoning without using the word. Turned out eventually she was reacting to something her room was painted or cleaned with, but you bet I wouldn’t have wanted to be the person who had to answer the question “Did anything she was given go into her mouth?”
If you give sweets etc., expect that it will end up shared among the staff, not the actors. As per the above, there’s only so much a single person can eat.
There’s also only so much a single person can easily take on a plane, especially if they’re not flying home but to wherever they’re working next. If you give anything non-food that is bulky, fragile, heavy, difficult to transport etc., expect that it will stay behind. People’s time to take care of transporting stuff is limited to non-existent on tight schedules, no one’s likely to go and mail stuff after them (the staff are also going home after the con closes…). If it can’t be easily fitted into luggage, it’s got to be a pretty damned great present to go home with the recipient. Unless maybe it’s their first con and everything’s pretty damned special.
For one of the 2019 cons, someone had the idea of starting a fundraiser for an anti-bullying thing and have the donation certificate made out in Dom’s name & give it to him. Now THAT is a gift I’d say is about perfect. It’s something he cares about, something that’ll resonate with him and something that’ll be easy to take along.
First thing: Don’t expect them to recognise you. They may go to half a dozen cons a year and more, meeting XXX people there, plus work, other events, random fans catching them anywhere they go… it’s not going to happen. It’s rare for them to recognize the staff they’ve worked with before, for the same reason, and that’s okay. They WILL pretend, if they can at all, that they remember you. That’s part of their jobs. They’re usually good at it, too. That’s also part of their jobs. They’re actors. They act. It’s what they do. They may use much the same techniques that a fortune teller might to tell you just what you want to hear. It takes a lot of focus, it’s exhausting. Make it easy for them. If you want them to know you’ve seen them before, tell them when and where, don’t make them guess. If they can’t figure it out or don’t have the cope left to try, don’t get angry.
If you are really, truly recognised across cons, that is, in most cases, not a good thing. It means you stood out, and most likely you stood out negatively enough that someone took note of you and committed you to memory.
Yes, they’ll talk to you, and they should. That’s also their job. Please, keep it short on your end. If you have a long, complicated message for them, write it down beforehand, give them the letter. (But expect that it might be screened by someone else first, because you wouldn’t believe the sort of “letters” some of them get.) On the other hand, there might be situations where they read it then and there. It depends a lot on the situation. Con scheduling is narrow. The organiser wants to sell as many autographs/etc. as possible. Time is never enough. The actors will talk to you – as they should, see above – and you likely won’t be cut short unless you REALLY overdo it, but remember this: The time you use up that goes beyond the time scheduled for one autograph isn’t going to come out of the next person’s autograph time, or the one after that. It’s going to come out of the actor’s break time. Which is scarce to begin with (one con I worked at in 2018, one actress had three (3!) 5-minute breaks SCHEDULED for one afternoon. You can guess at how much break she got. No, that is not usually the case and that was really extreme, but you get the idea).
Poses: keep them simple, quick, and safe. Seriously. Again, the time you use beyond what the organizer scheduled (and that is never enough time) goes out of one place only, and that is your favorite actor’s break. Cons may/will have rules against certain poses, touching, etc. Actors will break them. It’s known. The organizers sort of tolerate it, the staff hate it, but a lot of the time you don’t stand there and tell your charge what to do where any fans can see. If you, as the fan, insist on a thing, if they can at all handle it, they’ll do it. If you make it seem like your personal happiness depends on the thing, same.
But you may be told you can’t have the thing you asked for. Please, accept that. There’ll be a reason for it. Even if you wouldn’tdo any anything bad, ever, remember that the benchmark for keeping the con safe isn’t you. It’s the worst credible fan present. And you know what? Worst credible fans have a way of making themselves look harmless right up to the moment they grab their actor and try to French kiss them (yes, this has happened). It’ s not personal. It’s that we can’t look into your head and tell what sort you are.
And even if people don’t mean it, accidents happen. At one con last year, we had an elbow in an actor’s face, an actor with a badly bruised foot, a bleeding hand and a torn sweater, most of these genuine accidents (jury’s still out on the foot). So please consider going back to the simple poses from the 1990s. Nice and safe. Thank you…
Also, if someone gives any sort of indication that they don’t want to be touched/hugged/whatever anymore, staff will stop you. Before you complain about the horrible staff or the stuck-up actor, please take a moment to remember that you don’t know what happened before you came in. Any single person can only stand so much in one day. Yes, they know that when they go to cons they will be touched, accidentally groped, “accidentally” groped, and totally unabashedly groped under pretence of taking a picture, have hands in inappropriate places and suggestive things happen. If the point has come where the actor needs a break, let them have that. Most likely, it’s not personal. But you might also just remind them specifically of that person who did that totally unacceptable thing that other time and they just can’t. Give them that break, too.
And if you just show up with some nice, safe, simple pose, I promise you you’ll be both the staff and the actor’s favorite person in the world for that moment.
In the hallways
If you meet a random actor in the hallways, please ignore them if you can at all. They’re on their way somewhere. If they’re on the way to their break, the time they spend talking to people additionally goes out of their break. If they’re on the way from their break, they’ll be late to their next thing and the time will come out of their next one.
You are in a room with an actor and they have some item of theirs lying around unsupervised?
Do not touch it. That is not an invitation for you to take home a souvenir. Keep your hands away.
No, even if it’s something tiny.
No, even if it’s something that’s “not worth anything”.
No, even if it’s just a water bottle.
Just don’t. (Also, stealing someone’s ready access to a quick drink in a situation in which they’re probably already borderline dehydrated is not a fun joke. Again, and seriously: there’s so much stress on those days, so little time, things like drinking gets forgotten. A lot. Taking away the opportunity to do so quickly does not improve the situation. Weirdly specific? Yeah, that’s because it actually just happened.)
This should not need saying, but unfortunately it does: Don’t follow them. If you know where they’re staying the night, don’t go there, don’t try to get an extra talk, or photographs, or autographs, or any other -graphs. They’re coming from what probably was at least an 18-hour day, they had far too few breaks, they’re probably borderline dehydrated, approaching hypoglycaemic, in need of a shower, some food, a lot of water and a bed, not necessarily in that order. They have to be back up and alert the next day. Let them rest.
Speaking of which… this is not con-related, but please? You see an actor somewhere – in the company of friends, doing something, maybe, say… celebrating a friend’s wedding? Don’t approach them. Please do not. No, they probably won’t send you away. Yes, they probably will agree to a picture and to talk to you. Because keeping fans happy is part of how they earn their money. No, the actor will probably not make a fuss and ruin his friends’ wedding party by telling you to go away, not knowing what sort of reaction will come from you afterwards (again, they can’t tailor their reactions to you. They have to tailor them to the worst credible fan). The point is, they shouldn’t have to be in that situation in the first place. And there’s no reason for being proud to have sat at your favorite actor’s table at his friends’ wedding. It’s not evidence of that actor’s nice-ness to his fans. It’s evidence of your inability to tell where you have absolutely no business being. They’re people, not property. @AlterEgon