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May 08 2010

Nicholas Brendon Headlining Whedonfest! October 1-3 in Toronto.

Anybody know who/what this company is? Kinda sends up a red flag when they don't have any company info at all, no contact other than an email, and not even a credit card merchant account, only paypal. Just seems kinda fly-by-night.
Good to hear Nicky's doing better.

mikeownby Speaking as someone who spent two years trying to put together a convention, a lot of the time it's a group of fans who have enough resources to pool. And it would take a lot - just to get something off the ground would run at the least $200k. And that's not counting the expenses of your guests - that's just renting the hotel, blocking off the rooms, getting A/V equipment (And someone to run it), hiring some form of food service (Either the hotel staff or a caterer), hiring a photographer who has on-site printing capabilities...

If this actually happens, more power to them. MCB was the only con I ever attended, and it was a fantastic weekend. I will never forget it.

As I said in a previous post, our 'verse has some really terrific people, both fans & stars.
I've worked on some cons with guests at hotels. While it wasn't cheap, it wasn't 200K either.
What I was actually talking about is not only about whether the company/people have the finances to pull it off, but also what happens if they don't. I've seen conventions fall through and people who bought tickets get burned. And since they have absolutely nothing that actually identifies who they are, it would be fairly simple for them to just disappear if things go south. Maybe I'm just being paranoid, but I usually like to have something more than just a paypal account and email address before I start handing over chunks of money to people. Even just a phone # and PO Box at the very least. Depending on the credit card, or if it's Paypal, you only have between 30 and 90 days to dispute a charge. If you purchase a ticket now and this doesn't happen in October you've just lost your money with no recourse.

Personally I'd think carefully before handing money over to these folks. Just my $.02 and that'll be the last I say about it.
redeem147 I might've typoed - I no longer have the email from the person I'd consulted, so it might've been $20k. Point is - WAY more money than a handful of fans w/out high-paying jobs could afford to get together.

Pity, too, as we were going to have a killer line-up and fun events like a mingle (Instead of a cocktail party we'd set up tables for fans to chat w/each other & rotate the guests around so everyone had a chance to talk w/them), costume and/or room contests and a prom. Yes, a prom. With proper prom attire and the guests would have been there, at least for the main dance.

Sigh.

mikeownby I don't blame you for being leery, especially given two rather well-known...ahh...bombs in the fan-run convention realm.

The person I had contacted when I was trying to put mine on was an agent of several of the guests, and has emceed several cons, so she knew what she was talking about re: price & difficulty in actually making a convention happen.

I'm still holding out hope I'll win the lottery and be able to put on the Biggest Baddest Whedon Convention EVER! I wouldn't limit it to just "Buffy" stars, but also "Angel," "Firefly" and "Dollhouse." Maybe even sneak in NPH as a special guest star.

And we'd have a special tribute to Glenn Quinn & Andy Hallett.
ShadowQuest, I would fly all the way over just for the tribute. I hope you do get the chance one day :)
So I checked the link for this convention, and then googled "Starry Night Events." All I found was a professional catering service, which I highly doubt is involved in a Whedon'verse convention.

I agree - it'd be nice to have some more information on this group. The ticket prices don't seem too unreasonable (IF I had money, I'd only be able to afford the $85 bronze ticket. Not that I could afford to fly to Canada & rent a hotel room.) but they don't say how "limited!" limited really is.

And they also don't say anything about converting money. How much is $85 Canadian in US dollars?

We'll see what happens in the near future.

cardea YAY!

At the time I was planning Carpe Noctem I was in touch with Erika Amato, and she had agreed to be a special guest, and the band would have performed Saturday night. We were hoping to get Tony to give a concert as well.

Mingle on Friday night, and Tony's concert, Q&A and autographs during the day on Saturday, the room contest in the afternoon, then the prom in the evening for the gold tickets, w/a DJ playing "Buffy" music (Including, of course, "Wild Horses" and "Class Protector"), and then Velvet Chain. Sunday more Q&A and autographs, and a costume contest.

During the Q&A & autographs I would have had my three hours of "Instrumental Buffy" piped in low as background.

And we were going to donate to the ASPCA by holding an auction.

Ahh, dreams.
Yeah, the problem is this could all be very self-fulfilling: If nobody trusts the group they don't know, then nobody buys tickets. Then the group can't afford to pay the guests and venues, so they have to cancel.

And in the end, nobody wins and we're all sad.

So here's a question: How do new organizations win your trust? I'm just throwing it out for the hive mind to answer, 'cause I find fandom fascinating.
J.Monique I think the best thing for a new organization is to start small. A fan get-together first - refreshments, a marathon of episodes, that sort of thing. Then, if all goes well, they can move up to a small convention, with maybe less expensive guests - have a writer's panel, maybe a "make over" session with one of the make-up artists.

I don't think plunging in & hiring the big expensive guests for your first time out is really the best way to go. (And believe me when I say Nicky is one of the more expensive to get.) While MCB was a terrific con, they ended deeply in the red. They had James for a special Thursday night concert, and they had Common Rotation, so right there you're paying for sound equipment and someone to run it, plus putting up the band members. Guests were Tony, Andy, Danny, Tom & Adam, and Kali Rocha. Amber was a surprise guest - Adam had called & told her how much fun he was having, and she hopped a red-eye Friday night so she could be there for Saturday & Sunday.

So. Flying Tony from England to Detroit. First-class, mind you. Plus a service to get him to his airport, and someone to pick him up in Detroit. (I believe it was staff members who picked up the guests.) And putting him up in a suite. Plus per diem for three days.

The same goes for the other guests - a car service to get them to their airports & someone to pick them up, suites, per diems. Then you've got the return flights & car services.

Photographer. Emcee. Sound & lights. A personal assistant for each guest. Badges for the attendees. Someone to act as security for the events to make sure only people who'd paid got in. (Cocktail party, buffet, CoRo concert) T-shirts, caps, other souvenirs of the convention.

Then you've got the vendors. Each event room you have to use at the hotel costs money. For every day those rooms aren't available to their other guests, the hotel loses money. Food. If you're doing some kind of sit-down meal, the hotel will work w/you for a discounted menu, but you'll be limited to certain dishes. If you have a cocktail party, you have to have bartenders, and a tent to hold it in, or another room rented. So there's probably a temporary liquor license to get, too. (Not sure on that, but I'd assume there'd have to be some form of liability.)

So. Yeah. See why winning the lottery's the only way I could put on Carpe Noctem? Unless some mysterious benefactor bequeaths me a whole lotta money.

If these guys are legit, and I hope they are, then my best to them. But I'll never forget Tony telling us about a convention (He didn't name it, but we all knew who he was talking about) that claimed he was a scheduled guest, but he'd never actually been contacted. At an earlier convention some fans had told him they couldn't wait to see him at the one he wasn't scheduled for, and, bless him, out of the goodness of his heart he did turn up at that one. When the con-holder gushed about how glad she was he showed up, he basically told her to "crawl back under your rock - I'm not here for you, I'm here for the fans."
J.Monique: "How do new organizations win your trust? I'm just throwing it out for the hive mind to answer, 'cause I find fandom fascinating."

I think new orgs hafta have some fandom credits - like some kind of fandom-related track record, or a trusted name or names in the fandom, or such people that can speak to the new org's abilities or connections or something that says the new org has access to resources that can get the job done.

IMO, this has to entail more than just having the dream - relying on huge leaps of faith to raise the money they need to put the con on - and the ability to make a functioning website and forum. I know a gazillion people that have the dream and can make a website/forum, but very few indeed that could organize & pull off a con. (For instance, I sure as hell couldn't - I have neither the connection nor the skills nor the entertainment knowledge nor the personality to pull off this organizing feat. Just so you'all know I'm not coming at it from that angle.)

If this person has these resources and connections and fandom support, they need to make it evident on their website and/or in their forum, right at the top. I mean, I'm glad that they have Nick Brendon - which is great, don't get me wrong - but they need to have more on the site to show that they can pull this off.

I mean, I'd like to see them in the Toronto Browncoats, or having worked on a CSTS event or something with other eventy-fans who can attest to this person's (or persons) abilities. Relevant event-planning/work experience wouldn't hurt, either. It's possible that they have some of these connections and/or experience, but then, they need to have an "About Me/Us" section that speaks to that. (Lionness is deeply involved in the Toronto BC's CSTS, and as far as I can tell from her question on the starrynightevent forum, doesn't appear to know them. She can certainly tell us if she does...)

I don't think fandom works all that differently from other loosely-affiliated groups and their dynamics - trust has to be earned by behavior over time, and if you don't have that, you need to have folks that do that have it vouch for you, and work with you. And you need to be savvy enough to know that and use it without someone having to tell you, or you simply don't have the savvy to run an entertainment con. A good chunk of your fandom networking needs to happen before your site goes up and your campaign push begins, and you need to launch your effort using all the social media & BC/Whedonite connections at your command.

starrynightevents.com is registered to Cherry Anne Argana; a google search reveals her LinkedIn Profile and a couple of online resumes here and here. She doesn't appear to be that far removed from being a student; she has some web skills. That's all I can really find under her RL name. If she has a fandom history under an alias or call-name, she might want to put that on the site somewhere.

I'm not trying to be a pooh-poohing Buzz KillJoy here (although that is a great name) but if you're talking about handling substantial sums of money - most of which you need to get from people even before you know if you have an event - you really need to show something substantial to your audience - especially Whedonites with some collective bad experiences (*coughBoosterCough*) et al.

People who try to *do* potentially Big Fun Things are great - and new folks have to start somewhere to get a thing going on - but you'd really need more than a website and a Nicky to earn my trust & get my hard-earned outta my pocket.

Edited after ShadowQuest posted: Yeah, and as SQ said - start smaller.

And sorry about the longwindedness - as Mark Twain once said, I didn't have time to make it shorter.


ETF: two links... because apparently I'm either 1) *sigh* a Nidiot or 2) suffering from creeping senility or 3) going to have to lay off posting late at night.

[ edited by QuoterGal on 2010-05-10 03:09 ]
The forums thread over there is confusing. But without getting into the specifics of this event, I'll just make this observation. The watchword is transparency. If a group is not being transparent about who they are, where they came from, and why they are trustworthy, they are either a scam or technically legit but poorly thought out/organized.

There is no excuse for a lack of transparency when asking for lots of people's money. If everything is on the up and up, then a group simply has to just openly explain who they are and let the buying public decide based on clear information.

Any group that doesn't do this as a matter of course when asking for your money is actually just asking for suspicion and mistrust, even if in reality they are legitimate. It's simply that without transparency (or a track record), legitimacy cannot be determined.
J.Monique: "How do new organizations win your trust? I'm just throwing it out for the hive mind to answer, 'cause I find fandom fascinating."

As QuoterGal has said, having some fandom cred does help, however as someone who was burned with trusting a person who was starting up a convention company (he had been to other events and was working hard to do the 'ultimate' event) with over $800 only to see him skip the country its hard to trust.

In Australia there are a couple of convention/event companies who I know will run the events that they say they will or if plans fall through will refund the money/organise another guest. There are others but I don't know their history so because I've been burned once I'm extremely leery... however if they are associated with one of the other companies, I'll get involved.
I heard my name called? ;-) No, the Toronto Browncoats don't know any of the the people organizing this and neither do the local Buffy Angel meetup group, of which I am also a member. Some of the organizers have now joined the 2 groups and plan to come to the shindigs. We are asking hard questions in our forums as well but some of the group have decided to spring for the tickets anyway since it is local and they won't be too out of pocket if it doesn't work out.
I think that it is not that they aren't answering questions, it is that they probably have no history- no background in doing this. So there is no way for us to tell if they can pull it off or not.
I... sprung. :)
One can answer questions about who they are anD how they are set up regardless of having or not having a history.

[ edited by The One True b!X on 2010-05-10 03:45 ]
Hello all,

My name is Evelina Kuczer and I am the owner of Starry Night Events and I will attempt to answer all the questions/concerns you've put forth.

We are in the process of setting up different methods of payment to accommodate everyone.

I must say that while this convention is expensive, it is not anywhere near $200,000. Of course, there are many costs - hotel, guests, flights, A/V, photography, printing, etc.. but we have 4 stakeholders in this business and I am putting up a lot of the funding. This is something I've wanted to do for a long time, so many many months of planning have gone into this.
Of course, without your help, this event can't get off the ground. I realize this is a new convention, but everyone has to start somewhere. Ontario hasn't had any Whedon conventions in a long time and I thought this was something the fandom would enjoy. You can read more about us on our website now under FAQs and on our message board. We've also added how many Gold/Silver tickets are available.

Unfortunately starting small in this type of business is financially not viable, as even having a small convention many of the fixed costs are the same. You still have to fly people in, book a space like a hotel, and so on. Plus with smaller guests there is less of a draw to attend.

We are being transparent about who we are and have been answering emails honestly and openly. If you would like to come to the event, we'd be really excited and happy to have you but nobody is forced to buy a ticket. Please direct any other questions to evelina@starrynightevents.com and I'd be happy to answer them.

[ edited by EvelinaK on 2010-05-10 04:24 ]
EvelinaK As I said up-thread, I typoed the start-up cost.

Regardless of what it was/is, it was more than the few of us could ever raise, since none of us had capital to put forth. I can't tell you how heartbroken I was, and how horrible I felt that I let so many fans down - we'd spent two years planning this convention, contacting hotels, deciding who our guests would be and getting in touch with their agents, scheduling events, etc - but there just was no way we'd be able to raise the money for it.

I still beat myself up over it.

I wish you all the best with your convention. If I had the money I'd certainly go.

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