It’s that time of year again! The South’s biggest weekend to geek out starts tomorrow, and we have a behind-the-scenes look at Atlanta’s Dragon Con to get you ready! We chatted with Media Relations Director Dan Carroll about the biggest challenges in planning for the convention, how they pick the celebrities to invite, what’s his best advice for Con-goers and so much more! Check out our interview with Dan below.
How early do you start planning for the Con?
Dan Carroll: Dragon Con planning is an ongoing business, and often we have plans we would have liked to implemented this year that we have ready to work on for next year. Before we arrive at our host hotels, most departments already have a “to do next year” list.
My department, for instance, has already had discussions on scheduling, managing interviews, and supporting other teams.
Some guests are obvious picks to be invited – but how do you decide which guests to invite that the convention hasn’t worked with previously?
Dan Carroll: We actually do not invite most of our guests, many our guests apply for consideration by Dragon Con using our online application. Other guests come to use because we are working with an agent, and the agent will indicate they have this actor or that actor who is interesting.
Other times we do reach out to agents if we feel there will be a reasonable impact by inviting them. We once sought out actors and actresses from Firefly that way, and it was a wonderful success.
With Dragon Con getting larger each year, there’s the concern that it’s going to out grow the hotels. Has there been any talk of how to grow with the demand for the convention – yet still keep it as personal as it feels to fans currently? Do you think we’ll ever see it move to the World Congress Center?
Dan Carroll: We do indeed want to make sure that Dragon keeps the southern hospitality and home grown flavor that we have always enjoyed, and we strive to manage the growth by adjusting ticket prices as well as by expanding square footage whenever possible.
As early as 2013, we announced that membership may be capped, if that is in the best interest of our fan base by providing a safe convention.
Dragon Con has enough on its plate delivering a stellar show in 2014, we will believe this will be the best Dragon Con ever. We love the unique nature of the hotel-based show, and are focused on our current year’s convention.
What is the biggest challenge you face every year with the convention?
Dan Carroll: I think the answer has to be that blend of maintaining the best of what Dragon Con has always been, while evolving and continuing to grow.
Dragon Con, in its 28th year, grew on being a fan convention that allows a number of different genres to co-exist. Gaming, film, TV, comics, art, music all rolling around for four days with so much more. We need to continue to provide those staples while evolving to deal with the growth of our attendance, the participatory nature of the event, and the change in trends from year to year.
Some examples of how we have managed this well is the growth of the Alternate History Track, driven so much by the rise of Steampunk. This would not have been possible if we had not added the fifth hotel, which also houses our wildly popular Whedonverse Track.
As we continue to grow, we will always listen to those who say they want us to always keep our core elements. One way we addressed that this year is moving all gaming to the Hilton Hotel to consolidate and celebrate gamers and gaming.
What do you geek out most over with the convention?
Dan Carroll: My core fandoms are TV Sci-Fi like Battlestar Galactica and the Stargate franchise, getting to socialize and meet my favorite TV stars is awesome. But, I also love the parade and the masquerade.
Personally, the only time I have fanboyed with a guest was Bill Corbett of RiffTrax. Then he showed me a picture and emailed it to me. I was floored! I love the Mystery Science Theater Alumni so much and I am so glad to see so many of them, including Bill, returning to Dragon Con this year.
Biggest piece of advise to con goers?
Dan Carroll: On the practical side: Hydrate! Expect a hotter than usual Dragon Con. Bring snacks, water, and cash (our ATM machines run out early). Comfortable shoes.
On a more fun side: Be prepared to be overwhelmed! Dragon Con is amazing! Have a plan and be willing to alter from it. You need to have an idea of what you will do, but you must be willing to explore what serendipity throws at you! It will all be awesome. Remember this is about friendship and fun. You will make friends who will be your friend for years.
How do you celebrate when it’s all over?
Dan Carroll: I stay for the Dragon Con Dead Dog Party, a banquet served for volunteers in appreciation for all their hard work. It’s a chance for me to congratulate the directors and other volunteers who are so crucial for the growth and success of Dragon Con.
Then I take one day off from work before returning to the real world. By the Friday after Dragon my team and I are already planning Dragon Con 2015!
We hope to see you all at Dragon Con! FanBolt will be there in full force – you can even catch our editor Emma Loggins speaking on a panel on Friday morning – The State of Superhero Cinema!
Photo Credit: Courtesy Dragon Con Photography (c) 2014 Dragon Con, Inc