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Writings from WonderCon 2016

This past week-end was WonderCon 2016, which moved from Anaheim to good ol’ Downtown LA.
That meant taking the red metro line instead of finding parking around Disneyland.

Lately, I’ve been enjoying WonderCon more than the San Diego Comic-Con.
There’s evidently a huge cost difference. At SDCC, you need to book a hotel for 2-5 days, which ends up costing you hundreds of dollars (even split) if you want a halfway decent place. Add to that having to go out 1-2 times a day, and the train from/to Los Angeles.

It’s also interesting to see the difference in attendance. WonderCon 2014 was around 60,000 people. On the other end of the scale, Comic-Con hosted about 167,000.
100,000 is a huge gap, and a crucial reason why WonderCon ends up more appreciated than SDCC by seasoned con attendees.
You have breathing room. You can walk the floor easily (or easier). Lines are not hours long.

Well. Up until this year.

wondercon 2016 pro line

Right out of the gate, professional badge “registration” was a nightmare. In 2015, 15-20 minutes was long enough to go through the whole process of getting one’s badge. This time, I (and many others) had a two-hour line wait. Yes, two hours. Keep in mind, this is to pick up your badge.
It became so bad that, as we approached the checking point, one of the volunteers ended up handing us our badges without printing a name label on them.

I’m one of the proud owners of a WonderCon ghost badge!

wondercon 2016 badge

Another ridiculous aspect of this year’s WonderCon was a new RFID system which forced everyone to tap their badge at every entry and exit point of every room.
Do you have to go on the floor? Tap in. Need to exit? Tap out. Need to go to a panel? Tap in again.

This may not sound that convoluted… Except when you have nearly 100,000 people moving around a tight convention center. Lines beget lines.
With the temporary Los Angeles move, I wouldn’t even be shocked to find WonderCon 2016 nearing 100,000 people itself.
Let’s hope they drop the concept for Comic-Con–where twice the number of attendees are present.

With the aforementioned professional line wait, I missed out on most of my first panel of the con: a discussion about the ABC-Disney programs.

wondercon 2016 abc disney panel
Fortunately, I caught up on a compelling portion about what constitutes a “personal story”. During the writing programs (and arguably any other meeting in Hollywood), you will be asked to tell “your” story. In fact, being able to define who you are as a writer–and connecting it to your own experiences–is a key part of my TV writer roadmap.
People will often focus on periods of their lives that impacted them in a negative way. Traumas are inherently more memorable than an average positive influence that may not be as quantifiable. But it’s not all about the bad experiences. As someone on the panel said:

There’s greater drama in surpassing something rather than dwelling in it.

People want to see characters overcome obstacles and transform because of them. That’s character growth. And for all intents and purposes, you are a character in your own TV writing journey. Yup, this is an industry of storytelling through and through.
Your personal story is therefore not just about the bad moments that made you a knowledgeable writer, it is your entire growth that brought you to this moment.

Once the panel was over, I headed to the convention floor. Surprisingly, there were not many (if any) television/feature production companies, studios or networks booths.
I say surprisingly because the evolution of Comic-Con/WonderCon into a pop-culture mashup of mediums is one of the reasons why so many people attend them.
Guess they didn’t find it worthwhile to advertise in a con taking place in Los Angeles.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the countless amazing cosplays I saw. My favorite was a circle of Flash characters fighting each other.

They stood like this for a good 20 minutes. (Some of us have pictures to take…)

wondercon 2016 flash circle

Saturday was the big day for TV writing panels.

I had to skip the showrunners panel, but I ended up attending one my favorites: the bi-annual “Inside the Writers’ Room“.
Much like the last go around, were present: Mark Altman, Gabrielle Stanton, Amy Berg, Jose Molina, Ashley Miller, Sarah Watson, and Steve Melching.
It’s all about going over the process of making an hour of television. There’s nothing really groundbreaking said (unless you’re brand-new to TV), but the panel is always a good solid hour of entertainment.

This was followed by an extremely informative “Writing for TV” session, moderated by Spiro Skentzos.
Usually, this is a panel dedicated to the NBC Writers on the Verge program; however this time the panelists were EP-level writers: Glen Mazzara, Natalie Chaidez, Richard Hatem, and Meredith Averill.

wondercon 2016 second writing panel
It was great to hear directly from “decision makers” what their thoughts are on speccing, staffing, and everything in between.
One of the great moments of the panel was Glenn Mazzara discussing spec pilots. Specifically, he pointed out that spec pilots should not leave the reader hanging. In other words, it should be a self-contained satisfying story that is cinematic and visuals, with maybe a few open questions. It should not just be a set-up for future episodes.
Simply put: there is no need to bring a convoluted plot to a spec pilot. As long as you deliver an emotion to the reader, you’ll get far.

This incidentally reminded me of the current trend in franchise features–iconized in the recent Batman v. Superman–which have to serve as both precursor to a whole cinematic universe, and skimping on being a satisfying movie experience in of their own.
Instead of delivering the story at hand, Batman v. Superman spent a ridiculous amount of time on a ponderous introduction to characters meant for sequels.

But back to WonderCon.

Sunday came, and it started off with another Brandon Easton panel on “Breaking into Comics and Hollywood Scriptwriting“. Panelists included Ubah Mohamed, Erika Alexander, and Tony Puryear.

wondercon 2016 third writing panel
Once again, a lot of time was spent on the concept of branding yourself as a writer.
*cough* TV writer roadmap *cough*
I did learn about a comic-writing book I wasn’t aware of: Writers on Comics Scriptwriting.
The two volumes seem to be out of print, although Amazon has second-hand sellers (same for Volume 2).
There was also some talk about how you need to put your work out there. (Don’t just let a script sit on a shelf somewhere.) It reminded me of my exploration about publicly sharing my Star Trek spec pilot script.

As the floor was closing down for the year (at 5PM!), it was time to call it quits on WonderCon.
Yes, I only went to four panels. I’ve cut back on the sit-downs since I end up spending most of my convention time running into people I know, or making new connections.
(Also, discovering new comics to read.)

And that’s that for WonderCon 2016.

Can you believe Comic-Con is in less than four months? I’m already exhausted thinking about it.

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