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FanFicGuru

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #20 on: May 14, 2015, 05:42:49 AM »

Crazy stories Tony!

This should be required reading for people who complain about the invited guests/timeline. Talent acquisition isn't like calling in a pizza for delivery. There are a lot of external factors that impact who comes and for how long.

In any case, thrilling reads! Looking forward to more!
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cutiebunny

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #21 on: May 14, 2015, 07:26:17 AM »

^I think most of us are aware that you don't simply invite a Japanese guest with a tweet and their immediate confirmation means they're a confirmed guest.  We understand that it's a difficult task requiring time, money, connections and lots of negotiations between the guest, their management as well as that of the con.  The bulk of the complaints on the other threads have been more concerned with Fanime's inability to announce confirmed guests prior to 2 months before con when other smaller cons happening that same weekend (Animazement) are more than capable in these areas.

That being said, it's been an interesting read.  I think that the date of 2005 as being the year where Japanese guests no longer were impressed with just the invitation and free trip to come to America is interesting.  I had wondered when the transition occurred.  I have a friend who likes to ramble on about the old days and, in an odd attempt to be helpful, tries to give advice based on her early-aughts experiences.  In just my few years of attending cons, I've seen most cons go from being an event run by fans for fans to being very much a business, with priority going to those that can spend $$$.  With certain larger cons now turning to non-corporate identities to bring over guests in return for various concessions, I see it as being only a matter of time before well heeled attendees are being asked to contribute.
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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #22 on: May 14, 2015, 02:33:30 PM »

Hey Tony! I'm really enjoying all of your stories from behind the scenes. I don't believe we've ever met in person, but I do remember having AIM chats back in the day. I'll be sad to see you moving on, regardless.
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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #23 on: May 14, 2015, 08:42:42 PM »

Hey Tony! I'm really enjoying all of your stories from behind the scenes. I don't believe we've ever met in person, but I do remember having AIM chats back in the day. I'll be sad to see you moving on, regardless.
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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #24 on: May 14, 2015, 08:50:38 PM »

...  The bulk of the complaints on the other threads have been more concerned with Fanime's inability to announce confirmed guests prior to 2 months before con when other smaller cons happening that same weekend (Animazement) are more than capable in these areas.

A quick thought on that: Japanese people are kind of weird, compared to American corporations.

Generally we start with a contract, whereas they start by building a relationship. Eventually they review the contract and agree to it, but it's an afterthought; what's important to them is that they feel they can trust you.

I think that's why you'll see guests announcing their appearance before we do. They're all, FanimeCon is cool, I'm ready to go - post it on the website, I'm done. We're all, I'm glad you're ready to go, hey can you sign thisrealquickwait- and so we aren't done until well after the guest has already made up their mind.

To top it off, typically marketing in an organization is well-ahead of the curve and carefully plans how information will be released. But in this case, that can't happen. By the time the deal is in the pipeline and in marketing's hands, it's already been a long time - and they still have to draft a press release, schedule it, and then release it.

I'm definitely not trying to make excuses here, but I hope it illuminates the weird things you see - guests announcing before us, it taking a while for announcements to go out, and so on. Maybe there's a better way to handle it all. Though, that's not a question I seriously feel like answering anymore. :D
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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #25 on: May 14, 2015, 08:51:43 PM »

At some point in the 2008 season, I simply felt I would become chair.

I don’t remember debating about whether I should, or could. I didn’t think I could; the feeling didn’t stem from self-confidence. It felt like something that had to be done, and I was obliged to do it.

I remember Will explaining that this was his third and final year. No one had volunteered to take his place. He said the convention would cease to continue without a chair. That resonated with me. I learned, however, that the process required an application. No way I'd do that, I thought. I had been involved in senior staff since my start, had run my own departments, and now I had to submit a form? Wasn’t my offering enough? I didn’t follow up.

The year went on. Will had restructured the convention away from the senior staff model into divisions, and each division had departments. MusicFest was placed under what was later named the Extravaganzas department. Jason Ebner was no longer my champion - he had a lot on his plate with the rest of programming as it were - and in stepped Julia.

Julia was a long-time friend of Will’s and had been in his fraternity. Naturally gregarious, a ball-buster, lover of high heels and just a touch crazy, she was a great fit for the departments she would lead. All of them - the Maid Cafe, Masquerade, Black and White Ball, Ceremonies, and MusicFest - were likewise lead by characters that were a touch crazy themselves. We were all divas in a sense, and she was mama diva.

I partnered up with Julia as her second, but didn’t do much work within that role. The focus was still MusicFest, though I lent a hand here-and-there with the other departments.

--

Through some intermediary - maybe it was Val? - Sony contacted us asking if we’d like to work together. We were looking at an up-and-coming band called An Cafe. It had been a number of years and they wanted to reach out.

Quick aside on Japanese etiquette. In the context of a convention, everything you read about etiquette - how to act, what to expect - is useless. It’s unreliable for this stuff. I’ve done the introductions, I’ve done the bows, I’ve exchanged meishi. Almost every time, my Japanese counterpart looked at me, smiling confusedly, as if to say, “What the hell is this American doing? I wasn’t prepared for these antics.” One of the things you will read is that Japanese people will say almost anything other than the word “No” - they’ll use all kinds of creative turns of phrase to imply the negative, but they won’t ever use strong, declarative words like that.

Sony called me. “An Cafe? No, that’s not gonna happen. That’s impossible.” I’ve heard a lot of Japanese people say “impossible”. I just don’t trust the etiquette books anymore.

“Instead, we can maybe get you a band called UVERworld.” I thought, the band with a tie-in to Bleach? A band where I can readily identify genders? I tried not to betray my excitement. “OK, I guess we can work with that.” We had landed a whale.

A month or two later, they changed their mind. “An Cafe became available again. We will begin planning for them,” Sony explained. Well, that was fine.

My contact this year was with a woman named Ai. She was good at her job, and we had something of a connection: we both knew we were trying to make do with limited resources. It took some level-setting, but we came to an understanding of how things would work.

Planning went exceptionally smooth, until we looked on YouTube. There are videos out there of screaming fans losing their shit for An Cafe and causing massive safety problems. Team San Jose - the ones running the venues - became concerned. We had to spend a few thousand dollars on professional barriers and security. Both turned out to be worth it.

There were only two strange things requested by Sony.

One, they wanted a whole bunch of hotel rooms - way more than needed for the band and entourage - but they were happy to pay for it. We weren’t sure who all these people were, but they turned out to be very interesting.

Two, they wanted to sell merchandise. They asked if FanimeCon would purchase their merchandise wholesale so that we could sell it and make a profit; they would get a little money with little risk, and we had an opportunity to make a whole lot of money. We declined. They ended up partnering with a dealer and sold out of almost everything - before the show even started. Opportunity missed.

--

Con arrived. I was sick again, but I finally understood what was going on. I figured it out while listening to a Radiolab podcast.

All these years, I hadn’t had the stomach flu; I had stress sickness. You see, your body reacts physiologically to an advancing lion the same way it reacts to the convention approaching. Stress hormones shoot up, your pulse increases, appetite drops. In stressful situations, you enter a fight-or-flight mode, and it will wreck you, physically, if you keep it up. I was keeping it up every year. That was what was making me sick.

My solution? Brief but intense physical exercise - I would drop and do 20 pushups whenever I felt panicked - supplemented by warm, cozy, relaxing bathtime. (The Fairmont has wonderful tubs, if you need a recommendation.) It’s a great method for getting the stress out and keeping it down. Incorporate it into your convention routine.

--

I didn’t get off to a good start with An Cafe. Val and I drove separate cars to SFO and met up with Ai, who was driving a huge passenger van. We waited about an hour for them to clear customs, and then the full crowd came out. We realized then why they needed extra hotel rooms: some very important Sony people were visiting to see how FanimeCon and the concert operated. We were being audited.

The majority of the band climbed into Ai’s van; Val’s tiny, yellow racer was filled to the brim with equipment; and a VP at Sony Music Japan got into my car. Ai approached me as we were readied to go.

“Do you mind if I follow you? I’m not familiar with San Jose highways.”

“Sure!” I lied. I wasn’t familiar with San Jose highways either, but I suddenly had an irrational fear of looking stupid in front of a VP, so I took the lead.

Did I mention that I didn’t have directions back to San Jose?

Did I mention that I had only gotten my license a few months earlier?

Driving full speed on 101 South, I one-handedly entered “SJC” into my phone’s GPS. The San Jose airport is close to the convention center, and I figured I would be able to find a familiar street once we got close. I was very wrong. We ended up at the passenger loading area at San Jose, and I had no clue where to go.

We pulled over and Ai called me. She knew I was lost, but she knew to be discreet. “Should I take over the lead? I came in to SJC yesterday, so would you like to follow me?” We tailed her out of there.

Ai got lost, too. We circled around SJC once or twice. Val drove off in a panic. The VP turned to me, asking, “Don’t you know how to get back? The band is very tired from their flight…” We parked briefly on the side of the highway. Ai called. “Where did Val go?” “I’m sure she’ll meet us at the hotel,” I lied. “Go ahead and follow me. I know where to go.” The VP was incredulous at this point.

Thinking quickly, I entered the only location I could think of that was near the convention center: “Peggy Sue’s”. Finally, we were on the right course. We got off the highway, spun around Cesar Chavez Plaza, and got to the hotel. It had taken only 30 minutes longer than expected - which felt like a lifetime - but we were finally there. Now the show could really begin.

The staff and band met up for dinner that night. You would think that dining with the guests would be fun. It isn’t, exactly. It’s certainly always awkward. Think about it: you know a lot about your guests, but they don’t know anything about you. Japanese people tend not to like talking about themselves, so one of the larger conversational topics is dead in the water. There’s a language barrier. They’re jet-lagged. Often they’re starting to fight a cold they caught on the plane. They may have come directly from work, and know they’ll be returning straight back to work. And they’re probably losing money being in America instead of working in Japan. On top of all this, FanimeCon is a dry convention, so we can’t even buy a round of drinks to help loosen everyone up. It’s actually kind of a terrible situation.

Ai was determined to make this work and arranged seating so that staff were interspersed with the guests. I sat across from Teruki. He’s a drummer and I like to drum, so you’d think we’d have something to chat about. But, no, I smiled politely while mentally trying to piece together something in Japanese to say; Teruki practiced drumming on the table. We smiled at each other occasionally, but fiercely avoided eye contact.

They ordered steaks. They always order steaks. American steaks are a thing in Japan. But you have to know how to order a steak. If you tell the waiter that you’d like a steak and say nothing else, they’ll bring back a steak cooked medium to medium-well - juice-less and tough-as-leather. That’s the safest way to cook a steak, just like having sushi cooked to 160F is safe. Both are terrible ideas. What you really want is to order a steak medium-rare at the most. An Cafe got medium-well steaks. Kanon, the bassist, later remarked on his blog that he was tearing into and chewing the steak so much that he felt like a beast.

We split off after an uncomfortable dinner, hoping things would get better over the course of the weekend.

--

I have to mention the ticket debacle. If you went to the An Cafe concert, you probably had to pick up a little pink ticket first. That was my genius idea. I was concerned we’d be facing a venue overflowed with rabid fans and reacted accordingly.

Rather than come up with a sensible plan, my brilliant, engineering mind tried to devise an optimal plan. It was convoluted and irritating. No one could understand it. At one point - after people had lined up overnight - we ran out of tickets and had to get more. A crowd literally circled me, pleading with me to give them tickets. I’m pretty sure I would have gotten tarred and feathered if they had the materials handy.

We didn’t even need the tickets, either; I ended up with a stack of 300 at the end. The union guys chided me for it. The head guy, Kevin, tapped me on the shoulder a few minutes before the doors opened. “Look, if you’re making it so that these kids need to have a ticket to get in - I mean, do you have any tickets on you now?” I pulled out a stack. “Here, give me some” - he took a chunk - “I’ll make sure people get them.” He walked the line twice giving tickets to attendees that didn’t have them. The union guys are old and grizzled, but they’re good people.

So, tickets were a bad idea. At least they were cute souvenirs.

--

The show itself was chaos, but successful.

The band were exhausted from the tour. I gave Ai the five-minute warning - that the band had five minutes until curtains went up - but she refused to get them out. “They’re actually taking a nap,” she said. “They just fell asleep. They’re jet-lagged and very tired. Can’t we give them another 10 minutes?”

“Uh, do you realize what happens if they run late?” Ai shook her head. I explained: “If they run late, that could push back load-out. If we push back load-out, the rental company may not pick up the equipment. If anyone has a delay, union goes into overtime hours. We’re already spending over a thousand dollars an hour. Are you sure?” Ai looked at me, a bit dismayed. “I’ll see if I can wake them up.” We let them sleep. That, my friends, is the kind of reason why MusicFest starts late.

We opened the doors, and good thing we had the professional security barrier: a wave of screaming fans ran - clang! - right into it, and would have toppled over a lesser barrier. When An Cafe got on stage, we had two or three girls pass out. The band played, we secreted them out of the venue, and their merchandise sold out.

As the venue was getting torn down, we went out to dinner with the band and some staff. As an aside, they specifically requested to do three things in the states: they wanted to eat a steak, which they did, and it was terrible; they wanted to go to a big Wal Mart, though we settled for Target, wherein they got lost; and they wanted to go to IHOP. We whiffed three for three, taking them to some pancake house in San Jose. Marie, some MusicFest staff, some random staff, and I piled into a car and met them for breakfast at night.

This was another fun night. We put a long row of tables together, but we didn’t do a lot of sitting - we were all happy, joking, circulating around. Marie, being a sweetheart, shared some of her dinner with me, and in handing me a plate, we exchanged a quick peck. The band ooh’d and aah’d, and we blushed - we’d forgotten that public displays of affection were uncommon in Japan. At the same time, one of the band members - I think it was Yu-Ki - was playing a UFO-catcher game at the front of the restaurant and Fanime staff gathered around. He was good. He caught a stuffed animal and gave it to a member of registration staff, Erin. Erin is a tiny but typically brash individual; she can be a bit of a ball-buster and has a bit of a mouth. Not now. She blushed deeply, held onto the stuffy, and couldn’t form words.
The same night, Rovers found several girls waiting in the stairwells outside An Cafe’s hotel rooms. That was funny and creepy. We had Rovers patrol the floor regularly from then on.

The next night, we had dinner with the Sony people. It went well. We had a bit too much to drink, and that night, some of us found the mobies and went jousting with traffic cones. It was a good night.

Sadly, I forgot about important people. I absentmindedly left Lori and her crew to tear down the venue while we went out and had fun. She confronted me at the end of con and quit. “I thought we were a team. I can’t believe you forgot about us - that you wanted to hang out with the band so much that you forgot about us.” She yelled through tears. “This is all messed up. Fanime… is messed up. It turns you into a bad person. I’m done.”

I watched her walk away in silence. I felt at the time that it was an honest mistake, an oversight in the chaos. But she was prescient. Unofficially, only about a month before the convention, I had been selected as Chair for FanimeCon 2009 - and it was going to change me.

--

A few months prior to FanimeCon 2008, we were in the process of finalizing the contracts. I drove to San Jose to meet Che, a member of the Board of Directors, to get his signature on the documents. He asked if I was still interested in chair. “Well, yes, but I don’t want to fill out a form. I don’t feel like I should have to.” I was waiting for them to come to me.

Che frowned. “I see. I understand that, but to be honest - I don’t really know you. I haven’t worked directly with you. We’re not trying to be disrespectful. We want to get to know you.”

Che is a pretty convincing guy. I submitted an application soon thereafter. After a number of meetings over dinner - discussing plans, people, and priorities - they said I was in.

I spent the weeks leading up to and including the convention in a weird half-secrecy. We didn’t want my becoming chair to distract people from the current year, but rumors had already spread. I didn’t even share the news with Marie until much closer to con.

At closing ceremonies - Lori’s resignation hanging over my head - I was announced as chair. Will and Scott did a “we’re not chair” dance. It was one of the few times I saw Will in a consistently happy state. He, himself, had been released.

Elsewhere in the world, things were crumbling.
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Tony

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #26 on: May 14, 2015, 09:33:30 PM »

Bonus 2008 story!

--

Marie was on her cell. “Your driveway. Your driveway?” She repeated it like a chant, as though it would relieve her disbelief.

--

Marie was running publications well the help of Matt and Betty, two legendary staffers that took over publications for 2009. There were more staff, but they were especially memorable. Matt, I am told, once broke the internet in the 90s by sharing an excessive amount of porn.

The biggest project for the publications team in any year is the program guide. Typically over three dozen full-color pages and bound in a glossy cover, the program guide is a feat of art and perseverance. Marie had perfected techniques to getting content for the program guide over the years: mostly, it consisted of her threatening to cry if a department did not send her content in a timely manner. She was good at what she did.

It takes a solid two or three weeks to put together the content and compose the program guide. It takes another month for printers to produce it, and then it is delivered in a day or two. Although composing the program guide is labor-intensive, printing it is not. The majority of the month of lead time is to allow the printer to do test prints, get feedback on the prints, and schedule the job. Printing the 15,000 guides only takes a day or two of actual print time. As a printing company, though, you literally print money, so you want the printers running 24/7. Having a month-long queue of work is good for optimizing that pipeline, and therefore your revenue.

Marie and her team managed to put the guide together and send it to the printers about three weeks before con. That was closer than the printer liked, but we had been regular customers for a few years, so they were ok with it. Besides, they only truly needed three or four days to print and ship the guides. It wasn’t a big deal.

The test prints came out great, so we ordered it be printed, full steam ahead.

Marie ordered the guides to be delivered on the Wednesday before con. This gave us time to organize them and store them in the convention center so that they could be stuffed into bags. Marie called the printers a few days before this to see how it was going. Remember, printing is weird, and there’s this queue thing going on. The way they explained it, our order of 15,000 prints was a small one, and so they would print it on Monday or Tuesday and have it in our hands Wednesday evening.

Wednesday evening came. There were no program guides. Marie called them early Thursday morning. They would be delivered that evening, they said.

Thursday evening came. There were no program guides. Marie called them; they would be delivered Friday morning, they said.

Friday morning came. Don’t worry, Friday evening, they said. Friday evening came. Marie called.

They were closed for the weekend.

Marie cried. Will, in the most unusual act she had experienced from him, hugged her.

We decided to post the guide online so that people would at least be able to see it, use it. We somehow did a small batch of prints to give out to guests and a limited amount of attendees. But that was it. Marie’s biggest project of the year had fallen apart at the last minute, and it wasn’t even her fault.

At least this year she hadn’t spent the entire time in the office. They had set up a publications outpost in the Hilton and could at least enjoy some parts of the convention. They were still burnt out, though - four days of print runs and writing twice-daily newsletters takes a toll.

Monday came. Load-out. Staff dispersed. Marie, myself, and a few other staffers went to Johnny Rocket’s to close out the year. Matt and Betty headed home.

Marie got a call. Matt and Betty were on the other end and had just arrived at home - except that they couldn’t park.

Sometime during the weekend, the printers had actually completed the job, and they had actually delivered the program guides. But they didn’t call to inform us, and they apparently didn’t read the order, either, because they used an old address they had on file.

They delivered 15,000 freshly-printed program guides to Matt and Betty’s driveway.

Matt explained that their crown jewel project had been sitting in their driveway the whole time. “Your driveway. Your driveway? They delivered the program guides to your driveway?!” Marie was in disbelief.

She cried into her milkshake that night. We all gave her a hug.
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bobcat888

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #27 on: May 14, 2015, 10:04:53 PM »

Four questions.

1.) Are you going to this years con?

2.) Why are you leaving?

3.) How old are you?

4.) How much did you get paid for your involvement in the con overall. And be honest.
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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #28 on: May 14, 2015, 10:21:50 PM »

I'm actually curious as to why people think we get paid to do this...lol.

It's purely volunteer...some nice perks here and there but no compensation.
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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #29 on: May 14, 2015, 10:31:04 PM »

Oh wow, Tony. I haven't been on the forums in ages, only to come back because I heard you were talking about me, haha! How do you remember all the AnCafe details? lol That particular year was such a blur. Being around Kanon made it difficult to function and think!
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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #30 on: May 14, 2015, 10:55:19 PM »

Oh boy, the 2007 program guide.
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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #31 on: May 15, 2015, 11:43:49 AM »

Four questions.

1.) Are you going to this years con?
Actually, I changed my mind: yes, I will be going. Marie convinced me that I would regret missing it. Lots of my friends are in one place, so it makes a lot of sense to go. Besides, we'll be bringing our daughter - who should love all of the cosplay - and I've always loved seeing everyone take over downtown San Jose.

Quote
2.) Why are you leaving?
I have a reason with many layers to it, but it boils down to three things: 1) I can't help the con effectively, 2) I love the con, despite the downsides, and 3) that means I will probably help the con, despite myself, if I stick around. It's a self-preservation thing.

Quote
3.) How old are you?
I'm 32.

Quote
4.) How much did you get paid for your involvement in the con overall. And be honest.
I'll give you a full audit, as far as I can remember.

Paid?
Nothing.

Perks?
I was given a hotel room most years, and free entrance to the convention.

That was it until I became chair. After that...

--

Chair team had an expense account for food (though alcohol was forbidden). I'm guessing it was around $1,000 a year. We used that to convene the chair team and to have one-on-ones with division heads. If you want to spread juicy gossip, then yes: we occasionally ate sushi with that budget. I don't think we ever went over.

We had a staff morale budget. A few hundred dollars was specifically for chair team to give out a gift to staff - more on that in 2009. The rest were vouchers we could give to staff that would buy you food at the venues.

--

It wouldn't be fair if I didn't disclose losses: generally $1,000-$3,000 a year. The last few years, I usually spent $200-$300 of my own money on drinks for the guests at-con.

Other? I'd like to think that working as web / MusicFest / chair exposed me to a lot of things, and was a significant factor in moving my career to where it is now.
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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #32 on: May 15, 2015, 11:58:09 AM »

I wanted to chime in again and thank you not only for taking time to share your stories (once more) but also for all your time, effort, and dedication serving as Fanime staff.
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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #33 on: May 15, 2015, 12:49:43 PM »

Bonus 2008 story!

--

Marie was on her cell. “Your driveway. Your driveway?” She repeated it like a chant, as though it would relieve her disbelief.

--

Marie was running publications well the help of Matt and Betty, two legendary staffers that took over publications for 2009. There were more staff, but they were especially memorable. Matt, I am told, once broke the internet in the 90s by sharing an excessive amount of porn.

The biggest project for the publications team in any year is the program guide. Typically over three dozen full-color pages and bound in a glossy cover, the program guide is a feat of art and perseverance. Marie had perfected techniques to getting content for the program guide over the years: mostly, it consisted of her threatening to cry if a department did not send her content in a timely manner. She was good at what she did.

It takes a solid two or three weeks to put together the content and compose the program guide. It takes another month for printers to produce it, and then it is delivered in a day or two. Although composing the program guide is labor-intensive, printing it is not. The majority of the month of lead time is to allow the printer to do test prints, get feedback on the prints, and schedule the job. Printing the 15,000 guides only takes a day or two of actual print time. As a printing company, though, you literally print money, so you want the printers running 24/7. Having a month-long queue of work is good for optimizing that pipeline, and therefore your revenue.

Marie and her team managed to put the guide together and send it to the printers about three weeks before con. That was closer than the printer liked, but we had been regular customers for a few years, so they were ok with it. Besides, they only truly needed three or four days to print and ship the guides. It wasn’t a big deal.

The test prints came out great, so we ordered it be printed, full steam ahead.

Marie ordered the guides to be delivered on the Wednesday before con. This gave us time to organize them and store them in the convention center so that they could be stuffed into bags. Marie called the printers a few days before this to see how it was going. Remember, printing is weird, and there’s this queue thing going on. The way they explained it, our order of 15,000 prints was a small one, and so they would print it on Monday or Tuesday and have it in our hands Wednesday evening.

Wednesday evening came. There were no program guides. Marie called them early Thursday morning. They would be delivered that evening, they said.

Thursday evening came. There were no program guides. Marie called them; they would be delivered Friday morning, they said.

Friday morning came. Don’t worry, Friday evening, they said. Friday evening came. Marie called.

They were closed for the weekend.

Marie cried. Will, in the most unusual act she had experienced from him, hugged her.

We decided to post the guide online so that people would at least be able to see it, use it. We somehow did a small batch of prints to give out to guests and a limited amount of attendees. But that was it. Marie’s biggest project of the year had fallen apart at the last minute, and it wasn’t even her fault.

At least this year she hadn’t spent the entire time in the office. They had set up a publications outpost in the Hilton and could at least enjoy some parts of the convention. They were still burnt out, though - four days of print runs and writing twice-daily newsletters takes a toll.

Monday came. Load-out. Staff dispersed. Marie, myself, and a few other staffers went to Johnny Rocket’s to close out the year. Matt and Betty headed home.

Marie got a call. Matt and Betty were on the other end and had just arrived at home - except that they couldn’t park.

Sometime during the weekend, the printers had actually completed the job, and they had actually delivered the program guides. But they didn’t call to inform us, and they apparently didn’t read the order, either, because they used an old address they had on file.

They delivered 15,000 freshly-printed program guides to Matt and Betty’s driveway.

Matt explained that their crown jewel project had been sitting in their driveway the whole time. “Your driveway. Your driveway? They delivered the program guides to your driveway?!” Marie was in disbelief.

She cried into her milkshake that night. We all gave her a hug.

I remember this! Man, what crazy stories you have!
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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #34 on: May 15, 2015, 04:15:03 PM »

Ahhhh 2008 was a crazy year! And the tickets. Oh man. I still have it somewhere. >.> I think.
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YoureMyHiro

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #35 on: May 15, 2015, 06:46:29 PM »

If these stories were published into a collective print, I would purchase said literature Sir. It's like following a mini-series, like a "behind the...." special or a great bar story you'd share with a friend!
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Tony

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #36 on: May 15, 2015, 08:19:04 PM »

A few days after being selected chair, still proud of the appointment and happy with how MusicFest had turned out, my older brother died.

It’s a bit of a lie to say he was my brother. He was my half-brother, but I don’t dishonor him with that distinction. And it’s not accurate to say he died. He succumbed to AIDS. Like cancer, it perverts the body into neglecting itself until it fails. You fade away slowly until there is nothing left.

You might have guessed that my brother was gay. He wasn’t ostentatious about it, but plenty of people don’t require that to make judgement. It was enough to shame him into being discreet about who he was and be defensive about his health. He had claimed he had a stomach flu, and then had caught a parasite traveling in South America. I’m not sure he ever admitted to what he had. Shame and pride do strange things to people.

I still feel an immense amount of guilt for keeping a distance with him, both before he was sick and after. There was a lot of dissonance in my head especially when I became chair. I was celebrating while my brother was dying.

The best place for him to get care was outside of the U.S., in Brazil. My father and sister were only able to visit him once, about seven months before he passed. In essence, whatever induced him to hide his life and his condition brought him, literally, into isolation. If I could do it over, I would have wished he stayed close to family. And I would have told him that I loved him, and that I didn’t care about his condition. Family transcends sexuality.

He was supported until the end by his husband, who sacrificed his time, his savings, and his heart for my brother. If ever there were an argument for “gay” marriage, that is it; their union bound them together in love, matured them, and made the world a better place because of it. Love transcends sexuality.

My brother died in Sao Paulo with his husband by his side. For me, that was the start of the 2009 season.

--

A few weeks into being chair, I was informed that FanimeCon’s parent company, Anime Resource Group, was presented with a large, unforeseen tax bill. It beat the hell out of our finances and created a lot of internal strife. The problem was solved, eventually, but it meant going into 2009 handicapped with 2008’s budget.

--

A few months after being selected chair, right around September 11th '08, the Lehman Brothers bank collapsed. It was one of the first large dominoes to topple in the Great Recession, and it was a firm signal that the economy was getting bad. Things were shaky as early as the Fall of 2007, but this signaled that more dominoes were about to fall, and fall they did.

I had been a freelancer up until this point. That was how I was able to work on Fanime as much as I did. But the contracts started drying up, and I could no longer afford to work that way. I had to get a real job, so my free hours collapsed.

The Board of Directors - or BoD - were skittish. Not only were we hamstrung with the previous year’s budget, but projections showed little chance for growth in attendance. With house prices collapsing and jobs evaporating, it wasn’t clear that anyone would spend precious money and vacation time on Fanime.

--

I made a lot of mistakes this year.

I decided on formulating a three-person chair team: myself, Marie, and the head of Operations, James. But people don’t want a committee; they want a leader. I named them vice-chairs instead of co-chairs. I wanted them to bring their experience to overseeing contrasting divisions. Except, no one really liked that idea. They were familiar with certain people and wanted to work with those people. Besides, again, they all wanted a single leader. That’s really just human nature. My plans fell apart on day one.

Probably the key thing in an organization - or any relationship, really - is communication. I wasn’t good at it. You have to know what to say, when to say it, and who to say it to. I tended to say the wrong things at the wrong times, and not involve the right people. Rookie mistakes.

As a computer guy, I saw things in terms of systems, not people. That was my biggest mistake. Most people commenting on conventions make this mistake, too. It’s easy to architect a system and to improve process, and everyone has their own opinion on what would make things better. But until you’re in the driver’s seat, you’re missing the three most important parts: knowing the people who drive system, figuring out how to build a system around them, and history.

Halfway to con, the numbers weren’t looking good. The financial crisis was impacting us. The BoD asked for about a 15% cut to the budget to stay safe. I did it by killing my baby: MusicFest.

Val had been in Japan for nearly a year and was talking up all of the labels. Pony Canyon and AVEX were making offers for ONE OK ROCK and m.o.v.e respectively, but weren’t being forthcoming on details. Meanwhile, GR had picked up a musical guest, Haruko Momoi, who wanted to perform at MusicFest. As negotiations dragged on, Pony Canyon dropped out, and AVEX asked for a prohibitive fee. Val’s options had dried up.

I had cut about 8%, but BoD requested the full 15%. Val was now starting from scratch. There was a clear path in view: downsize MusicFest this year, leverage Momoi as the headlining act, and save the full 15%. I protested; Val and her head, Julia, would be devastated. I didn’t want to see my old department cut, either. But they insisted we do it for the health of the convention, and I agreed.

Needless to say, Momoi became our headliner and no MusicFest-sourced guests came that year. Val and Julia were devastated, and - rightly - pissed. I’m surprised, and thankful, they ever talked to me again. I’d like to think that we were saving the convention, but with these things, you have to ask - at what cost?

Momoi turned out to be a great catch, however. She was incredibly interactive and went above and beyond what a typical appearance would involve. She showed up at Stage Zero. She hung out at Maid Cafe. She brought attendees onto the stage at the Civic. It was great, but a touch bittersweet, knowing that Val’s efforts had gone unrewarded.

I think this was the first year were had purikura machines. It caused a huge rift in senior staff.

After a late night meeting/recap with the division heads (we called this the “Midnight Meeting” … because it happened at midnight) the group had an idea to go into the exhibit halls, after-hours, to take some pictures. I encouraged them to go. But then I didn’t tell anyone about it. Some other staff, then, saw a large group of people entering restricted hallways in the middle of the night, and freaked out. The heads flashed their All-Access badges, which the staffers interpreted as an insult - as pulling rank. They got into a heated argument, I’m told, wherein they were all pulled into ConOps with Marie to sort out the problem. I walked into the room - thick enough to choke on the tension - and asked what happened. No one spoke a word to me; they just looked at each other, upset and hurt. I started to get angry myself, until Marie - smartly - pulled me aside and explained the details. Things had been settled, she had handled it, everyone just needed to go to bed and cool off.

If I had just told the group no, or had informed staff of what the group was planning to do, everything would have been fine. Again, it’s all about communication.

--

Overall, the convention went ok. Our attendance was fairly flat, but attendees were pretty happy. Despite my mistakes, staff hadn’t fallen apart.

--

My three favorite memories from that year were these intimate little events.

First. At the end of con, a lot of us got together at Denny’s to wrap up and share stories. Will and I broke off and he told me a vast history of FanimeCon and what he and the BoD were trying to do. We talked for a long time. I felt privileged that Will was feeling chatty and that he was sharing the top-secret stuff. It always feels good to be included.

Second. Now, in previous conventions, Will and his team showed their appreciation by giving out special, custom pint glasses to certain staff. I was lucky enough to get them, and I really liked it as a tradition. I stole the idea and made custom glasses, too. They’re a pain in the ass to get to con - some 60 pounds of fragile cargo taking up half of the trunk - but giving them out was a special experience. Everyone was grateful for the things, and I did my best to express my gratitude for the work they had done.

Handing these out was my favorite part of con. An instance that stood out was giving a glass to Jun, who had taken over running the Maid Cafe department. She had just finished up a whirlwind weekend: she had got the maids together, had them work the cafe, performed with them, and - best of all - she got to meet and sing with Momoi, who was something of an idol to her at the time. When Marie, James, and I met up with her, she had crashed in a staff room and was still laying in bed, half-awake. When we presented her with the glass and expressed how proud we were of her efforts, hey eyes welled with tears, and she thanked us. That expression of emotion has stayed with me and kept me going. I was happy to be involved in making her weekend special.

Three. Chair team got called in to ConOps for an emergency at the end of the con. It turned out to be a surprise: some staff had gotten together and gotten us each some unusual gifts! They had purchased panties from one of the hotels and had staff sign them with sharpies. People had fun adding little notes. They were also peace-bonded. I was speechless, and grateful for the gift. Until they made us wear them.

--

Despite the pitfalls, we made it through the year, and managed to make some people happy. In the end, that’s really all you can ask for.
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Acid_Android

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #37 on: May 15, 2015, 08:47:16 PM »

Ah, 2009...lots of heartbreak and lessons learned.

Minor correction: I was trying to get ONE OK ROCK from Amuse, AVEX was offering m.o.v.e and TRF (I think..?), and I was also in talks for BREAKERZ. Pony Canyon happened afterwards...which I'm sure you'll get into XD
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Tony

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #38 on: May 16, 2015, 08:14:09 PM »

Agh, you're right! I'll edit that...

It's surprising what you remember, what you don't, and what gets scrambled over the years.
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Tony

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #39 on: May 16, 2015, 08:23:19 PM »

2010 was a bit of blur. Mostly, I remember getting married, and I remember being a dick.

Around this time I had joined a startup, and as startups tend to be, it was a hectic environment. You had to be pushy sometimes. That rubbed off onto how I was running Fanime.

Mostly I had a lot of run-ins with the Board of Directors. I didn’t like their view on MusicFest, and I didn’t like their view on the budget. I sent more than a few nasty emails about it.

MusicFest costs a lot of money, and it has a lot of downsides. A lot of the cost is in renting the Civic, renting music equipment, and paying for labor to run everything. Relative to the GR side, you essentially get one guest for the price of two or three Guests of Honor - there are band members and entourage that need to come, whereas a Guest of Honor usually only has a +1.  In the bigger picture, we had some 15,000 people coming to con, but MusicFest, in the Civic, could only entertain 3,000 at the most. And really, typically only about 1,500 would actually come. The return on investment, even at its maximum, is low.

To compare, Guests of Honor tend to come in twos - the guest and a spouse or co-worker - and have no overhead. Even then, they don’t yield a great return on investment; panels like “Who’s line is it Anime” tend to fill the room better than a Japanese guest can.

The sad fact is that if you’re looking at the numbers, Japanese guests don’t make sense.

I understood that, but I was thinking strategically and philosophically. Without Japanese guests, there’s not a lot to talk about. American guests have saturated the market, so it’s not quite as news-worthy when one comes to a convention. Without guests, media don’t have a showcase to talk about. On a higher level, we couldn’t be a Japanese convention if we didn’t have Japanese guests; the event loses some authenticity without them.

This fed into the budget discussions. Having survived the recession and made the cuts requested, I wanted to increase the budget dramatically, particularly for GR and especially for MusicFest. The Board was hesitant. Defiant, I made myself a little crazy analyzing and composing a budget of my own, and then shoved my conclusions in their face. They relented a bit, but I had mostly made myself look like an asshole in the process.

So, there was a lot of tension behind the scenes. But hey, I got married that year. That was a lot of fun. Highly recommended.

--

While I was fretting, the rest of the convention was actually going very nicely.

Black and White Ball had grown into a behemoth. Julia knew people versed in dance, and so the event grew in its offerings and started hosting free dance lessons throughout the weekend. We moved it to the Fairmont - it had a great atmosphere, and was the only place it could fit it - and a few vendors - snacks, photos, flowers - came along. A culture had grown up around it, and that was really cool.

GR was doing really well, too - a lot of guests were returning for more.

MusicFest had landed two acts, a triumph over the previous year: LM.C and FLOW.

--

Con came. It couldn’t go fast enough.

We had dinner with all of the guests on Thursday or Friday of con. As chair, you’re expected to at least show up and give thanks, so we cleared our schedule and sat down to dine with the guests. The guests were enjoying themselves and mostly having a good time. I think FLOW - understanding that we couldn’t buy them drinks - went ahead and bought themselves a few rounds, and were having fun. It was as awkward as ever, of course. But then it got bad.

A few members of the LM.C entourage were openly complaining to Val that they didn’t think she could pull off the concert. Apparently, since landing, these people were grilling her on every detail and didn’t like any of her answers. They had little confidence that the concert would be anything but a disaster, and were saying it to her face. Then they started expressing their doubts to me, complaining to me about Val, in front of her. The rest of the LM.C group were fine, but not these ones. Once again, the Japanese etiquette books failed us. This wasn’t supposed to happen.

The concert came. My memory is jumbled a bit, but here was my recollection of that night. It wasn’t a good one.

MusicFest was counter-programmed to Black and White Ball. Marie and I got dressed for BWB - me in a suit, her in her wedding dress - and we headed out to hit up MusicFest and the ball.

We got to the concert just in time to see LM.C take the stage. “Are you ready to crap?” they seemed to ask the crowd. We would be: we headed backstage to check on the show, and we found a group of of our staff upset and crying. The troublemakers in LM.C’s entourage had been criticizing and degrading the staff all day, and staff finally broke down. They were hurt, and some of them left staff permanently. Chair team were so upset that we even considered canceling the rest of their events. But, we cooled our heads, dried our tears, and Marie and I headed back to the hotels. We needed to explain the situation to the BoD in case things got serious.

I had wanted to go back to the concert to see how FLOW was doing, but Marie asserted - and I agreed - that we needed to get away from the stress and check out the ball. We got to the Fairmont and realized we didn’t know how to dance. We headed back to the hotel, still stressed and upset.

The one redeeming thing of the night happened on the way back from the hotel. Me in my suit, Marie in her dress, we were walking through the lobby of the Marriott and passed by a family that was clearly not there for Fanime. The father, mother, and their daughter - maybe four or five years old - were nicely dressed and had just come out of Arcadia. The little girl looked at Marie, wide-eyed, then looked at me, then looked back at Marie. Her eyes opened even wider, and as a smile spread across her face, she whispered, “it’s a princess!”

--

The only other thing I remember about the show were the protestors. They’re an interesting group. They are literally professional trolls: they get permits with the city well in advance; they cultivate their message and train on it; then, after aggravating the public, they catch the response on video, editing it to look sympathetic, and raise funds for their cause that way.

We thought of half a dozen ways to prevent them from protesting. Most were silly ideas, like surrounding them with cosplayers. Some were more serious, like deploying Rovers, or formally filing a counter-protest, which would trigger police involvement.

Wolfgang had the best idea. Since they were limited to a small strip of sidewalk, just block the sidewalk with a big truck. No one could see or hear them. We coordinated our Logistics process to make sure a truck was always loading and unloading when protesters were present - problem solved.

--

This was the dark ages for me. The stress of 2010 was bad, but I knew one thing that would make the next year much, much better: it would be my last year chairing. Knowing I only had one lap to go, I entered the 2011 season much happier.
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