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Kuudere

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #40 on: May 16, 2015, 10:09:44 PM »

Wolfgang deserves a huge high-five for that truck idea. I remember seeing it and giggling, "Did they actually hire a truck to block the protesters?? Genius."

Unfortunately, they moved to the corner of the Marriott after that, directly below my room so I could hear them constantly. :(

I love these stories so much. I finally got an answer for the missing guides...poor Marie. I would have been devastated in her position. All that work. But what did you do with them after it was too late to give them out?

I can't wait to hear the story about FLOW coming back. I was lucky to see them both times. I'm glad you put your foot down to support the MusicFest, because it's truly become what Fanime is known for. I think a lot of that is due to your effort (and staff, of course).
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Tony

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #41 on: May 16, 2015, 10:14:14 PM »

Wolfgang deserves a huge high-five for that truck idea. I remember seeing it and giggling, "Did they actually hire a truck to block the protesters?? Genius."
I know, right!

Quote
Unfortunately, they moved to the corner of the Marriott after that, directly below my room so I could hear them constantly. :(
That really sucked. We couldn't do much about that *and* they were even more in people's faces.

Quote
I love these stories so much. I finally got an answer for the missing guides...poor Marie. I would have been devastated in her position. All that work. But what did you do with them after it was too late to give them out?
Thank you! The guides - we mailed out tons of them, but I think we still had boxes left over.

Quote
I can't wait to hear the story about FLOW coming back. I was lucky to see them both times. I'm glad you put your foot down to support the MusicFest, because it's truly become what Fanime is known for. I think a lot of that is due to your effort (and staff, of course).
It's all Val. (And the people above and below that support her, of course.)
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Tony

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #42 on: May 17, 2015, 08:06:30 PM »

I was taking a shower when I set my goals. Showers are good for thinking.

With a little bit of hubris, I told myself that three things would happen in 2011, my final year as chair: we would see downtown San Jose taken over with attendees, we would see each Extravaganza at full capacity, and we would have 20,000 warm bodies at the convention. I never told anyone about what I wanted to see. I didn’t have to. We saw all of that, and more.

--

I was through being contentious with the Board of Directors. I had taken some time to understand their concerns and their vision, and it made a lot of sense. It took my impending final year to see the big picture, but I got it. They had been through years of turmoil trying to keep the event alive and sustainable. I had seen every extra dollar as something to spend, whereas they saw every extra dollar as buffer to get through rougher times. They had been through a few. We more-or-less established the numbers in advance and went ahead - this time, on the same page.

Plus, senioritis set in. It was my last year - I wanted to relax and enjoy the con a bit.

--

“this one is actually a serious question =P”

Every year, without fail, a great guest contacts us a few weeks before con. By that time we are already out of money and we have to pass. Conjuring thousands of dollars on-demand is not easy.

GR and MusicFest were already having a stellar year, anyway. MusicFest had snagged FLOW and Yuya Matsushita - one of the better lineups, appealing to a wider audience than anything I had constructed. GR had landed a fantastic lineup of Japanese guests, including Tohru Furuya - the voice of Tuxedo Mask in Sailor Moon - and Mamoru Yokota - who has a big part in this year’s story. We had done some budgeting gymnastics to make it all work and were coming in just under budget. We couldn’t afford more guests, and honestly, we had more than we could handle as-is.

About three weeks before con, Ashley contacted me via chat.

Ashley: hi! question for you
me: hey
Ashley: "if yoshiki from x japan came to fanimecon this year, could we make him a GoH?"
me: ~_~
Ashley: this one is actually a serious question =P


This led to one of the most memorable days I’ve had at FanimeCon. You’ll have to wait a bit to hear about Yoshiki, though.

--

Con came. I no longer had the stomach flu, or any stress sickness at all. I was in a good place. Marie and I went to Arcadia on Day 0 after seeing registration open early and had the lobster pot pie. We now try to do that every year. In previous years, though, instead of getting dinner, we got into arguments. It’s not unusual, sadly; I hear about a breakup just about every year. But this year, we weren’t as stressed. We wanted to enjoy things. We ate dinner and watched the cosplayers pass by. It was a good way to start things off.

--

Friday, staff had gone with the bands sightseeing and to pick up sundries. Yuya absentmindedly walked into the street until a staffer pulled him back to the sidewalk. They went with him to get underwear, which he had forgotten to pack. Everyone had a lot of fun.

Like with An Cafe, Sony had sent a few higher-ups with Yuya. They sent along a perky, feisty 20-something girl named Aya to keep an eye on the situation. She was a lot of fun. She and a staff member flirted the entire weekend. She got sassy with me on an occasion or two. She was unsure that the show would be successful, but she wanted it to succeed. Aya was the kind of entourage you wanted hanging around.

FLOW was on cruise control. They had it, and they knew it.

We all met up for a dinner-slash-mixer that night. We barely ate - mostly circulated, conversing and telling jokes. There were laughs and fun. TAKE joined Marie and I, asking about us, inquiring why we were dressed up; we had signed up for the Newlywed Game on Stage Zero and were in suit and dress.

“えええ? You two are married?” “Yes,” Marie explained, “only for about 18 months so far.” TAKE contemplated this for a moment, nodding knowingly. “You need to have lots of sex! So you can have kids! I have three kids. You have to have lots of sex.” We blushed.

It happened to be Yuya’s birthday, so we brought out a cake. He was planning on visiting San Francisco that evening, but when we told him about cake, he enthusiastically canceled his plans. Who wouldn’t cancel plans for cake?

Marie and I left early to make our rounds and go to the Newlywed Game. We didn’t do so well, but that’s ok. Our love doesn’t need to be qualified!

That night, we got bad news about Yoshiki. He was sick. He had been hopping from place to place on account of his foundation, and would be flying into San Jose directly after a previous engagement. Now, there was a chance he wouldn’t even show up.

--

Saturday was the big day: MusicFest and Black & White Ball. In the back of our minds, we were still wondering if Yoshiki would be coming. We had scheduled a panel for him, but were unsure if we would need to cancel it. Calls bounced back and forth as we tried to find out what was going to happen.

A few hours before his panel, we got the call: he was on a plane. Yoshiki was coming, despite being sick.

Yoshiki’s handler came earlier in the convention - she had also brought us Gashicon, so was helping to handle there - and she waited with us for the driver to pull up. Out popped Yoshiki and an assistant. We whisked them away to a meeting room to refresh himself, decompress, and get ready.

He had a great panel, then we had dinner, and then he was gone. Again, you’ll have to wait to hear the full story.

--

As we dined with Yoshiki, it started raining. I hoped everything was ok with the lines for B&W Ball and MusicFest. Actually, I had hoped there was a line for MusicFest at all. Like I said, I wanted to see the events packed.

The rain let up, dinner finished, and we headed to the Civic. There were people outside. I thought there must have been a mistake - maybe seating had been slow, or there was a problem with the show. We avoided the floor and went straight backstage. Yuya had just finished, FLOW was getting started, and staff were frantic. “Look! Look!” everyone told me, “Go to the wings, peek your head out, and look!”

The Civic was finally full.

Aya - from Yuya’s entourage - was weeping. She was brought to tears that halfway across the world there were so many people loving Japanese music. The fans blew her expectations. Mine, too. I can’t remember exactly, but I feel like I gave everyone a hug.

We left for B&W Ball. We weren’t going to dance - we weren’t dressed for it, and we don’t know how, and we had finally made peace with this - but we liked to see the crowd and congratulate the staff on their hard work. We were pleased with how the day went.

--

You might have noticed that I never mentioned visiting Masquerade on Sundays. Two things about that. Getting into Masquerade was always a hassle - it has always been filled to the brim, backstage and front of house. And, though I had some disagreements with Marisa - I can’t even remember why - she always did an excellent job with Masquerade, so I never felt the need to check up. I only worried about masquerade when Marisa worried about masquerade. Otherwise I trusted that she would put on a good show.

There’s a lot of that in Fanime - people doing good jobs and not getting any focus because of it. Really, the squeaky wheels get the grease. It’s easy to take that lack of attention as a lack of gratitude, but often the opposite is true. I only regret not expressing gratitude more often.

--

This was the year of the Tohoku earthquake. The earthquake brought aftershocks, tsunami, Fukushima, death. But it also elicited a beautiful response in support of those affected. It was enormous, both in Japan and worldwide.

Now, when we invite guests to FanimeCon, we always humbly ask that they provide something for our charity auction. Usually they will have something autographed or will make a quick sketch for us. We put these up for auction in the Dealer’s room, then have live bidding - lately on Stage Zero - on the last day of con. Charity auction usually yields two to three thousand dollars each year.

Not this year. Every guest came with multiple items for auction - and items from their colleagues and friends. Rare pieces from major artists were here, at FanimeCon, and they were going on auction.

Chair team didn’t really get a sense of what was going on until it happened. We had heard that artists were bringing in pieces especially because of the earthquake - GoH Yokota even asked to store his items with trusted staff - but we didn’t make special plans to visit the auction. Instead, we happened to be visiting the Dealers Room at the time, doing our rounds. I noticed that the auction was going on and decided to take a look. I was amazed. I rushed back to get Marie to tell her what I saw.

“The auction is going nuts!” I exclaimed.

“What do you mean? Is everything ok?”

“People are losing it. We’re getting more for single items than we get for an entire year. There’s a bidding war going on for a Rei - drawn by Sadamoto himself - right now! Come, look!”

We rushed to the stage. The bids went higher and higher. We were used to items going for $50, maybe $100, and our best pieces we hoped would fetch hundreds. I think Rei went for $6,000. We were blown away.

Total, we raised around $20,000 that year for charity auction. It blew away past records by far.

That wasn’t the end of it. Yokota hadn’t auctioned his pieces yet.

Rumor has it that some so-called whales - collectors with a lot of money - had gotten wind of what was going on with Fanime that year and had flown in to see what was available. Some had gone toe-to-toe in the charity auction, but they had also heard there were one-of-a-kind pieces from Yokota. They held back. The big event was still coming.

In speaking with Yokota about what he wanted to do, he was very independent-minded. He was not happy with how some of the charity organizations had responded to the earthquake and he wanted to do something personally, directly for the people affected. For various reasons, we did not incorporate his events and his items into our charity auction, but we offered him a venue to do his thing, officially outside Fanime.

As FanimeCon technically came to a close, I rather ashamedly left the post-con feedback session to see this Yokota Special Auction. Hey - it was Wolfgang’s turn to fix things, anyway. Chair is a thankless position, isn’t it?

As Yokota prepped and organized the pieces, attendees perused the works. Nineteen items went up for auction, ranging from signatures from voice talent, to sketches from directors, to artwork from illustrators. Each item was fantastic, but one stood out: a shikishi from Nobuhiro Watsuki of Battousai - Kenshin before his scars. As we understood it, this was the only of its kind on Earth.

Yokota’s friend Watanabe got on stage as auctioneer. He’s this flashy guy with amazing hair and liked to just chill with Yokota and the staff. Here’s the thing: Watanabe is, of course, Japanese. He is also a very brave person: he got in front of a big audience, prepared to run an auction - in English.

Nineteen items went up, The bids rolled in. “This one” - Watanabe looked at the item - “starting one thousand. One thousand dollars. Ok, LET’S GO!” A hand would go up. Watanabe pointed. “One thousand!” Another hand went up. “One thousand one hundred!” Another hand went up: “I bid fifteen-hundred.” Watanabe pointed, “Fifteen thousands!” The crowd roared into laughter - no, $1,500 not $15,000! - and Watanabe corrected himself: “No no, fifteen hundreds! Haha, sorry sorry!”

Bidding got intense. Artwork was going for thousands, and even straight autographs fetched hundreds of dollars. But it was clear what everyone was waiting for.

The battousai went up for bid.

FanimeCon staff had heard what was going on and gathered at the rear of the room. We, too, were waiting for this piece. Aya - ex-GR head - had even come around. As a die-hard Kenshin fan, she was prepared to drop a few thousand. Marie, too. She looked at me and asked, “how far are you willing to go?” “$5,000, maybe?” I replied. “Me too. Let’s see what we can do!”

Bidding started. Marie did her best, countering every offer fervently. But then it exceeded our individual bids. It climbed north of $7,000.

The staff cried out to wait, and we huddled. “Hey, do you want to go in - together?” Aya asked. “We could put it all together,” I said, “keep it between us. Maybe more people will join us.” We started roping in other staff. The other bidders looked back at us, half-smiling, ready to compete. The bids went higher. It was up to $9,000 now.

We pooled our money. “We could probably go up to $13,000, all in. We can keep it in Fanime - hand it off to each other, frame it in the office, I don’t know. Is everybody in? Are we going to keep it in Fanime?” We all agreed.

Aya raised her hand. “Thirteen thousand dollars!”

Watanabe pointed at her - “Thirteen thousand dollars!”

We held our breath. The room was silent for an eternity.

But a whale looked back at us, and smiled. He raised his hand. $15,000. That was it. It was out of our reach. It was done. “Sold! Fifteen thousand!” Watanabe exclaimed. We groaned. Aya had to leave, tears in her eyes. Yokota gave her a big bear hug in the hall.

Watanabe and Yokota pulled us aside later and asked why we huddled up, why we asked them to halt the bidding on the battousai so many times. “We wanted to keep it in Fanime,” we explained. “We were asking staff to band together, and we did our best.” They seemed shocked but touched that we had joined together.

That was 2011. I think we all did our best.

--

Before the Board of Directors opened applications for my replacement, they asked us if we wanted to stay on. We had agreed to three years from the start, and despite the half-mocking, half-pleading “three more years!” chant that staff liked to throw at us, we were ready to go on. We politely declined the invitation to stay longer. That the BoD asked meant a lot to me; it was a vote of confidence, one in defiance of all the problems I brought to them. I appreciated that. I knew I would miss it, but sometimes the right time to say goodbye comes along, and this was it.

I left the chair position satisfied. We had about 20,000 people take over downtown San Jose and pack the events full. My little vision came true. I even maintained some room in the budget for the next chair, Wolfgang, to have a war chest. My hope was to leave things better than when I got there, much like my predecessors had done, and I think I did.

On the final day, Scott found me at con, grabbed me by the arm, and led me to Will and Wolf. Together, Scott, Will and I did the we’re-not-chair dance, and Wolf smiled: “Ha ha. Very nice.”

It was his turn.
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GokuMew2

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #43 on: May 18, 2015, 12:13:16 AM »

2010 was the one year I wasn't able to attend FanimeCon since I started going in 2001. Sadness since it would've been my 10th consecutive year, but what can you do... I was half a world away teaching English. ^^; I still remember when you and Marie announced at a staff meeting that you were getting married. =)

Yokota san's auction in 2011 was off the wall. I remember just sitting in the front looking at all the pretties that I can't have. XD And I do remember Aya crying when you guys lost the Battousai sketch. That was a shame, but hey, the winning bid went to a good cause. Didn't we have a page on the website showing photos of what was going to be auctioned? I can't remember if it was up before or after the show, but if it was before, that's probably what alerted the collectors.

Until recently when he was hospitalized (he's out now), Yokota san was still continuing charity work for earthquake victims. It's pretty amazing how dedicated he is. I've visited him once or twice at exhibitions he was participating in, as well as a few karaoke sessions. Hope he starts taking better care of his health.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2015, 12:31:56 AM by GokuMew2 »
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cutiebunny

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #44 on: May 18, 2015, 08:39:43 AM »

Heh heh.  So I'm called a whale now.

Let me talk about the auction a bit more from a whale perspective. The 'whales', as you refer to us, were already at the con.  We didn't fly out here especially for the charity/Yokota auction.  We did not know about the Yokota auction until Sunday, around the time of the charity auction.  The whales all live in California and we avidly attend West Coast, particularly California, cons.  Back in the early 10s, Fanime had a reputation for being a quality convention.  We all came to your con in 2011 because we all hoped we'd get a sketch from Yoshimatsu and Iida.  Which, we did.  We were all very happy.  This was also the year where Yokota, in an attempt to draw sketches for everyone in line, ended up pulling an all nighter and ended up getting pretty sick.  He also drew more for charity, too.  I guess it worked out well for him as he made out like a bandit at PMX 2012 and SacAnime Winter 2015 with his art-addicts he acquired at Fanime.  Despite his temper and outdated opinions on women, he's a nice guy...a little shady...but a nice guy.  I heard about his stroke and he commented on Twitter that the left side of body is still numb.  I hope he gets better soon.  Anyways...

Walking around the dealer hall prior to the Sunday charity auction, I saw the Yoshimatsu shikishi that would be auctioned - a lovely Slayers sketch of Lina & Naga, and then a Trigun sketch.  At the same time, I ran into another of my 'whale' friends.  In the hierarchy of whales, including those I've met on the East Coast, she and the man who won the Kenshin sketch, are the alphas.  This particular friend doesn't concern herself with autograph sessions nor the rest of the con ; She just buys whatever she wants at the charity auction.  She's super nice IRL and will show up at a con just to show off some of the stuff she owns.  We went to the auction together.  She told me what she was after, and I nodded, and went for the other sketches.  At that time, I bid if I thought the sketch was under what it would sell for at auction in Japan.  I also know better than to tangle with an alpha.  We both were not aware that GAINAX staff had brought a stack of sketches to auction off until the auction.  Thanks to staff starting the sketches earlier than they should have, the Imaishi sketch for practically nothing.  Still one of my favorite "I can't believe I got it for that low" stories.

The Sadamoto sketch fight was a fight between the alphas.  These are *never* pretty.  While there were a few people who jumped in immediately, they all bowed out around 4K.  Nope, after that, both were going after it.  I almost wished I had a bucket of popcorn as it was quite exciting.  The auction for the colored Rei sketch ended at 6K.  I walked away with the Trigun sketch as well as a few of the GAINAX goodies.  My friend, the Slayers and Sadamoto sketches.

I know it sounds like the whales all hate each other because why else would you want your friend to buy it for that much, but it's actually the reverse.  For the most part, we get along quite well and many of us are really good friends with each other.

Fun fact about the GAINAX sketches - To date, this is the only time I've ever been asked to delete the autographs of the artists when posting online.  I had to fill out documents providing GAINAX with my name, DL#, address, etc before paying for them.  Even GoFA asked for less information.  Somewhere in Japan, my information lies in a file cabinet, collecting dust.  Staff said that GAINAX originally wanted the winners to sign documents saying that they would never sell the items, but someone on Fanime staff informed them that that was an impossibility as you can't prevent people from reselling in the US.

The man that outbid you for the Kenshin shikishi is also a friend of mine.  He can be a bit aloof sometimes, but he's also a real nice guy.  The "outbid you with a smile" is his usual method.  If it's something he truly wants, against him, you'll never win.  Even if you had been able to muster 15K, he would have pushed it to 16K.  Or 17K.  He's just that dedicated.  The friend/whale that I mentioned earlier walked away with both Slayers shikishi from the Yokota auction.  Going in to the auction, the whale friend who won the Sadamoto sketch the day before commented that she knew that the other one would be going for the Kenshin.  "Stay away from it" was her advice.  Not being a Kenshin fan and having spent quite a bit the day before, I was more than willing to oblige.  We were quite happy with our winnings at the Yokota auction, but seeing our alpha grinning like a Cheshire cat (despite being 15K poorer) was quite touching.
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Tony

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #45 on: May 18, 2015, 09:28:48 AM »

cutiebunny that is super interesting!

The rumor I had heard was along these lines - that there was a small-ish and well-connected group of people who just came as collectors. The way it was framed to me, though, was that these people had connections that informed them of opportunities, and so they simply hopped a plane cross-country at a moment's notice to bid for rare pieces. Maybe that was a bit exaggerated, after all. ;)

And, I hope no offense taken about the "whale" terminology. It's something I picked up from ad agency work. You'd have your normal accounts, and then you'd have your Nikes or your Coca-Colas - the whales, named so because they brought big money, could chase away the smaller "fish", and could crush you easily.

Anyway, it was brilliant to watch, and it's nice that I can connect you with that excitement. Great to hear another side of the story.
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cutiebunny

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #46 on: May 18, 2015, 11:02:41 AM »

No worries, I'm not offended at all.  I've been called worse things at charity auctions  ;D

.. that there was a small-ish and well-connected group of people who just came as collectors. The way it was framed to me, though, was that these people had connections that informed them of opportunities, and so they simply hopped a plane cross-country at a moment's notice to bid for rare pieces. Maybe that was a bit exaggerated, after all. ;)

Including those that live around the US, I'd say we roughly number around 30.  Most of us network with each other and many of us have connections to management at various cons.  Most of these were made during the 1990s when conventions like AX were just starting out and it would be the same handful of bidders winning everything at auction.  I'd say no more than 15 of us ever travel beyond our respective coasts for conventions.  We go because there are guests there that we're interested in seeing, though, not because we heard some rumor that something spectacular will show up for auction.  I'd say the only people who either have enough funds and/or are crazy enough to drop everything and buy a last minute ticket are the two highest bidders for the Sadamoto sketch.  And one of them almost did for a con a couple years back.

I'm looking forward to the 2012 chapter.

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Tony

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #47 on: May 18, 2015, 10:00:44 PM »

The judge asked me to rise. I addressed him.

“Your honor, I feel this would be a burden. I am managing three projects at work, and in three weeks, I am responsible for the hospitality of over a dozen guests from Japan.”

Note: this excuse will not get you out of jury duty.

--

I glided into 2012 thinking it would be a cakewalk. How hard could overseeing GR and MusicFest be, when we had overseen the entire convention?

The chair team split. Marie joined me in running the GR division. James went into semi-retirement, alternately helping HR, serving as an historian, and doing photography at the con.

Wolf was now in charge. He has his critics, but I can sympathize: the job is harder than it looks, and is thankless. For what it’s worth, I was happy under his leadership. But, then, I wasn’t going to take crap from anyone at this point, anyway, so maybe he steered clear of me. Still, no complaints here.

Regrettably, I started acting like an asshole again. Work was stressing me out, and it culminated in me leading three projects in the run-up to con. Two of them failed spectacularly and I quit my job shortly after FanimeCon. But that wasn’t before I was, once more, being a dick toward staff - the finance department, in particular, because they held GR’s purse strings - and toward one of our primary contacts.

Let’s back up a bit. The head of GR, Yang, had done a great job for three years - or was it four? - and was stepping down. He started the job with no training and no steady mentor, but over his time, he had grown into the role in his own way, bringing some really stellar guests along in the process. I asked to take over for him; having done relations with MusicFest, and having overseen the convention, I thought I had a leg up in running Guest Relations. Plus, I inherited Yang’s great team.

Over the summer of 2011 I had got in touch with Aya to see if she’d help mentor us. Amazingly, she did, and she brought a treasure trove with her: all of her notes and materials from her years running GR. We used those as a basis to reimagine GR from the ground up. I like to think it worked ok. A lot of staff seemed confused at first - I didn’t do the best job of communicating the changes - but once we got into a groove at the convention, the staff performed wonderfully. GR has some of the most skilled and hard-working staff, and to have gained their respect meant a lot to me.

That was the good part about running GR. There were plenty of downsides, though.

Again, I was being a jerk to important people. After repeatedly haranguing Finance about how the budget ought to work - without much consideration on how Finance needed the budget to work - they threw up their hands. Essentially they said, here’s your top-line number - don’t exceed it - and good luck: you’re on your own, just like you asked. I think I barely made it under.

I wasn’t kind to one of our contacts, either. It’s no excuse, but the stress and deadlines from work left me aggressive and intolerant. When I didn’t like what he was doing, I sent mean emails. When I saw problems don’t the road, I didn’t warn him. When he needed help at-con, I offered little assistance. In part I was doing this to protect the convention, my staff, and myself - but I really could have been kinder about it.

--

About a month before con, I got a summons to serve for on a Federal petit grand jury in United States District Court, Northern District of California. Let me tell you, I fought it, but I couldn’t get out of it. I was happy to serve - but it was the worst possible timing.

I asked for a postponement, but it was denied. I arrived at the court, and my number was called. I was brought into court, then brought up for jury selection. In the jury box, I explained things that would potentially make me a bad juror, but was retained. When asked if I had hardship, I made a big speech.

(I’m sure this is recorded in an official document somewhere, so please note that this is less factual, more “based on a true story”.)

“Your honor, I feel this would be a burden. I am managing three projects at work, and in three weeks, I am responsible for the hospitality of over a dozen guests from Japan.” The judge looked unconvinced, so I continued. “I am working over 60 hours a week on my projects and am lead on each of them. One of the projects actually involves the court - I have to access court document as part of research - so there’s a chance I could come across this case and see evidence accidentally.” Still nothing. “For my guests from Japan, well, firstly, I’ve already scheduled time off, so I can’t get that back. And it would be very bad if I were not there to greet them at the airport. I have to oversee staff that will be helping these guests, your honor, so I need to be available to support them, as well.”

The judge asked me to clarify when the event was happening. A few days before Memorial day weekend, I replied. “That’s in a few weeks. I’m sure we can wrap up the case by then.” I was out of ammo. I sat down and hope I would be rejected. We were dismissed from the jury box while the lawyers made their selection. Before I could even sit down in the audience - just as I was setting down my bag - they called my number. All I could do was blankly walk back up to the jury box, feeling like I had been wrongly convicted of something. I was juror #1.

The next three weeks were hell. I got up around 7am to work. I’d head to BART by 8am to get to court around 9. I’d be answering emails - for work and for Fanime - 15 minutes at a time whenever the judge would call a recess. I brought my laptop and a 4G adapter so that I could work during lunch. I’d head home at 4, sometimes jumping on conference calls for work, and then be home around 6 to lead development teams in China. After work, around 11pm, I’d finally have time to eat, shower, and sleep. I got very little done.

Aya was likewise unavailable; a family crisis pulled her away.

Marie was a godsend in all of this. She kept me fed and pampered and practically ran GR on a day-to-day basis, making sure the i’s got dotted and the t’s got crossed.

--

It was around that time in early May that Val’s negotiations fell through. She had been negotiating for months with a band. They were good to work with, but needed a lot. We made concessions to them, and they made even bigger ones. But it was at the 11th hour that they explained that they needed video from the concert.

Ever wonder why we don’t sell DVDs of MusicFest or the Masquerade? Well, remember how the Civic is a union house? The union has exclusive rights to do any filming, so you have to 1) pay them to do the filming and 2) pay for the rights to use the footage they take. That costs many thousands of dollars. It may sound exorbitant, but realize you are paying professionals to film something you could later sell for millions. It’s not unreasonable, but we just didn’t have the money.

We apologized profusely, explaining the situation. But they had already made substantial cuts on their end. Without the promotional material the video would have yielded, it just wasn’t worth it. They pulled out. It was sad. Val was really strong through that, and I was proud of her for that.

Still, it would have been great. They had a great gimmick: a trio of young girls fronting a metal band. They recently put out a song about wanting chocolate, or something - or so I hear.

--

My first 24 hours of con was really damn weird. I’ll write about it later. You probably had a weird day, too. That was when the power went out.

I had dropped off Marie on Day -1 because I would be out for jury duty. She and the staff would greet and tend to the guests while I was at court. But Obama was in town and about a half-mile radius was locked down around the Fairmont. That was weird.

The next day, the Japanese guests started coming in. But there were problems on 101, and it took them ages to get to San Jose. Lots of them were on the same fight, but they came at drastically different times. That was weird.

The power went out while I was en route to con. I pulled up to the Hilton, car full of junk, trying to see how long the reg line was. I saw it easily: it was long, and it led into a dark SJCC. The rest of the city was fine, just not that block of the city. That was weird.

With all of the difficulties, the guests couldn’t check in. They had to stash their stuff in various staff rooms. That was weird.

Koyama-san climbed the stairs - the full height of the Hilton - for fun and exercise. That was ... awesome.

The lights finally came on and staff collectively sighed a Thank God. Everyone dispersed to get their guests checked in and to bed. They were great sports, but it was evening by then, and everyone was exhausted. They got into their rooms, unloaded their luggage, and ended their day with a nice, cold shower. The boilers went cold in the outage. I don't think Japanese usually to bathe in cold water. I didn't. That sucked.

Welcome to FanimeCon 2012.

--

The con itself went pretty well for us. We woke up early the next morning for an all-hands meeting. We had barely met, and the staff seemed hesitant about me and Marie; there was a tension, like, “who are these people, who I never saw before, who can’t speak Japanese, and why are they running GR?” As I went over the itinerary and assignments for the day, they seemed to relax. I did, in fact, have a plan.

Over the course of the convention, even the most formal staff eased up around us. We were showing them the reimagined GR, and they understood what we were trying to do. I was happy, and proud, that they trusted us - maybe even respected us - by the end. It was definitely fun to kick back and relax with them and see them unwind, too. Handling and interpreting can be extremely intense work.

The guests worked hard as well. I heard Asamiya and Yokota were both up at all hours trying to finish artwork for their fans. Artists typically have to work over the weekend, too - we set up a small office area with a computer, printer, and scanner to facilitate their work - so it was all the more admirable that they were doing this on top of their jobs.

Little did I know that Marie had been asking them to do work. My 30th birthday was around the corner and she asked for gifts from each of the guests. They politely obliged: Yamaga gifted an autographed, limited edition Wings of Honneamise; Yokota drew - at Marie’s request - a sketch of a boin maid; Asamiya made a sketch as well, and quite clandestinely handed it off to Marie - in full view of me - with an exaggerated wink and nod. Luckily I’m oblivious.

Actually, I’m just lucky. They were great gifts from great people, and I received them because I have a great wife.

--

A lot more things - bad things, in particular - happened that weekend, but they were tempered by past experience; the highs were good, and the lows were bearable. Maybe I was getting better at staffing. Maybe the novelty of the convention was starting to wear off. Probably, I was just getting old.

It was about time. Marie had intended us to take time off after chairing, yet I pulled her back in, thinking we still needed to contribute. By now, though, it was clear that there were talented staff to handle things. We had been succeeded, and we were happy about it. It was a good time to move on.

And so we were done with being in charge of something at FanimeCon.
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Acid_Android

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #48 on: May 19, 2015, 08:26:44 AM »

I don't mean to sound hipster about it, but we really did know about this little trio of girls doing metal before they became a huge thing, lol. It would've been nice to have been the venue to give them their U.S. debut :(

They were my focus, but the MusicFest roster that year ultimately ended up being acts that someone else negotiated for. I still get the blame for that even when it was more like, "Since your acquisition fell through, do something with these acts." I think the only thing I ended up contributing that year was the sound check and concert schedule, but I still got ripped into for being incompetent, not knowing anything about music, not doing enough, not listening to what fans want, being lazy, etc etc etc. I just saw months of hard work go down the drain, but no one cared about that; the complaints were relentless. I can shrug it off now, but it was a tough time.

As a side note, in 2012, MusicFest got moved organizationally from Extravaganzas to Guest Relations, and with that comes procedural changes. That always takes getting used to.
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Kuudere

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #49 on: May 19, 2015, 09:25:34 AM »

I don't mean to sound hipster about it, but we really did know about this little trio of girls doing metal before they became a huge thing, lol. It would've been nice to have been the venue to give them their U.S. debut :(

They were my focus, but the MusicFest roster that year ultimately ended up being acts that someone else negotiated for. I still get the blame for that even when it was more like, "Since your acquisition fell through, do something with these acts." I think the only thing I ended up contributing that year was the sound check and concert schedule, but I still got ripped into for being incompetent, not knowing anything about music, not doing enough, not listening to what fans want, being lazy, etc etc etc. I just saw months of hard work go down the drain, but no one cared about that; the complaints were relentless. I can shrug it off now, but it was a tough time.

I'm sorry you had to be the one to shoulder all of the blame. I don't think this makes it any better, but I think we, as fans, were mostly upset that we were given no explanation at all. It seemed like Fanime was just doing whatever staff wanted without reason, and it felt like we were being viewed as children that weren't important enough to hear the adults talk. Knowing this story now, I am much more appreciative of your (and other staff's) efforts. If things had worked out, BABYMETAL would have been amazing. Hopefully something can be worked out that we still might see them one year.

However, I think I should also say that there were people who genuinely enjoyed the MusicFest that happened that year. It really wasn't a failure at all (though I think staff should have been more explicit in the fact that it would only be one person, rather than the band, that would be performing. That would have alleviated much of the unnecessary disappointment due to false expectations).
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Acid_Android

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #50 on: May 19, 2015, 12:04:34 PM »

Well, here's another way to look at it:

When is an explanation needed? Usually when something goes wrong.

As far as MusicFest was concerned that year, nothing was technically "wrong." MusicFest still happened, there were guests performing.

The concern that folks were expressing were "why THOSE guests?" That question implies that something is wrong with the guests who take their time to come to the convention, and that is one question I won't address because it's downright disrespectful to the guests. Regardless of whether I acquire a guest or if someone else from GR acquires a guest, we will always welcome them warmly (unless they're really mean to us or our attendees).

As far as misleading information goes, from what I recall, I retweeted the announcement on MF's Twitter that year that stated specifically "Igaguri Chiba" and not "Sendai Kamotsu." If the linked announcement itself was misleading, then I seriously apologize. However, if memory serves me right, what was officially released around that time from us stated it was only going to be him.

The one thing that I know was not right was the whole Hatsune Miku thing. I was not behind that idea at all, and I made it known that I didn't like it. Attendees have a right to be peeved about that one, and for that, I'm truly sorry.

However, one thing that I hope Tony's stories are showing is that staff aren't doing things willy nilly just because we want to. I'd like to think MusicFest's track record shows that we are listening to what attendees want, and we are working hard to make your requests happen with the resources we have. We don't reply often times because we always get a lot, but the suggestions are always forwarded to us one way or another, and I'm doing everything I can to forge the relationships with labels and companies to make things work.
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Kuudere

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #51 on: May 19, 2015, 01:39:52 PM »

The concern that folks were expressing were "why THOSE guests?"

Actually, the rumors floating around were that Nightmare might make an appearance, since one of its members would be there. No staff supported that rumor, but, at least on the forums, no one was saying "they're absolutely not coming as a band." Mostly, staff were playfully responding that it won't be Yomi, it'd be his brother, which wasn't giving us a real, firm answer because it was done in a joking manner. People got false expectations (through no real fault of the staff - false rumors suck), and responded negatively from them. That, and as you said with the Miku thing, were the only things that really needed explanation to me.

That question implies that something is wrong with the guests who take their time to come to the convention, and that is one question I won't address because it's downright disrespectful to the guests. Regardless of whether I acquire a guest or if someone else from GR acquires a guest, we will always welcome them warmly (unless they're really mean to us or our attendees).

I fully agree that it's disrespectful to complain about specific guests. I cringe when I see it happening. I mean, if you want to complain, fine, but do it in a place where guests and their agents can't see it at least - and be as respectful as possible. Whether you enjoy an act or not, there are people who worked hard to put it together and perform, and tons of people who did enjoy the act.

However, one thing that I hope Tony's stories are showing is that staff aren't doing things willy nilly just because we want to. I'd like to think MusicFest's track record shows that we are listening to what attendees want, and we are working hard to make your requests happen with the resources we have. We don't reply often times because we always get a lot, but the suggestions are always forwarded to us one way or another, and I'm doing everything I can to forge the relationships with labels and companies to make things work.

I love that Tony is taking the time to write these specifically because it does help dissolve that kid/adult relationship that I was talking about. I think that most of us are very happy when transparency like this is given to us, although I know that's not always the fault of staff for not being forthcoming with all these details (some details, like contracts, need to remain quiet until everything is set). And sometimes, giving too much information just ends up pissing people off when that information changes later (like, "we're working on getting Guest X to appear," and that guest ends up falling through).

People don't get to see the individual cogs (staff) forming the machine that is Fanime, so all they see is a machine and they treat it like a machine rather than individual people with lives outside that machine. When we get to see responses from staff like this, it is much easier to sympathize and understand. Don't get me wrong, you'll get haters either way, but I think it's nice to give staff a platform to talk about how much work goes into this.


You don't need to apologize for anything. You've been fantastic for years in a largely thankless job. I apologize that we can't show you how much your work means to us.

Sorry I derailed the thread a bit!
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Xanreo

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #52 on: May 19, 2015, 01:56:18 PM »

Pardon the intrusion; I just wanted to stay a listener for these fantastic stories but what was the Hatsune Miku mishap?
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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #53 on: May 19, 2015, 02:02:34 PM »

Since Tony has been sharing, I wanted to add/chime in about MusicFest that was brought up in a different thread regarding why MusicFest has seating whereas other cons/concerts have open flooring.

1) It costs time and money to take away all the chairs and then put them back the next day for Masquerade. Time (for Union to take those chairs and put them back) and money (to pay Union to do that because the Civic is a union house, meaning all the work is done by the Union and you have to pay them to do that work) that is spent on more fun things like instruments for the band to play on.
 
2) The one time we decided to have an open floorplan in the Civic was for An Cafe in 2008. When the doors opened, everyone rushed in to try to get to the front of the stage. There were people milling about while waiting for MusicFest to start and it made the Civic look about half full. There were some attendees who didn't want to get squished and sat in the upper sections. When An Cafe took the stage, everyone rushed to the front and packed in so tightly that we (staff) were worried for the attendees who were potentially super squished. We ended up rescuing a few people that night and they were able to breathe.

After the concert, the band and their management were super apologetic about not being able to bring more attendees in because to them, the Civic only looked a third full (in full squish mode). The MusicFest staff apologized back and tried to reassure them many, many times over that it is not their fault and that was the most successful MusicFest to date.

As a side note, the Japanese do not have the same fire code regarding crowd capacity as we do here in the United States. I've been to a few concerts in Japan and they like to squish together but not to the point of being unable to breathe. Whereas the crowd for An Cafe was dangerously tight and we had Rovers constantly looking for people who were super squished and making sure they were okay.

When Con was over, Val (along with her staff) and I agreed that having seats would be the better option since it would make it so the Civic looked fuller, people had a place to put their stuff (and not poke other attendees's faces with their peacebonded weapons), and people can breathe without being squished.


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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #54 on: May 19, 2015, 03:13:23 PM »

About to celebrate my 16th yr at Fanime  :o  went to 11 AX's and I'm still in my early 30's

Some things I'd love to share that I have noticed over the decade that keeps Fanime worth attending.

1.  I've never, nor will I work as staff for the con.
2.  The Real fun happens with the volunteering members...no commitment = positive vibe
3.  I've definitely had arguments with Rovers for trying to hard to abuse their power of badge taking
4.  The Dance Dj's are pretty good most of the time and the Dances are really fun
5.  The AMV's are long but there is always a golden video or two worth watching (they could use a better sound system tho)
6.  Cosplay ball got really bad in 2004-2005, have not attended since
7.  I've had the pleasure of meeting many many guests, I'd recommend doing the meet and great at least once.
8.  Going at it alone is recommended as friends may be lazier than you and will sleep a day away >:(
9.  Get your badge Early as possible...I've only had to buy a badge on a sunday once ...usually get mine on day 0 or day 1.
10.  Buy something that will give you good memories for that year.
11.  Attend as much as you can in what little time you have
12.  Realize that this is probably one of the few places where you can actually let go of your ego and raise self esteem.
13.  As I've gotten older I've saved more for the con and end up spending less than the year before...this year I think I have $4000 to blow...probably will only spend $300 ???

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #55 on: May 19, 2015, 04:14:31 PM »

Mostly, staff were playfully responding that it won't be Yomi, it'd be his brother, which wasn't giving us a real, firm answer because it was done in a joking manner.
Argh. So that's mostly my fault. We were basically told to be extremely careful about what to say - and the stuff we were allowed to say was all about "his brother Chiba". I hadn't even realized we were misleading people.

Quote
People don't get to see the individual cogs (staff) forming the machine that is Fanime, so all they see is a machine and they treat it like a machine rather than individual people with lives outside that machine. When we get to see responses from staff like this, it is much easier to sympathize and understand. Don't get me wrong, you'll get haters either way, but I think it's nice to give staff a platform to talk about how much work goes into this.
That's really nice to hear. Thank you.
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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #56 on: May 19, 2015, 08:18:31 PM »

Not much happened for me and Marie at FanimeCon 2013, with one sad exception.

Chris and Jinni took over Guest Relations, so we had little to do. We helped arrange and tend to Nonaka and Yamaga, but they didn’t really need our help.

Nonaka brought his wife and they were quite comfortable on their own - I believe they live in LA - so he was quite simple to handle. We let them know the itinerary and made ourselves available, because after the first day, they essentially wanted to explore the convention and San Jose on their own. They were a lovely couple.

Yamaga is a long-time veteran so didn’t need help. He is an aloof guy, but witty. He spent the weekend in kimono and seemed to have become obsessed with Twitter. He was tweeting, asking about how to use the restroom in one of these things. (It turns out there is a way to hike up the pants, or something, to make things easy.) We talked about the difference between Japanese and American bacon. Things went fine.

This lack of stress was great, because Marie was eight months pregnant at this time. As she waddled from one venue to the next, she had to stop at ConOps to rest. Every staff member there was terrified that she would give birth.

Overall, it was an easy, quiet year for us. The lack of stress was appreciated.

But the con didn’t turn out well, personally, either.

Just before the convention started, our friend Sara died suddenly in her home. Sara had been in conventions and in FanimeCon’s ConOps for years. She had become something of a mother bear to many of the staff. She was at the front when staff gave us a gift in our first year of chair. She had the shoulder to cry on when, inevitably, something went wrong. She was the one to kick your ass about forgetting to eat breakfast. We whined together, we cheered for the Giants together, we laughed together. She cared for a lot of us, and we cared for her, too. She was a great teacher, co-worker, con-mom, and friend.

If you saw a staff badge with a black slash across - that was for her.

--

A few weeks later, our daughter Ely came into our lives and things changed forever.
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GokuMew2

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #57 on: May 19, 2015, 08:50:18 PM »

^^^ Just a note that when Tony says "Nonaka," he means "Nonaka Tsuyoshi" and not this year's guest "Nonaka Ai."



Since other staffers have been posting, I guess now's a good a time as any for me to chime in as well.

However, one thing that I hope Tony's stories are showing is that staff aren't doing things willy nilly just because we want to. I'd like to think MusicFest's track record shows that we are listening to what attendees want, and we are working hard to make your requests happen with the resources we have. We don't reply often times because we always get a lot, but the suggestions are always forwarded to us one way or another, and I'm doing everything I can to forge the relationships with labels and companies to make things work.

This also applies to non-music guests.

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 have been browsing the forums for a while now and to be honest, it really, really hurts to see people saying that the reason our guest lineup is disappointing is because the staff are lazy, among other false assertions. You can only do your best with the resources you are given, and you can imagine how discouraging it is when people say that your best is not good enough. The reason why MF always has an awesome act is because they have the resources to pull it off. Unfortunately the budget for booking Japanese guests does not quite enjoy that same leisure for reasons Tony has mentioned.

There's a lot of things that go into booking guests. I'll only talk about Japanese guests since that's who I work with.

Staffers are generally easier to get because they are eager to promote their work overseas and their attendance usually only depends on their availability at the time. We did try for some staff who worked on series that were really hot in the U.S. at the time, but they had prior commitments either with work or other events and couldn't make it. You have to remember that the more in-demand a guest is, the harder they are to get. The reason they don't come to FanimeCon is not because we aren't trying to get them.

Guests such as seiyuu (voice actors) are a looooooot harder to book. Seiyuu who are active (ie. the ones people want to see most) have a very tight schedule and it's hard to get them to open up about a week to come to the U.S. It can also be difficult to convince the agency to send us someone since the agency has nothing to gain by having international exposure. It's not like a seiyuu coming to the U.S. is going to land that seiyuu more jobs in Japan. In fact it, could be the opposite where they have to turn down a job in Japan so that they can adjust their schedule and come to the U.S. One of the reasons why some other cons are able to book big-name seiyuu is because that seiyuu is sponsored by someone like Aniplex or FUNimation. These companies have a lot more leverage when negotiating for guests to bring to overseas events and since the seiyuu is there to promote a series, the Japanese side is happy too. (And yes, I have suggested on more than one occasion over the years that we have these kinds of tie-ins but unfortunately the idea has been met with... opposition...) To make things even more difficult, a seiyuu's availability might not be known until maybe a month or two before con and then there's still paperwork to be done before announcements can be made. What sucks the most is when you're waiting months for a Yes or a No and because you don't want to overbook and go over budget, your hands are tied as far as contacting other potential guests is concerned while you wait for the answer. If in the end the answer is No, you might not have enough time to try to fill the opening. That's the thing with seiyuu agencies... Knock on their door too early and they tell you that they don't know what schedules are like at that time yet. Knock later and they're already booked.

Anyway, this is the main reason why announcements tend to be close to con. We aren't withholding information from our attendees. Case in point, I heard that Nonaka's attendance was first announced at a staff meeting, which gave some people the idea that we purposefully delayed our announcement to the public. The paperwork for her was literally finalized just a few days prior. Tony touched upon it earlier but marketing and web need some time to do their thing and that is why announcements are made when they are made.


I hope these insights give our attendees an idea of how hard it is to pull off a convention, especially where guests are concerned. It's not as simple as shooting an email or throwing money in the face of the people you want to get.
« Last Edit: May 19, 2015, 09:43:23 PM by GokuMew2 »
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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #58 on: May 20, 2015, 09:20:38 AM »

Pardon the intrusion; I just wanted to stay a listener for these fantastic stories but what was the Hatsune Miku mishap?

At the very end of MusicFest 2012, there was a video viewing of a Hatsune Miku concert in Japan. Attendees thought that it would actually be a concert at MusicFest, and they were rightfully upset when it wasn't. We were told to announce it a certain way, and I was never really happy with it :-/
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Acid_Android

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Re: 12 Years in 2 Weeks
« Reply #59 on: May 20, 2015, 10:35:08 AM »

I love that Tony is taking the time to write these specifically because it does help dissolve that kid/adult relationship that I was talking about. I think that most of us are very happy when transparency like this is given to us, although I know that's not always the fault of staff for not being forthcoming with all these details (some details, like contracts, need to remain quiet until everything is set). And sometimes, giving too much information just ends up pissing people off when that information changes later (like, "we're working on getting Guest X to appear," and that guest ends up falling through).

People don't get to see the individual cogs (staff) forming the machine that is Fanime, so all they see is a machine and they treat it like a machine rather than individual people with lives outside that machine. When we get to see responses from staff like this, it is much easier to sympathize and understand. Don't get me wrong, you'll get haters either way, but I think it's nice to give staff a platform to talk about how much work goes into this.

You don't need to apologize for anything. You've been fantastic for years in a largely thankless job. I apologize that we can't show you how much your work means to us.


Communication is definitely something that we can improve upon, and as always, we are open to suggestions on how to remedy the situation realistically without compromising the trust we've built with our contacts. Discretion is such a huge part of the whole acquisition process that we often forget that staying absolutely silent can be detrimental when fans feel neglected, ignored or belittled.

That's why I apologize, lol. If more than one person feels upset about something I'm involved in, then it really is because I've failed at properly addressing a situation, and I need to fix it.

I truly appreciate the kind words, and I will do my best to work hard for all of you. I still fondly remember my first MusicFest as an attendee (2004! -- Sorry, Tony, I know that was a hard year for you but I had so much fun XD), and spreading that "best night ever!" feeling is something that made me want to be part of FanimeCon...MusicFest in particular. Reading this thread brings that all back. Thank you.
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