My Fellow Fans,
This past weekend I attended the annual Stargate convention – colloquially referred to as “VanCon” – held in Burnaby, British Columbia by Creation Entertainment. This was the first convention I have attended, and it was quite the eye opener for me. It was different than I had been expecting – less hectic, more organized, and, most of all, the panelists were extremely entertaining. I was granted a press pass by Creation Ent., which allowed me to get some great close-up shots during the panels, and so my report will mostly focus on a photo-journal approach, so to speak, of the weekend’s events.
I spent a lot of time chatting with other convention-goers as I had only purchased General Admissions tickets myself; that is, I attended the panels, but didn’t do any of the photo op or signing sessions. Thus, it could be argued that I didn’t quite get the full “convention” experience, but for more on that you can read the reports by my fellow writer Stephanie (aka ValaBlack).
Saturday, April 17, 2010
My first panel on Sunday was with Michael Shanks – Dr. Daniel Jackson of Stargate: SG-1. Mr. Shanks spent most of the panel taking questions from the fans, and a more detailed write-up of his panel will go up in the next several weeks. Some instances in particular from his panel stand out in my mind. One of them was when he talked about really getting into role for his work on Andromeda, and how it was very much a “chore” given that that was when he started seeing the lead actress on the show, Lexa Doig – now his wife.
Another tale that had the audience laughing was when a fan asked about something called the “puff and ruffle”. Apparently Mr. Shanks’ costars Amanda Tapping (Col. Samantha Carter, SG-1, SGA, SGU) and Teryl Rothery (Dr. Janet Frasier, SG-1) used to get upset with the ‘boys’ (Mr. Shanks, Chris Judge, and Richard Dean Anderson) on set because they had a ritual, of sorts, when there was an “attractive” female guest star. Mr. Shanks, of course, said he has no idea what they were talking about. But he did a demonstration for us, pretending that there was a guest star in his chair, and demonstrating how exactly they might act toward her.
Probably my favourite part of Mr. Shanks’ panel started when certain fans – including yours truly – realized that his wife (the aforementioned Lexa Doig) was on Twitter (you can click on her Twitter avatar on the right to check out her Twitter page) to coincide with her husband’s panel. Lexa wanted us fans – affectionately referred to as her “minions” – to do her not-so-evil bidding and bug her husband about something for which she had volunteered them: the M.S. Society of Canada’s Walk on April 25.
If you would permit me a quick aside, M.S. (Multiple Sclerosis) is a degenerative disease for which there is currently no cure, given that doctors and researchers still don’t really understand the cause or even underlying mechanisms of the symptoms. The MS Walk aims to raise money for researching this disease, and it is a cause about which the Shanks’ are known for being passionate.
If you follow the link in the banner above it will take you to the “Team Shanks” page where any donation would be greatly appreciated.
This interjection by Lexa prompted a discussion of the raccoons which have been destroying the Shanks’ lawn because they recently resod the lawn and every night the raccoons come in and roll up the sod. Unfortunately, their cats are of no use as one of them seems to have made friends with a raccoon. Mr. Shanks likened this to a dog who makes friends with a burglar in your home.
Mr. Shanks mentioned the movie How to Train Your Dragon (by Dreamworks Studios) – and if I may offer an opinion, if you haven’t seen it yet, add it to the list! – and right before leaving the stage he did a Viking impression, involving a sort-of-accurate Scottish accent which definitely made me laugh.
My next panel was Chris Heyerdahl who was in SG-1, SGA, and is now in Sanctuary as John Druitt and ‘The Big Guy’. Mr. Heyerdahl touched on several aspects of his various characters in the Stargate franchise – notably his time as Todd the Wraith in SGA.
Mr. Heyerdahl discussed what it is like to have to wear so much make-up and prosthetics for various roles. If you recall Todd, Mr. Heyerdahl likened that make-up to having hot acid poured on his face – especially after a long day when the make-up artists come to do touch-ups.
Mr. Heyerdahl also did his “Todd the Wraith” voice with a line from the series finale “Vegas” in which he tells John Sheppard that he knows his destiny. He also talked about being surprised to be recognized for his role in Atlantis given that he wasn’t in make-up.
After Chris Heyerdahl, my next panel was with David Hewlett and Joe Flanigan, of SGA. In a word, this panel was hilarious. Toward the end of the panel I actually had to stop taking pictures because I was laughing too hard to hold the camera up.
Mr. Hewlett started off, rather befittingly, some might say, with a debate over the distinction between dorks, geeks, and nerds. Someone offered the suggestion that there is actually a chart which can help you with the distinction, to which Mr. Hewlett replied that if you have a chart, you’ve pretty much got your answer right there.
The discussion segued into tech support, with Mr. Hewlett discussing his various technology and recent forays into editing with Final Cut Pro ™. He then prompted people to start asking questions given that he could spend the whole panel discussing various computer issues.
One thing I found particularly interesting was when Mr. Hewlett discussed the challenges of directing versus acting, and how he has been enjoying directing and editing for the problem-solving aspects. He discussed his movie “A Dog’s Breakfast” and how Mars (his dog, and one of the movie’s stars) has gotten as fat as a sofa – his words.
He also talked about some of the recent challenges in shooting his new movie – as yet unnamed – for SyFy in Bulgaria. A particular moment involving an interesting solution was when they were supposed to shoot a snow mobile stunt scene, but when they went to shoot they didn’t actually have snow mobiles. The solution: sit the actors down and have them shake and bounce on their own while the crew and others threw snow at them to make it look like they were moving. Mr. Hewlett did a rather humourous demonstration of this.
When Mr. Flanigan and Mr. Hewlett were on stage together it was pretty much non-stop laughter. The two of them shared memories from their work on Atlantis, and generally teased and ribbed one another. When Mr. Flanigan was up on stage on his own, he mentioned his recent work on Warehouse 13, and that one of the reasons it felt quite odd to him was that he didn’t get a gun. The two actors playing the lead Agents on the show would pull out guns and he would be reaching for a non-existent one.
Mr. Flanigan mentioned that the episode of WH13 in which he guest starred was one of the highest rated episodes ever for the network. Of course Mr. Hewlett jumped all over that one. Mr. Hewlett kept imitating Mr. Flanigan in a rather high-pitched voice throughout their whole panel together.
Mr. Hewlett and Mr. Flanigan got asked a question about pranks on set and Mr. Hewlett’s discussion of something Jason Momoa did had Mr. Flanigan doubled over in the chair laughing. Another one involved someone (Mr. Flanigan, I gather) planting some rather…distasteful magazines in Mr. Hewlett’s trailer, which Mr. Hewlett then tucked inside Mr. Flanigan’s laptop. And of course he was the one stopped going through customs. Apparently the Customs lady was so disgusted that she just waved him through, while Mr. Flanigan was protesting all the while that it wasn’t his magazine. The end of this back and forth, by the way, was when I was laughing too hard to continue taking pictures.
Sunday, April 18, 2010
If I could sum up the theme of Sunday in a word, it would be family. The day started off with Mr. N. John Smith who has long been involved with the Stargate franchise. Mr. Smith discussed how he came to television from a boating background and went on to become an executive producer on the Stargates.
Mr. Smith also discussed how they ended up filming at the North Pole for the SG-1 movie Continuum. A fan, Barry Campbell, approached him, Martin Wood, and Andy Mikita at a convention and gave them a picture of himself next to the tower of a L.A. class nuclear submarine. Through Mr. Campbell and working in conjunction with the United States Navy, a select crew and several actors flew up a base-camp on the ice. If you’d like to hear more details, and watch the videos, you should check out the special features on the Continuum DVD – there’s a great featurette on their time in the Arctic.
After Mr. Smith my next panel was with Rachel Luttrell of SGA. Before fans started to ask questions, Ms. Luttrell talked a bit about some things she has coming up, one of which is a CD which she will be recording soon. This, of course, prompted a request for a demonstration, and so she performed a short little piece (of which I don’t know the name, sorry) on the spot. She was very, very good – which shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who watched SGA as she herself sang in an episode.
In answer to a fan’s question about whether she kept anything from the set with her as a memento after the series finished, Ms. Luttrell said that the only thing that she wanted was her chair from set: the one with her name on it. However, when she went to find it on the last day it was nowhere to be found. This topic came up later (over a New Year’s, if I’m recalling correctly) with Jason Momoa (her costar on SGA) and he apparently got quite the sheepish look on his face and admitted that he had taken it. It all worked out fine though, since Ms. Luttrell did end up getting the chair after all.
She also discussed some of the stunts that they did on Atlantis, and how she practiced a lot to be able to pull off the fight scenes herself. One fan asked whether she ever accidentally hurt someone, and she laughed then told a story about the episode “The Lost Boys”. In the episode Teyla is fighting Ronan, and Ms. Luttrell said that during one take she accidentally actually punched Jason Momoa in the eye, giving him a black eye. She said that he was quite the baby about it too, and that she had to buy him flowers the next day because he was still upset.
Relating to the family theme of the day, Ms. Luttrell’s two and a half year old son, who was also at the panel, decided about half-way through the panel that he wanted to go see his mother. Entirely unphased by the audience, lights, or cameras, he climbed up with Ms. Luttrell and sat with her for the rest of the panel, happy as can be. Ms. Luttrell also discussed her relationships with her costars, and how they really are like family, brothers, to her and that they still see each other as much as possible, schedules permitting.
Following Ms. Luttrell’s panel I had a rather long wait until the next panel, but it was entirely worth it. The SGU panel was one of the ones I was most looking forward to this past weekend, and it certainly did not disappoint. This panel, the largest that I attended, featured Brian J. Smith, David Blue, Elyse Levesque, and Mark Burgess, all of Stargate Universe.
One of the reasons I enjoyed this panel so much – aside from the fact that all 4 panelists were pretty awesome – was the way they played off each other to answer questions and relate stories to us about their times working on SGU so far. One topic that came up close to the beginning was how dog-friendly the set of the show is. One of their costars Louis Ferreira (who plays Col. Young) has two himself, and Brian has a King Charles Cavalier spaniel named Cassie. David and Elyse were ribbing Brian about the dog and how he’s always fussing and worrying about her.
When people started asking questions one of the first ones was about which shows they themselves watch. Elyse said that she doesn’t watch much, but watches Mad Men and True Blood. David said that he watches, well, far too many to list (and I can’t recall most of them). He said that it’s one thing he has in common with Eli, that he watches almost everything. The ones which stood out in my mind are Lost, Fringe, Big Bang Theory, and, of course, SGU. Brian said that he doesn’t watch much currently, but that last year he went through Battlestar: Galactica in about four months after prompting from David, and that he watches Dog the Bounty Hunter. Mr. Burgess said that he watches Flashpoint, Sanctuary, and several cooking shows – he used to be a chef.
Another fan asked the panelists who from the other Stargate series they would like to swap bodies with via the communications stones. Brian said that he would swap with a Furling – to much laughter. (If you aren’t familiar with SG-1, the Furling were an alien race who were mentioned near the beginning of the series but never actually met, much to many fans’ chagrin). Elyse said that she would like to swap with Amanda Tapping (Sam Carter) because she is “awesome”. David immediately said David Hewlett (McKay), but changed his answer to Michael Shanks (Daniel Jackson) because Dr. Jackson has become a “super ninja spy” and because he wants to do a scene with McKay and Eli going back and forth. To gales of laughter, Mr. Burgess contributed that he too would swap bodies with Amanda Tapping. Apparently they actually went to the same university back in Ontario together – small world.
At one point Elyse discussed an “accident” that happened on set at one point when they were filming at a quarry. She was trying to clamber over a gravel pile and Brian was trying to help her over when she slipped and sliced her shin open. Apparently blood went everywhere, and there was an ambulance called in; she was “scarred for life”. While she told the story Brian, to much laughter from the audience, mimed out parts of the story: from an exaggerated sad face, to an ambulance driver, to an exaggerated happy face for the ending. He joked that “that’s what four years at Juilliard gets you”.
Not only did they talk about some of their experiences shooting episodes, but they also talked a bit about some of their costars. Apparently Mr. Ferreira, utterly unlike his serious character, is quite the joker on set and has played a couple pranks on people, Robert Carlyle for one. Mr. Carlyle, Bobby to his costars, was very highly spoken of. I actually bumped into him myself while grocery shopping a couple weeks ago, and he was extremely nice and very friendly. Elyse and David talked a bit about how Elyse has her own “Scottish” accent – which she says isn’t that great – and that while helping David read through lines from Divided he kept cracking up because she would read Mr. Carlyle’s lines in her “accent”.
The cast also talked a bit about their experience shooting in the desert for the pilot down in New Mexico, and how they had been joking about the tan/burn lines that they would have when they got back, only to actually look like that when they returned. David mentioned that they actually had burns like they do in the pilot. Mr. Burgess, to much laughter, passed on words of advice from someone who was advising him about the desert: “If you did not drop it, do not pick it up”. Which he then went on to say is probably good advice for anything.
One thing which really struck me while watching this panel is that while these guys (mostly) play friends on the show, that dynamic is far more pronounced off screen and they seem like great friends, not just coworkers. Peter Kelamis (who plays Brody on SGU) and Mark Savela (the visual effects supervisor for SGU) were also there to support the panelists, and I, for one, had a great time visiting with both of them again.
I had a great time this past weekend watching all the panelists, and I would happily see any of them again. There is only one change I would make to the SGU panel: I want to see even more of the cast up there next year!
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