Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Celebs, Autographs, and Photo Ops

UPDATED: June 2012

I always see a lot of questions related to media guests/celebrities. Having an opportunity to meet some of my TV icons was what originally brought me to con in the first place, so let me clear up some FAQs.

Autographs:

Practically all media guests charge a fee to sign something. It usually starts from $15 for lesser known people, and can get quite pricey for the big names. Most of them have tables in the Walk of Fame, a giant ballroom in the Hilton. The mega names have their own individual room to avoid huge lines that interfere with other guests’ lines. Each table will have its own line for fans to wait in. There’s typically a handler/agent beside the guest that handles the money and plays bad guy to deny certain inappropriate fan requests. The table will have some 8x10 pictures available to be signed in case you don’t bring something from home. These are typically free if you pay to have it signed. The Walk of Fame hours are basically 10am-7pm (except it starts at 1pm on Friday). Most media guests will in there to sign unless they have a panel or are going to eat.

Ray Park signing autographs.

Autograph prices are not posted on the main website. Your best bet is to research forums pertaining to that guest, or seeing if other conventions list prices (I know MegaCon and the Wizard World ones do).

The things I’ve said do not apply to authors and literary guests. They have specific signing times that are posted in the program, and I believe they do it for free (as long as you’ve bought their book).

SIDE NOTE: While you can technically go up to a guest's table and talk to them for free, their handler may give you the evil eye or rush you along. A few guests are also said to be jerks about it if you don't buy an autograph. As a precaution and just as a token of my appreciation for that person's work, I'll generally fork out money for an auto so that I can have a nice conversation with them in peace.

Photo-ops

Photos are a little bit more complicated, and it depends entirely on the guest.

1. Some will not allow any photography at all in the Walk of Fame at their table. Can’t snap a candid of them signing, not one of them smiling for your camera, and certainly not a posed pic with you and the guest.

2. Some will allow you to take a picture OF them, but not WITH them. This typically applies to bigger names who have a contract with one of the two professional photographers who work the convention (Froggy and Craig Damon). In this case, you need to either buy the pre-sale pictures from the photographer’s website, or buy a photo-op ticket on site. I’d suggest on site because the refund process for last minute cancellations can get tricky. However, a very popular guest may sell out, so keep that in mind as a good reason to buy pre-sale.

A professional photo op with Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk.

3. Some will allow you to take a picture WITH them at the table, but will charge a fee. It’s often cheaper than the professional photographer’s fee because it’s not being split between parties. Some guests will do both—pics with your camera, as well as pics with the photographers.

A photo with Edward James Olmos using my camera.

A little more info about the two photographer services. People have a lot of hate mail for Froggy, but they’ve always been nice to me. Valid complaints against them can include customer service or slow e-mail response. But things out of their control are equipment failure or late guest arrivals. You also can’t help the rapid rate at which they move people along, because there’s no other way to fit in 100 people wanting a picture with Joe Celebrity within a 15 minute span. There are guests lined up from 10am-7pm and they have to stay on schedule. If you want to talk to the celebrity or give them a gift, do that at their table. The photo area is just for a quick hello and a photograph.

Craig Damon handles a smaller pool of guests, so the lines are often shorter, and you are not as rushed. However I feel his prices are a little bit higher on average. Both services provide extra copies or original JPEG files for a fee.

Overall, getting photos and autos can add up quickly in expenses. I've spent over $500 before in a given convention weekend, but thankfully that amount is decreasing each year since I've met many of the guests already. I've also cut down on autographs in general and just focus on photo ops.

Last note: PLEASE be aware any of the guests can cancel their appearance at the last minute due to work or scheduling conflicts.

New for 2012!
- A website called Celebrity Authentics is sponsoring certain guests. They're doing an internet pre-sale for autograph and photo-op tickets. I assume some tickets will be left over to be sold on site.
- Froggy and Craig Damon have also posted pre-sales on their sites. More names will be added as the weeks pass.

Monday Morning Special!
- By Monday morning, most guests have 1) already left or 2) are still hungover in their room. However, a select few will show up in the Walk of Fame and this is your best chance to get an auto or photo with your camera for a discounted fee. Not a guarantee but it never hurts to ask politely and try to haggle a bit. You may also get a longer than usual conversation with them.

Will xxx be coming this year? / How can I get xxx to come to Dragon*Con?
- First, check the guest list page. Other than that, no one knows in advance except for the directors and staff that are in charge of booking guests. If you want a particular individual to come, try to get a hold of them via snail mailing their agents or social networking pages and get them to fill out a guest application.

What if you run into a celebrity in the hallway?
- Depends on the guest. If they’re drinking at the bar and having a good time, they’ll probably be in a good mood and oblige a photo request or talk to you for a bit. If they’re eating with their friends, it’s probably rude to interrupt them. I just say hello or wave if I walk by someone I recognize. They’re just trying to enjoy the con like everyone else and I don’t want to get in their way.