100 Stories about 100 People. #92. Brent S.
I've been to a lot of geek conventions in my life. Even wrote a game about them I was so familiar. I've attended the conventions, staffed conventions and sold at conventions. I've been to conventions across the country and in several states. It wasn't until Dallas that I found a convention that would have me for senior staff. That's when I met Brent.
UnCommoncon was a convention set in Dallas, specifically at the airport. Dallas has tons of conventions that seem to be hits, where Houston is where conventions usually go to die. I volunteered to help UnCommoncon as just a rank grunt, mainly to avoid paying to get in. When asked what experience I had, I impressed them with my history of conventions and was asked to attend a planning meeting. Brent was already in charge of gaming when I got there, that was something we already had in common.
Conventions are a true nightmare to plan. You need several people you can trust, tens of thousands of dollars and a business savvy most people can only dream of. You will deal with drunk guests, unreasonable celebrities, and every possible logistical nightmare you can imagine. If you do it yourself and you've discovered the fastest way to get an ulcer. If you trust the wrong people then you get to watch things get undone. There is no easy way to put together a convention.
Brent had the unenviable task of putting together multiple tournaments and play sessions for a large amount of people with varied tastes. Program the wrong games and you get events nobody shows up for. If you don't program the right games you get a lot of angry people looking for games that don't exist. I understood his pains. Brent and I quickly became friends and when it came time to vote, we always voted in block. The one thing he didn't warn me about was the movie room.
Somebody had to program the movie rooms. We had four, which is a very large amount of movie rooms for a convention of this size. We had that many because one film studio, Troma, had agreed to pay for them on the grounds they had a dedicated room just for them. No problem, conventions are expensive and if a guest wants to help shoulder the cost, more power to them. Now UnCommoncon just needed someone to run it. When the head con guy asked who wanted to run the movie rooms, I was the last one to say not it. I was the movie room guy. Brent just offered his condolences. I later found out why nobody wanted this job.
There were four rooms to program. Troma had a list of what they wanted shown, so that wasn't a problem. I took a cheap out and programmed a cult classic theater, movies you should have seen but haven't. When I asked everybody what they wanted in the room literally all the votes came back Office Space. I had to send out a second poll asking what other movies did they want to see. The next up was an audience participation theater, I pawned that off to a friend of mine that ran a bad movie club. Coming up with 72 hours of pure trash is much harder than it sounds. Then came the anime room. I hate anime. It's cliche, with cookie cutter characters and just idiotic plot lines. I'll take Kurisawa any day. With my built in prejudice towards that medium, I didn't have an idea what to show. Brent sent me the names of two anime clubs to program it for me.
Anime clubs don't get along. Personalities clash and egos get bruised in them. I found out the two clubs didn't like each other at all. I asked for the programming and weeks later I heard nothing from them. I had the other three rooms ready to go and with a week left I had no anime to show. I finally got both of them together and asked what the problem was. They both blamed each other. I told them if I didn't have an anime room programmed by tomorrow I was going to show the same episode of Speed Racer for 72 hours straight. Commercials included. This was before DVD, so it was just a VHS tape I recorded the previous day. They said I was bluffing. I told them to try me. I had my programming the next day.
The second UnCommoncon was a disaster and the con died. I stayed in the con scene in Dallas for a few years, always with Brent. He ran a Dallas Game Day for years, and I made as many as I could. We're still friends, he even ran my last booth at the last A-Kon. If anybody needs to organize a convention, can't recommend anyone better.