The Art of Festival Planning Pt. 3

Categories:  Features, Interviews

Here’s the short final part of the conversation between myself and Sarah Morean, in which we compare notes about planning indie comics conventions. Last month I was involved in the programming for the MoCCA Festival in New York City. Morean is currently hard at work launching the first-ever Minneapolis Indie Xpo (MIX).

Reading back on the piece, I’d be remiss if it didn’t point out the unmistakable irony of suggesting that a certain panel type is arguable too “inside baseball.” After all, it doesn’t get much more insidery than a conversation like this.

That said, I suppose there’s a value in such conversations–and panels–so long as there are enough people inside who care to sit up and take notice.

[Part One][Part Two]

SM: We’re you worried about attendance for your panels?

BH: Yeah, but that’s more symptomatic of me as a person. I worry about everything.

SM: Me too.

BH: There’s nothing that could have happened that would have made me not worried that the panels wouldn’t have been well attended. Everything seemed to work out. The superhero panel, we had to turn a lot of people away at the door.

SM: Cool.

BH: Well, yeah, but not for the people who were waiting for half an hour to get in… But it was a concern, because I know we’re not at a point where programming is a focus for a show. This was the first show for which I followed the online reaction really closely afterwards.

Save for a couple of the larger ones, people weren’t really discussing the panels all that much online. It’s not really the focus of the show—I don’t know that it necessarily should be—obviously I felt it should be a bigger focused just based on the fact that I invested so much time in it. It makes sense, though, that the floor is really the focal point for the show.

A chief concern for me, going into it, was my own experiences—when I’ve gone to shows in the past, my main focus is making sure I get out of the floor and look at as many books as possible.

One of the balances we were trying to strike—and I don’t know if we did a perfect job at it—was having some people on the panels who aren’t huge draws, but are still important in the community. At the same time, you want to have so big names on a panel, to ensure that you’re not just playing to an empty room. I’ve done panels at New York Comic Con in a gigantic room where 20 seats are filled. It’s really disheartening.

SM: Yeah. That’s my concern with the panels. When I go to the panels I’m interested in, those are the kinds of crowds that they draw [laughs]. At SPX, I went to a comics journalism panel, and it was pretty thin. I think that the average comics fan doesn’t really care.

BH: Exactly. That was one of the panels I was on that was virtually empty. You’re really risking getting way too inside baseball on a panel like that. If you’re doing a panel about comics journalism, who are you appealing to, outside of other comics journalists?

SM: Yeah, which are—

BH: Which are the people on the panel.

SM: Yeah. All five of them are all tied up.

BH: I don’t think most people care. Nor should they. Maybe this is on us, but there aren’t a heck of a lot of superstar comics journalists in the world, right now.

SM: Yeah. Tom Spurgeon always comes to mind.

BH: Sure, but Tom Spurgeon is a rock star to you and to me…

SM: But I think, when you’re a creator, the first time that you show up on the Comics Reporter, that’s a big deal. I think that’s important.

–BH