May 2010


Between 7th and 9th of May 2010 I attended Starfury: Echo 1, the worlds first Dollhouse convention, at the Thistle Hotel, Heathrow, London. The guests attending were Tahmoh Penikett, Fran Kranz, Enver Gjokai, Dichen Lachman and Miracle Laurie who also brought along her fiance (also an actor) Christopher May.

Saturday and Sunday of a Starfury convention follow pretty much the same pattern. Photo shoots in the morning, guest talks in the afternoon, autograph sessions in the early evening which lead to huge party sessions that go way into the night.

On the Saturday night is a fancy dress (costume) competition, which is judged by the guests, and this is the night that the guests tend to hang out at the bar and on the dancefloor. Sunday night is the closing ceremony where everyone gets emotional.

Many of the questions and stories told in the guest talks on the Saturday are repeated on the Sunday as people can’t always make both sessions (especially people like me who steward during the day), and consequently the talks merge into one and I can’t remember what was said on what day. So I’ll merge the talks into guests rather than days.

As I mentioned in the Friday report Enver Gjokaj is just a natural actor, he entertains without any apparent effort. Many of the questions revolved around everyone’s favorite imprint, Kiki. Enver told us that the inspiration for this came from a wrap party where he just started doing the dance. Unfortunately Jed Whedon and Maurissa Tancheroen were witnesses and, as happens when you reveal a talent to a Whedon, you end up doing it on the show. Tim Minear came up with the whole episode specifically so that they could get Enver to do the dance. (Enver showed us later that night just what a good dancer he actually is, but no Kiki unfortunately.)

On the day of filming, there were a lot of extras for the night club scene. When they blocked the scene, Enver didn’t do the full dance, so when they started shooting the extra’s didn’t know what they were in for. They were told, this guy’s gonna be doing this crazy dance, you look over at him, but just from the corner of your eyes, he’s just some crazy guy doing a dance. They didn’t reckon with the power of the Enver-Kiki dance and the extras were just staring at him, mouths agape on the first take. The directors yelled cut, and then no, no, you need to just glance at him. Twenty takes later, they wrapped the scene and Enver asked director David Soloman if they got what they wanted, “yeah,” he said, “we got it on take five!” That rascal.

When asked if he had taken anything from the Dollhouse set, Enver told us about a suit that he had worn that he had really liked. It was an outrageously expensive designer suit and he had asked Fox if he could buy it from them, but they point blank refused. Then Fox stared selling of props and clothing on eBay, and Enver kept an eye out for the suit appearing, and when it did, he bid on it and won it for a couple hundred bucks. A fraction of the price he had been willing to pay Fox for it, and an even smaller fraction of what it is worth. I kinda love that story. A lot.

Both Enver and Fran Kranz were a little in awe of Olivia Williams. They both spoke of her with much admiration and respect. Enver was very conscious of his English accent when acting with her. Fran, the hyperactive one, who had to work with her the most, was particularly in awe of her. Fran (as you can see from this video) is always screwing his lines up, laughing and, one would imagine, generally goating around on set. Olivia would just stand there, still in character, waiting patiently for him to compose himself. Which of course, just made matters worse.

Fran spoke a lot about the scene where he and Adelle are stoned. She would tell him, “Darling, you’re doing pot, this is more like mushrooms.” Oh to be a fly on the wall at her college parties.

Fran and Enver (both out of work at the moment) also talked about how it was hard to find satisfying work after having got their big break on a Joss Whedon show. None of the scripts they receive or parts they may go up for are on a par with what they have already done. They have been spoiled by Joss’ words and the roles he has given them. This is a familiar theme with Whedonverse actors, especially the younger ones.

Tahmoh seemed a lot more comfortable in a group setting than when he was on his own. Unfortunately I missed his talk with Miracle, but caught him in the group talk at the end of Sunday which was genuinely the best talk of the weekend. The story about the sock (the skin-coloured garment worn to cover up one’s manhood when doing nude scenes) and the shower scene I will tease you with, but not repeat. You’ll just have to come next year and see if he’ll tell it again.

He did tell a great story about a fan encounter one time when Battlestar Galactica was just in it’s first couple seasons. I won’t even try and tell it as well as he did, but the basics where, he was out in a shopping mall with one of his cast mates when this one huge, huge body builder of a guy (and you’ve seen Tahmoh right, if he thought the guy was huge….) kept looking at him and eventually the guy started to walk over to them with a real mean look on his face. Tahmoh thought he was going to have to fight this guy, the way he was walking over to him and got ready to defend himself, so he was surprised when the guy just geeked out and was all “Oh my God, you’re Helo, right from Battlestar Galactica, oh man, I love that show”. Tahmoh told him he thought he was coming over to fight him, the way he looked and the guy said, “oh no, that’s just how I look.”

The jedi chefs were mentioned, Tahmoh is a jedi-chef of some years standing (if you don’t know about the Jedi Chefs, go to www.jedichefs.com and when Jedi Chefthis picture appeared online some of his friends back home got a little concerned about him. He received a long email from a friend basically saying, “I don’t know what you’re doing out there in L.A. Alcohol, drugs, whatever, but we’re concerned about you and we’re here for you if you need us.”

I missed both of Miracle’s talks unfortunately, though I did catch small parts of it from my position perched outside the green room. Miracle and her fiance Chris May have a Ukulele band, Uke Box Heroes, in which they do covers on the ukulele. Miracle just has the most beautiful voice. You can check them out at www.myspace.com/ukeboxheroes. Chris, also an actor, had a small part in the Buffy episode, Life Serial, he has recently appeared in Heroes. As Chris took the stage so that they could perform a few songs, Miracle remembered a tweet of my friend Kirsty’s where she had said she would like to re-enact the scene between Buffy and Chris’ character, so Miracle called her up on stage so she could do just that.

Finally, Dichen, sweet as ever, was cajoled into telling the embarrassing story of her first ever Hollywood premiere experience by Gossi. After moving out to L.A., her first job was a sci-fi channel original movie (yup we all know how badly those work out) Aztec Wrecks. Naively, Dichen thought this would be kind of another Jurassic Park style movie and was very excited about it. Even when she got to the set and saw the dinosaurs, she thought they must just be props and they would CGI then so they would look awesome for the finished film. Wrong. As part of the deal the film was to be shown theatrically and it opened at a theatre on Sunset Avenue. Dichen rang the cinema ahead to see if she would need to book tickets in advance, they said, no, just come along. So she did. And she watched the film, in an empty cinema, with a homeless person. Poor Deech.

So those were the talks, and I’m sure I left a whole boatload of stuff out. I was going to include the parties in this, but I think this blog has gone on long enough as it is, so I will try and write those up tomorrow.

Between 7th and 9th of May 2010 I attended Starfury: Echo 1, the worlds first Dollhouse convention, at the Thistle Hotel, Heathrow, London. The guests attending were Tahmoh Penikett, Fran Kranz, Enver Gjokai, Dichen Lachman and Miracle Laurie who also brought along her husband (also an actor) Christopher May.

I arrived in London on Wednesday night having plans to visit Rhiarti on the Thursday and then have all day Friday to catch up with friends before the convention kicked off on Friday night.

After staying up late to watch the ever more soul destroying election results, we headed off for a leisurely lunch at The White Horse, otherwise known as the best pub in the whole world that will not now be bulldozed to make way for Terminal 3. Got one thing to thank Camerlegg (that’s what I’m calling them and you can#t stop me) for anyhow I guess. Here we caught up with some old friends, met some new ones and got excited for the opening ceremony and meet and greet.

Eating, drinking and chatting were the order of the day until it was time to get changed for the opening ceremony and head to the Thistle. The opening ceremony consists of convention organiser Sean Harry introducing each guest and bringing them out on the stage where they stare in nervous awe at the crowd and try to think of something cool to say. Tahmoh, Miracle and Dichen were old hands at this and knew what to expect, but Fran Kranz and Enver Gjokaj (who, despite Miracle’s little tweet faux pas appeared to still be an unexpected guest to many people) were very clearly overwhelmed by the support.

You can watch an edited video of the Opening Ceremony here.

With the opening ceremony over and several drinks in us, the gold ticket holders headed for the meet and greet. An informal reception where the lucky (for lucky read more money than sense) few get to mingle with the guests for a couple of hours. Our table had already made arrangements to chair hop so that everyone who wanted got a chance to sit near a guest, rather than the same two people sandwiching them in.

Tahmoh Penikett was first to our table and fit very snuggly into the space that Penikitty and I had left for him. We had plotted a card and cake for him for some time ago as it was his birthday coming up in two weeks. He was very pleased and surprised that we knew his birthday and loved his presents. He definitely liked our table and said we were very ‘warm’, explaining that sometimes these things were weird as people would just sit and stare at him and he wouldn’t know what to say. We made sure and asked him questions.

Tahmoh's Card

Dichen was next up, and it was all change so that fifinoir and carlosimous could sit next to her. She was having lots of fun at our table, joking and laughing and ignoring her PA’s attempts to get her to move to the next table. At one point we turned to see Miracle waiting patiently to sit with us, so Penikitty took the opportunity to give her the present that she had bought her. It was a Vegesarous t-shirt that Miracle had commented on at the last convention and Miracle wore it all the next day.

When Dichen eventually moved on, Miracle sat down and went around the table pointing out everyone she had met last year in an ‘I know you, I know you, you’re new, you’re new’ way. Her fiancé Chris had recognised me earlier and said hi. I love these guys. We talked about her little tweet spoiler and about politics for awhile, she was fascinated by our election process and the outcome.

Enver was up next, he was very happy with all the little treats on our table as he was hungry and he tucked in heartily with an “Hmm, don’t mind if I do”. He is an absolute riot to be around, part of it was probably nervous energy but mostly he is just a born showman who is always ‘on’, much like Vincent Kartheiser. He is a natural talent and slipped into several characters at the blink of an eye, including Victopher, much to our delight. He spoke of Olivia and how nerve racking it was to work with her, but more of that in tomorrow’s blog. We also spoke of Previously on Point Dume (which if you haven’t seen go and watch now at www.previouslyonpointdume.com and he told us he would be filming another four episodes when he got back.

Fran was the last to the table. He was probably the one who was most overwhelmed and quite nervous but such a great, great guy. We talked a lot about Cabin in the Woods and his aptitude for accidentally dropping spoilers when he was nervous and getting into whole heaps of trouble. He also talked a lot about working with Olivia Williams, which again, I will leave for tomorrow’s blog otherwise I will have nothing to say.

After he left the table, I took the rest of the Turkish Delights across to Enver, who was delighted, and gave me another “Hmmm, don’t mind if I do”.

My words can never do these guys justice, they are some of the nicest people I have ever met and I truly hope that they all go on to get more and more wonderful opportunities to show off their talent.

So that was the meet and greet, then it was time for much dancing and drunken tomfoolery, which we will not go into here.

My day yesterday was so packed with fun-filled awesomeness that I couldn’t fit in a little bloggy anywhere. So here is my blog for yesterday.

Waking up just before my alarm as usual, I had that normal comfortable feeling of being in own bed, which was strange because I was certain I had gone to sleep in a hotel room. Opening my eyes revealed that I hadn’t suddenly been transported home against my will.

I bounced out of bed and hit the gym, which was blissfully empty, for a quick session before getting ready to go and meet Rhiarti in leafy Surrey. The journey was pretty uneventful, and we hit all our connections in time, to find Rhiarti waiting for us at the station, and not even looking like she had hurried to meet us.

This was Carl’s first time, there so we thought it only right that we showed him the local sights of the Post Office and chemist before hitting the pub, where Carl started planning his invasion (first target, Rhiarti’s place of work).

This little pub is gorgeous, so different from most of the local pubs back at home. The menu, while not extensive, has restaurant quality food with presentation to match. Very different from the standard pie and peas fare in the locals back home.

After lunch the sun made an appearance and we went for a stroll around the very accessible countryside and suddenly found ourselves in the little French cake shop on the main street. Not sure how that happened, but as we were there we felt obliged to have cake. Horrid, horrid cake with chocolately chocolately chocolateness. Ugh.

The sun still being around, and not being in any hurry to leave, we ended the evening in a beer garden, and the time to get back on the train came around all too quickly. The afterglow of an awesome day soon broken by the reality of the forthcoming election results hitting.

The whole thing is far too depressing for me to even contemplate blogging about now, suffice to say that I am at least thankful I voted by post and avoided being stuck in a queue of people who were denied that right courtesy, of extreme bad planning.

My Blogging plans for today have been foiled by a complete lack of electricery on the train. I couldn’t use my laptop at all as it is elderly and the battery is there now just for weight and decoration. I didn’t want to run the risk of my iPhone running battery running low and separating me from Twitter.

So here I am in my hotel room trying to cobble together a few words that make sense. I’m basically at, blog bad, bed pretty.

The best I could come up with was ny weekend agenda.

Thursday I will be meeting Rhiarti for lunch, conversation and cake. Yes. There WILL be cake.

Friday marks the start of the Dollhouse Battlester Galactica convention, Echo 1, where I will spend the evening hob nobbing with Tahmoh Penikett, Dichen Lachman, Miracle Laurie, Fran Kranz and maybe a couple surprises.

Saturday and Sunday will be much guest talking, photograph having and autograph getting with a large amount of alcohol intake and probably some dancing.

Monday I will return home in a coma.

Have a great weekend everyone.

Blog bad, bed pretty.

Warning: There are big spoilers for True Blood season one and mild spoilers for season two contained herein.

I recently purchased Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels to provide me with some easy reading while on holiday. I have a thing about reading in public, I really can’t do it, certainly not with anything that requires a modicum of concentration. I tend to get so engrossed in the book that all around me is blocked out, and yet I still retain that child’s curiosity where I can’t bear to not be involved in what is going on around me. So when I want to read my favourite Dickens, or lose myself in Thomas Hardy’s words, I lock myself away somewhere. If I want something to keep me amused in quiet times by the pool I buy something that doesn’t require one hundred percent of my attention.

Unfortunately, I also have an inability to leave unread books just lying around unread. So instead of reserving Sookie and her vampiric adventures for leisurely holiday perusal, I have picked them up and gone through the first two already.

True Blood, the HBO series based on the books, is one of my favorite current series. I have been assured by everybody I know who has already read the books that, other than the main characters, the books bear little resemblance to the TV series. I assumed it may be similar to how Dexter worked. The first season followed the story of Darkly Dreaming Dexter, but Showtime only retained the rights to the first book, so subsequent seasons bore no resemblance whatsoever to the subsequent books.

While people continue to assure me that the books and the series are not the same thing, I beg to differ as far as the first two books and TV seasons go. Granted, the first book, Dead Until Dark, is not a full enough story to make a feature length movie out of, let alone a 13 part TV season. True Blood season one follows the base storyline of Dead Until Dark; girl meets vampire, dates vampire, people start dying, girl’s brother is the suspect, but not, as it turns out, the murderer. The books are written in first person and while Sookie and Bill are quite rounded characters, the background characters remain just that. Whereas in the show, they are much more fleshed out with subplots and storylines of their very own.

True Blood season two follows Living Dead in Dallas in the same manner, although I am on UK time with this show so haven’t seen the full season as yet. Again, it’s a couple of hundred pages book, so the TV series is a much fleshed out and sub-plotty version that follows the basic plot line. Vampires in Dallas need Sookie’s help to find a missing brother who has been kidnapped by The Fellowship of the Sun. This book manages to have a small subplot of it’s own, with the maenad making an appearance at the beginning and again at the end of the book, while the Dallas storyline takes up most of the in between part.

And then, right at the end, there is a, actually rather cool, revelation about Bill’s past, which I am kinda hoping they keep in the series, because there is so much conflict and story potential in it. On the other hand, if they do include this in the series, it’s quite a huge revelation and I really would have rather seen it play out on the screen than in the much inferior book.

Now, I am very wary of starting the third book, in case True Blood series three follows the story in the same way it has with the first two books. I just don’t see how I can avoid it without starting on the back up holiday books or paying another visit to Amazon.

A couple of weeks ago I had the crazy idea of heading to London for the day to see the UK premiere of Whedonverse actor (who I am also proud to call friend) Jonathan Woodward’s new film, Drones. My decision to go apparently caused about six other people to purchase tickets too.

Arising at the crack of why am I awake, I set off for the 7:50 train to Leeds. I am not generally very enamoured of the folks that inhabit my town but I manged to share my journey with the vilest of Jeremy Kyle rejects one could hope to meet.

Grandmother reject (all of about 30) bounced babe in arms reject, who appears to have the added misfortune of the burden of the name Miley for the rest of her life, on her knee while mother reject was encouraging said child to ‘bitch slap’ and ”headbutt”. Miley performed the actions flawlessly while giggling happily.

In contrast, on the Leeds to London train I met a lovely couple who were heading to Bruges for their silver wedding anniversary. We chatted the whole trip away.

On arrival at Kings Cross I was rather surprised and confused to find Ash waiting for me. Mainly because I was expecting Grant and Fiona, who were actually waiting at St Pancras, with Syriah.

From there we headed to the cinema to pick up our tickets and then to lunch where we were joined by Connie and Emma. We lounged and chatted until it was time to go back to the cinema an meet up with Ben and and the rest of the crew.

Things were running a little late and there was more hanging until Jonathan flurried in with hugs all around.

The theatre itself was plush and packed. Lovely, comfy, roomy chairs and I had a great seat with a centre view. I was surprised at how many faces I didn’t recognize. The film, which was directed by Amber Benson and Adam Busch, and written by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker, was a sell out and appeared to have a good non fanbase turnout which was awesome.

Drones, with the tagline ‘Close Encounters of the Office Kind’, is described as ‘The Office’ meets ‘Third Rock From The Sun’, and is delightfully quirky, at times cringingly awkward, with plenty of laugh out loud funny moments. It was written in a week with the mandate, ‘we have an office space in Louisiana to film in, write something set in an office that can be filmed in two weeks on a budget of peanuts and jelly beans’. Most of the parts were written with the specific actors in mind, which I always find helps with the naturalness of the performances and the flow of the story.

Moving on to the story, without giving too much away, this revolves around office drone Brian (Woodward) who is perfectly happy with his corporate office droning life, until he accidentally discovers that others in the office, including his best friend Clark (Samm Levine), are perhaps not all at they appear to be and have their own otherworldly agendas.

Drones certainly makes for easy and enjoyable viewing and the cast, particularly Woodward and Angela Bettis (who plays love interest Amy), have great comedy timing and some rather brilliant reaction shots, one of which, Jonathan explained, was achieved by seeing how long he could hold his breath, a tactic which backfired when cast member, Marc Evan Jackson (who plays Ian), took longer than expected over the scene.

It’s certainly great to see Jonathan in a starring role as it’s often easy to forget he is an actor when one sees him so often off the screen. Maybe now he is based in the UK, it’s time we saw him on the stage, too.

The film was received very well and got a nice round of applause at the end and then it was time for a brief Q&A, the highlight of which was an unenlightened member of the audience who asked exactly what Joss Whedon projects Jonathan had worked on. The spurt of hilarity that came from a large section of the audience surely sent him as far down in his chair as he could manage (in case you don’t know too he played Holden in the Buffy season seven episode ‘Conversations With Dead People’, Tracey in the Firefly episode ‘The Message’ and Knox in the season four finale of Angel, ‘Home’ and then recurring through Season Five).

After the Q&A session we hung back and chatted with Jonathan for a little while and then left him to chat up the guys from Blizzard with a view to getting his hands on the latest Diablo.

Our group then split, some heading home and the hardcore five heading back to the pub.

All in all an amazing day and well worth the day trip to London. Now to pack for my next trip down on er… Wednesday.

For more information on Drones including a trailer and details of future screenings go to www.dronesmovie.com.

You can find Amber Benson on Twitter @Amber_Benson, Adam Busch @adambusch and Jonathan Woodward at @jonnywallet.

One of the reasons I enjoy my job, despite my moaning, grumbling and general whininess about it most days, is that there can be days (well nights) like yesterday. Nothing if not varied.

I turned up to work in an inordinate amount of good mood. It was my last night at work before 10 days off which will be filled with funpacked awesomeness. Just a measly 10 hours and I would be free.

It wasn’t long before my happy turned to extreme amounts of stress. My job as police dispatcher can be very stressful, but the job related stress is something I usually thrive on. It’s computer-rage I struggle with, more and more so as the force keep deciding to replace perfectly good, if in need of an upgrade or two, software with brand new software that is seriously not fit for purpose. Like our command and control system that doesn’t allow multi-tasking because, in the police, we just deal with one job at a time. Added to this, is the new mapping system that any training sessions for have been scheduled during the day. I work nights. Yeah, it’s not hard to work out, but a little time to find my way around it before I have to give someone some vital information fast would be nice.

I took a little break to clear my head and when I came back, my colleague had allowed three walkers to go missing out on the Pennine Way. I immediately snapped out of it and was suddenly all business again. It’s for this kind of thing that I joined the job, it’s dealing with this sort of thing that makes me feel like I am doing something worth while. Organising, coordinating and providing communications for the search took several hours (and conveniently, considerable use of the mapping system giving me the opportunity to play with it) and thankfully we found them safe and well, if a little cold and hungry within that time. We went back to the usual business of dealing with drunken foolishness.

Towards the end of the evening we went out to deal with a lady who had reported an assault. On speaking to the lady, the officers found that she had been a little neglectful with her medication and was hallucinating. She told the officers she had been assaulted by vampires, her lack of neck wound aroused their suspicion and so she produced the photographic evidence, which was, the officer relayed to me over the radio, inconclusive. I advised him I would hold off on beeping Buffy until we were clear that there was an apocalypse at hand. And so, the evening came full circle and ended as it had started; me in a good mood and tripping down the office cheerily announcing that I would see everyone in a couple of weeks.

Let the funpacked awesomeness commence.

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