Marcel Buelles, who is the chairman of the German Tolkiensociety and co-organiser of RingCon, wrote to me about the process behind organising an event like RingCon, the problems and highlight they had and much more…
The story behind RingCon – and New Lines mistakes…
When Stefan Servos aka Cirdan from herr-der-ringe-film.de and me talked about doing the first ever Tolkien convention with people from the trilogy we thought it would never happen. We were really excited but being a fan of this book and organising smaller events with the German Tolkien Society I knew this would be so expensive and so hard to do – we’d never thought it would turn into this magnificent weekend we all just had. To all you people especially in the US I would like to write a few lines about the backgrounds of Ring*Con2002.
The beginnings of Ring*Con2002
It all began with an event company asking me about doing a con early this year – I had written the booklet and some other material for the German radio adaptation and one event manager had read my name. A phone call later I was in their office listening to what they were proposing and I immediately decided to have Cirdan on board as we have been working together brilliantly in the last few years.
Some weeks and many talks later we both knew that this company was only out for the buck – and dropped them. On our search for a competent partner we turned to the FedCon Ltd. who are doing the biggest Trek Event in Europe, the FedCon. It was a wise choice – they had the will and the expertise to get things going in less than six months!
Cirdan started making phone calls, I started writing tons of emails and many, many people started advertising for the convention. It really was hard work, especially for Cirdan – talking to agents sometimes is cool – and sometimes not 😉 The fans over here in Germany were so supportive – without them all our work would have been nothing!
When John Rhys-Davies said yes to coming to the convention we knew we had put together something that people would really enjoy. And then he had to say no – a big disappointment. However, now with hinsight we are happy to have had people with us who are not only fascinating people and magnificent entertainers but also still have the chance of walking among the fans without being killed by hundreds of mad little girls (although that nearly happened with Craig and Mark ;)) I think Orlando should watch out for these men!
Warner Bros. – less than helpful, and the societies in Europe
I have had the chance of meeting buddies from Greece and their chairwoman, I have talked to the Dutch, the Hungarians etc. Even though one society or so in Europe may have had positive experiences with their distributors it still has turned out to be the fact that all countries where Tolkien fans are all excited about the trilogy and have Warner Bros. as the respective company support by WB is basically zero.
Fans from all over Europe are now starting to organise themselves to do their own conventions, film premieres and other amazing events and all of them will have to do without the Major WB. Ring*Con2002 has turned out to be a big success in spite of their unwillingness to do proper marketing.
Catering to the fans is free advertisement to the film trilogy. The biggest mistake New Line has made in Europe is to give distribution to WB. Due to their behaviour fans are disappointed and frustrated who would love to go to conventions and many other things beside. However, how must a fan feel when he or she knows that the company taking care of marketing for it doesn’t care about it all? Just guess 🙁
Walking a fine line – the fans and commercial events
Many people -especially those who care about the books and take no interest in the film hype at the moment- have written to me and Cirdan why we actually came up with something that in their eyes is commercial.
There is an easy answer to this – if we hadn’t done it would have been without fan forums’ meetings, without lectures, workshops, without anything that has to do with the worldwide community and of course the marvellous mythology the Professor has created. Instead it would have been a mere sales fair including three or four members of the Fellowship, a big WB sign over the entrance and no literary or community connection at all.
We do hope that we have opened up a door to all you people out there that have written on it in big letters “Do it yourself! The fans can do it themselves and they do it best!”
There were many moments in the last six months where the German Tolkien Society was close to saying “We can’t do it” because of the critique sent to us. I even offered my post as chairman to our AGM in August but the 100 members present all said no and told me to proceed with what we were doing. And they were right in telling me to do so. It was so magic – meeting old friends and getting to know many, many new ones! The much too short talks I had I will never forget – especially with all those people coming from abroad!
Ring*Con2002 – a German thing or international?
Some have complained that too many lectures were in German, that too many events were not in English. That is not quite right – all major events like the panels with actors were of course in English and our splendid host, Marc B. Lee, obviously did everything in English. I changed my talks to the English language as well as I feared that we might not have enough for the English speaking people – but I think we managed quite well if you keep in mind we had less than six months! All of the German experts have readily agreed to do ALL lectures on a second Ring*Con in English – that would be one of our major targets in the future! Something like 200 people spoke a language other than German so we are looking forward to enlarge this number next year. We do hope that especially many of our fellow Tolkien fans from Northern America will find their way to us as well as those from the UK and Ireland…
Some thoughts on having big stars – or not!
One of the most amazing experiences we made during the last weekend is that there need not be big stars like Liv Tyler on a convention to make it worthwhile. She would not be able to leave her bodyguards behind and just have a chat and a ‘Jaegermeister’ (a German, very bitter digestive) with the fans like Cameron Rhodes, would definitely not sign T-Shirts having “We love you! Haldir for President” as Craig Parker did with his fans and she would most definitely not play the bridge scene with any fan-Aragorn as Mark Ferguson did with a fan-Arwen on stage – live – without rehearsal!
(By the way: Brad Dourif to me is one of the big names of the business – some people seem to ignore the fact that millions all over the planet know him. But that’s just an aside… ;))
The five actors we were proud and happy to have with us -Brad Dourif, Sarah McLeod, Cameron Rhodes, Mark Ferguson and Craig Parker- were not only professional, polite and friendly. They were simply adorable and admirable human beings coping with a situation new to them – and coped with such style, grace and fun that not a single person in the auditorium missed Elijah. To me it would be one of the most magic moments of my life to meet Sir Ian, that is true, and so it would be with many visitors to Ring*Con2002 – but these five made this weekend a weekend to remember and no doubt about that!
I am giving away something here I think – but in the closing ceremony someone actually proposed marriage on stage pretending to be Sauron with his darkly blurred voice behind the curtain, came up front, asked his bride-to-be – and she consented!! This probably was the most romantic I EVER witnessed in my whole live – and Ring*Con2002 was full of these magic moments.
I am looking for TTT, for much more fun in a steadily growing fan community appreciating the works of Professor J.R.R. Tolkien, CBE – and maybe another Ring*Con in the future. We would all be delighted to have you all come over and join the fun – it really is !!!
May the blessings of Eru be with you!
Best Wishes from good ol’ Germany
German Tolkien Society
One of the organisers of Ring*Con2002