The Maritim Hotel in Bonn, Germany has the past weekend been home of Europes biggest Tolkien and Lord of the Rings-related convention: Ring*Con 2003. For the second year in a row all that had anything to do with the books or the movies gathered for a weekend of fun, interesting panels, lectures, workshops and even more fun! Heres my thoughts on the weekend, starting with the first day of the convention: the Friday!
After last years Ring*Con (read all about it here, here or here) this was the Convention I have been looking forward to all year. Last years Ring*Con was amazing fun and I wanted it again. But on the other side there were some doubts; could this years edition be as great as last years? After all now the word was out about Ring*Con. Twice as many tickets were sold. Wouldnt it be too busy? Would the actors still be as close to the public as last year? Had the organisation learned from the mistakes they made last year?
Much like last year the Con for me started with a press-conference. However they had decided to hold that a bit earlier this time around, which had the downside of me having to get up earlier to be in Bonn on time. We (we being myself and good friend Michiel from TheFellowship.nl) managed to do so wonderfully well thanks to the German autobahnen. Apparently it was almost impossible to reach Bonn by train that weekend so I thank God (and Michiel) for having a car that weekend. Until I saw how much it cost us to park the car for the entire weekend of course…
Of the press-conference itself I didnt get to see much unfortunately. I was called out halfway through to go and collect my Director of Photography for the weekend: the excellent but slightly small Tore. Together we shot quite a lot of footage over the weekend (some of which I hope will never see the light of day, *cough* ) for both TORns full-length documentary Ringers and TORn Digital and boy do I wish we hadnt… that camera-equipment was heavy!
After the press-conference and the small talk that followed with the guys present there we settled in our hotel room, the very penthouse of the Maritim, on the sixth floor before heading down to start filming. Because we did spent quite a lot of time wandering around with the camera I havent been able to attend all the panels, lectures and workshops I would have liked to see but I will try and give as good an impression as I possibly can on what I did see. After some filming we met up with two of the most impressive guys that attended Ring*Con: Sala Baker and Lawrence Makoare! We were fortunate enough to be allowed to ask them a few questions while on the background everyones favourite Haldir Craig Parker was getting his picture taken with a LOT of people whilst being swamped with presents on the same time. After all it was his birthday earlier this week.
The interviews ended right on time for us to make our way down to the big hall where Bruce Hopkins (Gamling) and John Leigh (Hama) were just about to start their joined panel. I have to say: they had me laughing my ass off all hour. Sometimes with interesting stories but most of the times by just having a good time telling everyone why the Rohan people are as cool as they are. The panel kicked off with Bruce Hopkins using the audience to make a sound like galloping horses while he and some members from the audience ran around like a bunch of charging Rohirrim. Describing it by words actually does it no justice at all; you just have to see it.
The two of them made a great duo. Bruce as the impulsive one and John Leigh as the one with a dry kind of humor that makes you wonder why he hasnt gone into the stand-up comedy business. They didnt get a lot of questions but that didnt mind much because there just wasnt any time to answer them anyway. They grabbed people from the audience that were dressed as people from Rohan, had some fun with them and talked extensively about their experiences of being on set, working with Peter Jackson and watching Orlando Bloom fly of a horse with a Dwarf attached to his back. In fact horses were a recurring theme during the panel (like one would expect from two Rohirrim) much like dying, with John Leigh commenting on how sorry he was that he didnt even got to draw his sword before the Warg ate him. All in all this panel was one of the highlights of the day and had people cheering for Bruce and John all weekend.
After an hour break which was used to grab something to eat the great hall filled again because it was time for the opening ceremony. Im pretty sure that Friday was the quietest day of the entire weekend. A lot of people must have decided the Saturday and Sunday were the most interesting days but they missed out on a lot. The day had so far featured panels from Nathaniel Lees (Ugluk), Sala Baker and Jorn Benzon (most widely known as Rumil); extremely popular lectures about Sex in Middle-earth, Racism in Middle-earth and the culture and language of Rohan, to name but a few. Other highlights of the day (or so I heard) were the chainmail workshops and Bruce Hopkinss appearance in the Games Workshop-area that had featured an earlier visit of well-known miniaturedesigners Alan and Michael Perry.
The opening ceremony proved to be even more excellent then last year. The lights dimmed and a great array of evil forces filled the stage. Much like last year and lifesized Sauron-figure commanded them to go out and find the One Ring. While Nazgul sneaked around the audience an Arwen-figure appeared on stage followed by yet another Nazgul who asked where the Ring was. Arwen replied that if he wanted it he should come and claim it to which to Nazgul saw the uselessness of the situation, said Ahh screw this, removed his hood and turned out to be none other then Marc B. Lee, TORn Friend and Master of Ceremonies for the weekend! There also was a musical performance by Eve and the Breeze and a cameo from the Orcs that won last years costume contest. After that all the special guests for the weekend were introduced. Apart from all of the above mentioned these included the return of Mark Ferguson (Gil-Galad) to Ring*Con, back by popular demand, well-known artist Colleen Doran (who looks better with red hair, honestly), and (former) WETA-workshop employees Rogier Samuels and Carole Brockhoff (UnrealFX.nl). An amazing line-up and John Rhys-Davies hadnt even arrived yet!
Because he hadnt his panel for the Friday night was took over by Craig Parker, the man that is probably more popular then anyone else in Bonn and surroundings. He had the hard task of filling John Rhys-Davies shoes but did an amazing job entertaining the crowds. He got people on stage (almost burned someones staff down), handed out pie he got as a present and generally looked like he was having a good time.
After an hour he got company from Mark Ferguson for what was probably one of the best bits of this years Ring*Con: their comedy-show. The two of them were a huge success last year and it only made sense that the organisers got them back for this years event. Mark Ferguson did not have a panel of his own however (his part in the movies is after all rather small and he probably told all about it last year anyway) but got to do two comedy shows with Craig and host an auction. The public had not forgotten him at all and he appeared to be almost as popular as Craig Parker when they introduced him.
The comedy-show consisted of Craig and Mark basically having more fun on stage. They did various things such as telling the story of a visitor that had to go back to Mexico City on a pogo-stick by each saying one word at a time, replaying a marriage-proposal from two other visitors by having them move their bodies and using a child as a prop in the retelling of the classic fairy of Hänsel and Gretel (I hope I spelled that right). They pretty much butchered the story throwing Reibekuchen (potato pancakes) and their parents quality time in the story that did not have a witch either but it had the audience laughing so hard they must have heard it on the other side of the city. A huge success and definite highlight of the weekend.
After the comedy-hour it was time to get a few refreshing drinks at the hotelbar. Okay more then a few. The parties at night are probably reason enough for anyone to attend Ring*Con and I have to say I feel rather sorry for the people that were not staying at the Maritim and could not join in on the fun. It must have been around five in the morning when the last three people were kicked out of the bar (that according to the hotel closed at 2 am, yeah right) to get a few hours of rest before the Saturday started; the busiest and longest day of Ring*Con 2003…