And once again I missed my wakeup-call and woke up only four hours after some Elf threw us out a hotel room. With the fantastic music from Schelmish still buzzing around in my head we evacuated the room and made our way down to the convention area for the last day of Ring*Con. After wandering around at the autograph-session and the WETA-demonstration for a while it was time to get started on what would take up most of our day: doing fan-interviews for Ringers! This was interrupted only because of a short visit to Bruce Hopkinss panel (I love that guy, really), and an interview with the guy that played pretty much every extra in the movies: Jorn Benzon. By that time however the hangover from the nights before had finally kicked in and I am afraid it got rather silly at one point, but youll have to wait and see how silly exactly because I will not tell how it came that we walked around the convention like two Egyptians…
We also caught a glimpse of the joined Sala Baker and Lawrence Makoare-panel which looked like it was a lot of fun and missed out on interesting lectures such as Marcel Bülless (one of the co-organisers) Interesting Interpretations of Middle-earth, a workshop about writing Elvish and a lecture about collecting Tolkien. I would have liked to see that as I am somewhat of a collector myself (send me all your stuff so I can collect faster, heheh). Filming was more important however so hopefully shell be back next year. Once again we wrapped up before John Rhys-Daviess panel because there was no point in finding fans anymore as everyone was gathering in the main hall again.
Much like Saturdays panel John Rhys-Davies enchanted the crowd with his musings about various subjects. And whether he was talking was talking about Galileo (one of his passions), western culture or Star Trek everybody listened intensely. There were some good moments when he talked about how he would give out Orlando Blooms phone number to everyone if he would have it and how he sent his stunt double to get tattooed in his place because that is what actors do when they are faced with a dangerous stunt (although that might have been from the Saturday-panel as well, my memory is a bit hazy on that). Over the weekend his panels were without any doubt the most interesting ones to attend which is not to say that the other ones werent any good because they were. John Rhys-Davies however speaks in such a way that you are unable to do anything else than listen and reap, if that makes any sense at all. His attendance was a highlight of the convention and the organisers should be congratulated on managing to get him.
After the panel it was time for the closing-ceremony and the end of the convention and much like the opening-ceremony it was great fun. It started of with two people playing one of the card games based on The Lord of the Rings (I am sorry Im not very good at those things so I cant tell you which one). While the two guys on stage were playing the game at a table the cards and characters they played appeared on stage and followed the actions taken in the game. As if that wasnt cool enough when the card of Ugluk was played Nathaniel Lees appeared on stage which led to a huge applause! The evil cards had no problem taking out the good ones and things were starting to look very ill-fated for the forces of good until the winning card was played: the Marc B. Lee one! After doing so Marc appeared on stage and knocked everyone over that stood in his way which led to more cheering and applauding from the audience. I have to say last compared to last years closing ceremony (which was pretty much the same as the opening ceremony at the time) this was a huge improvement and congrats to whomever came up with these ideas!
The act was followed by performances from the Orcs and Eve and the Breeze again and Marcel Bülles handed out some prizes to the winners from the video contest (a very funny clip in which someone edited himself in as Gollum) and the art contest (a miniature Hobbiton-set) but for the highlight of the closing ceremony Bruce Hopkins and someone from Air NZ appeared on stage. In all their kindness Air NZ had given the organisers from Ring*Con a return flight to NZ, five nights in a hotel and two tickets for the world première of The Return of the King on December first which were to be raffled amongst all the visitors of the event. One could hear a pin fall on the floor while Bruce drew the winning number from a huge bowl. And here I am afraid I have to be somewhat critical again. You see my card (the one you need to get into the convention) did not have a number on it, so I was not included in the draw. Thats not fair, I want to go to NZ too, heheh… No in all seriousness, the winner was a young woman that must be very, very happy now because she gets to go to the coolest event in all the history of cool events. I envy you but congratulations anyway!
And then it was time to say goodbye. Goodbye to all the Tolkien-lecturers, collectors and workshop-teachers, goodbye to the Games Workshop-designers, to Colleen Doran, to Rogier and Carola from WETA and of course to all the actors as well. As they appeared on stage on by one they thanked the audience for the good times, for having them here, for asking them all kinds of questions and it all was very sincere. On a special side note: John Leigh had left earlier that morning so he was not there to collect his share of the applause which was there nonetheless. I looked like everyone on stage had been having a great weekend, most of them had said during the weekend that Ring*Con was the best convention they had attended so far (and John Rhys-Davies even said that Ring*Con had the prettiest girls he had seen anywhere, so Orlando Bloom and Elijah Wood should remember that when they get asked for next years Ring*Con) and with guys like Craig Parker, Bruce Hopkins and Sala Baker there (who mustve seen dozens of conventions by now) thats probably saying something. And because all things have to end sometime so did Ring*Con 2003 after that.
Now it has been said that the third day is always the saddest one because, well, it is the last one (and everyone is hung-over and therefore not as bright and happy as they are the first few days, but thats just a personal observation). Fact however is that the report about the third day is always the nicest one to write, because it is the one in which I get to tell you all what my thoughts were on the entire convention, which is exactly what I am going to do now!
Ive been doing some thinking about it and I guess it boils down to the fact that I just love this convention. Ive attended a few in my days but none seem to come close to the experiences Ive had on Ring*Con. This is probably because there is no other convention around (or none that I have attended) that is only about Tolkien and the movies. When you walk around a Comic Con (which I have to admit I have never done, but I can imagine what it is like) or Collectormania you just dont have the same atmosphere as a LOTR-only convention like Ring*Con. There is a sense of, well, fellowship that everybody has and it reflects on the entire weekend.
There were times when I was sitting up on the balcony and tears would almost come to my eyes. John Rhys-Daviess standing ovation on Saturday night was one of them but also seeing the trailer of last years Ring*Con on the big screen in the main hall. Whenever the awesome Cameron Rhodes or lovely Sarah MacLeod (these people here!) would appear on screen thered be a huge applause, even though they werent here this year. Ive said it before but I think it is true; Ring*Cons audience remembers. Im not sure how many people attended this year but if they have doubled last years numbers I think thats because a lot of people that were there last year came back this time around. I guess Gollum says it best in the Extended Edition for The Two Towers: Once it takes a hold of us, it never lets go. I know for a fact Ill be there next year and I havent heard anyone all weekend who said they wouldnt.
Of course I know of some minor flaws that the major part of the audience probably didnt even noticed and I have tried to find some negative reactions on the Ring*Con message boards but they are all in German so I failed miserably. I dont think anyone has a lot to complain about. The event was better then last years with the organisation not only learning from their mistakes (All the panels and most of the workshops and lectures were in English this year around, unlike last years Ring*Con and the schedule was clear and only on one or two occasions there were some delays) but also putting up a better show. The guest list was one that fitted the event with a lot of actors that felt right at home at Ring*Con. And as much as I would like to see an Elijah Wood, Billy Boyd or Viggo Mortensen at Ring*Con I do not think they would be hanging out in the hotel bar until 5 in the morning and the fact that these perhaps lesser-known actors like Craig Parker and Sala Baker did is what makes this event as special as it is. Theres no VIP-area where the stars hide all weekend, they are as down to earth as you and I are and that makes them perfect guests for such an event.
I also like the location. The Maritim is a fantastic hotel that might be considered a bit expensive but has an convention area which is perfect for this event. If there were indeed over 3000 people that attended I sure as hell didnt notice. At times the main areas were crowded yes, and when they main hall filled out it really filled out but over the whole it wasnt harder to get around then it was last year. I guess the fact that there is just so much to do plays a huge factor in that observation. Ring*Con is for lack of better words the perfect marriage between the books and the movies. There is always something someone will enjoy whether it is hunting Lawrence Makoare down for an autograph or attending a Hobbit-dance workshop. And because there is, theres no panel, lecture or workshop thats not filled with people and no area that appears to be empty.
Of course there are some things that can be done better next year. I would consider tweaking the costume contest slightly and (but this is just a personal grief) I regret there not being enough time to get Craig Parker and Mark Ferguson in front of the camera. In fact there seemed to be too little time for anything, so how about making it a five day event next year, heheh… No in all honesty, I think Ring*Con 2004 has the potential to become even more popular next year if they hold on to the things that really stood out this year (the WETA-demonstrations, the excellent guests and a wide and varied range of lectures workshops) and manage to expand on that. Id love to see bigger names but I think the smaller actors have just an important part in making the event work. And Id love to see things like WETA Digital-panels or workshops from renowned Tolkien-artists such as John Howe, Ted Nasmith or maybe even Alan Lee.
And after that? Will these guys be able to pull of an event like Ring*Con 2005 or 2006? Id love to see it happen but they can only do so if we all keep attending and if the guests are still willing to show up. Nowadays it seems like money is becoming a bigger and bigger issue for the stars to show up at events like these and that is (although it is understandable) a pity. Money should not be the only thing. There should be some sort of a willingness to go out there and be amongst the fans, that should be rewarding as well. Im sure John Rhys-Davies was amazed at the reception he got and it is good pr as well. Ring*Con has it in itself to become great and we can all help it become that. Wow that sounded a lot like something from the Harry Potter-books. Stop talking now leo…
Last but not least I will have to thank a few people, so bear with me. First and foremost of course the organisers: Stefan Servos from Herr-der-Ringe-film.de, Marcel Bülles from the German Tolkien Society and all the folks from FedCon that did an amazing job this year around. Keep up the good work! Marc B. Lee for being an excellent Master of Ceremonies, good buddy and all around nice guy, all the volunteers that worked during the weekend for doing what they were doing (even if that was not letting me up the stairs the first day, heheh), Tore Schmidt (my DP) for not snoring. Michiel/Gimli from TheFellowship for the same reason, the ever excellent Ian Smith for being there to rant and get drunk with, his good friend Reiner for listening to me complain from time to time and basically everyone that bothered talking to me for bothering to talk to me. I had a great time and it just wouldnt have been the same without all you wonderful people! Hope to see you all back there in 2004!