Editor’s Note: This piece comes to us from Team Axanar member Lee Quessenberry, founder of Axanar Arkansas, who held down the bridge at this weekend’s Art Pop Comic Expo in Jonesboro. Thank you so much for your time, your dedication, and your report Lee!
May 3rd, 2015
What a beautiful weekend to have a convention! Jonesboro, AR is a nice collegetown nested in the the Mississippi River Delta of the northeast corner of the state. Primarily an agricultural community with a local university, Jonesboro has become the hub of commerce for the region, providing access to many goods and services that would otherwise be found in surrounding areas like Memphis, TN or Little Rock, AR.
Because of exploding growth at the university and many community development projects, a larger and more diverse crowd of people have been developing a culture of geeks and sci-fi fans. The time was right for Jon and Jackie Woodard to take their experiences from traveling all over the country to art shows and comic conventions and bring it home to their community. This is how ArtPopComicExpo came to be. Jon and I have been friends as well as mutual business partners for well over 5 years and when I found out he was doing a convention in our hometown, I asked myself what was stopping us from having a booth for Axanar at the convention. The answer was $100 and a lot of sweat equity!
So, I emailed Diana, Alec, and Terry who put me in touch with Bill Watters who helped me work things out to get the artwork, videos, and other digital materials ready to print and display. I took a 22” monitor, a 47” LCD television, and 2 Raspberry Pi computers along with large prints of the actors and logo and set up a booth. I didn’t know what to expect as this was not just my first convention as an exhibitor, but it was the first one I had ever been to period.
The first day included a lot of people asking questions like, “Is this the new TV show I read about? Is this the new movie with Simon Pegg? Is this your movie? Did you film this yourself? What is this? Why are there buildings falling like 9/11?” It was a bit overwhelming at first and thankfully Lee Benjamin sent me tons of business cards to hand out.
I began telling people that this was an independent film in the Star Trek universe produced by top level Hollywood talent as a proof of concept and new way of creating entertainment. They were all very impressed and couldn’t believe the quality of the Prelude and then it happened. A guy shows up at my table and says, “I can’t believe Axanar is here, in Jonesboro!” That made my day and the guy began to bring people in groups over to the TV to watch the Prelude to Axanar.
Many were making comments about the cast and reminiscing about Enterprise, Battlestar Galactica, Alien Nation, Star Trek, and even Pretty in Pink. It started to click that this was something awesome and different, but also familiar. Discussions about ships, technology, phasers, and everything else that makes up the prime timeline began to come up. Luckily for me, my good friend Jonathan Conley, also well versed in Trek lore and Axanar superfan, was there to back me up.
The fans ranged from kids recognizing Spock to die-hard fans like me looking to get more from Star Trek out of fan films. Some made recommendations to me about Star Trek: Continues, Renegades, Phase II, and Horizon, but then they saw Tobias’ CGI on the screen and all discussion stopped and switched directions to discuss the level of quality of the Prelude to Axanar. As the ship scenes and city scenes began to transition into the dialog scenes I got lots of feedback on the dialog. People were drawn to the style and the way the lines were delivered. I even had a toddler quote J.G., albeit it was the line about Garth being a son of a bitch. Woops!
The kids were great. I had at least a half dozen little girls and boys giving me Vulcan salutes and asking when the movie was gonna come out. The kids took all of my stickers and wore them proudly like badges of honor. I told them they were members of Starfleet and that they should see the new film somewhere around the corner of 2016. I explained to them that in order to make this happen I need their parents to donate to the cause. Their parents were very happy to see new Star Trek material and were glad to join our cause.
My two assistants, Derek Utley, an Air Force combat veteran, and Jonathan Conley, a computer programmer, helped me tend to the fans and hand out stickers and cards. Derek got to meet his childhood hero, Ernie Reyes Jr. (Teenage Mutant Ninjas Turtles, The Last Dragon) and was super excited. There were several cosplayers and lots of local and regional artists selling their wares.
Overall we had a great time and Axanar is now a household word for all of the attendants. The next ArtPopComicExpo is being developed with a target date of November 2015 and Axanar will definitely be a part of it. Jon and Jackie asked me on a couple of occasions if we’d be there and assured me that Axanar was one of the most talked about and shared booths among participants at the festival. We’ve also been introduced to several talented artists that could provide assistance as well as offered the opportunity for private screenings at our local theater, provided that we secure any permissions we might need to do so. The local theater manager was so impressed with Axanar that he encouraged me to reach out to him after the movie is done and if I wanted to rent an auditorium for a closed and private party that he’d be sure to make it happen. Axanar Arkansas will be participating in at least one if not two more conventions in 2015 including Little Rock, Jonesboro, and possibly Memphis, TN.