Strikes not expected to deter thousands headed to Dragon Con

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - As the film and television industries sits idle while the Screen Actors Guild and Writers Guild of America strike against the major production studios, the ripple effect is being felt in the in-person fan experience.

Thousands flock to fan conventions around the country every year to meet their favorite celebrities in television and film. Meet and greets, photo-ops and discussion panels are all big draws to these conventions. However, as the SAG and WGA strikes carry on, the experience for fans could look quite different this year.

According to guidelines released by the SGA, actors are not allowed to do anything that would promote the work and studios they are striking against. Limitations include providing in-character photographs for signings and discussing specific projects they’ve worked on, past and present.

Dragon Con, the annual five-day pop-culture convention in downtown Atlanta, once against will feature a slew of guests spanning film, television, comic books, art and more. However, those special guests aren’t the be-all-end-all for Dragon Con.

“We do have guests from the comic world, from the art world, from television and movies who are coming to spend time with their fans, and we also have this great community that comes from around the world,” Dan Carroll, who handles media relations for the convention, told WABE.

Filmmaker John Hudgens first attended Dragon Con in 1991 when the convention was confined to just the Hilton in downtown Atlanta. Since then, he has attended at least 50 conventions as both a fan and a guest.

Hudgens said that, for him, the guest lineup has never been very important.

“Sometimes, like this year, I’m hosting a panel with celebrities, but I’d be at Dragon Con either way,” he said. “With things like San Diego Comic Con, I never looked at who’d be there. I went for the experience.”

For some attendees, a part of that experience is panels where fans can ask guests questions. However, the SAG has strict guidelines for members in terms of what they can and can’t talk about, saying that guests should “avoid discussing characters you played on struck work or your work for struck companies.”

“General topics are fine, such as about your process, why you wanted to be an actor, what you like/dislike about working in the industry, and the like are fine,” the SAG laid out in guidelines to members participating in conventions.

Hudgens said, from what he’s hearing, it is still in flux exactly how Dragon Con organizers will moderate the questions asked to guests.

“I’m pretty certain we won’t have live audience mics in the main programming ballrooms this year,” he said, noting a change from the normal Q&A process during fan panels. “They’re setting up Discord servers for every room for people to submit questions in real time and the moderators will have access to that to pick and choose.”

Hudgens said other than a few naysayers on Facebook, he doesn’t think the strike is going to matter to people deciding whether or not to attend the convention. Dragon Con is, after all, built as a convention for fans by fans.

“Some shows out there are basically autograph and dealer shows , but that’s not Dragon,” he said. “Dragon Con is unique in that, while it is a for profit event, I feel it still has the independent fan-run convention at its core. I look at more of the fandom/literary conventions of old, like DixieTrek, or LibertyCon/ChattaCon, RADcon, LASFIC, or WorldCon, it shares it’s DNA with those - put on by fans for fans - and back then, a lot of the authors and guests were fans, too, who had gone pro.”

The southeast will feature a number of conventions in the coming months.

Dragon Con takes place for five days over Labor Day weekend in downtown Atlanta. Alabama Comic Con takes over the BJCC on September 23 and 24. In Huntsville, Kami-Con Hai invades the Von Braun Center from September 29 through October 1.

More information on the SAF-AFTRA and WGA strikes can be found on their respective websites, including ways to support them.

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