Disclaimer: While I’m a senior executive at Anime USA, nothing I say here should be taken as official AUSA policy. Or, for that matter, seriously.
It goes without saying that running an anime convention is tough. Tougher still while you’re trying to blog about it while working the Info Booth and performing duties as a member of the Board of Directors. It’s grueling. Little sleep, exhaustion for a week, and you never really know whether all the fuckups you did during the year translated to something worthwhile.
In the case of Anime USA 2014, I’m still not sure.
That’s not to say the con was fun; frankly, I can’t tell you how fun the con was, because that’s not my job. My job’s to put on the show and hope you all have fun. The comments, however, on 4chan and elsewhere have been positive, and in the interest of fairness I’ll let you hunt those down so it doesn’t seem like I’m cherrypicking. But from what I saw, people enjoyed themselves, had a good time, and we reversed a slide in attendance that had been going on for numerous years due to the economy (no con was immune to this; the only ones that really didn’t shrink were the biggest ones and they basically flatlined, not that you’ll know that because they count turnstile instead of bodies*) and we made it through another year of the hotel.
I’ll skip the drama; you know every con has it, and if you don’t, you can come out from under the rock now and read Dramacon by Svetlana Chernakova. Once you read that, then you can come back. For the rest of you, just follow the jump. I’ll be patient and wait.
Don’t let anyone tell you that a con isn’t difficult to run. You will run into a panoply of people, and you’re not going to like everyone you work with. There’s a few people there that am nothappy with, and I’m sure there are those who distrust me. But (for the most part, and as far as I can tell), we all have the con in mind and we’re all doing our utmost to make sure it’s a success (even the guy who I think is a raging fucking asshat.) We’re working insane non-OSHA-approved hours on mostly simple fare and tons of caffeine. I think I got less than twenty hours of sleep over the five days of prepping and working at the con – and I’m probably one of the better ones.
And after it’s done…the carnival is over. Brendan Perry of Dead Can Dance summed it all perfectly in the song “The Carnival is Over”:
“Outside the circus gathering
Moved silently along the rain swept boulevard
The procession moved on, the shouting is over
The fabulous freaks are leaving town”
And sometimes it doesn’t stop even then. Rental gear has to be returned. The guests have to be seen off to their next destination. Bills need to be squared up with the hotel and others you owe. The books have to be balanced. You need your Lessons Learned and Postmortem meeting, so you can make sure that the next time you won’t make the same mistakes you had eight times before and that you’ll get to the all-new and improved mistakes for realsies.
And if you’re lucky, you might have a month to relax before you start again (and if you’re with a big con like Anime Expo or Otakon, you can forget about that; the con is essentially a second job.) In the case of AUSA, we didn’t even get that week: the week we all agreed to at least take off culminated in calls, emails and finally a meeting yesterday that went from 7PM to 1AM this morning; add to that the three-hour drive from the new con chair’s house (two hours regular; add an hour due to the fog and kamikaze deer) and congrats, it’s four in the morning and you’re starting this shit all over again.
So why do we do it? Well, I started just because I knew more shit than the other person in the panel did. Then we continued because of our connections and how we could parlay them. I’ve seen people, opportunities and other things come and go.
Like anything, it’s a hard, grueling rush, all in the name of “fun” – and the staff is rarely having it it at the con (take the time to thanks a staffer or two while you’re at your next con; I can guarantee you’ll likely be the only one who will.) But then again, if they weren’t…well, why is there always next year?
Something to think about.
(*There’s two ways to count attendance: turnstile method and total attendance. Turnstile alwayslooks better to investors and others because it heavily inflates the numbers – a con might report 15000 at the turnstile when in truth there were only 5000 that attended, having gone through the gates all three days. A total account is going to be smaller, but it’s far more honest. In short, question the cons that have huge numbers and don’t look like they do.)