The X-Files Lexicon Exclusive Report from Red Scully
Introduction by Matt Allair
Page editor: XScribe
Red Scully was one of the Lexicon's original editors, as well as the web mistress of her own site XF Loveshack. It was to our great pleasure when she contacted us and offered to write about her experience at the Berlin X-Con, Her insights have been sorely missed.
Article by Red Scully
I attended the very first X-Con, held in Berlin on the 17th & 18th October, with a couple of X-Files friends. I was slightly nervous about whether it would be worth the money: it cost a hundred Euros to attend, plus my plane fare, and after waiting for such an opportunity for so long, I was very concerned that I would be disappointed.
I needn't have worried. The X-Con was undoubtedly a success. Run entirely by fans, it was friendly, happy, and overflowed with enthusiasm. The guests, Jamison Young and Dean Haglund, were both fabulous in every way. The setting, Hotel Mercure near Hermannplatz, had been decorated by the organizers and was a veritable treasure trove of X-Files fun, featuring hand-made signs, a dummy dressed in an FBI jacket and numerous cardboard IWTB standees.
The first day got off to a slightly nervous start; the team running it had been up most of the night and the crowd were nervous too. The majority of the audience (over 100 people, which I thought was very impressive given the fact that this was entirely a fan-run event) was made up of members of the German forum, xfiles-mania.de, and they all knew each other; I was lucky enough to attend with three lovely ladies whom I already know very well and there were a few other groups of friends too, but there were quite a few people by themselves who were probably rather overwhelmed by all the people who already knew each other.
They started with an introduction and showed some fan-made videos, which were mostly excellent with the possible exception of a rather bizarre video made at an anime convention... the less said about that, the better. ;) Next on the programme was a costume competition; however, it seems nobody had entered (the dress code seemed to be black XF t-shirts and jeans; I was pleased to find that for once in my life I actually fitted in!). Instead, a group of fans performed a short parody of Germany's Next Top Model, entitled Germany's next Top X-Freak. The piece was only in German, so I can't comment on the content in detail, but the audience were roaring with laughter and the bits my friend translated for me were extremely amusing. The characters included Skinner, Mulder (in speedos) and Scully (in scrubs), Sheriff Hartwell, the Great Mutato, the butt monster from "Badlaa" and a bee. Although I couldn't understand the words, the costumes were so hilarious that I didn't care; I was too busy choking on my laughter!
Lectures followed the play. The first was in German, so I and my team took the opportunity to stretch our legs and dig through our convention packs, which included a tote bag with the convention logo, an FBI-branded lighter, and the piece de resistance: The show programme, which was a gorgeous, glossy duplicate of an actual X-File folder and contained sheets of information about the convention and the guests, plus a glossy photo of Dean Haglund to use at the autograph session later.
When we returned to the auditorium one of my friends, so_vieh (formerly of CtF fame), gave a lecture on the 'Medical Aspects of The x-Files'; obviously I'm rather biased but I thought the lecture was excellent and interesting, and vieh also raised a few laughs when she questioned how Scully and Ed Jerse avoided developing gastrointestinal problems as a result of the poison in their tattoos in "Never Again." Following the lecture, Jamison Young, singer of the song Memories Child which features in IWTB, signed autographs and took photos with us. He was a really lovely individual who was slightly baffled by this bizarre gig; he told me he normally only plays at folk and jazz clubs, and to find himself in a room filled with X-Files fans who were apparently desperate to speak to him was clearly a bit unnerving! However, he did a great job of chatting with everyone and sold a lot of copies of his album.
A lunch break followed this session; I missed it, because Vieh was also the official photographer of the con (a last-minute decision which I only found out about the night before I left London). After lunch there was a two-and-a-half hour quiz session, which I inadvertently found myself competing in until the penultimate round. The format of the quiz varied from round to round. It was a bit disjointed and the language barrier made some of the games a little difficult, but it was excellent fun and we all made fools of ourselves. All I can say is that my drawing of the black oil was not as bad as it could have been! The winner of the quiz was no other than Kimon, who runs the website Eat The Corn. My friends and I had befriended Kimon earlier in the day when he sat behind us, so we cheered him on with great enthusiasm. By now several new friendships seemed to have formed and the quiz was a great way for people to warm to each other a little.
Another German-language lecture followed the quiz. We took the opportunity to grab some lunch from a nearby supermarket, and ate in the viewing room, watching WOTC in German with English subtitles - a very bizarre experience in and of itself. The first round of autographs with Dean Haglund followed this, but was just for people with single day tickets; as we were there for the weekend, we hovered outside, writing on the fan message boards and chattering.
After the autographs, we returned to the main room to attend a lecture entitled 'Postmodernism and The X-Files' by Natascha. This was a very interesting discussion about some of the postmodern themes TXF touches on again and again: reversal of gender roles, changing truths, confusing or addressing the audience, and self-parodies, to name a few. The lecture would have benefited from some visual aids, as it was quite heavy-going; unfortunately, when she returned on Sunday to give the lecture in German, she did bring props, but the lecture was cancelled due to lack of time.
A dinner break followed the lecture. We had only an hour, which was not very much given that the hotel restaurant seemed to be closed and we had to wander up and down the streets outside until we found a Chinese takeaway. We were anxious to get back in time, because following dinner was Dean Haglund's improv, in which he uses various comedic devices and audience participation to make up a new episode of TXF. I know several people who have seen Dean before and the feedback has always been positive, but nothing could have prepared me for such a hilarious hour. I laughed until I thought I was going to pass out from lack of air! The nature of the audience made for a highly amusing show, as hundreds of XF references popped up when least expected, and we applauded a lot of things which Dean seemed to find extremely amusing. I was genuinely gutted when his show was over. However, it wasn't the end of the world, because I finally got the chance to have my photo taken. I also purchased a t-shirt, but unfortunately I have to wait to have it sent from LA, as he didn't bring enough to meet demand. The shirts were the same style as Langley's black, purple and orange Ramones shirt, but the text is different: GUNMEN replaces RAMONES. Dean signed the glossy included in my con pack and was extremely warm to talk to, even when I asked him to make the autograph out to 'House of Mar' (I and both my housemates have names beginning with the same three letters, which I had to explain to him). He was laughing and chatting with everyone and seemed to be very relaxed and genuinely happy to be a part of the convention, which was very heartening.
After the photo and autograph sessions were finished for the day, Jamison Young came onto the stage to perform some of his songs. I really enjoyed it, but couldn't help laughing to myself at the look on his face; he seemed utterly bewildered at the adulation the crowd were showering him with. Afterwards he sold some more CDs and did some more autographs, and also took down email addresses of everyone who wanted to subscribe to his mailing list. Before he left the stage he said, "It's good to know that all my fans in the world are X-Files fans," which raised several cheers.
Once Jamison was finished it was 10.15; we'd been there since 8.15 and were completely exhausted, but instead of going straight home we were invited into the viewing room by some fans to play a drinking game whilst watching “Quagmire.” The less said on this subject the better; suffice to say, we got home after 1am and were all very grumpy when we had to get up at 7am the next morning for day two!
Day two was much shorter and less was packed in, but it was still equally as fabulous and tiring as day one. It started with the second round of fan videos, again which were of excellent quality and brought to life just how wonderfully warm and funny the people in this fandom can be. This was followed by a lecture entitled 'Music And The X-Files' by Carmen, who talked about how Mark Snow put the music together for the show, played some examples and explained the changing style of the music over the years. This was a really interesting, fun hour which I enjoyed immensely. Vieh followed this up by presenting her lecture in German. The turnout for this was rather disappointing but she did a very good job and those who did attend seemed to enjoy it a lot; several questions were asked and people seemed very enthused.
A break was scheduled after the lecture, but the organizers shepherded everyone back into the auditorium for a surprise announcement: They had contacted a number of XF people to ask if they would send video messages to the convention... and Frank Spotnitz had sent us one! The whole room erupted with hysteria at this news and I cried with happiness for the umpteenth time. The message was very heartfelt and the whole of the room was just united with complete joy, which was a truly beautiful moment.
After this, there was a rather long lunch break - a vast improvement on day one and definitely required after the Frank-induced excitement! One of my group had been chosen before the con to go to lunch with Dean and other random attendees, so she and Vieh disappeared off to that, Vieh again with her camera in tow. It was at this point that I checked the prize winners for Sunday: each entrant was automatically entered into a prize draw, and their participant numbers were written on the board. As it turned out, I won the biggest IWTB standee in the history of the world! Unfortunately, this wasn't good news for me, as I had to catch a plane home straight after the convention and didn't have the money to either post it or take it on the plane... furthermore; I live in a poky flat in London which the standee would never have fitted into at all. I eventually gave it to another UK fan I met at the convention, who took it on the promise of sending me a photo once it's assembled in his front room! Whilst I could see why this may appear to be a great prize to give to an X-Files fan, I felt it was actually a bad decision on the part of the organizers, as it was so large as to be completely impractical for anyone to transport; I should imagine that even the Germans would have been disgruntled at the prospect of taking such a large box on a train or trying to fit it into their car, and for those who like myself had flown from another country, it was more of a burden than a prize. I was most relieved to find someone who was prepared to take it from me.
After lunch, Dean took to the stage again, this time to record a live version of his weekly pod cast, the Chillpak Hollywood Hour, with Phil Leirness. This was still extremely funny although much less side-splitting than the improv. It took a Q&A format, with members of the audience getting up to put questions to Dean and Phil who then expanded upon the subjects raised to make the show. It was a lot of fun and again a lot of XF stuff came up in conversation including the suggestion that Chris Carter himself is a government-placed pawn whose function when making The X-Files was to distract Americans from noticing all the actual problems in the country by causing them to focus on imaginary ones. It was interesting to say the least!
After the Q&A came the final round of autographs and photos; I sat in the lobby with some fans and we chatted, exchanged email addresses and wrote postcards to FOX to ask them for another movie. A huge number were collected during the con and are going to be posted to FOX imminently as part of the XF3 campaign. It was after the autograph session that the German version of Natascha's lecture was supposed to take place, but this was cancelled due to lack of time. Instead, we re-entered the room for the final time for the award ceremonies and closing comments. A number of prizes were given out for the winners of the various contests (best fanart, best fan video, most ugly tie, etc.), and one of the winners was picked out of a hat and presented with the latest edition of the complete XF boxset, which comes in a gorgeous, glossy black box. Five hundred euros were raised during the con which were presented to the chairwoman of a local charity, Regional Group Berlin/Brandenburg of the Federal Association for Neurofibromatosis. She took to the stage and gave a 5 minute speech in German, explaining what the disease was and how the money was going to be used to help. Monika also announced how much money was raised for the other charities during the convention. After this, they showed an In Memorium video, remembering all the philes, actors, and others who we've lost in the 16 years since the show first aired. I thought this was a lovely idea, but it was perhaps a little too somber; personally, I was already exhausted and highly emotional from the weekend, and this video felt a bit like the last straw. It was beautifully made but instead of filling me with joy at what these people had done, it just made me sad. Luckily they managed to raise the tone again by having Dean come back on stage to say goodbye, which soon perked everyone up; after this, the entire staff of the con got on stage to thunderous applause, before presenting Monika with an iPod which she seemed entirely stunned by. She earned two standing ovations.
We finished up by watching Frank's video a second time, before recording one to send back to him telling him that we loved the video. Standing on a chair surrounded by strangers all wearing X-Files t-shirts and grinning insanely, shouting into a camera a message destined for Frank Spotnitz, was a wonderfully high point to end the day on. Although I was completely shattered, I didn't want the convention to end. As one of my friends said to me when we were trudging down the road to the bus stop, "Now we have to go back to real life."
The convention, in conclusion, was an absolutely riotous success. It was filled with humour and passion. Everyone involved, even when they seemed unbelievably stressed, clearly enjoyed themselves immensely, which makes such a difference to an event so close to the hearts of those attending. We laughed and cried and considered and chattered and partied for two days with likeminded individuals. Of course there were things they could have done better, but what they did achieve was so incredibly well done that it seems extremely unfair to complain about any of it. If they manage to run an X-Con next year, there's no question: I will be attending it.
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Interview with Glen Morgan
Interview with Mark Snow
Interview with Amy Donaldson
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Interview with Erica Fraga
Interview with Howard Gordon
Report from Vancouver TV Forum
Interview with Gabe Rotter
Interview with Robert Shearman
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Report from X-Con 2009
Interview with Jana Fain
Interview with R.W. Goodwin
In Tribute to Kim Manners
Interview with Matt Hurwitz
Pemberton Set Report
Paley Festival Interviews
Interview with John S. Bartley
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Interview with Howard Gordon
Q&A with Chris Carter
Interview with Doug Hutchison
Interview with Frank Spotnitz