SHREVEPORT, La. (KTAL/LMSS) – Geek’d Con brings more than 10,000 people a year to the Shreveport-Bossier area with special celebrity guests, activities, and vendors to celebrate a variety of fandoms. But how will the actor’s strike affect this year’s convention?
This year the celebrity guest list includes notable actors from popular franchises, including the Askewniverse, Superman, Star Wars, Disney, Steven Universe, Marvel, Harry Potter and more.
“So, this year, we have Kevin Smith, the filmmaker responsible for the Askewnivers, movies like “Clerks” and that whole series, “Mallrats,” “Chasing Amy,” which received Golden Globe nominations,” Geek’d Con Director Greg Atoms said. “He is, I don’t want to put the weight of saying the voice of a generation, but, for a lot of us, he’s kind of the voice of a generation. His movies were very integral in the 1990s, and he is a really big name in this industry.”
SAG-AFTRA, a labor union representing around 160,000 media professionals, went on strike July 14 after trade negotiations broke down with some of the entertainment industry’s top studios. Union members have been increasingly concerned as streaming services continue to cut into their residual pay, and improved AI could be used to create digital composites of actors.
Atoms said many sources published misinformation when the strike started, claiming actors couldn’t participate in fan events or conventions. SAG-AFTRA did not ban participation in these events but they did release a set of guidelines on what the actors are and are not allowed to do at them.
According to Atoms, members on strike have more availability for fan events and conventions, and it’s more important now than ever to support them.
“It has opened up a lot of time for people who otherwise would be working on projects. And it’s really important for a lot of these actors right now because their day job is on hold. So, the thing that they do to make a living, they can’t do right now because they’re trying to secure their ability to make a living down the road.”
According to Rolling Stone, most SAG-AFTRA actors don’t make a living wage. They state that only 14% of its members make $26,770 or more a year, which is the threshold to qualify for SAG-AFTRA healthcare coverage.
“In the meantime, their part-time job, which is events like this, now has become their full-time job. We talked about it early on in this scenario that, if ever there was a time to support the people that you enjoy, the filmmakers, the artists, now is the most important time because their part-time job is now their full-time job. Buying a photo, buying an autograph is more important now than it probably ever has been for these folks,” said Atoms.
Celebrity guest guidelines prohibit them from promoting “struck work,” or projects they completed under studios the union is striking against.
Although they can’t discuss some roles, movies, or tv shows they’ve done, Atoms said it gives fans a unique opportunity to talk to special guests about things you usually wouldn’t get the chance to.
“So, instead of talking about what their favorite part of a movie from five years ago is, we’re going to actually get to talk to them about what their hobbies are. We’re going to talk to them about what sports they played growing up. We’re going to talk to them about what kind of posters are on their wall at home. What do they collect?”
Special guests can still talk about the historical fact that they played a role, Atoms added. They may not be able to promote a specific movie or character, but they can talk about their body of work and promote themselves.
Although some of the signage won’t highlight which characters the actors played, Atoms said fans can look at the lineup online to see the guests’ resumes and photos of popular characters they’ve covered.
Atoms said it’s important fans understand they’re still allowed to participate in their fandoms.
“If you have a Superman Funk Pop, if you have a Superman poster, and you want Brandon Routh to sign it. You can bring it, and Brandon Routh can sign it,” he explained. “They will be able to take a picture with somebody if you dress up as Superman and want to take a picture with Brandon Routh. He can do that. He can’t dress up as Superman right now, but YOU can, and he can take a picture with you.”
Although it’s common for special guests to have photos at their table for signatures, Atoms said fans will need to bring their own this year. He explained that offering posters of characters they’ve played to fans is included in promoting those works, so it’s best that fans bring what they want to be signed with them or purchase one from vendors.
Professional photo opportunities are available for purchase at the event and are printed out on-site. Atoms said these are also a great way to get autographs because guests can sign a photo of you together.
He asks that fans understand what the actors are and are not allowed to answer to keep things fun for them and the fans.
“If somebody does ask a question that they can’t answer, the police aren’t going to run in and arrest you and throw you out. It’s just going to be them politely declining answering it. And so, we’re just trying to ask fans to keep that in mind so, like, during a panel, it’s not weird. You wait all the way to get up to the microphone, you ask your question, and then they have to politely decline answering it. Just think about it ahead of time. Keep it in mind.”
Sometimes celebrity guests have to cancel appearances at conventions. Often it’s due to a schedule conflict with projects they’re working on. But the strike makes it unlikely that will happen this year, according to Atoms. Unless any personal or family issues pop up, Atoms doesn’t expect any cancellations.
Atoms said if the strike ends before the event, all celebrity guests can promote their works and characters and answer fan questions about them.
“Now, the Thursday before our event, they could come to a deal, and the strike could be off, and game is on with everything. But as long as the strike is in place, they are going to try to consciously not promote those works.”