As we get closer to FX 2009, the massive pop culture convention coming to Orlando this weekend, it’s time to dig a little and see what you can expect. First up, a few words from FX’s Director of Exhibitions Michael Herz.
As we get closer to FX 2009, the massive pop culture convention coming to the Orange County Convention Center this weekend, it’s time to dig a little and see what you can expect. First up, a few words from FX’s Director of Exhibitions Michael Herz.
It’s been 20 years. How did FX get started?
The first show was actually in Tampa in 1989, it was promoted by Bruce Zalkin and called the Tampa Toyfest. Meanwhile, I was promoting the Character and Collectible Show in Maryland. Bruce and I got together in 1990 and in 1991 changed the name to the Florida eXtravaganza (FX). We ran it together until 1997, and I bought it back from him in 2004. In 2007, the show became to big for me to run myself anymore and I took a corporate partner, that’s when it became FX International.
What have your attendance numbers since it started?
We’ve gone from maybe 300 in 1990 to 10,000 in 1996, to 3,500 in 2004 and back up to an expected attendance this year of at least 20,000.
How do you set yourself apart from MegaCon and other scifi/comic conventions in the area?
My dream has always been to be different from the other big events. We want FX to be everything for everyone: A collectible toy show, a comic-con, a sci-i-fi show, a horror show, a sports show, with anime and gaming events and panels and celebrities,your basic pop-culture overload circus! I have always strived to bring in new and different genres and cutting edge activities. This year we have added the celebrity poker challenge, the Drink and Draw, The Disney Pin event, the Sports Pavilion and Project Vinyl has been amped up from prior years. I am always very interested in anything that supports art and artists of any genre, so we have a lot of art-centered events this year.
What’s the biggest hassle of organizing what is essentially a small town in an even smaller room?
a good analogy! There are a lot of hassles involved with promoting an
event of the size and scope of FX. I think the biggest one is that
everyone waits until the last second to get involved. Dealers,
industry, sponsors all wait until we become a blip on their radar,
which in most cases is in the last 60 – 90 days before the show. So our
staff is heavily involved in logistical tasks that could have been done
many months earlier, rather than the promotion and advertising. It
makes the last days before the show days of high stress and no sleep.
How much of the con is handled by volunteers?
have a huge group of wonderful, talented and loyal volunteers, I’d
adopt them all if I could. They make up about two third of the show
How do you decide which guests to invite?
you remember when you were a kid throwing sharpened pencils at the
ceiling tiles to see how many you could make stick? Same thing. We all
brainstorm and come up with an A-list, then I start making offers. I
probably wind up making 8 – 10 times as many offers as I get in final
guests. I try to bring in guests from vintage entertainment that I
would consider icons. I also strive to bring in fresh hot stars and
guests from cult favorites. No matter who we get, I like for them to be
fresh newcomers to the show circuit.
Do you have a favorite guest story (that you can tell us)?
have quite a few of my favorites that I can’t tell you! When I retire
from this business call me and we’ll write a book. I have a couple of
sharable faves. One involves Hayden Panetierre. I was sitting with her
as her handler (actually at the New York Comic Con) when a young man,
probably 18ish, approached with his photo to be signed and he was
trembling and I don’t mean slightly, this guy was shaking from head to
toe. He handed her the photo in a motion that looked like he was
fanning her and she said, “you’re shaking, are you OK?” He replied back
that he was nervous meeting her.
Hayden gently took his hand
in hers and said that there was no reason to be nervous that she is a
person just like him. He almost immediately calmed down. The encounter
obviously made his month. She is great with the fans.
favorite involved Nathan Fillion at FX last year. A handicapped woman
on a motorized scooter had just gotten her autograph from Nathan. He
very nicely asked if he could borrow the scooter for a moment, she said
yes, and he proceeded to tear around the exhibit floor on it, it was
very funny. Some of the ride was captured on video and is available on
YouTube. Nathan’s the best all around guest we’ve ever had at FX.
Do you get the sense that FX attendees are a community unto themselves?
it is like a reunion every year. I think that log distance friends plan
to get together to attend each year. It is the same with our staff.
runs from Friday, April 17 to Sunday, April 19 at the Orange County
Convention Center on International Drive in Orlando. You can find more details here, and schedules, guest lists, and ticket information at fxshow.com