SDCC 2015: Nerd HQ - ‘Con Man’ Panel Coverage

Over the last few years, Nerd HQ, the four-day event created by actor Zachary Levi (Chuck, Thor: The Dark World) and held the same weekend as the annual pop culture convention San Diego Comic-Con, has become a staple of the Comic-Con experience. Offering exclusive gaming and tech activations, nightly events, and intimate celebrity panels (all benefiting the charity Operation Smile), Nerd HQ has even become the perfect “alternate Con” for some geeks who are less than thrilled with the exhausting and over-crowded experience that can be SDCC.

Fanboy Comics was very excited to be invited to the Con Man panel at Nerd HQ.  If you don’t know, Con Man is the thoroughly funded (breaking several Indiegogo records) new web series from Alan Tudyk and Nathan Fillion.   It stars Tudyk as an actor who played the pilot in a canceled, but beloved, sci-fi/western TV series (Sound familiar?) as he trudges through the convention circuit while trying to jumpstart his career.  The show has a space-boat load of genre actors attached, including Amy Acker, Felicia Day, Seth Green, Tricia Helfer . . . too many to name them all here, and the panel, likewise, was chock full.

On the panel were Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion, Nolan North, Michael Trucco, Alison Haislip, PJ Haarsma, Tricia Helfer, and Casper Van Dien.  The panel was very interesting, with lots of fun banter between the panelists, but at the beginning there were some attention-seeking fans who asked questions and ended up wasting about a third of the panel.  That part was frustrating, but everything else was amazing.  Here are the highlights:

-It starts off well, with a fan asking how different of an experience it is getting the support from fans up front, rather than waiting and hoping.  Fillion jumps on this saying it’s cool, it’s a new business model and he shared how he had a pilot dropped once because the wife of an executive didn’t “get it.”  WTF??  Alan Tudyk elaborates with a cooking metaphor, saying that mostly what happens in TV is you make a dish and bring it out and see if people like it.  Then, you hope they ask you to cook more stuff.  With the crowdfunding, however, he’s going to the fans and saying, “Hey, buy some ingredients, and then I’m going to go back here and make this thing.  Trust me, it’s going to be really good.”  And, that he feels a little more pressure because of that.

-PJ mentions that they have the trailer, so we watch that next.  If you haven’t seen it, you should go check it out online. It’s great!

-After the trailer, someone shouts, “Wash Lives!”  Everyone laughs and Fillion says, “No.”  He then tells that joke you’ve probably seen the GIF of online, “How do Reavers clean their spears?” . . . “They run them through the Wash.” Uproarious laughter tempered by great sadness.

-Alan intros PJ as the Executive Producer, then Zachary Levi congratulates the team on being awesome enough to be able to get the awesome cast of Con Man.  Alan picks that up, thanks Zach, and credits the incredible fan support that got the project off the ground as the big reason some of the cast members joined. 

-The next question is about signing a pregnant woman’s unborn baby.  The cast is nice, but the audience nearly audibly groans as they told a story and made the autograph request.  

-The audience actually audibly groans as the next person to talk droned on awkwardly trying to banter with the cast and talk about herself for several minutes.  Ugh.

-The mic is taken away from her, a young woman asks if they are experiencing any backlash from Hollywood, since they effectively sidestepped the usual process.  Alan basically says, no, and that even if he were to publicly say “Screw Fox!” they wouldn’t care.  They are laser focused on making more money and that’s about it.  Tricia Helfer adds that this project stands out because it is crowdfunded by the fans, and in large part it is also a story about the fans, so there’s a deeper level of involvement.  PJ adds that entertainment executives are starting to realize, too, that the stars have the real power and Fillion follows up saying yes, but really it’s the fans that do.  

-Casper Van Dien talks about the bathroom stall scene in the trailer. (Stop reading this article and go watch it if you haven’t yet!)  He says he relates to every single story, having been going to cons for a long time.  He had a similar story about being approached at a urinal by an excited fan.  Tudyk says he had that too, an eager fan at a urinal, and altered the scene slightly for the show.  But, Casper finishes it off saying it comes from a place of love, and Con Man embraces and revels in that fan culture.

-PJ offers an anecdote about how the Indiegogo campaign manager said the backers of this project were the nicest, most patient people he’s dealt with in the over one hundred crowdfunding campaigns he’s managed.  The crowd coos.

-The next question is about where the show was shot.  Tudyk says that it was all shot in L.A., but they did do some b-reel footage at cons in Pheonix, Atlanta, and Orlando.

-A fan wants to know what it’s like being directed by Alan, and the panel dutifully commends Tudyk’s compassion, creativity, and dedication.  Somehow, this leads to a pretty hilarious Christopher Walken bit from Nolan North.

-The last question is how did the idea for the show happen to which Tudyk explains the wonderfully surreal nature of conventions and needed it to be a show.   

Those are the highlights for the 2015 Con Man Nerd HQ panel.  Fanboy Comics wishes to extend a special thank you to Alan Tudyk, Nathan Fillion, Nolan North, Michael Trucco, Alison Haislip, PJ Haarsma, Tricia Helfer, Casper Van Dien, Zachary Levi, Xaque Gruber, and everyone else at Nerd HQ who helped make this year’s event possible.

For more of Fanboy Comics' coverage of the San Diego Comic-Con 2015, please visit www.fanboycomics.net.

Sam Rhodes

Favorite MovieYojimbo
Favorite Game:  The newest version of Halo
Favorite Beverage:  Ballast Point's Big Eye IPA

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