I remember a long time ago, when I first started writing or Icons of Fright and Rob Galluzzo was my point man. I was all over the convention trail at that point, writing reviews for Icons as I travelled the country meeting and greeting horror’s biggest and not-so-biggest celebrities. Somewhere along the line, I discovered that most conventions offer press passes. So I asked Rob G if he could make some contacts and get me some passes. I’ll never forget Rob’s response: “We at Icons generally don’t bother with press passes. We go as fans of the genre and support cons by paying the admission.”
I thanked him for his explanation. Then I ignored it. Once I chose to visit a con, my first inquiry was whether the show runners gave out press passes. If they did, I immediately contacted them. More often than not, I would have a confirmation email within a day or two welcoming me to their con. For free.
And why wouldn’t I request passes? Rob G’s logic made little sense to me. Yes, I was a fan. If not, I wouldn’t have been visiting horror cons. Or for that matter, writing for Icons of Fright. But I was also providing a service. Conventions on the one end are a business, and promoting and supporting them on a horror blog helps business. A write-up or two before a con might generate some ticket sales for the show. On the back end, if I had a great time and said so in my review, it could generate sales for future shows. Hell, even if I had a rotten time, all press is good press as they say. Isn’t this why cons were giving out passes in the first place?
There’s also the very real saving of money. The more press passes I could get, the more I could spend at the con. 25 or 30 or even 60 bucks at the time wasn’t such a big deal, as I was making a nice salary. But as with everyone, I only had so much expendable money. Shaving corners by booking cheaper flights, staying at Super 8’s, and renting the economy car from Hertz meant I could actually attend more cons per year, and press passes helped on that end too.
So I got into the practice of hunting down press passes. It led to some funny stories. Like the time I wrote a negative review about HorrorHound in Monroeville. When I requested a pass for the HH in Indianapolis later that summer, the show runner wrote me a passionate six-paragraph email about how I wasn’t fair to the show (I was) and how I viewed the show in the wrong light (I didn’t). And then in the last paragraph, he said I was set to go with a press pass for Indy.
Or the two times I went to Saturday Nightmares. The first, I went to the ticket desk and told the people I had a press pass waiting. They couldn’t find my name, so one lady wrote my name on the back of a sheet and gave me and X Chris our bracelets. The next year, the same exact thing happened.
Or when they ran out of press passes at the Walker Stalker Con in Jersey last December. Their solution was creative.
On the upside, my press pass for the 2008 Texas Frightmare Weekend got me my only access to a celebrity party. The Saturday night affair would have cost me a decent penny, which certainly means I would have passed, and therefore missed out on my only tasting of Texas meatballs. It was a one-of-a-kind experience well worth having.
Those shows all took place in the heat of my travelling phase, when I was doing at least 8 cons a year. I’ve slowed down of late, as is evidenced by the fact that my last con was Monster-Mania in March, and I didn’t get a single autograph or interview. Given the way cons are going and the insane pricing for autographs and photos, I could sit back and not attend one until October’s Chiller show, or even beyond that. Which is one more nice incentive with the press pass: getting into shows free inspires me to check them out.
The only reason I wanted to go to Walker Stalker was for interviews. If I’d had to pay to get in, I probably would have passed. In fact, given what an overcrammed nightmare that show was, if I had paid I’d probably have been really pissed off. The press pass got me in on an experience. Even if it wasn’t a very good experience, it was interesting.
Which leads me to discuss Scare-a-Con and NY Comic Con. These two shows could not be more different if they tried. Scare-a-Con is a small show tucked away upstate in Verona, NY. Its guest list will probably max out around 25. It’s comprised of horror folks, and I’ll take an educated guess and say that it won’t be wall-to-wall fans. NYCC is a huge show in the heart of Manhattan. To give you an idea of its guest list, last year it hosted basically the entire cast of The Walking Dead. Thousands of tickets sold out in a half-hour. The one common factor for Death Ensemble is that I got press passes for both.
For vastly different reasons, both of these have appeal for me. Scare-a-Con takes place in a casino, of all places. That alone makes it a unique experience. Also, small shows offer an intimacy the bigger ones don’t, which is great for interviewing celebs. I’ve never been to this show, so there’s also the newness factor. As for NYCC, I went once seven or eight years ago. At that point it was still comics based, and it was a disorganized mess, where I couldn’t find most of the people I was looking for, or most of the panels I wanted to attend. In the last few years, it’s decided to imitate San Diego Comic Con and act as its East Coast version. I just want to go and see what the spectacle is all about. Besides, my sister Sarah went last year, and she had a sweet time. And Sarah is always right, so there’s that.
Looking back on that conversation with Rob G all those years ago, I’m glad I chose to ignore his explanation, as I do to this day. So if you see me at Scare-a-Con or NYCC, stop me and say hello. And if you happen to run a horror blog and want info on how to get press passes, I’ll kindly educate you on how to get in on one of the perks of being an interweb horror geek.