Dragon*Con Guide: Celebrity Photo Ops and Autographs

Updated: July 2014

I always see a lot of questions related to media guests/celebrities. Having an opportunity to meet some of my TV icons was what originally brought me to con in the first place, so let me clear up some FAQs.

PLEASE be aware any of the guests can cancel their appearance at the last minute due to work or scheduling conflicts!

Bad Time

Autographs

Practically all media guests charge a fee to sign something. It usually starts from $15 for lesser known people, and can get quite pricey for the big names. Most of them have tables in the Walk of Fame,  the Marquis ballroom in the Marriott for 2013. Each table will have its own line for fans to wait in. There’s typically a handler/agent beside the guest that handles the money and plays bad guy to deny certain inappropriate fan requests. What you’re paying for is the autograph on an item of your choice, but if you didn’t bring something there are complimentary 8×10 headshots. The Walk of Fame hours are basically 10am-7pm (except it starts at 1pm on Friday). Most media guests will in there to sign unless they have a panel or are going to eat.

Ray Park signing autographs.

Autograph prices are not posted on the main website. Your best bet is to research forums pertaining to that guest, or seeing if other conventions list prices (I know MegaCon and the Wizard World ones do).

Side Note: While you can technically go up to a guest’s table and talk to them for free, their handler may give you the evil eye or rush you along. A few guests are also said to be jerks about it if you don’t buy an autograph. As a precaution and just as a token of my appreciation for that person’s work, I’ll generally fork out money for an auto so that I can have a nice conversation with them in peace.

Photo-ops

Photos are a little bit more complicated, and it depends entirely on the guest.

1. Some will not allow any photography at all in the Walk of Fame at their table. Can’t snap a candid of them signing, not one of them smiling for your camera, and certainly not a posed pic with you and the guest.

2. Some will allow you to take a picture OF them, but not WITH them. #1 and #2 apply to bigger names who have a contract with the professional photographers who work the convention (usually Froggy’s photos). In this case, you need to either buy the pre-sale pictures from the photographer’s website (AVAILABLE NOW!), or buy a photo-op ticket on site. I’d suggest on site for 2 reasons. One, because the refund process for last minute cancellations can get tricky. Two, the schedule with times for each celebrity is not posted until about a week prior to con and you may have conflicting events. However, a very popular guest may sell out once in a blue moon, so keep that in mind.

A professional photo op with Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk.

A professional photo op with Nathan Fillion and Alan Tudyk.

3. Some will allow you to take a picture WITH them at the table, but will charge a fee. It’s often cheaper than the professional photographer’s fee because it’s not being split between parties. Some guests will do both—pics with your camera, as well as pics with the photographers.

A photo with Edward James Olmos using my camera.

A photo with Edward James Olmos using my camera.

Side note: People have a lot of hate mail for Froggy, but they’ve always been nice to me. Valid complaints against them can include customer service or slow e-mail response. But things out of their control are equipment failure or late guest arrivals. You also can’t help the rapid rate at which they move people along, because there’s no other way to fit in 100 people wanting a picture with Joe Celebrity within a 15 minute span. There are guests lined up from 10am-7pm and they have to stay on schedule. If you want to talk to the celebrity or give them a gift, do that at their table. The photo area is just for a quick hello and a photograph.

Pro Tip (Monday Morning Special):

– By Monday morning, most guests have 1) already left or 2) are still hungover in their room. However, a select few will show up in the Walk of Fame and this is your best chance to get an auto or photo with your camera for a discounted fee. Not a guarantee but it never hurts to ask politely and try to haggle a bit. You may also get a longer than usual conversation with them. I’ve gotten a photo with Star Trek: TNG people for $10 when they normally charge $40 with Froggy.

Will xxx be coming this year? / How can I get xxx to come to Dragon*Con?

– First, check the guest list page. Other than that, no one knows in advance except for the directors and staff that are in charge of booking guests. If you want a particular individual to come, try to get a hold of them via snail mailing their agents or social networking pages and get them to fill out a guest application.

What if you run into a celebrity in the hallway?

– Depends on the guest. If they’re drinking at the bar and having a good time, they’ll probably be in a good mood and oblige a photo request or talk to you for a bit. If they’re eating with their friends, it’s probably rude to interrupt them. I just say hello or wave if I walk by someone I recognize. They’re just trying to enjoy the con like everyone else and I don’t want to get in their way.

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Dragon*Con Guide: Buying a Membership

Updated: July 2013

There are a few different options for purchasing a Dragon*Con membership (aka badge or pass):

1. First, there’s the full weekend option. It’s for all 4 days (Fri-Mon), and it goes on sale a year in advance, typically on the last day of con for the following year’s event. The price steadily increases over the course of the year, ranging from around $70 in September all the way to $130+ at the door. Go to the Dragon*Con Store to buy your badge.

2 Second, there are single day passes, ranging in price from $35-50, depending on the day. Tip: Saturday is the busiest and most expensive. The drawback to single day passes are that they can only be bought on that day you’re actually attending (aside from a small number of pre-sales for Saturday).

3, Third, there are multi-day passes, but these are only available for certain day combinations. Usually the combinations are not released until the summer. Again, you can only purchase these at the door on the first day you’re going to attend. Single and multi-day pass prices now available!

4. Finally, there are Eternal Memberships, which are currently going for $2,000. I doubt many people are going to purchase one of these, but in case you want to, the only perks are a separate badge pick up area on site and access to a hospitality suite on Thursday. Seriously, just save your money!

All badges are non-refundable and non-transferable!!

What does a badge get you?

  • Full access to the official programming of events, demonstrations, panels, performances, and concerts. Security is posted outside each of the rooms with programming, and they will not allow you to enter the room without a badge.
  • Entrance into the host hotels, period. In recent years, Dragon*Con has instituted a “lock down” protocol at peak hours and in the evening. Hotel staff will man the various entrances into each of the host hotels, and they will not let anyone without a badge enter the building at all! Gone are the days when you could just roam the hallways for free without worry of being booted out.
  • Entrance into the dealer rooms, exhibitor halls, and the Walk of Fame where celebrity guests are located. NOTE: the costs of autographs and photo-ops are not included!

You bought a weekend pass in advance, now what? Expect to  be mailed a bright colored postcard within a few months of purchase that looks like this:

Be sure to bring this card with you because it has a barcode on the back that will make pulling your information up a breeze. Also bring a picture ID. I’ve personally experienced the horror of waiting in line for 2+ hours before they went to a computerized system.

Note: you can pickup a badge for someone else if you bright a written and signed note from that individual with a photocopy of their picture ID.

Dragon*Con Guide: Booking a Hotel

This subject deserves to be my first real entry of my Dragon*Con Guide series because it is arguably the hardest part of trying to attend the con! There are currently 5 host hotels– the ones that house official programming, include a feed to D*C TV in your room, and have contracts with the convention to give you a certain group rate. They are: Hyatt RegencyMarriott MarquisHiltonSheraton, and Westin Peachtree. Naturally, these are hot commodities and are sold out within hours of going on sale. Making things worse is the fact that most, if not all, of these hotels use a third party system called Passkey to sell the blocks of rooms instead of allowing you to book through their normal websites.

To give you an idea of the craziness of the situation, I booked my room for 2013 on the Tuesday after 2012’s con. I sat on my computer as the rooms went on sale while simultaneously calling the reservation phone line, and it still took me about 15 minutes to actually get a reservation. The rooms were promptly sold out within three hours. So if you didn’t get a room in that 3 hour span throughout the entire year, what do you do?

  1. The most realistic option is to book a nearby offsite hotel. The official website has a long list of overflow hotels, some of which even have a discount group rate. From that list, I can recommend the Double Tree Hilton (160 Spring St. NW) from personal experience and its close location. Two more nearby options are the Holiday Inn Downtown (101 Andrew Young Intl Blvd) and Motel 6 Downtown (311 Courtland St NE). All three of these hotels are within a few blocks of the host hotels and typically charge under $200 per night, which is approximately the going price for host hotels before tax.
  2. The next option is to book a little further away and commute. Try to get a hotel close to a MARTA station to save yourself some travel costs. A lot of the hotels from that overflow list above are in the Midtown part of Atlanta. Just be aware MARTA closes after 12:30 or 1:00am, so you’ll have to get a cab if you’re going back late.
  3. Pray and hope someone offers you a spot in their room or transfers it to you entirely. The Rooms for Dragon*Con LiveJournal is your best chance, but you can try other forums.
  4. You can rent some of the nearby apartments for a few days, typically around the same rate as what the host hotels charge. I don’t have experience with doing this, so do it at your own discretion.

Some general thoughts and tips regarding hotels:

  • Find roommates. $200 a night becomes more manageable when split 4 ways. Four is my limit for comfort, but I’ve heard tales of of 10 people fitting into a room.
  • If you’re using travel booking sites, narrow your search to “Downtown.”
  • Call about a week in advance to make sure your reservation is good to go.
  • Expect lines when checking in or checking out. If they have a room ready, the hotels do allow early check in. They also have a luggage holding service in case you want to look around without lugging around a suitcase. Oh, and traffic will be awful if you’re bringing your things by car.
  • Tip the housekeeping staff, and generally be nice to them. They tend to let people slide when they discover additional people not listed on the reservation or your stash of liquor sitting out in plain sight.

Dragon*Con Guide: Resource List

Dragon*Con is an overwhelming experience, and if you’re like me, you want to go into it knowing as much as you can. So I decided to make a resource list of sites and forums that have helped me over the years. While it’s not comprehensive, it should give you more than enough information to get started.

Updated: July 2013

Official:

– Actual Dragon*Con website – one stop site pretty much everything including buying a membership

Daily Dragon – mostly for updates, schedules changes, and mobile app info

LiveJournal – the main “forum” if you will, for questions, sales, and most other things.

Facebook – mostly for big announcements and news

Twitter – see above

Unofficial:

– Facebook groups: Official Facebook Discussions, General Dragon*Con talk, and DC Newbies

LiveJournal for room transfers and requests – your best shot of getting a room after they’re booked, even if you only have a slim chance.

LiveJournal by long time attendee for room deals using travel sites

Forum for advice and questions

Cosplay.com section for DragonCon – good for seeing what costume meetups are planned

Wiki format page with some amusing yet informative pages

TheUniqueGeek podcasts have a 50 day countdown with interviews from track directors and staff

Debriefing DragonCon – new podcast series that is better than my site, haha

Videos

BeatDownBoogie’s epic 20 minute plus look at the fun party that IS Dragon*Con (from 2011). The con should use it as promotional material.

Four Days at Dragon*Con – an Emmy winning documentary made back from 2009

Cosplay in America has been to many conventions, and they said that D*C is like no other out there!

My Stuff:

– How and Which Membership to Buy

– Booking a Hotel

Photo Ops and Autographs with Celebrity Guests

And if you have any questions, feel free to comment, or send me a Tweet. I always love CONverting people or helping first timers. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll try my best to find it.

Dragon*Con Guide: What is Dragon*Con?

Dragon*Con is a multi-genre convention that encompasses comic books, science fiction, anime, costuming, science, pop culture, and just overall geekery. The most recent estimate places the attendance numbers right around 50,000. What separates Dragon*Con from all other conventions is the laid back party vibe that lasts for 24 hours a days, for nearly 5 days straight! There’s no convention center that closes at night, and there’s no media hype machine to plug the latest movie;  just fans, having a damn good time. I attended for the first time in 2008, and I compare my experience to a religious CONversion of sorts. Ever since then, I’ve been trying to get others to come so that they too may experience the joy that I feel over every Labor Day weekend in the heart of Atlanta, Georgia. If you have a passion for anything under the geek banner, I would highly encourage you to visit Dragon*Con at least once. You’ll be hooked for life afterwards!

For more information, see the official Dragon*Con website and stay tuned for my future updates in the Dragon*Con Guide series.