Starfury Vampire Ball 5 Review

As actor Jonathan Woodward danced with a light saber and feather boa round the hall herding con-goers to the dance floor, I smiled to myself. What a great experience this convention had been so far!

Regular readers will know I primarily attend anime and J-culture events; this was my first Starfury event ran by the infamous Sean Harry, so I did not know what to expect! The Vampire Ball is an event which gathers actors from vampire genre TV and film together, this year the guests were all Buffy and Angel stars! s two of my favourite TV shows I was very excited to be attending!

FRIDAY

Registration ran smoothly, all crew members were helpful, knowledgable and friendly (especially the lovely ladies on the photo sales desk) my only minor grumble is that lanyard straps cost £2.50 these should be free and included as part of your ticket. I have attended many events and  never been made to pay for these before!

After registration, I made my way to the opening ceremony which in essence was an introduction to all the guests; Jonathan Woodward (Knox, Angel) had gone all out, making a video of a trip to central Birmingham, he then showed us what Birmingham is most known for on Craigslist! I won’t spoil it – go look for yourself (after reading this article of course). Straight after the opening ceremony the meet and greet commenced for gold ticket holders, this consisted of sitting on a table which seated around eight people (there were approximately 15 tables altogether) since there were less guests than tables there were times you were sitting without a guest, however I did not find this a problem, I preferred this rather than being in a larger group with consecutive guests. This also gave you a chance to talk to fellow Buffy fans!  Amongst my table were two lovely Scottish girls and Shangel, who runs a great Buffy blog. The meet and greet lasted till about midnight, rather than the scheduled 1 hour slot, which I think shows how dedicated the guests were to give each attendee their time and attention. You were allowed to bring your own food and drink in, beneficial as Hilton food was pricey and the session ran over. Two tips for this session, one come prepared with a question/objective, so you can make the most of this unique opportunity. Secondly don’t over drink! It is fine to have a glass or two during the session but don’t overdo it, as it is embarrassing for yourself, others at your table and the guests, there were a few people who got drunk and a tad emotional in this session which at times spoilt it.

IMG_0930psMoving on, to sum up my table’s meet and greet session:

Jonathan Woodward: a breath of fresh air, chugging shots of another attendees Baileys!

Emma Caulfield (Anya, Buffy)– discussion about her now deceased YouTube channel, Essnemma and how she should do something new online. Emma admitted she does miss it and wants to do something similar again.

James Marsters (Spike, Buffy/Angel)– As a Supernatural fan (Team Dean) I asked him about his guest appearance in Supernatural and what it was like working with Charisma Carpenter. He answered that he really enjoyed working closely with her and recalled a funny story of how she couldn’t remember the magical incantation and they had to hold giant cue cards with the spell written on to read off!

Jeff Rickets (Weatherby, Buffy)– a bundle of energy he made it clear we were never to give him Redbull and touched upon his life in Vienna, as unlike the other guests who are US based he relocated to Europe with his wife who is Austrian.

Dayne  Johnson (Make-up/prosthetics artist) – a lot of stroking went on! That is all I will say…

George Hertzberg (Adam, Buffy) – We ended the session with George,  despite it being midnight and the last table in the room he was still perfectly happy to sit and have a full conversation. We had a very serious debate about politics, air strikes and the severe drought that Texas is facing. Like I said, a very serious conversation but what a lovely man, he treated us completely as equals and valued our opinions on how we would resolve these situations.

As it struck midnight I finally headed to the party, although movie themed it was perfectly acceptable to wear whatever you wanted with a mixture of both costumes and casual clothes on display. I danced away till the end, very unlike me who tires easy in my old age (I swear sometimes I am 24…going on 44).

IMG_1084psSATURDAY

Up bright and early Saturday (too early – but I was excited) I grabbed my second coffee of the morning and headed to my photo shoot with Emma Caulfield and James Marsters individually. Starfury seemed to be quite flexible with shoots and allowed you to mix and match cast to your liking from anything to full group, James and Emma together etc which was nice. Straight after the shoot I headed to the main talk room where the panels began.

Dayne Johnson (Angel and Criminal Minds make-up/prosthetics artist) answered a Q&A while recreating the prosthetics from an Angel, Season 5 episode Hellbound. In the Q&A session Dayne revealed the following: The Beast (Angel Series 4) was both his favourite and hardest creation. Although he does not design the demons, he does have the recreate the images and make them look authentic. There seemed to be a few Criminal Minds fans in the audience as he was asked several questions about his time on the show. Finally, having worked on some impressive shows already Dayne said he would love to work on The Walking Dead or American Horror Story.

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Jonathan and Jeff channelling psychic energy in the room

Next up was Jeff Ricketts and Jonathan Woodward – the Trifactor; a rare breed having guest starred in Buffy, Angel and Firefly. The pair were natural stand-up comedians putting on one hell of a show, with Jeff Ricketts competing to be the next Derren Brown channelling psychic energy and predicting numbers that audience members were thinking. In-between the duo answered attendee’s questions. I asked Jonathan about his time on Angel, “many see you as responsible for Fred’s death, do you get any hate mail/what is the craziest thing a fan has done because of this”. Jonathan admitted that around once every five months he will get someone yell at him in the streets “You killed Fred!” but his response is “Yes and she deserved it bitch” he commented what made his character Knox memorable and unique was how usually the villains never succeed in killing off the main cast but he was the exception.

IMG_1284psNext Emma Caulfield took to the stage, shyer and more reserved than Jeff and Jonathan (although not when it came to the f-word) she was still able to answer attendees questions making it clear from the start she has “no fucking problem with bunnies”.  Interestingly Emma revealed she has not watched a Buffy episode with herself in. Other topics and fun facts discussed during her Q&A included that although not her style she loved Anya’s wedding dress but commented how heavy it was to wear! I was surprised to find out her favourite Buffy episode was the season 4 finale Restless, as I expected her to say a more Anya-centric episode like Selfless or Hells Bells. I asked Emma if she preferred playing Anyanka or human Anya, at first she said human Anya because she didn’t have to sit through and wear the prosthetics, she then divulged and said that she preferred human Anya because she has more emotions and depth. Like the meet and greet, she commented on how she missed her YouTube channel  and wants to do something new. Emma also talked about her most recent role as the blind witch in Once Upon A Time; providing some interesting trivia that the contact lens really did make her blind so she had to be walked around everywhere by an assistant when wearing them! When asked to reveal who was the best kisser out of Anthony Head, Nicholas Brendan and James Marsters she ultimately decided on James Marsters because “kissing Spike is as hot as it sounds”.

IMG_1342psEmma’s talk was followed by James Marsters and Geroge Hertzberg’s Q&A, not surprisingly James was asked the bulk of the questions but a highlight was when they were asked what is the most rock and roll thing they had ever done “I once dated a pornstar” revealed James then George just topped his response with “I dated a Dominatrix” hilarious, you naughty boys! Like Emma, James was also asked about the ladies he kissed on screen, except he said that on screen kissing is nothing like normal kissing and that it can be awkward as you have to make sure you are not in the other persons light, consequently the kiss in Buffy in OMWF took 14 takes! George recalled an embarrassing story of how his Adam costume was not bathroom friendly and that he had to be helped whenever he needed to go!

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Sean Harry with Edward Cullen, cosplay contest group winner

With talks over for the day over, it was time for gold pass holders to get their autographs, with regular ticket holders scheduled for Sunday. Autographs at Starfury events are included free with your ticket (unless stated otherwise). With the photographs from the morning’s shoots ready for collection you could have these signed, personal items or the free Vampire Ball poster given out which ironically had cancelled guest Janina (True Blood/Vampire Diaries) bang fat in the middle!  My item was the booklet from my Buffy series 1-7 boxset. If you wanted additional autographs you could pay £10 for a ‘badger’ this entitled you to recieve another personal item signed or one of the printed glossy photographs they had for sale.

After autographs it was time for the cosplay contest, this was probably the only time where there was some waiting around; however the con staff played some YouTube videos to pass the time including a hilarious Giles tribute. The contest featured an array of cosplays and I absolutely loved the skit fight between the Edward Cullen vs Spike who ultimately won best group. Congrats to all the winners and those that participated you all looked awesome!

The day ended with Saturday’s party: The Vampire Ball, I got into the spirit and wore a mask for the occasion! The guests came and partied and hung out in the bar and dance floor, Jonathan Woodward with his light saber as I mentioned at the beginning of this post. The only guests who didn’t join in the shenanigans were James and Emma – I presume they were worried they would get mobbed! Overall the guests were so interactive with attendees. I never thought I would be able to say I partied with stars from my favourite shows!

SUNDAY

IMG_1586psDayne kicked off the morning with another prosthetics Q&A panel accompanied by Jonathan Woodward his test subject! Dayne remade Jonathan to look like a vampire, a process that he had to go through for the season 7 episode ‘Conversations with Dead People’. Attendees could later pay to have a photo shoot with the pair. Dayne went over some of the topics he discussed yesterday, but also revealed he has a hairdressing licence.

George Hertzberg and Jeff Ricketts began the next panel, while Jeff honed his psychic abilities, George practiced his shoulders massages on unexpecting female attendees. Amongst the fun and games, the actors answered the audiences questions. Jeff revealed that in Buffy, Series 4 it was synthetic spit on Faith’s face and that although he was really spitting, he never hit Eliza Dushku this effect was done using camera trickery. As understandably, she did not want to be spat on! Jeff also revealed the tension on the Charmed set, his guest appearance was during the Alyssa Milano and Shannon Doherty feud….yikes!

Starfury saved the best talk for last; Emma Caulfield and James Marsters since people were firing random questions at the pair I decided to join in; asking them what their favourite fairy tales was, had they been affected by any as a child, I felt this was relevant since Emma appeared in Once Upon a Time. James instantly replied “Planet of the Apes”. Emma admittedly didn’t have one having said she did not really grow up with fairy tales. James said he usually gets asked questions like when he lost his virginity (Emma looked shocked at that one) so liked the unusual and deep questions!  Moving on from the what ifs and the what would you choose questions, the talk got very serious when an attendee asked if the pair would accept any future BIG roles which involved nudity. Both said no, even if it was for Game of Thrones. Emma compromised that if it was a discrete glimpse because she walked out of the shower in a scene than that was fine, but topless love scenes or anything unnecessary then not a chance. James said “I gave up on all that after Buffy, I mean I want to act” Emma added, “some of the stuff that is on TV now is virtually porn”. The answer and sincerity from the pair earned a strong round of applause from the audience.

The night ended with dancing while drinking mojitos and the wine flowed as even making it to the survivors photo. This applies to all the nights, but kudos to the DJ’s at the event, really enjoyed the music played – felt like I was listening to my I-pod!

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Ivanneth Cosplay as Willow and Tara – OMWF

Key strengths of this event was the timetabling and organisation– I did everything – I mean everything! I attended every panel, every party (staying to the end each night – I even made the survivors photo). The timetabling made it possible so you could do this, structured so both gold and regular ticket pass holders can attend all the talks, without it clashing with photo shoots and collecting autographs. I appreciated this as at a lot of events you do have to pick and choose but the con organisers did think this through for us. Panels – James and Emma was my favourite, the pair bounced nicely off each other, as did George and Jonathan, and Jeff and Jonathan. Honestly, all panels were generally interesting and funny.

Overall thanks Starfury for an amazing event, I hope to go to the next one; of course it will depend on guest selection. Fingers crossed for another heavily focused Buffy and Angel event in 2015. For those who missed James Marsters can catch him at Miracle Day (Torchwood event) in 2015!

Event Ideas/improvements:

  • Not sure how possible this is as you would need permission to screen – but a live commentary of an episode/show the star has been in.
  • More structured cosplay contest –  for those that do not have a skit, rather than walking in a circle, do the three strikes pose giving the audience more of a chance to appreciate the costume and get some nice photos
  • Please look into adopting an excel/electronic data system as it would have been nice if my pass had the right name on…
  • More events involving audience participation e.g quiz on Buffy/vampire genre shows/movies

Guest suggestions – I liked the Buffy/Angel theme to the event, I would love to see more cast members attend future events; other than the main cast I would love to meet these recurring characters: Stephanie Romanov (Lilah Morgan), Julia Lee (Chanterelle/Lily/Anne Steele), Robia La Morte (Jenny Calendar) and Gwen (Alexa Davalos). Also Kristin Bauer (Pam, True Blood).

What ticket to get?

If purchasing a ticket and you can’t decide between Gold or regular here is my guide on what to go for:

Get gold if….

  • If you are into photography and want some decent photos from the panels/main hall events as gold pass holders get priority seating. I made sure I was in front row for each panel to get those snaps.
  • Want to spend more individual time with celebs, as gold passes can attend the exclusive meet and greet sessions.

Get regular if…

  • You are there primarily for parties and socialising
  • Want to spend money on photos/extra autographs, as buying a cheaper ticket can allow you to spend the saved money on this…or a ton of raffle tickets!