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Rhone Island ComicCon 2017

Rhode Island Comic Con 2017 was held Nov 10th -- 12th at the Dunkin' Donuts Convention Center, Providence, RI

Thanks for visiting! I went to RICC specifically for the Sword Experience so this report will reflect that more than the convention itself.

The Sword Experience

Highlander was a movie series from the mid 80s and early 90s which spun off a TV show that among some fans became more popular than the original movies. The star of the TV show is Adrian Paul, who now spends his time promoting his charity (The Peace Fund) and running The Sword Experience. You can find out more details about the Sword Experience online but the short summary is simple. Participants learn a small amount of swordsmanship and choreography, which they practice with each other, assistant instructors, and Paul himself. It ends with filming the participants; the footage is edited together into a final product showcasing the event.

Having been a Highlander fan since I saw it on TV, and feeling like this was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I booked a flight and hotel -- and of course, tickets for the show and experience -- to participate. As such I didn't get to see RICC the way I see most conventions. Usually I feel naked without my camera, but my goals here were different. I still managed to get a few photos in, which are below this report. Most of my time was participating in the Sword Experience, which lasted well into the evening.

Anybody who wants to know every little detail of the experience will have to ask me in person. Here I'll keep it to the basics for those interested in knowing what the Sword Experience is really like. It was basically three sections, warm-up, practice, and filming. The event is much more focused on learning choreography than swordsmanship, despite Highlander being renowned for it's fairly realistic sword battles. Even so, the first part consisted of a lot of warm up exercises -- since we were going to be very physically active -- and a bit of sword handling and safety. Even though we were using boken (wooden swords) they can still cause serious injury. After the warm up we split into two groups to practice each half of the choreographed sword fight. Ours was a battle from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace; each event does a different scene so you never see the same thing twice.

In addition to Paul we had two assistant instructors who helped out and showed us the moves. People were then paired off to practice with each other, and Paul came by each pair to practice with them, if just shortly. Once practice was done each pair was assigned to one of six larger groups of eight people each. These were the film groups who would appear together on the filming stage. (Ours was a green-screen background though other events have used actual castle backgrounds in Europe.) Each large group was filmed four times, rotating around the stage in order to get each pair in the closeup camera at least once. Each group ended with a few unique shots of about four people on stage at once.

After the event proper we were all invited down to the autograph area where Adrian Paul signed photos, and also the boken we used for those who bought the optional package. Everybody also got a chance to get a photo with him. Paul stayed for quite some time to make sure everybody got their autograph and photo op, very friendly and cordial the whole time though he was clearly exhausted from a long day. Adrian Paul did a very good job as instructor and leader. The event is for people with little to no background in martial arts or film. In only four hours he manages to teach us enough to at least get a few good takes on camera for a final product that will be memorable. He was strict enough to keep things on target and keep people focused on the task at hand, but also comical enough to keep it all light-hearted and fun.

When it was my turn to practice with Paul, I had the choreography down mostly, but my swinging wasn't quite to his liking. I was swinging a little too hard for film purposes -- enough to actually smack somebody in the head hard if they didn't block. So in my practice run I actually got to take a few real swings at (the actor who plays) the Highlander. Pretty memorable and the highlight of the event.

The Sword Experience took up basically all of Friday. My flight left later Saturday afternoon so I only had a few hours at the convention outside of the Sword Experience. But they were quite worth it as a good portion of the cast from Star Trek: The Next Generation was there. The biggest guests at the show were some of the cast from Stranger Things, whose lines were so long the fire marshall had to disperse it regularly. Fortunately, the Trek actors were under less demand and I got to get autographs from Brent Spiner (Data), Gates McFadden (Beverly Crusher), and Marina Sirtis (Deana Troy). They were all absolutely wonderful to interact with. Spiner is funny in person and seemed really happy to interact with fans. Sirtis engaged me in talk about photography (probably since I have a rather obviously large camera hanging around my neck) and answered my questions about many of the photos she had available for autographs. McFadden was quite interested to hear about how my cats got silly, nerdy names and shared stories about hers. I'd had the fortune to "meet" each of them before at conventions, but this was perhaps the best actual personal encounter I'd had with any of the Star Trek cast.

There's little I can really say about the convention outside the very small slice of it I experienced. It's a bit of travel for me so I doubt I'd go back as it didn't offer anything my local comic conventions don't offer -- except for The Sword Experience, of course. But the location is nice, food in the area is great, and the hotel and travel rates are pretty reasonable. If I find an excuse to be up there again when the convention is going on, I'll be certain to pick up tickets.

Rhode Island Comic Con 2018 will be held November 2nd -- 4th at the Rhode Island Convention Center & Dunkin' Donuts Center, Providence, RI.