2007 OFFICIAL XENA CONVENTION
One thing that was immediately apparent at this con was the large percentage of Con Virgins and Retuning Lapsed Con Goers. Changing the location to the East Coast has brought out lots of fresh Xenafan meat along with the more well-aged grade. There was a high exhilarating excitement at this con among many, many people that is sometimes lacking in Burbank—in Burbank many of us are endless returnees. Perhaps we are a bit blasé about being there, about slipping into the con experience, because it's like putting on an old familiar coat. One that you love but one that is not going to have many surprises about it. (Except sometimes in forgotten pockets. Damn, do I love stretching metaphors!). For many fans, in Burbank the focus is on meeting old friends, rather than on what's going on. Things are more familiar than fresh. But at this con, there was a high level of anticipation in the air. Just endless repeats of "What now?" And when the reply, such as say, "The charity breakfast" is given, the response, often said in a excited voice is "OH! What's that!", not "Oh. Okay."
So though it's out of order, of course every year I always start my con reports with Lucy and Renee's appearances.
And as always, the disclaimer for all these reports reads: This is an approximation (hopefully a somewhat close approximation) of what people said. Even when something is in quotes, it may not be exactly what was said. When people talk, there is a lot left unsaid that you pick up from faces, gestures and your attempts to follow the leaps of the speaker from one topic/subject/statement to the following thing they say, which may not be totally and absolutely sequential. Good luck to us all with the following.
Rob introduced Renee who came out to roars of welcome, thunderous applause and a standing ovation.
She asked how many were first timers. And as were many of the people who had already asked this, was really surprised to see what a high percentage of folks were new.
She smiled and said, "We have some newbies, don't we?"
She said, "That was funny, putting Rob on the spot. Is he writing a book about us?"
As we've been doing lately, people had the option of coming up to the mike or of asking a question from their seat. Sharon endlessly kept trying to get the presenters to repeat the screamed out from the seat questions. Sometimes they did. . .(Grin.)
There was a question from the floor about Gabrielle cutting her hair. It was a long question Renee listened intently for a while and then filled us in with, "Something about. . .the hair."
She told us that she and Rob had been discussing Gabrielle's hair. In Between the Lines she had to wear a wig because her hair was still long. She said she liked having the short hair-it was freeing.
She added that the long hair sometimes created a problem with continuity. She would be trying to stay in the Gabrielle reality and act the character and one of the crew would have the job of pushing her hair behind her back or pulling it forward unto her chest so that the hair matched up in the different cuts.
Next I have written down that she said, "There are politics around the world. What happens in Washington affects the studios."
Renee replied to a question that yes, independent filmmakers have a little more freedom. "But I was talking to Rob. You have to find funding." Then she looked towards the questioner and said, "I bet that has nothing to do with your question."
"I'd like to be a filmmaker. I love anyone who's willing to stand up and say what they want to say. Without being preachy. I have to fight against that. I tend to be preachy."
This is what I love about (not sure if she was talking about acting or directing here). The chance to look at something through other people's experiences."
There was another long statement/question about the Rift Arc. Renee said something to the person and then the person said, "Did the Rift change how you played with Lucy?"
Renee: "Of course. Hope wanted to be Gabrielle. She wanted to be the person who walked next to Xena. She wanted to be her mother."
Then I believe the questioner made clear that she'd been talking about Gabrielle, not Hope. And it's possible (at least from what I have written down in my notebook and posted below as Renee's reply) that she asked if Renee would have made the same choices as Gabrielle or would Renee have reacted differently than Gabrielle did.
Renee: "Of course. That's why you play acting. You're working with something that's different from what you would do yourself. In your heart, you have to choose."
There was another question that I think related to that morning's photo op. (For which Renee donned the costume from Heart of Darkness that she wore during the orgy scene. Renee smiled and said, "Rob was just asking me-`How many costumes do you have?'"
"I pulled this out of the closet this morning. I walked downstairs and my boyfriend Jed looked at me and said, `Where did THAT come from?' I told him, `I wore this on Xena.' And he said, `WOW!'. I asked him, `Can I wear this outside the house?' He replied, `It shows everything.' I said, `Be specific'."
Renee then told us she'd been talking with T.J. Scott. T.J. was the director of Sin Trades and when Renee became interested in directing, she tagged along with him on the set of Sin Trades to "apprentice" herself to him. And she mentioned that he always called Ngila Dickson, (the costume designer on XWP) "Dr. Ngila". "Because any actress would walk into her room. And no matter what size cup she went in with, she came out HUGE. So he called her Dr. Ngila."
She was asked if she has any plans for future work. "I just don't know. Not in the immediate future. I have a small family, little children. It would have to be short term."
She then told us she wanted to show us a bit of her new film, "Ghost Town". The premiere was that evening in the theme park where Ghost Town was filmed. She told us she promised them that nobody would film it. (Let's hope all the bootleggers in our fandom respects this request.)
They started off the video and someone in the audience shouted up to Renee, "Can you move the chair?" "The chair? Oh." Renee grabbed the chair that was onstage for her and carried it over to the side. We all laughed at this. The voice from the audience yelled out, "Thank you." Renee replied, "It's okaay."
Renee giggled and said, "This is like family. What do you need? You guys need a drink?"
We all cheered madly of course when we first saw her character onscreen.
She showed us a scene (or maybe this was a still?) where they were beating up the heroine. "I asked, `Can I hold her'?" And she giggled again and said something about what they must have thought of her because of that request.
The director gave her a coin and told her she had to play with it-you know in that way you "ladder" it so it rolls along the fingers of one hand. She didn't know how to do that but she learned quickly.
Another scene: "This is my Pa." She said about another character that he was like a mad dog. The story revolves around a family that was butchered.
Renee's looked at herself on screen as Little Jack and said, "They didn't do me any favor with all the coats."
She talked about how she liked to know what costume she would be wearing pretty far in advance of the shoot. (To help her with creating the character was my impression.) "I like to know." We laughed for some reason and she said "I doooooo." So it was the first day of shooting and she still didn't have a costume. She told us she asked, "Gee, am I gonna have a costume today?" They were going to hand her something and then someone said, "Oh-oh-you're a woman-that's right." "Next thing I now, I have this tomboy."
She talked about someone on the set. "He's from Texas. He had coonskins on that he had brought with him. He asked me if I knew how to use that rifle." Renee said, "Well yeah." But he still decided he needed to give her "advice" on it.
I think maybe we ended with the trailer for the movie. And that was the end of the clips.
The next question was yelled out and Renee repeated, "Would I have played Hope differently now that I'm a mother? Noooo." (I've noticed that Renee often draws out her words when she's thinking over her answer. You can see that on a couple of the Coffee Talk videos and sometimes onstage at a con.) "It would have been a lot harder but the feeling was the same."
"I lost someone young. I know that feeling when you have to kill someone. I would have had to do what worked for Gabrielle's journey."
She suddenly added, "You're going to find out everything about me. My friend was in a coma. His parents had to decide. (To end his life.) I didn't have to make that decision."
The next question was if she worked out. She said not really. Someone shouted out that she should do a workout video. She laughed and said, "I balance a lot on my plate. Anyone who knows my little life style-they'll say, Renee has a lot on her plate' Someone in the audience yelled something out and Renee nodded and said yeah, she chases her kids around.
Someone yelled out something about her doing the shimmy in Lucy's show. Or perhaps it was a suggestion that she do the shimmy right now for us. (I bet that's more likely, knowing us. . .)
Renee answered, "Do the shimmy?!" And she began to bounce gently on stage, putting her hands on her thighs, "Gosh, I can feel my thighs".
She was asked if she watches her performance to judge it. "Well of course actors do that. But not when filming. Don't judge yourself then. Sometimes I see a scene I've done and think, `That was more intense than I thought it would be. Wow.'"
She was asked about martial arts. "I don't practice martial arts.". Pause "I know that's disappointing." Someone else yelled something out and she laughed at us and said, "You're trying to get me to do something." She leapt into that slightly excited somewhat commanding voice she uses sometimes when she's imitating people urging someone else on, usually used in conjunction with her index finger stabbing the air in front of her. "Do something, Renee. Do some push-ups!"
Would she want her kids to be actors? "I don't think I'll make them a clone." I think someone yelled out something about acting being hard. "Everything is difficult. Just trying to survive in this economy is difficult. But everything's hard."
What was her favorite comedy? "The itching lice one was way funny. (In Sickness and in Health.) I got to do the chakram thing." And she lifted up her arms and foot acting out the way Gabrielle taunted Xena to just try to get her chakram back. Someone yelled out something and Renee smiled and nodded. "The drool." (One of my favorite Little Blond Kid scenes. Renee was so funny in that ep.)
Renee added, "The sexier my outfits got, I wanted to be more goofy."
Repeating the next question she said, "Will I be directing any (and she put on a fancy voice) `Hollywood films'?" She smiled again as she said, "Not in the near future."
She mentioned the new reality show, "On The Lot" which is apparently like an American Idol thing, but you get to make a movie that gets judged. And she talked about the difference in opportunity. "I do practice acting, but I don't practice directing."
Either someone gave her a suggestion or she said she might do some shorts. (Films-not laundry.) She said to us, "Hang in there-I know you're all here for the ride."
Then she said, "'Diamonds and Guns'. What a journey." She was going to show us some of the movie and again said, "Don't tape it."
The movie started and she said, "Joe's music." (Joe LoDuca, old friend of Rob's and his regular music maker for his productions.)
"ROC pictures presents" appeared on the screen and we all yelled and applauded like mad. Renee talked about having to make decisions on like "Where to put a name". The opening credits roll on tight close-ups of someone putting on make-up. Renee kept pointing to places on the face. "Do we put it here? Or here? (Then placing her finger right on the opening of a giant nostril) "Or here?"
"I learned this from Xena". (Where and when to place the titles. Or maybe how to stick her finger up someone's nose. Shrug.)
I'm not going to tell you much about what we saw because it would constitute spoilers. The scene shifted to a room and Renee pointed out "That's my painting in the background. It's `Gothic (?) Wolves'." She said fondly, "Only you guys would know that." Then she added, "Only you guys will watch it."
I will tell you one thing. SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON"T WANT TO BE SPOILED! I'll put a little space around the beginning and the end. Don't even BLINK at it or you'll be spoiled!
A cameo appearance is made by Ted Raimi. There were HUGE cheers from
the audience when we saw his face.
The first question after the clip ended was why hadn't she cast Lucy as the New Zealander?
Renee answered, "Producing digital media is so easy. I could do anything I wanted to. I went to an event at (and I lost track of where she said she was—something like the New Zealand embassy maybe?). As you do. (Well, maybe as YOU do, Renee. Heh.) And she met Helena Beaven. And either Helena was already in an acting class with Renee or they wound up in an acting class together. And Helena wrote the "Diamonds and Guns" screenplay. Which they decided to produce.
"The director we chose had only done one short film." Pause. "I wish I had watched that film. He was overwhelmed. By the end, he wasn't really guiding us at all." And then the director left the project.
She watched the film-(and I THINK she said she showed it to some friends from Xena). They said the set up wasn't working. She and Helena agreed. So she called up Ted Raimi. She said with great affection in her voice, "Ted." (Kind of tenderly drawling out his name. "He just makes me laugh. My heart warms up every time I see him."
FINALLY we got back to the original question (Grin.) "I wish I could do that with Lucy. But that wasn't the journey for this film."
There was a long question about the heavy emotions that the actors would have to play on Xena. And how this might impact their personal lives.
Renee agreed that there were heavy emotional moments in Xena. "Many times, I wish I had pulled it in. I was playing the essence of the character". She talked about how she was just in the Boogeyman sequel. For that character, she kept it more subtle. "But Gabrielle was just. . ." (And I think she kind of flung her arms out wide) ". . . this is it! Give it all."
And then the big bad Luce came out on stage.