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Convention Information

Fri., Sat. & Sun.
28-30 January 2011
Los Angeles Marriott at LAX
5855 West Century Blvd.

Renee O'Connor,
Brittney Powell,
Jacqueline Kim
Hudson Leick
Michael Hurst
Jennifer Ward-Lealand
Claire Stansfield
Melinda Clarke
Charles Mesure
Charles Keating
Steven L. Sears
Ted Raimi
Katherine Fugate
David Franklin

Spartacus Panel
Steven DeKnight
Rick Jacobson


Los Angeles, California, USA

28-30 January 2011

Convention Report by KT

Day 3 -
Renee O'Connor

Con 2011  Renee

Renee came out in a sparkly silvery top, black pants and high heels. And not just any pedestrian high heels, but shoes with heels that were somewhat breathtakingly high, Mt. McKinley high, and were also very skinny. I’m always amazed when I’m “Outside” (which for Alaskans is how we refer to any place that’s not Alaska) and I see people wearing high heels—it’s just not a look you find very often in Fairbanks. And most assuredly not in the winter.

First of course, Renee thanked us for being here. All them show folks talk about how amazing to them is our loyalty and continued exuberance for being together someplace where they are. She literally said “It’s about you”, meaning that the con happens because we show up. Which is baldly true, of course, but I’m pretty sure she meant it also and even more so in the sense of we’re the ones who are the very public face testifying’ how the Xena fan base has never totally disbanded, that we’re still in love not only with this show and the people who brought it to us but also, deep down and sometimes well hidden, with each other. Even though it’s been ten years since the show ended. And by our showing up, we inspire the people who worked on the show to take the time and energy to be with us again and celebrate us celebrating together.

Renee said, “I’m going to do a show and tell”. A small number of us of course laughed lasciviously. Renee then added, “I won’t show much-but I’ll tell a lot”.

She said she was going to show us some clips that I thought she called “Byways”. She said, “I’ve been interviewing other people. Women who are inspiring to me” She wants to encourage more authentic experiences.

Then she began to show us some clips which were from a series of what I realized was actually “Five Ways”, not “Byways”.

These were fun little bits. There was one called something like multi-tasking fitness. It opened on Renee standing with a just about as big as her boy draped across her shoulders as she did leg lifts and possibly? squats. (We assume the boy was Miles.)

Then there was a hilarious one that started with a hand holding a Gabrielle dolly and then throwing it into an empty dumpster. The shot changes to inside the dumpster and suddenly the doll is actually Renee dressed as Gabrielle. She screams out, “I’m a collectible!” Then the camera pulls back and we see that a Darth Vader dolly is also in the dumpster. They interact in various very funny ways. (I don’t want to tell too much—I believe that this stuff is on Renee’s web page and I think people are supposed to pay to access them.)

A fan asked her about Ark 2. She called the director I think he is, Trey, up on stage for a little bit. He essentially just said that there’s a process they’re working on and right now a sequel is under discussion.

There is a film project she’s been working on that was called “Fitful” That has been renamed “Dead Rise”. She showed us clips from it. She asked us not to take pictures of anything she was showing us. She mentioned that they’d be entering some of the projects in film festivals.

The clip from “Dead Rise” started with a woman waking up on a boat. Then we see her having various reactions to things other people are doing. We see her wake up a few times and do different things.

When the clip ended, Renee said, “Oh-I forgot to kind of set this up”. She told us that for the woman the day kept repeating. Then she told us that after working on it for a while, she suddenly realized that what they were making was a ghost story. Eventually her partners on the project came to the same conclusion.

Then she added, “I’ll try to set up the next one better”. She expects “Dead Rise” to be ready for release in about six months or so.

“I promise we’re going to talk about Xena. I know that’s why we’re here.” She said she knew that was what we wanted but a number of people assured her that we were interested in her current projects also. Which is definitely true. That is a constant question for everyone who appears-actor, writer, director whatever-“What are you working on now?”

Next she talked about “Beyond The Farthest Star”. She said, “It’s a faith-based film, but it’s heart strong. It’s about a family completely imploding on itself. There’s a feeling of shame around the family. I read it and then I met the film makers and told them I’d love to do this.”

Then she showed us a clip from it. She asked us not to record any of this either. It looked very well produced and featured good acting. There is apparently a web site for it where you can go and somehow request that the film play in a specific location. The more people request a showing the better it is for the movie.

Renee said, “I love stories like that. They tell the truth.”

A fan asked if Renee’s own faith (hmm-I think it was something like, “Informed”) the way she played the character. “Not so much. She’s walking around with a mask. She’s the good church wife. This is more about her heart. She wants her husband to love her daughter the way she is.”

Fan: “Where was it filmed?”

“Leonard Texas. We shot there for three weeks.” She talked about the actors and crew living in each other’s pockets. They were on set together all day and then they all stayed in the same motel. “There was nowhere to go”. She talked about eating at a Sonic drive-in “a lot”. The Sonic was very close to their motel. The first time she went over there, it was raining heavily and she had her boots on and a hoody on and was all bundled up. She walked up to the Sonic and they said, “Where’s your car?” She said she had just walked over from the motel. They said, “But this is a drive in.” Since it was a drive-in, they made her walk around to the drive in window in the pouring rain to order. She got to the window and said, “Remember me?”

Renee said Leonard was very good to them. “They handed us the key to the city.” I believe she said there was some concern about these out-of-towners, but “These filmmakers are honorable men. They came through.”

Renee had warned us when she started her appearance that she had some very heavy duty material that she was going to show us. She kept saying that some people might not want to stay for this and especially if there were children there, their parents might want to take them out of the auditorium. She told us it’s a film about PTSD and the effects of that trauma on a soldier and through them, on their family. She made it to highlight the dysfunctional violence and disarray of our society.

Renee repeated the warning just before she started the film and said she wasn’t kidding. That we should take the kids out now. She talked about how it showed a horrible thing happening to a child.

The film was both very powerful and very awful. It dealt with a man (whom I think was played by Jed Sura, Renee’s partner) coming home from Iraq I think it was, with severe PTSD. Renee plays his wife and their daughter Iris played his child. It showed him suffering through his delusions and paranoia. And what happens to himself and his family because of his reactions to these.

It was shocking. I was personally deeply affected by it. Now I don’t have a lot written down about the movie and the audience reaction to it. I was just listening to what other people had to say about it. Not many people got up to talk. Those who did were passionate about the topic whichever side they were on.

As I had watched the film, I got upset and felt some anger. Primarily because I didn’t think it was exactly appropriate to show it in this venue-it didn’t really fit in with the mood of the con nor people’s expectations of what the entertainment will be here. But again, Renee did repeatedly warn us about how serious and horrific this film is before she showed it.

The audience reaction was mixed. The room was mostly silent when it ended. It took a while (and I think some questions from Renee) before people began to express opinions on it. Some people said they were angry because they had personal histories with PTSD effects and were upset to have those memories brought up here. Other people were very supportive of the film and said that we need to have these problems brought out in the open. That if we keep sweeping this under the rug, we’ll never be able to deal with it effectively and protect people from it. At least one of the people who said this also had a personal family tragedy as a result of war-induced PTSD. She was very moved and very supportive of the film precisely because it is so rare that this problem is highlighted in a humane and tragic way.

Renee said I think both before and after the film that we have been sweeping this problem under the rug. That our society is traumatized and our military and their family are paying the price of the trauma. I think it was Renee but it might have been a person in the audience who mentioned that just recently a family tragedy that was a result of PTSD had been in the news. Someone near me in the audience mentioned a mother killing her children near Seattle.

I wouldn’t be surprised if many of the people who saw the film are still thinking about it. After listening to the comments from other people, I was less angry and more thoughtful. While I’m still not totally certain that the con was the place to show this, I think it is a tribute to the film and how well it captured and presented its message that it did generate such strong feelings. That’s one of the functions of art, it's the work of art-to stimulate thought, discussion and passionate responses. And I repeat, Renee warned us that it was an unusual and very serious and very gritty film and that some of us might choose not to stay and watch it.

That was the end of Renee’s time alone. Next she showed the welcome clip Lucy had filmed for us that we had already seen twice before. But this time, as the clip ended, Lucy walked out from behind the curtain and strode up to the stage.





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