San Diego Comic Con – A travelogue


Part 1 by Scott Mackay. Scott is the co-writer for the film Electric Man, a comedy caper movie about a rare and valuable comic and it’s coming your way in 2012.

Read Part 2 and Part 3.

I was somewhere south of Lyon and it was around midnight when I learned that our movie ‘Electric Man’ had been selected for the San Diego Comic Con – or at least the film festival attached to it. The book signing tour I was on had taken it out of me. Not because signing books is hard but because speaking French is hard – at least it is for me. All I wanted to do was to crawl into bed and sleep.

And then I got the call.
And then I picked up a small car and put it in my pocket.
Okay I didn’t, but I felt as if I could.

San Diego Comic Con is the biggest pop culture event in the world. There was no better place for the movie to be and I stayed awake for another hour just luxuriating in the news. It wasn’t until the next morning that the thought occurred to me…we would have to go there.

Not too big an ask if you are promoting The Dark Knight Returns but when you are a micro budget movie out of Edinburgh things are somewhat trickier.

There are direct flights to San Diego from various airports in the UK I believe but film festivals (and this isn’t just San Diego, this is all film festivals) tend to give you minimal notice that you have been selected. By the time you know you are going it is impossible to get a cheap flight. So,

#1 Book early

And what goes for flights goes double for accommodation. Our attempts at finding a place to stay threw up some wonderful deals. One star hotels with bullet holes in the wall were charging five star rates just because they can. Comic Con attracts 140,000 people and they have to stay somewhere.

We discovered a site called ‘airbnb’ where people rent out their spare rooms, holiday homes, garages and so on. For $300 a night we could have a private place to stay that included an outdoor hot tub.

Let me pause a moment to allow the fantasies to run through your mind. Southern California, blondes, hot tub, a glass of chilled something…I hope you enjoyed that small day dream because in the time you took… it disappeared. Now you are back to a choice between paying $500 per night or staying across the border in Tijuana.

No, we didn’t fancy commuting from Mexico either, so

#2 Book early

The next thing you need to know about San Diego Comic Con is this: It is bloody miles away.
To paraphrase Douglas Adams:
‘You might think it’s a long way down to the shops…but that’s nothing compared to San Diego Comic Con’.

The cheapest solution we found was to fly to Los Angeles, crash in a cheap hotel near Union train station and arrive in San Diego by train. It’s not ideal but to be honest we needed the sleep. 16 hours in the air broken only by a two hour stopover in Newark. This is called a stopover but actually it is valuable training.

You wait to pick up your bags at the carousel, you wait to have them checked by customs. You dash to the other terminal where you wait to check your bags in and then you wait to go through security again before waiting to board your next flight. Starting to detect a pattern? As I said before, this is just training.

Downtown Los Angeles is like downtown Chicago. It’s a business district and the bars and restaurants close early. We couldn’t find a beer and the only food I discovered was a roadside stand selling taquitos.

#3 Don’t eat the taquitos.

Union Station is clean, safe and (for the most part) a very efficient place. This is not to say that you won’t have to stand in line but for veterans of Newark airport the hour you spend in the queue to get on your train will simply fly by.

John Landis


#4 Business class on the train is well worth the extra $10

Not only do you get free wifi but you will meet John Landis – at least our director did and I saw him. Director Dave has much more knowledge about famous people than I do but even he was caught unawares as he turned around and there was the legendary Hollywood personality right next to him…

“Argh! John Landis!” and he stuck out his hand.

Cool Dave, very smooth. But John Landis was perfectly polite and shook Dave’s hand. More, he was gracious enough to accept a copy of our film when Dave hunted him down later on.

And relax.

24 hours after leaving home this is the first time that there is nothing to do but sit and look at the view. The Pacific Surfliner is an enormous Amtrak affair and it takes nearly three hours to travel between Los Angeles and San Diego. Sit back and watch the world go by.

#5 Sit upstairs and on the right hand side of the train.

Get yourself by a window and watch the Pacific ocean as you travel south. Yes, the first 45 minutes will have you gazing on sun-blasted industrial sites in the less glamorous areas of Los Angeles but after that…waves, beaches, surfers. It was like watching Point Break in the best 3D ever invented. Only at this point do you get to see why people might like to live there. Huge houses, beach front mansions with floor to ceiling windows that gaze out over the ocean. All of this in yellows and whites and soft browns with a hint of Mexico in the architecture; interspersed with groves of your actual oranges. As we passed one of these orchards I saw a pile of oranges that had simply fallen off the tree and wondered if anyone would ever go and pick them up. A land of plenty indeed.

Yep, it is that beautiful and for a brief period travelling to the US seemed not so bothersome after all. Having been met in San Diego by a local contact who took us to our hotel we were soon changed into our kilts (Scottish men on tour should always wear kilts) and in a taxi bound for the city centre. The taxis are fast, air conditioned and reasonable. They all use a meter and from Hotel Circle (that’s the actual name of the area) cost around $25.

Our taxi dropped us a block or two from the Comic Con and we walked the rest. Wearing a kilt in San Diego gets you no attention whatsoever; people just wander by and say ‘Nice costume guys’ although what show or movie they thought we might be fans of is a bit of a mystery.

We asked the cab driver if it was busy this year and he had replied ‘Not really’. We spotted the building and headed towards it having been told that we would have to cross the tram tracks and the train tracks to get to it.
Only we couldn’t see the tracks, but that was because there were over 10,000 people in front of them. A fair sized football crowd who were just milling around, eating ice cream and heading towards the con.

Then I realized. I was waiting in line just to cross the street. That’s how many people go to San Diego Comic Con. Good job we had done all that training in Newark.

Next – Comic Con Cosplay

Watch the Electric Man trailer here.

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