We at the Writers’ Program are known for pioneering new ways to reach new writers so more people can learn about who we are and what we do. This year, in an initiative spearheaded by screenwriting advisor Chae Ko, the Writers’ Program was granted the amazing opportunity to exhibit at the annual Comic-Con International in San Diego.

Held at the massive San Diego Convention Center, more than 130,000 people came together to celebrate their love for all forms of art & literature: comics, films, television series, novels, toys, and more. It’s the single largest spectacle of fandom in the world. Convention-goers dress in costumes (a.k.a. “cosplay”) and maintain celebrity-like status for 4 glorious days. People camp out in lines, all night and day, waiting to get into Hall H – the largest ballroom where the biggest film studios and stars debut their latest material – as if they were waiting to see The Beatles. Like-minded, like-dressed fans join forces and coordinate public performances such as The Walking Dead “Zombie Walk” (where all of the zombie cosplayers walk down the street like a mob of zombies). Mad-Hatters run amok, Ghostbusters imbibe at their own happy hour, and medieval jousting tournaments assemble ad hoc at the bayside of the convention center. It is a wondrous, non-stop, fantastical, surreal bombardment of the senses.

Most of all, where there is art, there are people who aspire to make it. While the mass media may cover the sights and latest entertainment news, the lesser known part of Comic-Con is that there are a number of panels hosted by writers on writing. Professionals range from comic authors & illustrators, to novelists, to film & television writers, to story consultants; all forms of writing are represented there, and these people speak on panels specifically for the attendees who desire to know more about their crafts. For the best example, use the “search” feature on the online schedule , select which of the four days you’d like to view, then find anything related to “writing.” The Writers’ Program’s own instructor and TV writer (and author of the new book Automatic Pilot), Bill Taub, sat amongst other professionals in front of a packed ballroom and gave a highly informative panel on “How to Write a TV Pilot” (to watch the full video, click here).

Other instructors in attendance were Quinton Peeples, who braved the masses to get his own comic memorabilia signed by the artists; Jim Staahl who was there promoting his new smart-phone game Zonkey Escape! (based on his forthcoming animation series); and last but not least, instructor and animation writer Brooks Wachtel who spoke on the “Why Not Serious? Comedy VS. Drama in Animation” panel. Brooks was also kind enough to invite Chae and me to a post-convention reception for the WGA’s Animation Writers Caucus, held at the neighboring Marriott Marquis & Marina overlooking the San Diego bay, which was a lovely way to wind down from the craziness of “The Con.”

For the entire 4 days (not including the preliminary “Preview Night”) artists, their fans, and those who aspire to become like them all unite in a single place and celebrate what it is they love so much. It is a massive hub of artistry, creativity, and cosplay. You can go there to have fun, to learn something, to network, or witness a fanboy get in an argument with a fangirl about sexism in The Big Bang Theory (as two people did in a TV Staff Writing panel I attended – on which, head of NBC’s Writers on the Verge Program, Karen Horne, was nice enough to give us a plug! The full panel keynote is transcribed here). In short, never in my life have I seen such an all-encompassing explosion of the comic and entertainment culture at full tilt. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you’re from, or what you like. You could have lofty aspirations to be the next Frank Miller, or a person with the most obscure tastes in fiction in the world. If you go to Comic-Con, you will find a guru, you will find a friend, and perhaps even, you will find a soul mate… (who may or may not be there in costume).

For a fictitious account of Jeff & Chae’s Comic-Con adventure, visit our Facebook album here.

For a photo album of cosplayers that graced our table, click here.

Jeff Bonnett is the Program Assistant for Screenwriting (Onsite & Online). Contact him at jbonnett@uclaextension.edu or (310) 206-1542.

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