Dr. Alexander Bustos is a reporter on topics such as comic books, movies, video games, and anything else he likes. He hopes to make a living off it someday and loves looking at fan cultures from a sociological perspective. Surrounded by people dressed as heroes, villains, etc. he finds himself taking on the Lois Lane or Jimmy Olsen role and is perfectly happy with that comparison. He currently writes for ComicAttack.net, Team Valkyrie, Ogeeku, and co-hosts a podcast called Associated Geekery.
This past San Diego Comic-Con, 2013, was my first year there as press instead of guest. The difference in experience is striking; for one thing, you get a lot of invites for panels that are a whole lot of nothing since most are really just a reminder instead of an actual invitation. I find the best way to compare them is as if a friend shouted for you to join them at a party, while they are driving past you on the road, as you are walking in the other direction. Most panels at SDCC are just first come first serve so unless you are a big name for press or are friends with someone involved, you probably just have to get in line like everyone else.
The real deal though were the invites to interviews, those are more organized and are probably going to occur. I say probably because they are never on time due to the chaos of the convention plus the fact that the people you are interviewing have a million and one things to do. I can relate to that last part especially. I had an interview change from 10:45am to being roughly 10 minutes before my next appointment at 2:30pm. This all changed in the span of minutes, that’s one thing that you kind of have to plan ahead for, interviews change so much that I end up planning maybe three a day and those become super hectic since they are able to be dropped at a moment’s noticed or changed to an earlier or later time. You can also have people added (rare) or dropped (common) from group interviews. I know the interviewed have little to no say in any of that, but it sure means I’m staying close to where I need to be for an interview by hours and not minutes.
This brings me to another point, multiple-people-at-the-same time style interviews are hectic since I have to come up with questions that can be answered by the group and not just an individual. I try not to exclude people from my questions but sometimes one person will dominate the conversation when you ask a question that is near and dear to their heart. I try to make sure everyone is a part of the interview since I don’t want it to look like one or more people are neglected.
I’m also always trying to come up with interview questions that are related to the subject at hand but not too terribly generic. When we ask those generic questions, we find them just as boring too, but they are the nature of the beast since it is likely stuff people want answers to and they may not go to every other site to find them. So I apologize in advance when I ask you to try and give us some sort of sneak peek that isn’t just “Well read/see it to find out!” but it is stuff people are always looking for first so I’ll probably ask it. Half the questions I come up with are also ones I get from popular request so again, they will probably sound repetitive.
Trying to make the interview process not just the same 10 questions asked over and over again and not to step on the toes of your fellow reporters isn’t the easiest thing. Not that I know what fellow reporters are saying but I sure don’t want the exact same answer they got. My questions try to be a bit more personal in a safe manner; the people who try to twist your words about what your favorite giant robot in fiction is aren’t really a threat to anyone but their own dignity. I hope my questions can be half informative to the reason we’re even meeting and get some fun ideas you don’t mind the world knowing, like thoughts on dinosaurs and movies.
Another thing, these interviews we get, most of these are ones we chose. I get an email giving me a list of people available to interview and what for and what times, when I pick what few I can handle per day, it’s because I want to be there. I’m interviewing you because I’m interested in you and/or your work. Sometimes I want to toss out any questions about what we should talk about and talk about a past or other current work, but that’s incredibly rude so I’ll just throw in a question or two to discuss those other works. If you want to continue talking about that other topic as well, it’s great to mention that you hope there’s more on that topic. Even if I don’t have any more questions written down or planned, I probably have some stashed in the fanboy part of my brain. I’ve only interviewed people I’ve respected and enjoyed their works so when I’m showing up, I am ready to just have a casual chat. I know this doesn’t make for good interviews so I try to make the questions interesting for the readers and more importantly, you. If I’m not keeping you interested then I don’t think I’ll get any decent answers out of you either and I don’t want to waste your time.
My main point about doing interviews at San Diego Comic-Con, or any convention, is that I am trying to get interesting answers out of you; I’m not trying to do any sort of gotcha journalism. I want to be a highlight if I can in the day since it’s an honor to get to interview you and I understand being exhausted from interviews. So if you see me at a convention and I’m interviewing you at some point, I’ll probably try to say hi so that when we start the interview it is comfortable and at least a little fun for you.