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Hal-Con presenting local-focused, scaled down 2021 event

Featuring an all-Maritimes guestlist and a smaller crowd, it will still be a fitting tribute
Hal-Con (Meghan Groff/CityNews Halifax)

Hal-Con has become synonymous with big names and huge turnouts during its history in the area, but the 2021 iteration will look a little different to attendees.

Featuring an all-Maritimes guestlist and a smaller crowd, it will still be a fitting tribute to nerd and geekdom for all.

“We're really excited to be in a position to do something in person,” said Director of Marketing and Communications Floyd Blaikie.

“We couldn't do anything last year, so even earlier this month we were still figuring things out. This province has done a great job of keeping case counts low and getting people vaccinated, and we feel so excited and lucky to put even a scaled-down event on.”

The event – to take place at the Halifax Convention Centre on Argyle St. – will feature an all-local guest grouping of cosplayers, gamers, comic creators in a smaller capacity. Included are Tim Carpenter, Conundrum Press, Ally House, Hirari Ann, youth contest winner Rebecca Harrison and more.

“2019 was our biggest Hal-Con to date, and was our 10th anniversary. We put 18,000 people through the doors, but that had to change this year. We are capping it at 2,500, which will include staff and volunteers for the full weekend. We're taking up the same space, but there's room to spread out and distance,” she said.

Former names at Hal-Con include Ajay Fry, Tanner Zipchen, Lavar Burton, Morena Baccarin and more.

“We've decided not to welcome international guests, or anyone from outside of Atlantic Canada this year. Typically we'd bring celebrities or actors in, but the travel situation could change at any moment,” she said.

“These people can be expensive to bring in, and we can't sell the ticket amounts to make it doable. That said, we have an amazing opportunity to focus more on local talent, and we cannot wait. Marquee names can sometimes take precious attention real estate from the spotlight we could shine on locals.”

One such local name Blaikie is incredibly excited about is Halifax screenwriter Nick Morris, who's had quite a tumultuous, incredible year during the pandemic.

His project Becky – a violent Home Alone homage thriller with Lulu Wilson, Joel McHale and Kevin James – hit VOD platforms and drive-ins over the summer of 2020, to huge fanfare. (watch trailer below)

Filmed in Burlington, Ont., writer Morris never expected the film to get the reaction it has.

“Though I wish I'd seen it on the big-screen, it was a heck of a thing to see this flick on the drive-in circuit. Myself and star Robert Maillet went to the Neptune Drive-In in Shediac and saw it,” he said.

“No part of this experience went how I expected it to, and the success the film has seen blew my mind. The pandemic played into things in both a good and bad way. The movie was released at a time when major studios had no output and theatres were closed. That allowed a light to shine on Becky.”

Morris was a bit surprised by the casting of the villain, played by comedian Kevin James. Bald-headed and covered in fake tattoos, James transforms to play a ruthless convict searching for a precious item at a teenager's lake house. He'll do what he has to in order to find his treasure.

“As it turned out, Kevin was looking for a role to expand his scope as an actor, and he wanted to go outside comedy. My script came at the right time, and was in the right place. When I heard he was playing the villain, I was floored. He's so recognizable, and we all know his characters like Doug Heffernan or Paul Blart,” he said.

“It wasn't until I saw him and got to see him perform that he blew everyone away. I've never seen him do anything in that realm.”

He said James's performance was not what he thought it would be at all.

“It could have been this over-the-top, scenery-chewing, moustache-twirling thing. But he plays it understated and nuanced, and as you see him lose further control of the situation, he becomes more unhinged,” he said.

Morris has been a fan of Hal-Con himself, and has gone to previous conventions. It feels surreal to him to be involved in this capacity.

“I'm thrilled about being involved. I haven't missed many Hal-Cons over the years. It's such a familiar environment, and it'll be fun being on the other side of the table,” he said.

He'll be there both the Saturday and Sunday, but says he'll have some surprise guests virtually for his Sunday Q&A.

“This is going to be such an exciting thing. I can't wait to meet people and talk face-to-face about the movie. I'm just beside myself,” he said.

Blaikie says the team has been meeting regularly to pull it off, and people are excited.

“We have all kinds of alternative plans we might not even need. But we need to be safe, follow the Public Health guidelines, and have a whole lot of fun. It's going to be so enjoyable,” she said.

“People realize this isn't a normal year, but our first block of tickets sold out in six minutes. People understand the rules by now, and they have a great attitude of showing up and supporting the geek and nerd community. This will be different from a normal year, but this 'small-con' will be fantastic.”

Hal-Con runs this year October 23 and 24. More information can be found oniine.


About the Author: Jordan Parker

Jordan Parker is a freelance journalist and runs entertainment firm Parker PR. He's been a movie nerd since he was old enough to walk.
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