SD Comic Con Tales

SD Comic Con is the most attended of any convention in the City of San Diego.

Billy Boyd, Elijah Wood and Dominic Monaghan with San Diego video production crew Mark Schulze and Patty Mooney Crystal Pyramid Productions

Mark and Patty with Lord of the Rings Actors at SD Comic Con

It is truly intimidating in its Hulk-like proportions. Over the years, our video production company, Crystal Pyramid Productions, has provided crews to broadcast studios such as 20th Century Fox, Nickelodeon, M-TV, Daily Variety, Savan, and many others.

We’ve worked the SD Comic Con for nearly 25 years now, participating in the four-day maelstrom known as the San Diego Comic Con.

From the Beginning

The San Diego Convention Center is the official home of the San Diego Comic Con. The U.S. Grant Hotel was the very first venue of the “Con.” According to Wikipedia it was “founded by Detroit, Michigan-born comics fan Shel Dorf, who in the mid-1960s had mounted the Detroit Triple-Fan Fairs, one of the first commercial comics-fan conventions. When he moved to San Diego, California in 1970, he organized a one-day convention (Golden State Comic-Minicon) on March 21, 1970 “as a kind of ‘dry run’ for the larger convention he hoped to stage.” Apparently, Shel Dorf helmed the Comic-Con as its President for many years and then became estranged by the organization.

The overwhelming growth of the Con has continued to bust out at the seams of the SD Convention Center.  To avoid losing the Comic-Con to another city with larger facilities, San Diego’s adjoining hotels now take up a great deal of “slack.”  The Hilton Bay Front Hotel, the Grand Hyatt, Marriott and theHard Rock Hotel all house red carpet press events, fashion shows and movie screenings.  These are clever ways to accommodate the vast number of humans who want to be at the San Diego Comic Con because it’s the “SAN DIEGO” Comic-Con.

Our DP, Mark Schulze, remembers attending the “Con” as a kid, when it was at the El Cortez Hotel.  He says it was a bunch of card tables stacked with comic books and trading cards.  This convention, San Diego’s largest, now tops out at approximately 125,000 with the San Diego Convention Center bulging at the seams.  And San Diego Fire Marshals walk around with a major look of concern on their faces.

Badges, We Need Those Stinking Badges

The SD Comic Con is usually sold out in March within seconds of when tickets become available.  Serious fans have their fingers poised over their respective keyboards at that auspicious moment in March.  “Badges, we don’t need no stinkin’ badges” is simply not true.  Those badges are like pure gold as people scramble for entry into the Con, just like the way Dorothy, the Cowardly Lion, the Scarecrow and Tin Man attempted entry into Oz.  All those characters had to do was provide a pair of ruby slippers.  Anyone who at this point wants to stroll into the San Diego Convention Center in July would probably need to throw their soul in along with the slippers.

Every year we have worked the Con has been exponentially better than the previous year.  Here are some sparkling moments which I will share…

Sound Technician Patty Mooney booms Lucy Liu at SD Comic Con

Patty at SD Comic Con Booming Lucy Liu

Bopping Lucy Liu

When I was still a “mere pup” at sound mixing, back in 2001, I bopped Lucy Liu on the head with my boom pole. It was one of those extraordinarily embarrassing moments where the adrenaline zooms up and down your body, encasing you in an immediate sweat while causing your face to glow a bright red. She was very gracious about it. She said, “Don’t worry, I’m fine,” and we went back to the interview. Later, when I saw her in “Kill Bill,” I realized she could have put a serious hurting on me. Thank you, Lucy Liu, you are one class act!  (And I adore you as Watson in “Elementary.”)

A Hammy Hand Shake

That same year, Mark and I were in the Press Room and spotted Arnold Schwarzenegger sitting at a table. We approached him to see if he was up for an interview about the movie he was appearing in, “Terminator 3.” He didn’t want to be interviewed, but he did consent to shake my hand when Mark introduced me. The weird thing, though, and it’s a pet peeve of mine, was that he didn’t look directly into my eyes as he was shaking my hand.

Sunday Morning Shoot-Out

Billy Boyd and David Wendham at San Diego Comic Con

Billy Boyd and David Wendham at San Diego Comic Con

In 2004, the Crystal Pyramid Productions crew was tapped by AMC’s “Sunday Morning Shoot-Out” to interview Billy Boyd and David Wendham who spoke about the extended version of “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” special DVD edition.

San Diego Broadcast Shoot at San Diego Comic Con with Ioan Gruffudd

Ioan Gruffudd

San Diego Broadcast Shoot at San Diego ComiCon with Michael Chiklis

Michael Chiklis

That same year, Michael Chiklis and Ioan Gruffudd spoke about their roles as Ben Grim and Reed Richards in “The Fantastic Four.”

Daily Variety Editor Tim Gray Interviews Jude Law at San Diego Comic Con

Daily Variety Editor Tim Gray interviews Jude Law

San Diego Broadcast Video Production Company Videotapes Interview of Jude Law

Jude Law in Video Interview

2004 turned out to be quite a special year for celebrity hunks, as we also met and interviewed Jude Law for the Daily Variety.  Editor Tim Gray had a great time asking questions of Jude who spoke about his movie, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.”

San DiegoBroadcast Video Production Services Company Videos Giovanni Ribisi and Bai Ling

Giovanni Ribisi and Bai Ling

Director of Photography Mark Schulze also shot interviews with Giovanni Ribisi and Bai Ling who also had roles in “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.”

Sound Technician Patty Mooney Lavs Oscar Award Winning Actor Kevin Spacey

Sound Technician Patty Mooney puts a lavalier microphone on Kevin Spacey

In a sound-proof room above the convention floor, Sunday Morning Shoot Out created a mini set for a couple of years to broadcast live from the San Diego Comic Con.  They interviewed many actors, including Kevin Spacey.  Location Sound Mixer, Patty Mooney, was elected to place a lavalier microphone on Kevin Spacey. Who knew that Mr. Spacey would become such a droll yet savvy politician (“House of Cards”).  Sorry about the fuzzy quality of the above photo; flash photography was not allowed on set.

Will Eisner

Will Eisner Signs Autographs at Disney Booth

Will Eisner Signs Autographs at Disney Booth

Also in 2004, the Crystal Pyramid Productions crew captured the famous comic book magazine illustrator, Will Eisner, as he was signing autographs for adoring fans.  He had been an illustrator for over 60 years.  The above photo by Patty Mooney appears in the recently-published book, “Last Day in Vietnam.”

Wedding Crashers Change the Game

Crystal Pyramid Productions Crew Patty Mooney and Mark Schulze with Wedding Crashers Bridesmaids

San Diego Video Production Crew Videos Wedding Crashers Bridesmaids

In 2005, “The Wedding Crashers” came to the San Diego Comic Con.  What does the movie have to do with comic books or sci-fi, we wondered.  This is when we realized that Hollywood had found a very dependable vehicle to showcase its movies at the “Con.”

“The Forbidden Planet”

San Diego Video Production Crew Videos Forbidden Planet Cast

Producer Patty Mooney interviews the Forbidden Planet cast with Mark Schulze as DP and Bill Manning as Sound Man

Warren Stevens, Richard Anderson and Earl Holliman, Original Forbidden Planet Cast Members

Warren Stevens, Richard Anderson and Earl Holliman, Original Cast Members from Forbidden Planet

Crystal Pyramid Productions’ broadcast video production crew shot an interview of the Forbidden Planet cast at the 2006 San Diego Comic Con comic book convention. Broadcast video producer, Patty Mooney, asked the questions and Warren Stevens, Richard Anderson and Earl Holliman let fly with the answers. Mark Schulze, Director of Photography, captured it all for Extra!

Video Producer Patty Mooney and DP Mark Schulze interview Annasophia Robb at San Diego Comic Con

Patty Mooney interviews Annasophia Robb

“The Reaping”

Also in 2006, we shot an interview at San Diego Comic Con with Annasophia Robb who stars alongside Hilary Swank in “The Reaping.” Annasophia was telling broadcast video producer, Patty Mooney, about her trials and tribulations on the set.

Video Producer Patty Mooney and DP Mark Schulze interview Oscar Award Winning Actor Hilary Swank at San Diego Comic Con

San Diego Producer Patty Mooney Interviews Hilary Swank

DP Mark Schulze found a good angle as Producer Patty Mooney interviewed Hilary Swank about her role in “The Reaping” for Extra at the San Diego Comic Con. That’s Director Stephen Hopkins in the background.

That’s Tobey!

Crystal Pyramid Productions Video Crew interview Tobey Maguire about Spiderman

San Diego Video Production Crew Videos Tobey Maguire

When Extra! asked that we interview Tobey Maguire, they included one question that we saved for last, about the birth of his baby.  At the time he was still “Spiderman” and unmarried, so he said he was not going to answer that question.  Interview over.

Kirsten Dunst

San Diego video producer Patty Mooney with Kirsten Dunst

Producer Patty Mooney with Kirsten Dunst who plays Claudia in “Interview with the Vampire”

On the other hand, Kirsten Dunst was charming and laughed when Patty handed her a copy of the above photograph taken when she had played Claudia on “Interview with the Vampire.”  The photo was taken in 1994 at a Video Software Dealers convention in Dallas.  As you may notice, Patty had gashed her face in a mountain bike crash a few days earlier.

Kirsten Dunst poses with San Diego video producer Patty Mooney

Kirsten Dunst and Patty Mooney

Kirsten posed with Patty when their paths crossed at the Comic Con 12 years later when Kirsten, Toby Maguire and other members of the Spiderman 3 cast gave interviews in the Press Room.

“Accepted”

Joe Hursley and Ringers at San Diego Comic Con videotaped by DP Mark Schulze

Joe Hursley and the Ringers at San Diego Comic Con

Later in the day, we videotaped The Ringers in concert.  They were the band that appeared in the movie “Accepted.”

Lewis Black, Maria Thayer, Adam Herschman and Blake Lively, Cast of Accepted at San DIego Comic Con

Lewis Black, Maria Thayer, Adam Herschman and Blake Lively of “Accepted”

The cast of “Accepted” were also on the scene and a very fun-loving group of people, for sure.

Sara Conner Chronicles Panel at San Diego Comic Con

Sara Conner Chronicles Panel

Avatar fans at San Diego Comic Con

Avatar fans

Attendees on San Diego Comic Con Floor inside Convention Center

The San Diego Comic Con Floor

Attendees of San Diego Comic Con outside Convention Center

San Diego Convention Center with San Diego Comic Con in progress

Crystal Pyramid Productions sent multiple broadcast video crews to cover the 2007 San Diego Comic Con. Clients included 20th Century Fox, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and M-TV Gametrailers. Photos by Patty Mooney who was a videographer on the Sarah Silverman and Avatar panels.

San Diego Hotels Step Up

In 2010, people overflowed into venues at the newly built San Diego Hard Rock Hotel, the Marriott, Grand Hyatt and other nearby hotels, and it seemed to work pretty well. Speaking as a crew that videotaped Mark Wahlberg and Will Ferrell in (who were both there to promote their movie, “The Other Guys,” it certainly was nice to have the celebrities all to ourselves (the video journalists), in a cordoned-off area “far from the maddening crowd.”

San Diego Video Production Crew DP Mark Schulze and Sound Technician Patty Mooney at SD Comic Con

HDV Videographer Mark Schulze and Sound Technician Patty Mooney at 21st Century Fox panel

In the photo above, Mark Schulze and Patty Mooney are capturing footage of the wildly popular panels for one of their studio clients. The guy standing on the riser behind Patty and Mark is videotaping for the large projection screens known as I-MAG, which I believe means “Image Magnification.” He is using a long lens video camera which can zoom to Extreme Close Ups of the talent on the panel. If anyone sets their coffee down on the riser or bumps into it, that jiggle will be seen by every eye in the auditorium, because the camera mounted on its tripod is highly sensitive to any “assaults” on the riser.

Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly at SD Comic Con

Celebrities Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly speak about “The Day the Earth Stood Still”

Actors Keanu Reeves and Jennifer Connelly appeared on the Panel for the theatrical release, “The Day The Earth Stood Still.” The moderator who introduced Jennifer called her “Jennifer Garner” which stimulated a collective gasp from the audience, and Keanu came to her rescue by correcting the moderator, “No, that’s Jennifer CONNELLY. C-o-n-n-e-l-l-y.” Classic. Would not wanted to have been the errant moderator at that point; almost worse than having your fly open.

Hugh’s Big Surprise

Hugh Jackman at SD Comic Con

Celebrity Hugh Jackman makes a surprise guest appearance at San Diego Comic Con

Hugh Jackman had just flown in from Australia aka “Oz” and thrilled the vast number of people in the audience by strolling in for a surprise guest appearance. Once the audience had calmed down, Hugh said something every comic-book-movie afficionado wants to hear: “It is because of you that I have a career. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. Without you, there would be no Wolverine!” Again the crowd went wild. Not everyone who stands in a line coiling around the San Diego Convention Center will make it into these panels that feature “A” List celebrities there to promote their movies. For a video crew it is always extremely tough and tricky to make it inside the panel auditorium, even when the studio sponsoring the panel has hired the crew! Hugh Jackman was a very class act.

Mila Kunis and Mark Wahlberg on Max Payne panel at SD Comic Con

Celebrities Mila Kunis and Mark Wahlberg talk about “Max Payne”

Mila Kunis and Mark Wahlberg were on a panel to talk about their movie, Max Payne. In responding to questions from members in the audience who stood in line to speak into a microphone, while Mark Wahlberg seemed very upbeat in a very energy-drink-buzz kind of way, Mila Kunis did not have much to add to the conversation and all her answers to the audience were very short and curt. From the angle where I was taking photographs of her, she seemed to dodge in front of either the water pitcher or the bulbous microphone as though trying to stay hidden in a room full of thousands of paparazzi.

Aboard the USS Midway

Beau Bridges, Stargate, on flight deck of USS Midway with DP Mark Schulze at SD Comic Con

Stargate’s Beau Bridges talks about Continuum the movie

Mark Schulze shot interviews of the Stargate Continuum celebrities, including Beau Bridges, on the flight deck of the U.S.S. Midway aircraft carrier which is permanently docked in San Diego Harbor.

Stargate's Harry Dean Anderson on USS Midway with Crystal Pyramid Productions Crew at SD Comic Con

Stargate’s Harry Dean Anderson talks about Continuum the movie

The crew were all so excited to see Richard Dean Anderson (MacGyver!) walking up the red carpet Patty Mooney was the Field Audio Technician (on left) and Mark Schulze (on right) shot celebrity interviews with a small Sony high definition camera. When Mooney noticed that Richard appeared to be profusely sweating, she offered him a Kleenex which he gratefully used to mop his brow. When he was finished, she held her hand out as though she was going to put his DNA-laden tissue up for sale on E-Bay. He looked completely aghast until she assured him she was kidding. (Or WAS she?)

“Scary Movie 4”

Carmen Elektra, San Diego Video producer Patty Mooney, Kim Kardashian and DP Mark Schulze at SD Comic Con

Carmen Elektra, Patty Mooney, Kim Kardashian and Mark Schulze at San Diego Hard Rock Hotel

One highlight in 2008 was an interview with Kim Kardashian and Carmen Elektra inside a suite at the San Diego Hard Rock Hotel. Kim and DP Mark Schulze learned that they have one thing in common; she’s Armenian and Mark is half Armenian. The ladies spoke about their movie, “Scary Movie 4.”

“Avatar”

In 2010, I ran into Zoe Saldana (star of Avatar) in the ladies’ room. I really wanted to snap her pic but bathroom photos always seem so creepy, and I didn’t want to sully our short-and-sweet chat with a bonehead request for her photo. She, like Lucy Liu, was a lovely woman with a beautiful smile. And I really enjoyed seeing her in Avatar.

Terra Nova

Terra Nova Experience at SD Comic Con 2011

The Terra Nova Experience with Jordan Morris at San Diego Comic Con 2011

Terra Nova, a television series helmed by J.J. Abrams, ended up costing the studio too much money, so it ended after Season One. But the 2011 San Diego Comic Con featured a Terra Nova Mobile Experience, which was almost as fun as being on the set.  And we also interviewed some of the cast members from Alcatraz, a show we really enjoyed.  Unfortunately for the actors and their fans, this series was destined to last only one season.

As the Comic Con expands like a gigantic sea monkey in a water tank, we’re looking forward to future encounters and ensuing stories. So stay tuned!


Patty Mooney is a VP, Video Producer, Sound Technician, Teleprompter Operator and Video Editor at San Diego’s award-winning video production company, Crystal Pyramid Productions.