The timing couldn't be more perfect. October 19th finally came, and Community's fourth season finally premiered on NBC, and how will the most diehard fans celebrate in Los Angeles? By a convention of sorts featuring panels with the writers and actors, a trivia contest (hosted by LA TV Insider Examiner!), art, video game demos, a costume contest, a special appearance by Dan Harmon, and more.
Fan conventions are not rare. These days there are "official" events held all over the country for shows like Supernatural, The Vampire Diaries, and even long-lost favorites like Stargate and Xena. But the difference there is the convention process is a business, and each weekend of events is thrown by a company out to turn a profit from the fandom's excitement and generosity. CommuniCon, on the other hand, was put together by one very special fan, Gillian Morshedi, who made it her goal to keep the event affordable and intimate to allow everyone attending to get the most of their time.
"It started on Twitter. I first started tweeting about Community after the 3rd season hiatus was announced-- I think my very first tweet ever was "My whole brain is crying. #sixseasonsandamovie"-- and I started interacting with other Community fans pretty quickly after that. A lot of us have become really friendly, and even actual friends, through our mutual love of the show," Morshedi said to LA TV Insider Examiner.
"At some point, some fans started joking on twitter about having a Community convention. It was basically a "wishful thinking/wouldn't it be great if we could all get together in real life at some point" kind of thing. I think it was after Dan Harmon's firing was announced immediately after we found out the show got a fourth season, that I just thought "This should actually happen." Being a superfan of Community can be really exhausting. We're constantly worried about the fate of the show, and the jobs of these actors and writers and crew members that we all love. So, the idea of all getting together to just enjoy being fans of this great show seemed really wonderful. Basically, I wanted this convention to exist because I wanted to go to it. So, since no one else had started organizing it, I figured I might as well. Plus, I knew I would have support from other fan organizers, so it didn't seem impossible."
Thanks to social media, it's not impossible to gather a group of supporters for a shared interest. We've seen it time and again with simple things like trying to get a specific hashtag to trend at a specific time, to raising money for charities, to gathering people in the real world for flash mobs. CommuniCon is a fascinating study in the power of fandom, especially through social media, and especially considering traditional ratings systems have expanded to allow for DVR and online viewing but not social interactions. It certainly appears Community would be one of NBC's biggest shows, if you count the social aspect along with the actual numbers.
One of the things you notice most about the community of Community is how they embrace the writers and actors equally. Unfortunately that seems to still be a rare thing these days, and it excites us to see the tide turning. In many circles, it is not uncommon for a fan of a show to have no idea who the writers of the show are-- by name or face. But CommuniCon will be celebrating both equally through panels with the sometimes "unsung" heroes of the show. And Morshedi didn't want to stop there:
"A lot of us have seen panels with the main cast members, either in person at Comic Con or PaleyFest or online, and those are always really great and so much fun to watch, but I think a lot of us would love to hear from others that make the show what it is but whom we don't get to hear from often. One thing I really wish I could have put together is a panel of crew members, like people that work in props and art, and costuming, and music, and everything else. All of those people are so amazing at their jobs. Hopefully if there's a second annual CommuniCon, that will be part of it!" Morshedi said.
The logistics of throwing a weekend-long convention are still not easy to tackle, though, and Morshedi's team of one handled everything from securing the venue, inviting the guests, setting up a ticketing system, and handling the details of the actual days (everything from coordinating attendees to creating the schedule and parking arrangements). Event production is no easy feat, especially considering this is not her day job, but she did it all for a great cause: the shared love of a fan favorite bubble show. And she even admitted that the highest of the convention for her personally would probably end up being "meeting my Community friends. And group hugs."
"Probably the main thing I want people to know before attending is that, although I have had support and help from a number of wonderful people, the bulk of the planning and organization was a solo endeavor. I'm just a fan. I'm not an event planner, and I basically had no idea what I was doing. I just really love this show and my fellow fans, and wanted to plan a fun party for us. I am really excited about the convention, and I think it will be great, but I hope people understand that it will not be perfect," Morshedi said.
"I hope people leave the event feeling a little bit more a part of this show that they love so much. And that it was worth the trip."
Community airs on NBC on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. CommuniCon is taking place on February 9th and 10th 2013 in Los Angeles. Community will also be honored at PaleyFest in Los Angeles for the fourth year in a row.