FORBIDDEN PLANET EVENTS AND HOW WE RUN THEM
30 April 2014
By Craig Leyenaar
Have you ever wondered what it is like to work for the world’s largest and best-known science fiction, fantasy and cult entertainment retailer? Last year I was lucky enough to secure a job working at Forbidden Planet's head office. I work closely with Danie Ware and together (with Danie in the lead), we run all the marketing and events for all nine Forbidden Planet stores and the website. We also represent Forbidden Planet at cons and other events. It's a fantastic job, getting to work with books and merchandise that I love! But there's a lot more to running the events than most people imagine. Here, I interview Danie about how we run our events . . .
Q: So, first things, first! You have a ton of things going on at any one time, so thanks for taking the time to do this. Perhaps you could introduce yourself and tell us a little about what you do, first?
A: I’m Danie, aka @Danacea, and I’ve been hosting and running events at Forbidden Planet for more than a decade. In that time I’ve been fortunate enough to meet many of my SF icons, and to play host to some of the most famous and well-known faces from across the greater family of genre/s. I’ve also run the events for the launches of my own books, which was the most surreal experience!
Q: That’s amazing. FP is known for its book launches, but what kinds of events does Forbidden Planet host and maybe you could give a little insider info into how these things happen? Although they look effortless I know a lot of planning goes into each one!
A: Forbidden Planet hosts signings and events with authors, artists and creators from the SF/F worlds – not only writers of books, but comics writers and artists, toy creators, actors and film directors, and television personalities. We occupy a unique niche – because of our location in both high street and market, we’re the centre of the huge and overlapping Venn diagram of greater Geek Culture, and that means we’re very busy. Calendar juggling is a bit of an art form.
Q: I can imagine! So, what is your favourite thing about running these events at Forbidden Planet, and do you have a particular event/launch that stands out in your mind?
A: My favourite thing has always been to be there – though that can be difficult sometimes! But I also love the energy and the excitement that goes on at these things. From thrilled and nervous debut authors, coming in with their support group of friends and family, to the huge levels of excitement generated by a Big Name – seeing it all and being an integral part of it is always electric and amazing.
Often, we don’t just have ‘signings’, we try and do new and different things. New authors can bring in everything from musical instruments to puppet theatres; artists can sketch-jam or showcase their work. And if we have a bigger event for a toy launch or a film release, we can have demonstrations, costume days and themed promotions – it’s all part of the fun!
Q: Sounds like a carnival of all things geek! Forbidden Planet has hosted some pretty big names that attract a lot of fans. Are there any events that stand out as particularly crazy-busy?
A: The craziest event was probably with singer Gerard Way, of My Chemical Romance, in 2007. He came to us to promote The Umbrella Academy, and the queue began the day before. By the time he arrived, we must have had in excess of five thousand people, not only queuing, but surrounding the store. They were pressed up to the glass like something out of a Zombie movie. Teenage girls were coming in and bursting into tears – followed by their mums, ladies my age, who were busting into tears just as their daughters had. It was magical, surreal in places and chaotic (but meticulously organized and manned chaos). And it was the only time we’ve ever had to shut the store for an event to take place. I think it will haunt all of us for generations to come.
Q: That actually sounds pretty terrifying. It’s good to know it’s all according to plan. Yet, I know it’s not always like that. After doing this for some time you must have a bit of a sixth-sense for when an event is just going to turn chaotic. However, sometimes this doesn’t happen. Were there any events where the turnout wasn't quite what you expected and how do you deal with that?
A: Usually, I have a good idea of what will work and what won’t – but sometimes it can go completely wrong. We had one very big name author come in to sign a book; so we reorganized the whole top floor in London. We brought in screens, additional security and you-name-it . . . and there were perhaps three people there. It just goes to prove, no matter how big a household name you may be, it can happen to the best!
Q: So, even the big names have bad days! What advice would you give to debut authors who are approaching their launch day and are probably having mild panic attacks as it approaches?
A: Enjoy them! In the past couple of years, I’ve seen several of my mates and people in my social group successfully publish their debut novel, and have set up events for them. Plus I’ve seen my own published as well. The panic attacks can be absolute magic! People rally round a debut author; the community is extremely supportive and celebratory, and the energy that these events generates is fantastic to see. If you’re approaching your launch day – make the most of it, speak to us, do something off-the-wall, if you like – it’s all good.
Q: Everyone has heard of the rather extreme requests of huge musical celebrities. Have you had to deal with any ‘diva’ requests?
A: Honestly? Very few. From the top-end ‘A’ list directors and actors to the genre authors that have become celebrities in their own right – they’re all part of the greater community. Many of them remember Forbidden Planet from its Denmark Street days – they've shopped with us or they started out with us – and they've been our friends ever since. Diva-dom is pretty-much non-existent, and it’s another thing that reinforces the sense of family that comes with the SF/F industry.
Q: Perhaps you could pull back the curtain a little and explain exactly what goes on behind the scenes at these events.
Seeing the wheels in motion! Behind the scenes in London are Steve and Lou and their team, who actually move the blocks to make these events happen. Organizing the logistics is one thing – times and dates – but without the staff at the stores and their experience and expertise, none of this would come together as successfully as it does.
And it’s not just London – many of our other stores, the Bristol branch in particular, are very much involved with their local communities of creators, and are there to support them. If that’s you, get in contact!
Q: So, no champagne and caviar in a secret green room? That’s a shame! Thanks very much for taking the time to answer these questions, Danie. Before you go, are there any events coming up that you’re particularly excited about?
A: Always – but that would be telling. Watch the website for when they come up, or follow us on Twitter for the latest news!
Take a look at Forbidden Planet's Flickr page. Or follow them on Twitter @ForbiddenPlanet
Flickr page - https://www.flickr.com/photos/forbiddenplanet/