The world’s first-ever FantasyCon is just days away. The three-day event will kick off on July 3 at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City. The fantasy-themed film festival, Film Quest, accompanies the convention beginning June 30 at the Megaplex Gateway theater in Salt Lake City.
Joshua Patel, FantasyCon Founder, has created a convention similar to Comic Con, but with a focus on artwork, affordability and immersive interaction.
“Fantasy is really taking over the world,” Patel said. “Everybody’s in love with it, but it’s funny because people are like, ‘Totally, yeah, I’m not a nerd.’ But they can’t wait to go home and watch the ‘Game of Thrones,’ or they can’t wait till ‘The Hobbit’ movie comes out.”
FantasyCon boasts a long list of celebrity appearances, namely Elijah Wood, Summer Glau, Simon Pegg, Billy Boyd, Sean Astin, Royd Tolkien, Rose McGowan, John Rhys-Davies and many other fantasy movie and game celebrities. The majority of the cast from “The Hobbit” will also be present.
“It’s a huge part of our culture, and in typical conventions, all of these artists and authors, they’re put in this tiny little corner at the back of the convention,” Patel said. “The irony of it is, that entire convention exists because of that little group of artists.”
Celebrities sit behind tables and talk with fans at conventions like Comic Con, but Patel wanted a more interactive experience. Many actors and actresses from “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” will invite members of the audience to join them on stage to reenact scenes from the movies.
Features include live blacksmiths, painters, glass blowers, battle arenas with 125–150 people fighting each other, aerial performers dancing to violinists’ music and a runway fashion show.
Mark McDonough, founder of Creative Visions, and his team created the world’s largest dragon for the convention. It stands at three stories high and has a wing span of 53 feet. McDonough and his team also created a 2,000-pound animatronic rock monster and several 30-foot-tall sentinel statues that stand at the entrance of the convention center.
Film Quest accepted 195 of 500 film submissions to show at the film festival from June 30 to July 5. A small jury will select eight finalists, and a celebrity grand jury, made up of Doug Jones (from “Hellboy”), Amrita Acharia (from “Game of Thrones”), Dameon Clarke (from “Borderlands”) and David Farland, a New York Times bestselling fantasy novelist, will make the final decisions.
“Something I would love to emphasize is the high quality of these films,” said Jonathan Martin, founder of Film Quest. “These aren’t just shabby little nothing films. … A lot of things people don’t know about independent cinema are the shorts are better than the features.”
Patel gave full reins for organizing the film festival to Martin, a filmmaker whose works have premiered at more than 120 film festivals nationwide. The winner of Film Quest will receive a three-pound, 12-inch-tall, brushed silver trophy made by the same company that makes the Golden Globe Awards.
Film submissions have received award nominations, and at least one has received an Oscar nomination. Some notable entrees to look out for are “The Visitant,” “The Landing,” “Death of a Shadow” and “Echos.”
The celebrity grand jury will announce the winners in the Salt Palace’s Grand Ballroom at the closing night of FantasyCon.
FantasyCon has partnered with different charities, like the Make a Wish Foundation, to bring terminally ill children to the convention. Patel’s motivation for working 90–100 hours a week is giving these children the chance to live an adventure.
“It’s when those kids who will never see the outside walls of the hospital … look up and see that giant dragon for the first time, and they only have a few months to live,” Patel said. “For some of them, it will be the greatest adventure they ever take.”