Last year, I have been lucky to attend the very first purely Star Wars-themed convention in Finland. Shocking as it is that nothing like that existed before, what is even more amazing is its rise from zero to a convention with solid reputation.
In 2015, Hoth Con started as pretty much an ad-hoc project. A year ago, it was only a small one-day event, more like a gathering of like-minded fans without any big events in the program. This year, it spanned the whole weekend, it had much richer program and more visitors, and it had its own Star Wars star, Jeremy Bulloch, the actor who portrayed Boba Fett in the original trilogy (and whom my esteemed colleague Joel interviewed for SFFN a while ago here).
The change was felt immediately when I arrived to Gloria cultural club where the event was taking place. While last year I had entered through an empty corridor, this time I could see small groups of fans gathering around from afar. When last year I had arrived to the entrance hall, the first thing I saw was a fan in the costume of Boba Fett, surveying the place. This time, I was shocked by seeing the real Boba Fett – Jeremy Bulloch – standing mere meters from me, merrily chatting with the fans.
What pleased me was that Hoth Con had changed its size, but retained the atmosphere. One of the things that impressed me about the first Hoth Con was its proclaimed “family-friendly” status, which was maintained even this year. Jedi, Sith, Bounty Hunters and Jawas of all ages attended together. Parents and their children participated in games, lightsaber classes and cosplay competitions. Two of the best-costumed fans I have seen were two kids dressed up as Jawas, complete with glowing eyes. Saturday’s cosplay competition featured, aside from strictly Star Wars characters, also a four-year old cosplaying Elliot from E.T., complete with a bike which his dad helped to make “fly” around the stage.
The convention, of course, included everything you would expect from such an event. There were Star Wars miniature games, you could buy Star Wars-related merchandise, get a tattoo and if you had been around for too long, there were refreshments available, including the “Hoth sauce” exquisitely made for the convention. That stuff would thaw a wampa’s cave. For more intellectual fans there was a very interesting presentation by a droid-builder, from whom I had learned that there are actually serious astromech builders all over the world, and learned something about the development of artificial intelligence. For those who like getting technical only to a certain point, there was place to admire Star Wars Lego creations. And of course like in any proper convention, there were some panels and discussion, including the opportunity to meet Timo Vuorensola, the director of the film Iron Sky (the one with Nazis on the moon), and Pekka Lehtosaari, the writer for the upcoming Finnish superhero film Rendel (don’t worry if the name doesn’t ring a bell – this was the first time I had heard about it too. But let’s see what we all have to say about it in a year).
The highlight of the whole con was undoubtedly the panel with Jeremy Bulloch on Saturday. There are not many people who can make a hall full of generally quiet and stoic Northerners laugh, but Mr. Bulloch apparently can. And it was not only his story about messing up his lines during the shooting of Empire Strikes Back, where he accidentally said “put captain Cargo to the solo hold” – despite the fact that it was one of the three lines in the whole film.
Boba Fett may be the silent, sinister fellow, but the actor is his exact opposite. He is charming, cheerful and witty, up to the point that the host, Jenna, had at times trouble keeping up with him. Not that I blame her. I think the whole hall was in shock when, after discussing the methods of acting, Mr. Bulloch suddenly broke down crying. “What’s wrong” – “what’s happened” was everyone’s reaction; but then the brilliant actor just wiped his tears and explained that this is how it’s done. When a minute later he did the same thing, we already knew it was an act, but still we could not help being moved by it. Personally, I was overwhelmed.
That said, it never ceases to amaze me how the “old school” British theatre actors (and Mr. Bulloch is, first and foremost, a theatre actor) always maintain the air of “gentlemanliness” around them. It has a lot to do with natural charisma, I presume, which is one of the requirements for good theatre actors, and theatre acting also cultivates that quality; but I am sure there must be something more to it.
The panel was full of interesting questions Jeremy Bulloch answered. He had shared with us his belief that Boba Fett is such an important character that merits deeper exploring, and that his appearance in future films (such as the long-rumoured, but not yet confirmed Boba Fett stand-alone film) is inevitable. It was good to see that despite having such a minor role, Mr. Bulloch seemed to be aware of much of the extra-film lore surrounding Boba Fett. But he also answered straightforwardly a question I had expected him to try to dodge: “Did Boba Fett die, or did he manage to get out of the Sarlacc pit?” Without unnecessary filibuster, Mr. Bulloch said that no, this was never intended to be the end of Boba Fett, as even George Lucas had apparently confirmed to him.
Having experienced all this already for the second time in big format, I am already very much looking forward to next year’s Hoth Con. And, if the Force is with us, there is already a dream to create a summer counterpart to it (Endor Con, mayhaps?). In any case, Hoth Con is a perfect example of what a handful of devoted fans can do. Take courage and inspiration from it, all of you, who are dreaming of breathing some life into the community around yourselves.