On September 26th, 2015, I got up on stage with my improv troupe, YUM, and delivered a 90 second monologue about how I’d bingewatched seven seasons of Supernatural in the previous five weeks (you can watch the clip below, if you’re interested).
I’d started out just wanting to catch up on the series before season 11 started, but that only required me to watch seasons 8-10. Watching them made me want to go back and revisit the series (and, okay, season 10 wasn’t available to buy yet when I finished season 9, so I started on season 1 again at that point). Though I’ve been a long time fan of the show, having started with season 1, episode 1, when it first aired in Australia, moving to Malaysia disrupted my ability to watch the series regularly. I only watched season 4 after I received it as a birthday present when I lived in Malaysia, and seasons 5-7 were watched when I first moved to the US once I had access to Netflix.
If you watched my monologue above, you can see that I was a bit embarrassed about my level of obsession with the show at the time. It’s not so much because I like the show, but because I watched so much of it in such a short period, and that it was affecting my creative motivation. I’m not embarrassed that it inspired the story I wrote for Marked by Scorn: An Anthology Featuring Non-Traditional Relationships, but I was embarrassed that part of my motivation for wanting to get more into acting was because I thought it would be awesome to a) be an actor on Supernatural and/or b) act opposite Jensen Ackles (Dean Winchester). As unrealistic as I know that desire is, my improv director and fellow troupe members encouraged me to go for it, asking, “Why not?” Why couldn’t that happen? Obviously people already saw something in my acting ability through my improv shows, and clearly I had the motivation to keep working on that.
Well, sure, but in the last year and a quarter, I’ve done a few things to go after my acting dreams (whether Supernatural related, or not — when I wasn’t constantly watching it, it was easier to let that go as my motivation). I took classes, like training with Michael Navarra at SF Acting Academy, and then five months training with Jeffrey Weissman. I did workshops with people who work in LA and came up to San Francisco. I submitted myself to roles, auditioned for some of them, and acted in my first ever student film, which I was fortunate enough to be cast the lead in. I had to turn down a last minute opportunity because I was unavailable for the role. I lost 40 pounds, and I dyed my hair back to my natural brown, all because I thought it would help me get more auditions. I went to networking events.
Along the way, I feel like I’ve made a few revelations.
I’m more of a personality than an “actor” or “improviser” or “writer” or whatever else it is that I do. I’m always going to do my best work when I’m working with a team of friends who understand me and want to work with me. When I was the lead in Go Your Own Way, I got a taste of what it feels like to be part of a film cast&crew family. I think this is a big part of the draw of Supernatural, because you can see what a tight nit and caring family they are. You see it in their interactions, and how dedicated they are to their fans, with their conventions and their campaigns. They care. And that’s the kind of thing I want to be part of. I’d rather work with people I like on projects that inspire me, for no pay, than go through the arduous audition process to try and get a part for something I’m not really interested in just so I can get a paycheck.
In improv, I have this. The community, the feeling like family, is a big part of why I’ve continued to follow that route and progress to the level of performing at festivals. I feel weird saying this, but this has been the year where I’ve had improv newcomers come and tell me they were fans of YUM, and my work, and they have said that a part of that has been because of how open and honest I am as a person and in my work on stage. I feel like I’ve had a very small-scale experience of what many of the Supernatural cast have — fans being able to connect on a more personal level. It certainly changes the appreciation for the person from more than just their work in their chosen craft. It’s an appreciation for their personality. The realisation that this person is human just like you are. I had a conversation with one of these “fans” (again, I still weird saying that, because to me it’s a developing friendship) somewhat recently about their feeling intimidated talking to other improvisers with a lot more experience than them, and the fear of not measuring up. And so I talked to them about my own experiences with feeling like that, and how I built up my confidence over time through working and training with more experienced people, so it led to a friendship.
And then I think about how I was at the San Francisco Supernatural convention this past weekend, and how different things were for me there. It’s been many, many years since I’ve been involved in any kind of fandom community. A Harry Potter one was probably the last, which I left probably back in 2009. Or it wound down. I don’t remember the details. Sure, it was post Supernatural starting, but I joined more for the community aspect than appreciation of fan works.
Attending the Supernatural convention alone and seeing so many people there with a friend, or groups of friends, gave me a greater understanding of what the SPN family community is like. How it’s helped many people find a sense of belonging, and working on various mental health issues. I found myself feeling a little envious that I’ve missed out on some of that because I’m not involved in fandom, and I choose to not make time for it because I have other things in my life that are more important to me. It’s not like I don’t have my own community, my own family. I just tend not to have friends that I talk with at length about the shows and movies I watch, or the books and graphic novels I read. I’ve found that, even though I can get really enthusiastic and excited about the things I’m interested in, I’m rarely able to convince people to take a chance on those interests themselves. I’m about as good at convincing people to watch popular things I like as I am at getting them to consume my creative outputs, which is to say it doesn’t happen very often. When I attended the convention, I thought the only Supernatural fans I knew were: my friend who was originally supposed to go with me, but thought she might have a work thing she’d have to attend; my husband’s girlfriend; and an Internet friend from way back who’s been to a ton of fan conventions over the years. I didn’t think I’d get much reaction posting about any of it on Facebook. That ended up not being the case, and I discovered a bunch of other people who liked the show, who I’d just had no idea were into it because I don’t talk about it that much. And even if some of the Facebook reactions I got weren’t from people who were fans of the show, it suggests that I also have a lot of friends who appreciate my ability to celebrate the things I like on Facebook.
I’m going to talk more about the actual convention when I write up a part 2 of this entry, but there are still some things that relate more closely with the thoughts I had here. Like, before I attended, I figured it’s so expensive, I’d only go to one Supernatural convention ever, because how could I justify spending that kind of money again, when I’ve already seen all the actors I like? I ended up snagging 6 different photo ops because I thought I wouldn’t have another chance to if I wasn’t going to attend another convention. But then actually being there, I felt the value. It made me want to go back. It made me want to connect with other people, even though I was too shy to really talk to anyone. I barely ever said more than thank you to the actors during the photo ops because I wanted to do the polite thing and not hold up the lines, as we were directed in the rules. I mean, I didn’t even introduce myself! I figured they see so many fans at these things, it’s not like they’d remember me anyway. Although I did comment to Rob Benedict, “I’m back again,” when I went for round two of the free Louden Swain autographs, so I could get my CDs signed. I was wearing the same red leather jacket so I thought he might’ve been able to recognise that, and maybe I was a little embarrassed to be doing that. Probably my favourite interaction with another fan was chatting to someone at the Random Acts booth while I made a birthday card. She commented on my “Emma Swan” jacket, and I fortunately knew she was referencing Once Upon a Time, because that’s one of the only other network TV shows I watch at the moment, and I got to comment on the fact I didn’t make that connection when buying the jacket, and I associate red leather jackets more with Buffy from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it was just nice to be able to talk to someone who understood all of those references.
A lot of people do seem to return to these conventions, and I certainly got a taste as to why. There’s a part of me that feels a desire to be more of an unashamed fanatic. I don’t judge the way others celebrate their fandoms, but I think I do judge myself. It’s like, I’ll say something to myself to the effect of, “Why are you getting so worked up? They’re just people, just like you.” Or, “They’re never going to get to know you, so just admire them from afar; you don’t need to reach out, and they’re not going to want to be your friend if you’re an obsessive fangirl anyway.” Whether that’s true or not doesn’t matter. I’m a bit of an obsessive fangirl of improv rock group Oil in the Alley, but I worked my way to friendship with them, and worked on music videos with them. Granted, I was friends with one of them before I knew who they were, but they still appreciated me, and how much I celebrate and share their work. So, the point is, I could just be telling myself lies in order to make myself behave in a way that protects me from feeling judged rather than letting myself appreciate something the way I want to appreciate it. I know I’d like to attend another Supernatural convention. Maybe by the time I do, I’ll have worked out how to connect more with the rest of the community of fans. Because if there’s any fandom that really appreciates and caters to their fans, it’s Supernatural. That’s been obvious since as early as season 4, when the plotline of the Prophet writing the Supernatural books was introduced, and Sam and Dean discovered fanfiction written about them. Including the incestuous stuff. It’s the only show I’ve seen celebrate that side of fandom to that extent. Even without being involved in the fandom, the meta episodes like those are my favourites.
(Part 2 of my thoughts and commentary after the convention will be more focused on the events at the convention itself, and include the photos I got with the various cast members; I’ll post that sometime after I get the jpegs, which will be better than the scanned versions I currently have on Facebook).