Thanks to SyFy and shows like Heroes of Cosplay what was once considered a quiet nerd hobby has exploded. If you were a cosplayer it used to be that you would have to travel great distances to attend a convention every weekend, now if you want to attend conventions you have to pick and choose which ones. There are multiple cons every weekend and they come in all sizes and genres.
Unfortunately, with the increase in their popularity, there has also come the increase in controversy. It seems that one major controversy quickly gaining speed is bad, cheap, or poorly run conventions, some have even gone so far as to cancel the cons and run with the money.
The Con of the Year
The newest on this list is IFCon Victoria. This convention was scheduled to occur over the Halloween weekend in Victoria, BC Canada. They didn’t have A-List bookings, but they had some well-known names and a lot of artists. They had booked Richard Hatch from the original Battle Star Galactica, Gil Gerard of Buck Rogers, William B. Davis best known as the Smoking Man on The X-Files and Claudia Christian from Babylon 5. They even had several of the Power Rangers.
They had a rather impressive list of artists, guests and vendors. The con organizers had even managed to snag a movie premier.
The End or Just the Beginning
Then suddenly, four days before the con, it was canceled. It was reported that the organizer Bill Code had to be rushed to the hospital after collapsing the weekend before the event. Fans were told that he would be undergoing surgery and there was no way he could continue to run the con.
According to the initial posting, Code had been organizing the con for the last year and a half and had invested more than $84,000 but was no longer able to “handle and direct any part of the convention.”
Many of the exhibitors learned of the cancellation of the con through the Facebook page and most, if not all feel that they have been conned. The exhibitors aren’t alone. Artists, Fans, and even celebrity guests are screaming about how this con was handled and the treatment they received from Ken Twyman, the one who appears to have taken the reigns once cancellation of the con was imminent.
Cons Aren’t Cheap
For those unfamiliar with Victoria, it is the capital of British Columbia and is located on the tip of Vancouver Island. There is no bridge to Victoria, there are two ways to get onto the island; by ferry or by plane, neither method is cheap and you have to pay again to get off the island. Then to top it off if you don’t catch the 11pm ferry or grab the last flight, you are stuck on the island until the next morning, meaning that you need to grab accommodations. This adds up quickly.
Tickets for the event ran at $45 for a weekend pass; $30 for Saturday, $25 for Sunday, and VIP Passes sold for $250. Those prices are comparable to many cons that I have gone to, but unless you are local you then have to add in all the extras such as ferry and hotel. Making it an expensive con to visit. The vendors, of course, paid more and have the added cost of their stock.
According to the original cancellation statement “All the money put into the event from facility rental, flights, hotels, advances paid to celebrities, the show booth providers and much more that has been paid in advance is non-refundable to Bill or IFC Productions.” So it sounds like all vendors and pre-purchased ticket holders were out of luck, but there is some light at the end of the tunnel for a few ticket holders. According to the official Facebook page (now deleted), some locations and websites are providing, or working on providing refunds.
The Vendors are Eating It
But not everyone is getting refunds, many purchased tickets from small local shops that already turned their ticket sales into IFC productions, or they purchased tickets directly from the organizer himself. A few of the bigger shops such as Lyles Place are more than able to issue refunds on tickets without feeling as much of an impact.
As a gesture of goodwill to their customers, many of the smaller shops have started issuing ticket refunds, but not all of them are certain yet, if they will be refunded.
Hang and Play Video Games is one of the many businesses that was hit by the cancellation of IFCon Victoria. She paid over $400 just to have vending space, then she had to shell out money for graphics and merchandise. Her expenditure, which she was hoping to recoup at the con were around $1700.
Then she discovered the news of the show cancellation, not by the con organizers, but by another vendor who was a friend of hers. As of the 3rd, Hang and Play Video Games had not received any refunds from the convention, but were issuing ticket refunds. The price of the refunded tickets is coming straight from her own pocket, just adding to the amount of money she has lost with this con.
Even the Guests Got Hit
For a first year con, IFCon Victoria had a great list. Part of the reason for the fantastic guest line was because it was promoted as 100% donations to the Children’s Hospital
Several of the guests found out about the cancellation through the Facebook forum before they were informed by the con organizers. Many of the guests only found out about the cancellation because fans or fellow guests and agents informed them. And this is where some things get confusing….
Major guests were cancelled by the con days before the official cancellation of the con itself, yet there was no notice on the website or the Facebook page. Fans discovered the cancellation through a Facebook post made by Claudia’s people five days before the con gave notice.
Some of the guests were contacted days before the cancellation and told their guests were canceled, but they weren’t contacted by the organizer, Bill Code, whom they had been dealing with, they were contacted by a whole new person, Ken Twyman. Some of the others guests weren’t even contacted, they discovered that IFCon had been cancelled though other guests or fans.
This is when things got interesting and we started seeing comments about broken contracts.
Some of the agents weren’t happy about having their clients canceled and, as it was by a person they had never heard of, they pursued it further. Ken reciprocated with less than professional language and has since then posted several rather nasty comments against various guests, fans and cosplayers.
Of the agents I have spoken to, none of them had previously heard the name Ken Twyman in any reference to the convention and, as far as I can tell, there is no mention of his ‘partner’ Ken Twyman until October 12th, when Bill states on Facebook:
I am sick in bed with jaundice. Any ifcon question contact my business partner Ken Twyman. I hope to be better in the next 3 or 4 days. Just starting to recover a bit.
When that is the only mention of his partner, there is definitely going to be eyebrows raised when Ken suddenly makes an appearance on the scene and starts canceling everything.
One agent did manage to contact Bill via Facebook before the con was canceled. And according to them Bill seemed almost surprised by the cancellation and reinstated their clients. Within days of the reinstatement the official cancellation was posted.
There are claims that there was a committee of sorts that attempted to pick up the slack when the organizer fell ill, but that they couldn’t handle it and were forced to cancel the show.
The show was less than a week away, by that point everything should have been done except a few of the finer details such as table placement, final payments on facilities etc.. By this point everyone on his committee would have had assigned tasks and be in the final stages of carrying them out.
Reservations, that should have been made months ago, would be confirmed. Attending guests would be contacted regarding any last-minute requirements and final transportation arrangements would be done.
Yet none of this seems to have happened, in fact there was so little that had been done and so much left to do that the ‘committee’ decided to cancel the whole con.
According to representatives of the show nothing was deliberately done and there were plans to carry it through the whole way. The con was not a scam or a play. Yet the official website has been taken down, IFC productions website is completely wiped and prior to the Facebook pages being removed, several posts had been deleted from Facebook.
If they had nothing to hide they should just have let it all ride out, only deleting posts that were direct defamation or contained foul language, then an explanation put in their place for the posts removal. If nothing was done deliberately, then they have done nothing, so far, to prove their sincerity to those directly affected.
In fact, actions by the current representatives of the con have led to excessive speculations and rumors regarding the state of Bills health, con finances and the original intentions of Bill Code when he planned this con.
According to many, the entire con was a con job of epic proportions.
Con man or Failure?
No man is an island, yet apparently Bill Code thought he was. According to several people, Bill made repeated comments about being a “one man show” and doing it alone. According to comments made in several Facebook posts he was a one man band and doing 100% of the work.
Back as early as May it was obvious that Bill was having trouble handling the con. He made multiple Facebook posts such as “someone buy ifcon off me please.” He comments in August asking if anyone wanted to buy comicon shares and there several posts about him being tired or sick. As the deadline approached in October he started posting about stress and lack of sleep.
Over the last several months he also made comments about finances and over booking. The show had gotten way bigger than it should have. Bill Code bit off more than he could chew.
Over the last few months he has made numerous payment promises that he didn’t carry through with. There are many people and companies with which he has placed deposits, but never paid in full and there are even more that haven’t received any payments.
Most people have told me how well they were treated by Bill and how they liked his frequent updates.He seems to have been a friendly and personable guy, perhaps even charismatic in order to get this many people under his spell.
It was only within the last month or so that they really started to see things fall apart. He’d make promises he didn’t carry through on or be non responsive. They started seeing him respond more with excuses rather than answers.
Guests were missing vital information such as hotels and flights and when they pushed for details they were told they would see it tomorrow or in a few days. He used his illness as a shield and rather than admit that he screwed up, he carried through with the farce.
Over the last several months Bill Code had more than ample opportunity to see where the con wasn’t going and could have called it off at any time. Instead of cutting his losses and admitting defeat he chose failure of an epic proportion.