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by Hansi Oppenheimer
Troubled Girl Films
What happens when an impartial documentary filmmaker goes to a con to
discuss fandom and becomes a fan? That’s what recently happened to me
as I was shooting at Ascendio, a Harry Potter Con for my film about
fan works, exploring how participatory culture works and the various
of expressions of fan creativity (fanfic, fan-viding, activism, wizard
I AM a fan-girl, just not of the Potter-verse. I tend to get my geek
on over all things Whedon-y and Kripke.
Ascendio was organized by HP Education Fanon, Inc. (HPEF), a
collective committed to producing academic symposia on the Harry
Potter books and cultural phenomenon. While that may sound dry, the
con was anything but…
Unique in its combination of academic programming and panels, there
were meet ups for everything from particular fanfic ships; Harry/Draco
was very popular, but every possible ship and genre of fanfic was
represented and supported, including my favorite, slash.
Dozens of panels covered subjects from the tradition of Magic Schools
in literature, to Christian symbols in Potter, as well as how-to
discussions for aspiring authors, empowering readers, how to teach
Potter and many more.
There were also real quidditch demos and pick-up games, cosplay events
such as the fabulously entertaining Alumni House Tournament, fan
written plays, musicals, wizard rock, fashion shows as well as the
usual con standards such as merch, signings, and photo ops.
They even organized a special trip to Universal’s Wizarding World of
Harry Potter for the attendees while closing off the park to
“muggles.” I literally saw HP fans brought to tears as they saw
Hogmeade brought to life right before their eyes.
The park was pretty awesome! I wandered around enjoying all the
displays, despite not being able to get much on tape because the area
is gas lit. I did enjoy sharing a shot at the Three Broomsticks with
Heidi Tandy, who had so generously invited me to the con and consented
to an interview, despite her total exhaustion at the end of the four
days of managing the event.
John Granger, The Potter Pundit was in attendance and I spent an hour
interviewing him on his unique perspective on the Harry Potter Canon.
I watched the footage of his interview recently and he is a wonderful
speaker. One of my favorite anecdotes of his is about his teaching
Potter to a group of young men who discovered that they could chat up
any girl with a discussion about Harry.
I caught panels with authors Cecilia Tan and Lev Grossman, both of
whom I’ve interviewed for the project prior to the con.
I met Lisa Waite Bunker, one of the only official Social Media
Librarians in the country; dressed as Professor Sprout as she
discussed how her library is supporting and encouraging the use of
digital media, social networking and environmental activism.
The Potter-fans dedication to cosplay was amazing. I was surprised at
how many people stayed in costume and in character throughout the
four-day festivities. I was charmed each time I saw characters I
recognized. They were wonderful and really brought the text to life.
But favorite event was The Alumni House Tournament, where characters
from each of the four houses, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, Gryffindor and
Hufflepuff battled on the green.
Altogether, I shot 20 hours of footage and could have easily shot 20
more. There was so much creativity at this con, and the fans are so
supportive of each other. They have created a wonderfully safe space
to express themselves and share their love of the world JK Rowling
created and that they continue to create. I am inspired by their
commitment to create and honored to have been able to be a part of it.