During the confirmation phone call I got told of the different areas in the O2 that would be taken over, including all 9 of the Cineworld screens and the Indigo2 area, with schooling on how to become a Jedi, exclusive sneak peaks at new films gracing our screens over the next couple of years, and exciting guest appearances over the weekend. Obviously this was something I really wanted to be a part of, so it would seem silly to turn down the opportunity. A few weeks later I discovered I could have been accredited with a press pass for the whole weekend, but rather than joining in with the festivities, I thought I’d give a go at seeing how a huge event like this is run.
The day before my lovely 6am wake up call, we were asked to come to the event for an induction meeting, see the areas of the O2, and find out what we would be taking part in. I arrived at the venue early, of course, so had a chance to absorb the massive space this place is. I walked around the Hollywood Boulevard in which various stands were being assembled promoting different films such as MIB3, Happy Feet 2 and Real Steel. Considering the event was starting the very next day, it all seemed a little bare but you could gain a feel for what this area had to offer, and that was a good promotional stunt. As the meeting came around, we were told the safety procedures and were briefly introduced to the ticketing system, but were assured we wouldn’t need to know too much on this… Then we were given our exclusive t-shirts. I was expecting baggy, Fruit of the Loom school style ones, but surprisingly they were quite nice, if not a bit small and “fitted”, shall we say.
Then came the day of the event. So, after getting on the train and having a fairly easy journey to work, I arrived at London Bridge to find “minor delays” on the tube. Now, anyone who remotely knows me will be aware I am very much organised and on time. Seeing delays on the tube does not fit into my scheduling for this event well, so I was about 20 minutes late. As I arrived at the O2 out of breath, I walked past a line of already waiting ticket holders who did not seem pleased to have me stroll right by. I almost jogged to the end of the O2 area where the staff quarters were, threw my bag down, got given a walkie-talkie (which I had no idea how to use) and was told I was on ‘front of house’. I walked all the way back and soon had A3 maps and timetables of the event given to me to hand out to incoming empire fan traffic. I got my breath back, but then came the confusion. It turns out being on front of house meant you needed to know quite a lot about the ticketing system, where different events were and what they could do in the mean time. After sending a few people the wrong way as assuming from the brief information we were given was the only option, we were told in a little more detail about the way this event worked and could give some proper advice on where to go.
As the morning progressed, it seemed a little ridiculous to still be standing at the front as no one was coming into the event anymore, so another volunteer and I decided to take a stroll around, helping people and directing them in what we thought was the right way at the time. We became confused as we were stopped a few times to have our picture taken doing various things, like posing with a man who had just been styled to look like a zombie. One photographer even thought it would be appropriate to come straight up to us and take a picture of our chests. Apparently it was for the Empire logo, to which we soon told him there was a bigger and more clear version of that logo on the back of our t-shirts.
Other volunteers on the event were working on the various cinema screens, taking tickets and being able to see what was showing in that cinema. As we were practically promo girls, we were walking back and forth around the O2. It was the Hollywood Boulevard that caught our attention the most. We were able to stroke animals from Harry Potter including Hagrid’s dog Fang, Harry Potter’s owl Hedwick and Hermione’s cat Crookshanks. We also got to explore the themed rooms for The Dark Knight Rises in which it was, funnily enough, dark and threatening with the trailer showing on a screen, Happy Feet 2 where the room snowed and the Men In Black 3 stage where weapons from the movie were on display.
Still at this point we were being asked questions about the ticketing system. For any of those who went you can probably understand our confusion as well as yours. Those working on the event were also just as confused. But no one was rude or aggressive, just more annoyed than anything else. We tried our best to help them, and send people in the right direction so hopefully they got to experience some good things that were on offer.
As well as helping the confused public, I took to helping confused press. Knowing quite a few people from the various events I have attended, it was nice to be able to see them again, catch up and just give them guidance on where to go. I found myself at one point talking to the head of film distribution at Momentum films which was quite a shock. At that point I had to try and act a little bit cool, which for me is quite a problem because there’s not an ounce of that running through me. I took him sensibly to the area he needed without tripping or spilling water down me, so I think I accomplished my mission well. My day ended with seeing Dominic Cooper surrounded by fans asking for his autograph, which he was more than happy to sign.
The next day started off great as we saw someone driving the car from Back to the Future – Imagine being that man! We were back on front of house which ran a lot more smoothly as we had help sheets on the ticketing system meaning we were confident on where we were sending people this time. Photographer man came back and asked us to look happy and smiley with the timetables for the camera, which was a little bit hard as we had both pulled muscles from carrying them all day, and had paper cuts everywhere. However, we trooped on and posed for the camera, with hesitation.
The buzz really kicked in the 2nd day as the venue was packed with people who had paid for tickets and those who were visiting as tourists to find Empire had taken it over. A big attraction for everyone was the stand in the boulevard again showing film memorabilia from the London Film Museum. It featured costumes from Batman, Mr Bean and props from The Borrowers. There was also an amazing area which had beautiful Bond cars in. As we walked around several times, those working on the stands began to recognise us. We were heckled to play on the dance game in the Playstation Move section, we had lasers shot at us to play in the Laserquest area, and then we were aggressively told to come and pretend to be a Sky News Reporter on their stand. We politely told the man we couldn’t, to which he responded “Are you illiterate?” I don’t think that’s the best way to get people in… I kind of wish I said yes now to make him realise how offensive that question was.
In the afternoon as our job was dying down, we did get to experience one of the event’s popular attractions. With the witty title of “Smack my pitch up”, it offered the public a chance to showcase their film ideas to a panel of experts and be told honestly their reactions. It varied from a buddy movie with Death as one of the buddies, to a generic corrupted policeman tale. A young guy won with his inventive take on a superhero film. I don’t want to say in case it does get made, but it was so good the whole panel voted and he won an iPod touch. After this we circled the event a few more times and spotted Joe Cornish admiring the Troll Hunter stand.
The 3rd and final day seemed to be most popular with everyone including me. Not only did we manage to attend a few things, but the timetables were now A4, leaving our arms uncut for the day. After our front of house duties and being patronisingly said “hi” to in a high pitch voice from a couple of people, we went and saw “100 Greatest Movies of All Time”. The panel had Empire employees discussing their opinions on the top ten that readers voted for in 2008, and threw questions out to the crowd for them to discuss. No.1 was The Godfather, with Pulp Fiction, Fight Club and Shawshank Redemption all in the top 10 too. The discussion was funny, crude and very opinionated. I wondered why Rear Window, or any of Hitchcock’s for that matter, weren’t up there but one of the gurus soon said it. It was an interesting debate filled with avid film fans as you’d expect.
Once this was finished, we walked the floor a few more times and heard news of free ice cream. When I say heard, we saw Ben Montimer run like a child through O2 shouting to anyone he knew “FREE ICE CREAM!” We wondered at a more sensible pace to the area and saw an ice cream van sent from Cineworld to deliver it. We headed over merrily to get ours and, as you can guess, had our picture taken because of the Empire logo. It was more of a tease than anything, because we really just wanted ice cream but had to stand for 5 minutes having different poses taken.
We were all sugared up and ready to go again. From reading the timetables we carried around all day, we saw Disney, Marvel and Dreamworks were putting on a showcase of new footage so we decided to sit at the back and see it all. What was most exciting for me was The Avengers footage; I cannot describe to you how excited I am about that film. We also saw scenes from Real Steel, John Carter and The Hope. Steven Spilberg recorded a message for the viewers, with Shawn Levy gracing the stage and Jeremy Irvine talking about War Horse (who I have now decided is going to be my next new crush). We also saw the trailer for Lion King in 3D which I was not happy about – Mostly because Lion King was an animation drawn in 2D and should stay that way, but I’m not going to get hung up on it, really…
It was getting quite late in the day now, and our last shift was drawing to an end. But not before one last fun task – Sorting the goodie bags. We filled Empire Big Screen branded plastic bags with exclusive t-shirts from Dark Bunny Tees. The perk of the job was that we got to choose t-shirts for ourselves. An Inception and Anchorman one was my choice and I’ll be wearing them proudly!
It was a lovely weekend to be a part of, not only to experience some of the attractions and talk to all sorts of people, but see how the staff do handle these sorts of things. They worked all hours of the day and night to make this event happen, and although there were a few problems, it seemed to be quite the success. If I get a chance to attend next time, I’m probably going to go as press though. Being a promo-girl isn’t something I dream of.