Using Fan Conventions to Make Half a Million in a Weekend

What if it were possible to make $500,000 for only two days worth of work? Sounds like one of those get-rich-quick schemes you’ve probably been emailed about a few hundred times. But, in this case, there’s no need to send your financial information to someone claiming to be a foreign dignitary. All you need is a little star power, some dedicated fans and a convention center.

According to The Hollywood Reporter (THR), super genre stars like Norman Reedus (The Walking Dead) Chris Evans (Captain America) and basically anyone who played The Doctor on Doctor Who can (and has in the case of Matt Smith) potentially walk away from a fan convention with hundreds of thousands of dollars in their pockets. All this for mere hours of their time spent signing autographs, speaking at panels and taking photos with fans willing to dish out the cash for the opportunity.

Conventions often pay a fee to guarantee talent show at their cons. This fee, depending on the popularity of the actor, can range anywhere from $5,000 to $250,000 and up. Actors also collect additional cash from their cut of the signings and photo fees. This means actors who are either less known or currently not working full-time can sometimes score more cash at a con that taking a job.

Jewel Staite (Firefly) told THR she is taking advantage of the extra cash as a way to make money when her job opportunities are low. She also stated she would sometimes turn down guest appearances or smaller roles when conventions could easily earn her more than double the cash.

“Have I turned down smaller jobs that won’t pay as much? Absolutely. It would be silly of me to say yes to the job that pays $10,000 for a week of work and bow out of a big convention where I could potentially walk away with $40,000 in two days.”

Of course, actors who frequently turn down jobs for conventions might not get a call back the next time. But, to some it is definitely worth the risk, at least according to Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow executive producer Marc Guggenheim. According to both he and Staite, many actors are hoping to get into genre acting for the continual income that is available even if they don’t make it big. “In a world where residuals don’t mean as much,” Guggenheim says, “conventions are like residuals.”

Some actors are taking full advantage of the system by not only appearing at cons and other scheduled events, but helping other actors get in on the game. Stephen Amell (Arrow) has opened his own talent agency, WFA Entertainment, in order to help actors sift through the plethora of conventions and other fan events.

Sure, we all wish we could make $40,000 in two days (for some of us that’s about what we make in a year, but we aren’t bitter or anything . . . ). However, if given the opportunity, who of us wouldn’t do it? Of course, not everyone in the biz is worried about the dough. The Walking Dead executive producer Dave Alpert is keeping his focus on the fans. “What’s important is that the community feels vibrant and engaged,” Alpert iterates. “As long as that happens … we should all be able to make a living and the money will come.” Thanks, Alpert. Not all of us can pay $200 for a photo op with Stan Lee (though, we certainly would if we could). However, as long as the cons are on (and somewhat reasonably priced for attendance) we, the fans, will be there.

Image: AMC, SDCC

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Staff writer, life-time gamer, professional nerd and amateur cosplayer. Owns a working copy of Duck Hunt (with the light gun). Has never hunted real ducks. Writer and marketer by trade.
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