If you’ve visited any of the main programming events, you may have seen short television spots including one with Samuel L. Jackson, tired of Tribbles on a Ship, and the Logan’s Run living community catering to people under thirty. These and many others have entertained Dragon*Con attendees for several years and are the creations of DCTV, run by Brian Richardson.
Richardson is the Director of Videography for Dragon*Con. He started his tenure as a technical operations staffer drafted to run a soundboard in 1998. He subsequently met video effects guru Patrick Freeman and asked him to run a camera during an event. Soon, the pair began to create short spots to entertain waiting attendees. The spots were well-received, particularly by the Dragon*Con higher-ups who asked Richardson if he could produce them again. He refers to this question as “The Trap” since he hadn’t planned on doing it for more than one event, but apparently fate ensnared him on his increasingly popular course.
DCTV eventually won the services of Stephen Grenade, a theater major who came highly recommended for his writing skills. Grenade eventually began writing Adult Swim-styled bumpers and added to brainstorming sessions that produced hours of entertainment for convention attendees. Many of these shorts are produced at Richardson’s home-based green-screen equipped studio where his wife, Susan, is the location manager, watching over D*C staffers who come to help. Notably, there is no official DCTV department, so they don’t earn volunteer hours for these shoots.
The group comes up with parodies of trademarked works which are available to download for free. DCTV cannot sell their creations since doing so would violate the fair use act, but they don’t mind giving away works which depict Klingons in unusual situations, red-shirted Star Trek crewmen dying in horrible ways, Stormtrooper swimsuit commercials, Soylent Green Baby Food, and various other shorts featuring sci-fi/fantasy icons.
Richardson is not averse to recruiting celebrities to the cause. He recounted such an experience at the panel on Sunday. “We talked James Marsters into doing a blood drive PSA where he gives blood as his vampire character, Spike. Unfortunately, it turned out that he really is involved in giving blood for blood drives, so we couldn’t really do it.” Grenade also tried to get Star Trek actor Wil Wheaton to help on a project, but months of failed email communication resulted in no Wil, so Grenade began a joke where he insists Wheaton will be working with him.
This year has been has been a good one for DCTV, according to Richardson. “It’s more successful than I thought it’d be, and it’s run a lot better than I thought.”
Fan reaction to spots such as “Cthulhu’s Clues” has gotten Grenade recognized on many occasions. But they’ve had to evolve the format of their works over the years, abandoning half-hour, news-style shows with plug-in vignettes for tightly-edited, 30-second shorts to accommodate audiences’ attention spans.
Still, as long as attendees are left smiling, that’s all that matters to the DCTV crew, and they’re always looking for new recruits and fans’ ideas. Richardson prefers ones which “don’t require a lot of big special effects so it’s less work for us. Funny stuff with simple shots is good.”
As Freeman noted, “if you have a good idea we’ll steal it.”