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Chronicles '98

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  • Chronicles '98

    A detailed report of the chronicles '98 convention by Paul Edmonds:
    May flights of Demons guide you to your final rest...

  • #2
    Oh that is so cool!


    • #3

      There seem to be pictures there too, might be the same though.
      May flights of Demons guide you to your final rest...


      • #4
        It's humorous to read.


        • #5
          Chronicles '98

          It wasn't the weekend when the lunatics took over the asylum, it was the weekend when the bad guys got their own back - maybe in the end, there can be only one, but everyone loves the villain before he gets what's coming. Despite the disappointment that Peter Wingfield could not be at Chronicles, the first (?) Highlander convention held in Manchester was a definite success, with the three primary bad guys turning out to be a hit and then some, as well as some surprises in Gillian and Donna's patented dog and pony show. The City In The Rain got in on the act as well, proving that its other name is well justified.

          This report is from a personal perspective, as one of the fans attending, and focuses mainly on things concerning the television series. As you might expect, the pictures below will enlarge if you click on them, but not to full screen size - I'm not that good a photographer. Most of the guests had more than one session, but I've combined them together below. I hope you enjoy it - we did.
          CHRONICLES ‘98
          Valentine Pelka

          Valentine came out for his first session looking very relaxed in the same leather jacket that he wore as Kronos. He had been extremely unsubtle about liking it and Ken Gord had allowed him to keep it as a souvenir. After he had found out that he had the role, he had to get a work permit from the Canadian High Commission, but he found out the Thursday before the Monday that filming started. He went down early in the morning to apply, only to be told at reception that it would take three weeks. After having filled in the form, he was at the back of what was now a long queue, so he waited until he saw the guy who handled the work permits, ready to plead on bended knee, but when the guy heard the story, he said “come back in two hours” and that was that.

          When Valentine arrived in Vancouver, Ken Gord sent him videos of past episodes to watch, so that he could get into the Highlander spirit. He said that as soon as he and Adrian started to rehearse the fight scene in the power station, he knew he was outclassed as a swordsman, even though he’s done quite a bit of dramatic sword work. When they came to film the fight, they filmed the long sequence in one take, then did the fill in shots. Valentine said that he nearly got beheaded for real, as he forgot where he was supposed to block, going down when Adrian was going for his head, but Adrian’s control is so good that the blade stopped inches from Valentine’s head. When they did get to the scripted beheading in Bordeaux, Valentine thought, “All right, bring on the dummy, I’ll go for a cup of tea and watch the fireworks”. Adrian had other ideas, telling him that they had their dummy and he should stay there. Oh yes, and close your eyes. So Valentine had to lie there whilst they let off the explosions and he never saw a thing!

          He gave us some other insights into Adrian Paul as a director. When they arrived in Bordeaux, Adrian closeted the Four Horsemen away for seven hours in his hotel room, working with them to put together their own histories. This process ended up with them becoming the Horsemen. Valentine said that when they arrived on set, it was as a gang, as the Horsemen, not as four actors playing the roles. Someone asked him abut filming in the submarine base and he said it wasn’t spooky at all, as it was never used. The Germans built it during the war, but the French Resistance dammed the river so that the water table dropped and made it unusable. It’s now a marine museum. The other illustration of Adrian as a director got cut short. Valentine talked about an unused flashback from “Revelation 6:8”, set in Capua, which had him and Peter Wingfield in dodgy wigs and skirts. Adrian had told each of them something about their motivation, but neither knew what it was. When someone asked for more details, Gillian and Donna told him to shut up before he could answer. (And yes, they were pretty blunt about it.) Turns out that they have taken everything about that scene out of circulation. More on that in the Gillian and Donna section below.

          Valentine had a load of stories which came out over the weekend and these are but a taster. He talked about working on a film with Sir Alec Guinness just after he left the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts. He was disturbed every evening before dinner by talking in Sir Alec’s room. Later, he found out that Guinness was learning his next day’s lines and it taught him a lesson in being prepared. He said it can lead you into trouble, though. When he was appearing in a play with Dennis Waterman, as the run came to its end, Valentine was going on to play Hamlet. He had been staying up late learning his lines for the part every night after the performance. In the play he was in, he was killed and had to lie on the stage for a long period, so he used to review his “Hamlet” lines as he did so. One night, he fell asleep and had a vivid dream about falling asleep, then starting to speak his lines from “Hamlet”. He woke up before anyone saw that he’d drifted away, but when they took their bows at the end, he asked Dennis Waterman if he’d said anything. Dennis looked at him oddly and Valentine decided he hadn’t.

          Many of Valentine’s stories were horse related, coming from his various film and television appearances, such as “First Knight” and “Robin Of Sherwood”. However, he did mention that one of the Horsemen wasn’t as in control as the rest. During filming in Bordeaux, it would often be the case that the Horsemen would be over here, coming this way, but Marcus would be over there, going that way. At the end of the convention, the guests were presented with the gifts from the organisers and Valentine’s was a Leeds United FC shirt and football signed by the team, which is the yellow and blue shirt he’s wearing in the photo.
          Peter Hudson

          In contrast with the relaxed Mr Pelka, Peter Hudson was obviously nervous about meeting the fans. He started his first session with a bit of business about auctioning himself off, but dried up a bit after that. Although he relaxed as the weekend wore on, he was never as comfortable with the attention as the others, but he was a genuine and charming man who had plenty of time for people. If you’re going to Anaheim, treat him gentle. He was very unsure about how to answer a question about being a sex-symbol, in marked contrast to Valentine Pelka, who deflected a question about slash fiction with great grace.

          Peter told us how he was injured while filming the graveyard confrontation at the end of “Counterfeit”. He was walking along before filming started, slipped and fell across a gravestone, injuring his back. This is why, if you watch it, he is hobbling when MacLeod chases him at the end - he could barely walk and he had to try to run!

          Peter got into acting when he was studying the production of English-language theatre in Europe. When he was in Paris, the French director he was interviewing said that he’d be perfect for a part she was having trouble casting and asked him to audition for the role. He got it and things started from there. Although he does occasional UK television appearances, he does a lot of work on the Continent and works as a voice over artist for cartoons. He does ALL the male voices for a cartoon series based on Greek mythology and he told us how his young son recently told him that it was a great costume that he had! After Peter’s second session, he was joined by the Two Horsemen. In response to a question about whether they thought that Highlander conventions would continue, Peter commented that they’d go from the Horsemen to the Wheelchairs of the Apocalypse. Peter was clearly more comfortable in an ensemble, trading friendly jokes with Valentine, whilst Marcus let them get on with it. Once he’d decided they’d had enough of the limelight, he grabbed a microphone and gave an impromptu rendition of “Wand’ring Star”, which stopped the other two in their tracks and brought the house down. Peter said that he’d met Valentine during the filming of “Archangel” and they instantly found things in common. As a bemused Valentine looked on, he added “I don’t know his wife and he doesn’t know mine”. Things didn’t improve when someone asked what they look for in a role and Peter jumped straight in with “a sausage”. Someone presented the three of them with a bottle of beer each and Valentine tried to open his, but was defeated by the bottle cap. Marcus reached over with a Swiss Army knife and offered it to Valentine, muttering straight into the microphone, “Red, then white, then black...” Valentine got his own back when someone asked about Marcus and his horsemanship. As Marcus explained that he had found it difficult to make his horse stand still, Valentine grinned, sat back and started circling his finger round and round. Which is a good point to jump to.....
          Marcus Testory

          I missed Marcus’ first session, as it clashed with the long video presentation by Donna and Gillian. Marcus was a most amiable man, switching readily between English and German in his answers, which combined humour and seriousness. He started his Sunday panel by talking about how he is training as a paramedic, which is why he has grown his hair out. When people wake up in an ambulance, they don’t really need Caspian looming over them. He got the role when an artist friend who was story boarding the Horsemen episodes used his mental image of Marcus as the model for Caspian, then told the producers they should use this guy. Marcus videoed his audition in his backyard, with the bass player from his band reading Silas’ part.

          He talked about the sword fight on the bridge in “Revelation 6:8”. This was his first sword fight and he made a few mistakes during filming, which caused Adrian Paul a few problems. Caspian’s sword had a blade on the guard and he cut Adrian twice with it, in error. He said that Adrian just shrugged it off and kept going. Later on, Valentine Pelka would comment about how difficult an experienced swordsman would find a two blade fight and that he thought Marcus had done exceptionally well to learn it so fast. Someone asked Marcus if he thought Caspian had any good points and Marcus said, simply, ”Yes, he’s dead”.

          One lovely joke concerned an Irish pub in Bordeaux which Richard Ridings had cultivated. The Horsemen used to drink together there and Richard persuaded them to open up after they had finished filming. They also rehearsed there and Marcus said that Peter or Valentine would suddenly drop into character and the other would follow, something he initially found difficult to do. He told us that they rehearsed the First Rule Of Great Drama scene several times, until Peter Wingfield changed the line. Instead of “start small and build”, he said “suck in your cheeks”. After that, they couldn’t take the scene so seriously and, if you watch it again, you can see Richard Ridings and Marcus struggling not to smile when they filmed it..
          Peter Diamond

          In sharp contrast to Peter Hudson, it was obvious that Peter Diamond was an old vaudevillian. The stage was set before he came out, with a mannequin wearing the suit he used in “Highlander”, when he played Fasil, and a Connor waxwork. Peter learnt to fence in the Army during his National Service and went to RADA when he was demobbed. During the summer holidays, he and some other students earnt a living doing a sword fighting act in music halls, which Peter choreographed. After he left RADA, work as an actor was thin on the ground, but he agreed to stage a fight for an amateur production. What he didn’t know was that it was this group’s annual West End production and after the performance, the phone never stopped ringing with people wanting him to do the same for them, only they were paying.

          He showed how they mock up punches for the camera, often never being anywhere near to hitting the target, then moved on to a mock sword fight. Whilst he used a convention steward for the punching, he got Valentine Pelka to assist with the sword work. Valentine hammed it up a bit, looking very nervous and trying to sneak away at one point. They put together a few simple moves, but when they speeded it up and acted it, rather than just doing the moves, it was a great little fight.

          Peter talked about his time on the film and the first season. He ended up playing Fasil because they couldn’t find anyone to play the role, so he got the dodgy wig, but he got an acrobat friend to do all the back flips. He was second unit director for the French episodes of Highlander’s first season, but left when there was a cull in the production team. He staged the fights and doubled for some of the actors during the fights. He talked of how he and his partner worked with Adrian Paul to develop a style for Duncan MacLeod that worked in with the character.
          Gillian Horvath and Donna Lettow

          With these two, it’s really a question of where to start. So we’ll start where I left off during the Valentine Pelka report, with the eliminated flashback. It didn’t turn out as anyone wanted and got eliminated at the editing stage for “Revelation 6:8”. It told how the Horsemen came to split up. Donna seemed to be hinting that, if Peter Wingfield had been available for more of Season 6, they would have had more flashbacks about Methos and would have wanted to revisit this scene, to give more on the Horsemen generally. Gillian said that she felt that not having Methos in “Avatar” and “Armageddon” tightened them up and made the writers improve Joe’s part, which otherwise would have drifted.

          But that was not to be, which leads us on to Roger Daltrey. They didn’t know if Roger would be able to appear in “Star-Crossed” until a few days before shooting, (and if he hadn’t, it would have been some other old and dear friend of MacLeod’s who would have been killed by Kalas). Roger was really upset at being killed and said that he wanted to be in more episodes. He buttonholed Gillian during the filming of “Till Death” and said, “I could do 5 episodes”, to which she had point out that “We didn’t think we could get you for one”. They told him it was an honour to get killed off, because the fans care about you. They said that a book was being written about “Highlander”, (as a TV series, not another tie-in novel), and when the writer interviewed Roger, he was trying to find out if he was going to be in “To Be” and “Not To Be”, because he really wanted the part he got, but his agent was playing games with Davis-Panzer and the thing wasn’t as easy as it should have been. Get a new agent, Roger!

          They talked about how episodes get rewritten. For example, the third act of “Not To Be” went in the bin when the phone call came that said “Stan’s signed the contract” and, intriguingly, Gillian said we would have loved it just as much as what’s in the final version of “Not To Be”. They talked about filming “The Chalice of St Antoine”. Yes, that’s right “Chalice”. It was originally a Season 2 Paris episode, but problems over who could write scripts for episodes filmed in France meant that it had to be shelved. The only problem was that Elizabeth Gracen was already booked, so they had to write an Amanda story set in France almost overnight. Which is what David Tynan did, coming up with “Legacy”. But, nothing is ever forgotten and they couldn’t just afford to trash the script, having paid for it, so it became an early episode in Season 3. As Gillian put it, “we kept the ‘Of St Antoine’ and Amanda and that was it”. The original script has Joe’s girlfriend in a long scene with him in the teaser, but it was decided that they couldn’t afford her, so the teaser was rewritten as it aired. Then Dennis Berry, the French director, saw the fort. At this point, Gillian asked Donna to tell the story, because she was better at accents, to which Donna replied “I’m not doing accents HERE!”, to the delight of the audience. Dennis also fell in love with the character of the teacher and wanted her role enlarged. Wait a minute - Joe’s girlfriend dies without saying a word, but the teacher gets her own storyline? They also had to trade the procession on horseback, (where they walk into the village and Durgan sees the Cross), for a candyglass door that Joe could break with his cane. If you’ve seen the bloopers of Jim Byrnes trying to break that glass, you know it went wrong. The candyglass broke on the way to the studio and they had to use real glass, which wouldn’t break. As Jim’s cane started to shatter, one of the crew painted a crowbar to look like a cane and that’s what Jim used in the end. As Donna put it, "They broke our horse!".

          They talked about the problems of short order casting. For “The Wrath of Kali”, the actor who should have played Kamir disappeared just before filming. Whilst the guy who played Kamir in the end did a great job, his body double was cast for the original actor and was the wrong size, as you can see in the fight scenes, when Kamir seems to shrink. The first scene the new guy had to film, straight off the plane, was the stickfight. That episode had other problems - the Indian costumes imported from England were impounded in Canadian Customs and never arrived in time, so all the extras are wearing their own clothes. For “Glory Days”, they had real problems casting the part of Betsy, as no actress under 60 wanted to be cast as a 48 year old. They solved the problem by taking out references to age, bingo. Like, he’s 48, she’s his High School sweetheart, but as long as you don’t say it, it doesn’t count?

          Some of the other things - they commented how a certain director, unnamed, drove the crew, so that his episodes are brilliant, but the next director has a shattered crew with no energy, so that his episodes end up flat. This also applies to the plots - they couldn’t follow the Horsemen with anything to top it, so they went for comedy with “Richard Redstone”. Sometimes, they have to do a cheap episode after an expensive one - “The Blitz” cost a lot to make, so they needed a cheapy afterwards, so “Timeless” was written. They talked about how jokes turn into plot points - Gillian said she was joking when she said “he could be Satan”. They talked about changes that are out the writer’s hands. When they were filming “Revelation 6:8”, there was a phone call from France. “We can’t find an abandoned chateau, but there’s this submarine base....” They wryly observed that if they’d said that.......

          They showed us the video which has been seen at previous conventions about filming “The Fighter”. For anyone who hasn’t seen it, they show the footage that was shot, then the final version edited together with sound and music. Quite an eye opener. Then they showed something they hadn't shown before. The footage of the “Death On Horseback” scene, which was something else. It’s twenty minutes long and it’ll blow you away if you see it. I’d heard that Peter and Adrian went for it, but how much I hadn’t begun to guess. They do it differently every time, the light was fading as they kept shooting, they really had a go at each other. They were there, they were Duncan and Methos. Donna and Gillian said that they were with Lara Mazur , the editor, when the film came to L.A. from Vancouver and she was going, “What am I supposed to do with this?” Eventually, they pieced the film together, bleached and darkened it to approximate all the light, but the astounding thing is that Peter and Adrian had to dub their voices back onto the soundtrack when it was done, as none of the sound was usable. Stand out moments include Peter Wingfield sitting in the car crying at the end of one take and Adrian shouting “come on!” at him during another, really into it. Not that there weren’t problems - at the end of one take, Peter slams the car door and the window collapses, then the T-Bird wouldn’t start for a long while during the shot where Duncan drives off.

          They showed us the auditions for Kronos, most of which reduced the audience to helpless fits, all except Valentine Pelka’s and one other - Andrew Bicknell, who played Devon Marek in “Black Tower”. Some one commented later how during Valentine’s audition, the camera’s on this unassuming guy, it pans away to a name card, then back and there’s this psychopath standing there. Originally Donna and Ken Gord didn’t want Valentine to get the role - Ken Gord said he was too pretty. Gillian made them see sense and Ken said, okay, if he’ll cut his hair and we add the scar.

          They rounded out the video session with the Quickenings from “Revelation 6:8”. Watching 8 minutes of Peter Wingfield writhing reduced a lot of the audience to tears of laughter, and Gillian said that he was holding his sword so tightly that his arms ached for days. Then Adrian’s Quickening comes on screen and Gillian quipped “Move over, let me show you how it’s done”.

          More random bits about the writing of the series. No one is admitting responsibility for “Deadly Exposure”, especially James Thorpe to whom it’s credited. Having now seen all of Season 6, I just don't see how that one slipped through. Writing credits can only go to European or Canadian writers, so sometimes the person who does most work can’t be the credited writer, as for example Donna Lettow and “To Be” and “Not To Be”. Donna is leaving Highlander because, as she put it, she has a non-sexy passport. With Elizabeth Gracen being American, that cuts down the number of available jobs for Americans on the new show. Donna said that there are no plans for any more tie-in books, but she is updating the Watcher Chronicles before she leaves Davis-Panzer. She has also prepared timelines for Methos, Amanda and Rebecca for the new writers, to give a consistency to the new show that the old one didn’t have until Season 2. As far as Methos’ timeline is concerned about 2 out of every 3 entries have a * against them and the * footnote says, “Well, he SAYS he did this”. Someone asked about the definitive Methos episode and Gillian jumped in straight away with “Methos and definitive just don’t go”.

          The script for Highlander 4 is being rewritten by Gregory Widen based on a draft by a Miramax staff writer. Bill Panzer is giving him all the room he needs to finish it. Adrian Paul and Christopher Lambert will be in it. They also talked about the killing of Richie. This came about for a number of reasons. Stan Kirsch wanted to go on to other things, Adrian Paul wanted to kill a major character off on the Season closer and David Abramowitz wanted a catalyst to spin the series in a new direction. They said the crew seemed to know long in advance that Richie was for the chop. Stan didn’t want to go to France at all for Season 4 and they didn't know if he would be available for much of Season 5 - he was making a pilot for a new series and wouldn’t have been available if it had sold, so “End Of Innocence” was written with half an eye to him never being in “Highlander” again. Stan didn’t want to just ride off into the sunset and, when he found out how he was to die, approached Bill Panzer at the Vancouver wrap party with his reaction - “Cool!”

          They also talked about Duncan being closed and dark in Season 6 and about the problems of writing for him on his own. One questioner referred to the conventional hero mythos, that the Hero fights the good fight, then disappears. Donna replied that he certainly disappeared for a while in Season 6. This isn't something necessarily new - they said that the reason that Charlie's character got used more than originally intended in Season 2 was that they nearly killed Adrian. After Tessa was killed and Richie left, the stories had Duncan on screen most of the time. Eventually, Adrian rang the production office and said "No more running!". He had been injured in a couple of episodes, so they needed to give him space to recuperate. Hence, Charlie became more important, for example becoming Sully's tutor d'amour in "The Fighter". They talked a lot about their Toy Box, an analogy for unused plot ideas and unresolved story lines, as in “we need to write a story, what’s in the Toy Box”. The Box itself actually appeared in the Euro version of “Armageddon”, where the dwarf Ahriman pulls the toys of Tessa, Fitz and Darius from it. The dwarf, in passing, was originally supposed to be a little girl, but the French authorities wouldn’t let them show an evil child. Other things in the Toy Box are the CD-ROM in the bookstore, (“Ask Adrian,” they said). They joked that at the beginning of Season 6, all they had was the Horton doll and “who put all these Barbie dolls in here?” Donna said of Gillian that “She had all the fun and I had most of the good women”. They said it was easier to write “Two Of Hearts” because there was no need to get Duncan involved, but then find a reason to keep him out of plot.

          The writing team for the new series has been established as David Abramowitz, James Thorpe and Karen Harris, who wrote “Timeless” and “Rite Of Passage”. The name of the show is not finalised, but will almost definitely NOT be “The Raven”. Season 1 will be 20 episodes long and star Elizabeth Gracen.
          Rebecca Neason

          Last and by no means least, Rebecca Neason gave a wonderful session on the pleasures or otherwise of writing tie-in fiction, but it was definitely one for the wannabe writers amongst us. If you want to write and you get the chance, go hear her speak.


          • #6
            The first Highlander convention in Scotland was not one to miss, (especially when you only live 200 miles from the border), so I packed my bags, put the cat in the cattery and headed North. This page recounts my con diary of all the things I saw - you'll have to find out elsewhere what I didn't see! And guess what happens when you click on the thumbnails?
            HOMELAND '98
            DAY ONE

            Beware the Valentine Pelka Fan Club! Nice people, to be sure, but they’re up to something. One of the (several) excuses that Jette Goldie has had for disappearing from mortal ken thus far was that, last night, on her way back to her room, she was waylaid by the Valentine Pelka Fan Club. A thin excuse, we thought, until Steve the Elf vanished for an hour and came back with the same story - waylaid by the VPFC and given food and drink. So, innocent youth that I am, I set out for breakfast this morning only to find my stride matched by two charming ladies from... the VPFC. We did breakfast, so to speak, before I made a getaway. They are extremely nice, but what’s this with the food?

            As the con wasn’t starting until midday or thereabouts, I took time out to visit the Glasgow City Museum and Art Gallery, which had a fascinating display of swords and flintlock weapons from years past, as well as military uniforms and armour. Although I was a bit taken aback by the storm trooper from Star Wars who was also on display. The Third Highland Jedi, perhaps? Perhaps not.

            Back to the con and the inaugural session, which was the Homeland Committee introducing themselves to us and setting out some guidelines for “good behaviour”. And rightly so. By this time, the Conventioneers' Flight had well and truly arrived, (Jette getting up at 4:00am to go to the airport to meet them), and the hotel was full of slightly weary Americans all desperate for a bed. We are a cosmopolitan breed indeed - in addition to the native Scots, English, Welsh and Irish, there is the transatlantic contingent of Americans and Canadians, together with an EC presence from Finland, France, Holland, Germany, Belgium and Spain. After all the introductions and banter from the Homeland Committee, Jette foolishly asked if there were any questions. At this, a familiar voice shouted from the back of the room, “Yeah, if a train leaves Buffalo....” Jette (and the room) collapsed with laughter at this, but if looks could kill, all that would have been left of Jim Byrnes would have been a pair of smokin’ shoes.

            This was followed by a screening of “Forgive Us Our Trespasses”, after which Jette was scheduled to talk about the real Culloden. However, the first parallel session of Albacon was also scheduled, which had writers talking about writing, so I made my excuses and left, only to find the session cancelled. Rule No 1 of conventions - everything is subject to change. Returning to the Homeland room, I encountered website partner-in-crime Kat and the conversation veered sharply into the bar. Geographic note - being two cons in one, Albacon and Homeland each have their own event rooms. The bar, dealer’s room and Homeland event room are all at the same end of a very long corridor. The Albacon event rooms are at the OTHER end of the corridor. A neat move on Ms Goldie’s part, for sure.

            This was followed by the official con welcome, staged in the Homeland event room. With several guests arrived but resting, (Ray Harryhausen was ill, Valentine Pelka was tired... all together, aaahhhh.....), it was left to Jim Byrnes to hold centre stage as guest of honour and it was an opportunity for the Albacon Chair to embarrass Jette by revealing just what, (well, all right, probably a highly censored version of what), Jette had said to her about Jim. After that, hunger supervened and I went in search of food.

            We assembled in the Homeland event room for Jim’s gig in good time - there were a few late arrivals, most notably Valentine Pelka, who slipped in to watch from the back of the room. Jim accompanied himself on electric guitar and apologised in advance that he was more used to playing with a band these days than solo, so he might be a bit rusty. If that’s rusty, my playing is totally corroded on its best days. The gig was excellent, a selection of old and new songs, (some of which I recognised from "That River"), but it was just good stuff to sit and listen to. The gig was marred only by several people holding conversations at normal level, (if you wanna talk, p*** off somewhere else!), and a lot of flash photography - leading to some interesting approaches from the Committee, varying from the apologetic, but... to the incendiary. Jim, however, was great - after he finished, he agreed to pose with guitar for photos and then announced, “If I stay, I’ll play” and did two extra songs. Your reporter has it on good authority that Valentine and Jim stayed in the bar until thrown out at 2:30 in the morning, but this writer headed for home far earlier.
            DAY TWO

            There’s no getting away from the VPFC, as my breakfast was once again taken in their good company. The morning was dominated by Louise “Orson” Wells epic biopic, the Jim Byrnes retrospective. Truly a labour of love and a definite for the JB fans. It was nice that you could drop in and out of the session and still catch a nice mix of the man and some music. The first “proper” slot of the con went to Valentine, who is well qualified to be the Ustinov of his generation, arriving on stage relaxed and ready to talk. First topic was the imminent baby, and Valentine went out of his way to express his thanks to the fans for, as he put it, “clothing our baby”, as he and Noriko have received so many gifts. Many of the stories Valentine told revisited those he told at Chronicles, although he did amplify what he’d said about Adrian, both as a director and a fighter. One of the things he’d realised, reading the script on the way over to Vancouver, was how many fights there were, and the big fight in the power station came early in the shooting schedule. When he got there, Ken Gord had left some videos of past episodes for him to watch, at which point Valentine realised just how fast Adrian was and that he needed to get his own sword work up to speed. He said he feels he’s better suited to using a one handed sword rather than a two handed one, as he’s got quite flexible wrists. He talked a bit about working on "First Knight" and said how he’d nearly taken someone's head off in the big fight at the end - but not how you might think. If you’ve seen the film, at one point Valentine sees another knight without a sword and picks a sword up off the ground with his foot, throwing it to the other guy. But, when they shouted action, the extras ran between them and Valentine effectively punted the sword into the side of an extra’s head. He talked about his new film, “What Rats Won’t Do”, which premiered that Sunday in the UK on pay-per-view. It’s a comedy about lawyers and love and Valentine plays Graham, who is engaged to be married to one of the lawyers. Graham is SAFE and a bit of a wimp. Valentine gave us a brief character sketch in a bit from one of the scenes, before telling us that the US release has been put back, as it will now go on theatrical release in January, so something for his fans to look forward to after Christmas. Later in the day, extra autograph sessions were added for Valentine, extracting an affectionate comment from one of his minders that “the man is just a signing slut!”

            Jim Byrne’s session was a little less free flowing than Valentine’s, as Jim tends to be more direct with questions and keeps his answers straightforward, not offering any anecdotes or embroidery. He was asked about future plans and revealed that he flies from Scotland to Toronto, as he is appearing in an upcoming episode of “The Raven”. (Valentine, on the other hand, kept his forthcoming trip to Toronto a secret.) Jim also will be making further episodes of “The Net”, as that has been extended to a full season. He was quite cheerful about being the bad guy in that, relishing the idea of playing someone with no scruples. I asked him if he ever felt the writers got Joe “wrong” in the script and he said they often had to make suggestions about what characters would and wouldn’t do from the set. He said that the Raven script has required a close up of his Watcher tattoo... but Joe had his tattoo removed in Season 5. A rewrite had been ordered. He said that Joe’s bar wasn’t his idea, which puts him in the minority, as everyone claims credit for the original idea for Joe’s.

            As someone who grew up glued to the television every time a Ray Harryhausen film came on, his session was a must for me, so I missed Michel Modo’s Saturday session, but I did find an unsung gem tucked away in the programme. After showing the episode "Homeland", Elaine Nicol, one of the Committee members, talked about the filming of Homeland's Scottish scenes. These were filmed immediately after “Finale” wrapped in Paris and Elaine was invited to go along. She’s actually in the episode - she’s the woman walking out of Glenfinnan as Duncan is walking in - but as the filming was done without sound and all dialogue was looped in later in Vancouver, it isn’t her voice you hear. She was quite surprised to hear any dialogue, as Adrian’s instruction to her was “just walk past me and give me a dirty look”. If Elaine ever packs in the day job, she can have a career in comedy, as hers is undoubtedly the most continuously funny session by a long mile.

            The evening was given over to drinking and whirling, otherwise known as the ceilidh. Your reporter got out before the room began whirling of it’s own accord.
            DAY THREE

            The day started with breakfast and the seemingly inevitable table full of VPFC fans. These people like their food. Apparently, Valentine has not quite got the hang of being a con guest - he arrived with a small suitcase and had to get a room full of gifts into it! Scouts were sent in search of a hold-all that he could use, as he was leaving earlier, which revisited Rule #1 - everything is subject to change. He had agreed to do a session given over to readings from the classics, which was well sign posted the evening before. An insight into the assembled minds - someone had written under one of the notices that the classics concerned were “Winnie The Pooh” and “The Story Of O”. Now, that would have been interesting, if only to see the audience reaction.... In the event, Valentine gave us the St Crispin’s Day speech from "Henry V", the “To Be Or Not To Be” soliloquy from "Hamlet" and extracts from the Morte D’Arthur, speaking a little before each piece about his approach to it and his thoughts on the work. It was quite fascinating. He told us a little story - when he was playing Hamlet, they gave a performance attended by schools. When he got to the “To be” bit, he left a dramatic pause before “or not to be”, only to hear the words whispered from out of the audience. He explained that, as he had been doing the play for several weeks, he did know the words, thank you very much, it was a dramatic pause, then carried on - uninterrupted. He turned and looked at us and said, “I’ve got the words - don’t even think it”. Valentine ran out of material before we ran out of time, so he held an impromptu Q&A right there and, interestingly, the questions weren’t about Highlander, but focused very much on his readings and what he had said by way of introduction to them.

            Michel Modo was up next and proved to be a charming and witty guest. I was in the bar on Friday evening when he walked in with his convention “minder”. We were right next to the door and, as his minder stopped to look round, Michel stuck out his hand and said “hello” to the group of us stood there, introducing himself in case we didn’t know who he was. Yeah, right. Maurice walks into a room full of Highlander fans and won’t be recognised. His session was bilingual, with Maroussia often translating the questions for him and giving almost simultaneous translation of his answers, as although Michel speaks good English, he preferred to let his answers flow in French and let someone else translate. He has a noted background in French film comedy, having appeared in a series of films and having originally been part of a duo. I asked him about Maurice being a chef and asked him if he was a good cook - he didn’t wait for a translation before telling us he was a good cook! He comes from Provence in the South of France and learnt to cook from his mother and aunts, but finds his children don’t want traditional cuisine, preferring roast beef and fries. He said that he had struck up a good rapport with Adrian, which extended to other cast members as he got to know them, but with Adrian it was immediate. This was his first convention and he took time to say how much he had been surprised at the warmth of his reception. He was a most unassuming man, mingling with the fans at breakfast or sitting in the bar sharing a drink and talking with someone. A really nice guy.

            Michel was followed by the auction, which overran, (Rule #1 again), so Jim’s session was put back. When we eventually got there, the questions rambled a bit, so I shall. Jim got the part on Highlander by being in the right place at the right time, as they were desperate to cast the part, he was available and he knew Bill Panzer. He had actually met some of the cast and crew, (including Adrian), the season before, as the acting community in Vancouver hang out together. And that’s his story. He hasn’t yet seen a script for Highlander 4, but he expects to be in it, as he understands that they very much want to draw elements from the television series into the movie. Filming keeps getting put back, (so no news there), but he’s expecting it to start early next year. He was asked about the Internet and said something very intriguing. He doesn’t actually look at the Web, but apparently Davis Panzer print stuff off the Internet that’s of interest and send it to the cast members concerned. Gulp! So, if anyone from Davis Panzer does read this and would like to offer me a part... or a script commission.... I do have a British passport. (Well, it’s my website and I can dream!). At this session, Jim was presented with the Blues Quilt and the letters from the fans who had given of their time and effort to make the squares. The poor guy looked not a little bemused by it all.

            Following this there came the final of the Con Quiz, which yours truly was competing in. One of the other guys suffered the embarrassment of having his train of thought stop mid-sentence. His answer to the question, “How was Alexei Voshin beheaded?”, stalled just after he had said “His head was severed”. Technically accurate, but a little lacking in detail. Five minutes later, he managed to overcome the general laughter by finishing, “by the ship’s propellers”, but by then the damage was done. The quiz master, Elaine Nicol, and your reporter were unable to continue for a few moments due to the tears streaming down our faces. Your reporter eventually triumphed, but as someone pointed out to me at breakfast the following day, it only means I know a great deal about next to nothing!

            And that, more or less, was it. The evening was given over to the masquerade and then everyone hit the bar. Reliable reports have it that Jim Byrnes made it three for three and closed the bar again, leaving his drinking companions looking a little shell-shocked the following morning - Jette went from looking like Amanda for the masquerade to looking like the living dead the next morning - and there is a strong suspicion that Jim never actually went to bed at all, just keeping going until Jette poured him into the taxi to take him to the airport. Your reporter took a last breakfast with the VPFC before saying his goodbyes, getting the car out of hock to the NCP and heading south down the tarmac snake. It was fun.