CJ:Hey there everybody! I’m here for another edition of Creech Questions! I’m here with one half of the dynamic duo known as the the Walker Stalkers, Eric Nordhoff!(James could unfortunately not make it) James and Eric have a wildly popular podcast, called the Walker Stalker and also are the creators and organizers of the Walker Stalker Con. Let’s get to the questions!
CJ: What initially attracted you to the Walking Dead?
Eric:Well, for me personally, It was my friend who introduced me to Lost,Breaking Bad, and other good shows that recommended Walking Dead, and I believe by that time they had finished season 1 and were halfway through season 2. So, I grabbed it off Netflix and watched season 1. The first episode was so good, but yet so intense and scary for me-well, scary is not the right word but it got in my head. Just from the very first scene, with (Rick) having to shoot a little girl zombie(Addy Miller), and it got to me because I had a little girl about that age. From that point on, the storyline just hooked me and I had to watch it. It took me about a month to watch the second episode, and then from that point on I had to illegally watch on some website season 2 because I couldn’t wait to watch it.(laughs) By that point,I was caught up and ready to watch season 3 live, so that’s how it began for me.
CJ:When did you and James decide on creating a convention based around the show? Did you have any influences on how to base it?
Eric: Well, first off I have to say that I’m the brakes, and James is the accelerator in our relationship. I was fine with just doing our podcast and enjoyed doing the podcast and interviewing the actors. It was sort of a hobby. But then, we decided to do a meet up for the first time for the season 3 finale in Georgia and had a great time; We got to meet a hundred of our listeners and it was just cool! The experience of having Melissa McBride there and two other celebrities (Daniel Thomas May,E Roger Mitchell) was just a lot of fun. I kind of caught the bug of “Hey, this could be something more”. Following that,we scheduled a season premiere party for season 4 and that sold out! We then went to a convention down in Orlando, and after visiting family we came back and thought we could do this bigger. We could have a huge get together with the celebrities and fans and have just one big meet up. Before I knew it, it turned into a kickstarter campaign, and then Norman Reedus coming, and Greg Nicotero coming and it built and built until Andrew Lincoln was convinced into coming. It kind of got to the point of just trying to see how big it would continue to become. Before we got through the kickstarter campaign were the scary times-I didn’t want to lose my house due to the convention. There were times when we thought,” Man, we’re not gonna bring enough people into the convention. What’re we thinking?” But James would say,”Let’s wait two weeks,I think we can get so and so.” It turned out, we invited everybody we could, and a majority were up for it. The cast and crew were awesome.It was kind of a dream come true, to recreate that feeling from the first time we visited the set and became quote unquote “Walker Stalkers” and bring it to a 10,000 person convention. It was largely James’s idea, and I had to put the brakes on, but I let up on that the longer we went, and especially once we knew we’d have enough people coming and ticket sales, and it just became a great experience.
CJ: You just mentioned that the inaugural Walker Stalker Con had 10,000 attendees. When the dust settled, what was your initial response to the attention the con gained after Walker Stalker Con Atlanta 2013?
I would say that both James and I were overwhelmed with happiness and emotion. We were coming down from the biggest high we had ever been on. It was somewhat like planning a huge wedding (laughs). Once we were able to come down, we were able to think back on what happened. Once all the pictures came back, we were able to experience the full gamut of emotions. Also, it was amazing how the fans just owned it. A fan convention run by fans owned by fans, so to speak. The way people just loved it,owned it, jumped into it with cosplaying at the conventions, it was really fun. We were the driving force of making it, but they(the fans) took it to the next level. I just wanted to do Atlanta again, because remember I’m the brakes in the relationship again(laughs).
But James said, “No, let’s do another city!”, so after making sure our wives were okay with it,because that was a big part of it; Just making sure they were okay with us doing all of this crazy stuff. It wasn’t a money maker for us, as we broke even on it(Walker Stalker Atlanta 2013). We have our jobs;James has quit his job recently but I still have work that I do. So we pushed forward and planned Chicago, and it turned out to be great. Boston turned out to be great. Now,we’re finally seeing some fruits from all the labor especially after finishing up Atlanta(2014).
CJ:Awesome. We were talking a bit before the interview, but you had said Atlanta had over 10,000 more attendees than was originally estimated?
Eric:Yeah! We originally were expecting 20-25,000 people. Line control, volunteers, and everything was planned for the 20-25,000 amount, and I think by the end of the weekend(over the course of the 3 days) we had between 30-35,000 come through. So that’s why it got more than a little crazy on Saturday afternoon for example, even through to Sunday. We didn’t realize there were going to be that many walk ups, there was alot of walk ups. It was surprising because we don’t advertise. Other than Facebook posts and Twitter, and a few partnerships with some radio stations, we don’t pay for advertising. So in the end, it was pretty mind blowing through word of mouth, how many people actually showed up.
CJ:You were mentioning the long lines a second ago. Is there anything in your opinion, that could have been done better in Atlanta? On the flip side, was there anything that did better than you expected?
Eric:On a whole,it was better than expected. With everything, we had more space:We had four floors, we had a great space for actors to do autographs. Those lines seemed to flow relatively well. We had some instances where it got busy, and some mistakes were made, but that’s normal when you mash that many people together. In hindsight, what I think we are going to do is continue to manage line control better. We’ve added an extra 100,000 square feet of space(next year in Atlanta). There will be more seating areas for people to sit while they are waiting for photographs. Maybe give people a better idea when they first get into the line, how long it will roughly be and make sure volunteers communicate that. Those are some of the things we’re working on, and I’m a details guy. I want it to run perfectly,but its never gonna be completely perfect. Certainly line control will be a main focus, as will more organization in the photo ops area. Those two things we certainly have the power and control to manage better. Have a Plan B,C, and D in case 10,000 more people show up than we expect next year. We’ll certainly do that better.
CJ: It’s great to hear that. I can only see attendance getting even bigger now that the Walking Dead is being seen by a new audience on Basic Cable.
Eric:No kidding,right? I think all of the cities are going to be bigger. We’re going to New York in a month, and we’re probably going to sell it out.We’re going to have to close sales down based on the venue we have this year. We have a great sized venue, but I don’t want the same things to happen(as in Atlanta 2014). I want those who already bought tickets to have a great time, so that’s the main goal: to make as many happy fans as we can. Sometimes you have to limit seating or make sure we’re not inefficient where we can’t handle the crowds, so there’s a delicate balance that we always have to do.
CJ: Speaking of New York, I believe you’re currently around 20-30 guests?
Eric:That’s right, we are at 33 I think.
CJ: Are you going to try to get many more guests to rival the Atlanta level?
Eric:No, I don’t think so. All of these 2 day conventions(New York,San Francisco, Chicago, Dallas,Orlando, Boston), we’ll probably try to keep it to 25-30 guests. We’ll definitely keep it in that range.(In New York) With Norman Reedus coming,for example, and the Governor David Morrissey, I think we’re going to have large crowds just to see those two. Which will also spread the love to the other actors that are going to be there, so I think we are at capacity. Next year, for New York 2015, we’ll look at expanding. I honestly think New York is going to be bigger than Atlanta next year just based on the ticket sales we have going on in that region, it’s been tremendous.
CJ:That’s the end of Part 1 everybody! Check back in later this week as Eric and I talk the Walker Stalkers Podcast, Future plans for Walker Stalker Con, More on Atlanta 2014/2015, and even more!
If you want to find out more about Walker Stalker Con, check out www.walkerstalkercon.com to see upcoming cities and to purchase tickets. If you’re Interested in hearing the (very awesome) Walker Stalkers podcast, check it out on www.thewalkerstalkers.com!