Dan's Wing Commander Premiere Report
So here's my official report about my trip to Austin Texas for the premiere of Wing Commander. Man, did I have a great time. Unfortunately, while I tried to make this report as entertaining as possible, some people may find it boring, sort of like being forced to watch your neighbor's slides from his vacation. Anyway, read at your own risk. I suppose I'll start at the beginning....

Part I: Dan Tries to Get to Austin

College Park, Maryland two days before the premiere (It don't snow in Texas)

I jump out of bed (literally) at around 6:00am and am out of the door by 6:30am, trying to make the first shuttle from campus to the Metro station. I do, and take the beautiful DC metro to the airport. Everything is moving smoothly, I get my boarding passes just fine, get on the plane, and take a seat next to a very nice young Georgian lady (I had a connecting flight in Atlanta which would take me to Austin). So, everything is going A-ok, we push away from the gate... then, disaster strikes. Well, maybe that's a bit harsh. It wasn't a disaster, but it did suck a lot. Anyway, the pilot gets on the intercom, says that he can't get the engine started, and that we're going to have to wait for them to find a replacement starter. About 5 minutes later, the news gets worse -- they don't have any starters in the whole freaking airport, and they're going to need to fly one in. So, I'm about to go nuts. Here we are at a major international airport, and they have no parts to make their planes fly. However, when I'm about to give up hope and accept the fact that I'll never get to Austin, the pilot gets on and reports they've found one. They slap that baby in there and we're up in the air, an hour late.

But my problems don't end there. Since we're an hour late getting in the air, a quick calculation tells me that we're going to be an hour late landing.. Comparing that to the time my connecting flight leaves says I'm screwed -- by the time we land my connection will have left 10 before. However, by some miracle (and by taking a few "short-cuts", as the pilot says), we land in Atlanta 15 minutes early. My plane leaves in 5 minutes. We're at Gate E10. I need to get to Gate A27.

Now picture the scene from one of dozens of movies where the main character is running frantically though the airport, bags flying, pushing people out of the way, trying to make their flight.. Well, that was me. About four minutes and four concourses later, however, I get to my gate, walk though the door, and the stewardess shuts it behind me. Out of breath, I manage to say to the lady in front of me, "I've always wanted to run through an airport trying to make a flight."

Part II: Austin

So, I arrive in Austin right on time, amazingly enough. Right away, the first thing I notice is the heat. I mean, for a northern boy like me, 80 degrees (and humid too) in winter is a bit strange. I'm wearing long sleeves and a heavy jacket, and didn't pack anything lighter. Whoops!

I grab a taxi and head towards my hotel. The driver, a nice Mexican guy, asks if I'm in town for the South-by-Southwest festival (SWSX), going on now in Austin. Basically, this "conference" (as they call it) is a ten day multimedia trade show, mixing mediums -- film, "interactive", and music. The Wing Commander premiere opened the film part of the festival (sort of), and Ron Howard's new film, EdTV, is premiering there tomorrow night (the 17th) in the same theater Wing Commander was shown in. According to the taxi driver, more than 600 bands are showing up for the music part of the festival, known as the "spring break for the music industry". Unfortunately, I wasn't around for the start of it to verify his claim, but this sort of thing is an indication of what a cool city Austin really is.

While I'm in the "Austin" section of my report, I'll just mention a few other observations about this great town: The people are amazingly nice, the chicks are hot (it's true, I swear -- ugly women do not exist in this city), the weather is hot, and they love music, movies, and computers. If you stay until the end of Wing Commander, you might notice the tag-line, "Visual Effects made in Austin: City of Ideas". Well, Wing Commander is the first film to have this special logo commissioned by the city council, which was unveiled at the premiere. Indeed, the creative juices flowing in Austin are almost palpable -- id Software, Origin, Digital Anvil, Dell, and countless other "new technology" companies are setting up shop in Austin, nicknamed the "Silicon Hills". No doubt, this is the place to be if you ever have the urge to start a cutting-edge entertainment company.

Part III: The Hotel

Just an indication of how classy the hotel I stayed at was (the Driskill), they give you a yellow rose (of Texas) when they turn down your bed at night. The other flower came with my $9.95 bagel and lox the next morning.

Anyway, on to the hotel. I'm amazingly lucky that Digital Anvil put me up again in what I will safely say is the nicest, classiest hotel I've ever stayed in -- The Driskill. Not only is the whole place beautiful (especially considering it opened in 1886), but what other hotel do you know of serves you peanut butter and jelly at night (they say it's a cowboy tradition), turns down your bed with a Yellow Rose of Texas, and wishes you "Happy Trails" when you leave? Plus, they get a hell of a lot of cable channels. :)

So after checking in and heading to my room (being sure to snag some complementary soaps from the cleaning cart on the way), I walked back outside and around the corner to the Paramount theater to pick up my tickets for the premiere. Man, it was hot. The weather in Austin is nice, but it's like summer all year round. In the actual summer, it's even worse -- when I came down to DA last August it was like 110 degrees. Oh well, I guess that's why air conditioning was invented. So after picking up my tickets I walked towards the capital building (Austin is the capital of Texas, in case anyone didn't know). It's made of this really cool pink granite so the whole building has a sort of reddish hue to it. Here's a picture.

Part IV: The Limo

Later in the day, I got a call from my Internet-friend Jack. I've known Jack online for almost two years now (as "Crash"), ever since the days of my Lost World website. He's a cool guy online, and just as cool in real life (thankfully). To make a long story short, it turns out that he lives in Austin and his dad happens to be a limo driver. And since I had two tickets to the premiere (but only one plane ticket to get to Austin), I invited him along knowing that his dad would drive us around in the badass limo. So anyway, he picked me up in his peach colored car with a stuffed monkey in the back and we drove to his house to get his dad and the limo.

Man, we're cool. From L to R, Silas "Bee Czar" Lesnick, Ben "Loaf" Lesnick, Chris "ChrisReid" Reid, moi, and Jack "Crash" Pattillo.

Anyway, fast forwarding a bit, we got the limo (which was really really swanky), and head back to downtown Austin to meet everyone else: The CIC's Ben "Loaf" Lesnick, Silas "Bee Czar" Lesnick, Chris "ChrisReid" Reid, as well as Gareth Davies, Marten Davies' [the president of DA] son and his group of friends. (Unfortunately, we took the picture in front of the limo before the other people got here, and I didn't get a picture of them.. d'oh) Everyone I met was really cool, I was pleasantly surprised, I was expecting to meet some weirdos. :) j/k

So the whole group headed out to dinner at a very Texan restaurant -- neon lights, country music, etc. -- it was getting late, so we had to eat fast and head over to the theater. We piled back in to the limo and we were on our way to.. WING COMMANDER..

Part V: The Premiere

Outside the Paramount

So imagine you're outside the Paramount waiting to get into a movie premiere and a classy white limousine slowly pulls up to the curb. The spot-lights are turning, "Wing Commander: The Movie" is up on lights on the marquee. It's all very "Entertainment Tonight"-ish. Movie stars are in that car, right? Think again -- it's the web people! We waved to the crowd as we got out. I think a photographer took our picture.

This is the inside of the historic Paramount theater. .

Inside, just about everyone who was here to see the premiere was in the lobby of this poor little theater. I managed to say hi to Marten and a few other people before we found our seats (10th row center). The Paramount is an old, pretty theater which puts on plays and musicals when not showing movies. Harry (of Ain't It Cool News who also lives in Austin) calls it a "magic theater". Personally, I think it could use a bigger screen and better sound. In any event, after a quick speech from Marten Davies, the movie started. You can read my full review on the News page, but just to re-iterate.. it was a good flick and I enjoyed it.

This big guy was also in the lobby of the Paramount.

After the film Robert Rodriquez got up (yes, the director of Desperado and From Dusk Till Dawn -- he's involved with Digital Anvil in some way), spoke for awhile, then Chris Roberts got up and answered some questions:
  • The voice of Merlin (the credit is listed as "?" at the end) is Mark Hamill.
  • They went a little over budget on the film.
  • They cut the traitor story line because early screen tests showed that people were confused with it.
  • And yes, he's put himself in every game he's directed so far, and he's in this one (near the end, the pilot of the ship tractoring Blair in).

Richard Garriot, creator of the Ultima games.
In case you're wondering, no, there weren't really any "movie stars" at the premiere -- that is, actors who were in the movie. I heard there was a premiere in Los Angeles a few days before, so most of them were probably there. Oh well, I really wanted to see stars, but I guess I'll have to wait for next time -- the Austin premiere was more for the people involved in the making of the film in some way, friends, as well as the general public. Besides Chris and Robert Rodriquez, there was this one other guy at the premiere who you might consider "famous" -- many know him simply as "Lord British" -- Richard Garriot, the creator of the successful Ultima series of games, as well as the wildly popular "Ultima Online".

Part VI: The Party

Me and Chris Roberts. That's a Coke I'm holding, really.

Anyway, after the movie, we hopped in the limo again and we were off to the party, which was at the Copper Tank Brewing Company, which is basically just a fancy way of saying "bar". The party was fun though, there were tons and tons of people packed in there, but I still managed to work my way around and talk to several of the major people, including the man himself, Chris Roberts. This was the first time I met Chris in person, as he was in England re-shooting some of the movie when I was down in August. Chris is a really cool guy, obviously someone very dedicated to his work. He seemed to be stressing the fact that if he had more money and time to spend on the movie, he would have made some changes. He was also happy that he has the movie rights for another film, and would love to turn Wing Commander 2 into a movie (this time, with a bigger budget) in the future. I also told Chris my opinion of George Lucas and the recent situation with the Phantom Menace trailer -- I'd go into it here, but I don't want to get angry e-mails from George Lucas fans. :)

The after-premiere party at the Copper Tank.

So the party went on.. who else did I meet? I said Hi to Marten Davies, I met Chris McCubbin (the guy who wrote the "Wing Commander Handbook"), said a few words to Lord British, and met Adam Foshko (the director of Wing Commander: Prophecy). I might have met some other people, but that was after I had my two...ummm... non-alcoholic beverages. Yes. The rest of the night I talked with Gareth, his very attractive girlfriend, and his other friends. All very nice, classy people. Hopefully we'll get together again sometime in the future. Unfortunately, I had to catch a plane the next morning, so I said my goodbyes and thank yous and headed out.

This picture came out really shitty, but this is Austin at night.

The Copper Tank is located a block from the infamous Austin "6th Street". 6th Street at night really needs to be seen to be believed, but here's my best shot: When I left the party and started to walk back to the hotel at around 1:30 in the morning, the place was bustling. Police close off the street and hundreds of college-age people (most of them inebriated) stroll around, having already frequented one (or more) of the dozens of bars on both sides of the street. There sure are a hell of a lot of bars -- one after another, each of which have their bouncers outside the entrance, hawking the alcoholic concoction of the night ("Jello shooters, free all night", one said as I walked by). It was all pretty cool -- and this was Thursday night. I wonder what Saturday night looks like..

Anyway, I managed to make my way back to the hotel and fell asleep. Fortuantly, the next day, my flights were all on time and I got back to Maryland safe and sound.

Part VII: Conclusion

So, how can I sum all this up? My Wing Commander Premiere experience was awesome -- I met lots of cool people, saw a pretty nifty flick, and took a ride in a badass limo. My only regret was that I didn't stay longer. Austin is such a great city, and it seemed like just as I got there it was already time to go home. Unfortunately, two approaching tests called, requiring me to go grudgingly back to reality. But it sure was fun while it lasted.

- Dan (3/16/99)

One Last Picture:

An alternate poster for the movie, this one was set up in the lobby of the theater. I like this tag-line much much better.

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