Felton’s Fanatics: Tom Felton at MCM Birmingham Comic Con

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A very different kind of panel to those usually featured at MCM comic conventions saw Harry Potter star Tom Felton take to the stage at MCM Birmingham Comic Con, not to discuss his future projects or his previous work, but instead to discuss us, his fans. After being welcomed by a very excited crowd, Felton admitted that for the last three hours he had been cosplaying as The Joker and walking around to try and get an insight into the convention scene while remaining anonymous.

He then revealed that he was in the process of making a documentary with KEO Films (Welcome to Rio, I Bought a Rainforest) about what it means to be a fan. As part of this project, titled Tom Felton: Meet the Fanatics, a crew were on hand to film the panel in which he asked his audience questions about their experiences of fan culture.

His first question was “How happy does it make you to be fan?“. The first audience member to reply said that being a fan had allowed her to make connections with people that she didn’t think would have been possible to make otherwise. Just from being a fan, her confidence had been lifted massively. Another said that being a part of Comic Con and being a fan of different forms of media had brought her family closer together. Felton understood exactly what she meant.

“So, your family has become a lot closer through sharing your interests,” he said. “I think that’s a very positive outcome.”

When asked, “When does a fan go too far?“, fans immediately raised their hands to answer. One responded that a fan goes too far when they put other people down based on their own opinions, particularly on the internet. Felton said that this surprised him, since most of the fans he had met had seemed very non-judgemental and his experiences with them had mostly been very positive.

“I like to think that you guys encourage each other to be free with your passions,” he said, “and not to feel like you have to keep an eye on closed doors.”

He then asked, “Do you think celebrities should be grateful for their fans?”

“You need to be grateful, but you also need to be able to live your own life,” said one person. “Fans need to respect that.”

feltonFelton was grateful for the informative answer and took the opportunity to confirm that he is aware that he has to be grateful to his dedicated fans because they have helped to put him in a privileged position.

Another said that it really depends on the fan and their intentions. “If they’re supportive with their tweets and if they’re there for you 100% as an actor, then yes, but if they’re just doing it for attention and to get noticed, then you shouldn’t respect them. It’s the people that encourage you and support you like a big family that you should be grateful for. Those are the true fans and they can help the actor become a better person in general”.

Another fan stated that it’s a mutual thing: “As much as an actor should be grateful for the recognition they’ve got through their fans, the fans should be equally grateful that that person has produced their work of art.”

Felton agreed, adding that the gratitude of fans often surprised him: “I grew up as a kid messing around on set in a Slytherin costume, crying spells out and having fun,” he said. “I had no idea that we were being followed to the lengths that we have been, I do find that it’s very strange going to different places that I’ve never been before and seeing people that are grateful and appreciative of our work.”

“Loads of people have come up to me and said, ‘Thanks for growing up with me,'” he continued. “Thousands of people I’ve never met before have said it’s amazing that we got to grow up together and it’s a very bizarre position to be in, but it’s very touching and extremely moving to know that your work is being recognised.”

His next question was “Have you ever received negativity from anyone for your passion?

One fan revealed that she had received a lot of hate from people in her fandom for very pointless things. “The design of a character, for example,” she said. “The criticisms can sometimes make you want to give up being a fan.”

Another said that on websites like Tumblr, admitting love for something like Harry Potter can lead to other people criticising them, telling them to grow up and stop being so being childish.

“I think that’s one of the biggest misconceptions about fans,” Felton said. “If someone tells you to grow up, then you should ignore that person.” He later added that he believed you should never have to apologise for your passions.

The next question was “Why is there so much judgement passed by those people who aren’t fans?

The first response was that it’s because the non-fans think that true fans don’t have a life outside of their fandom. “That’s a big misconception,” the speaker continued. “If you get to know a proper fan, then yes their life does revolve around their passion a little bit, but everybody has a life outside of it.”

A second person agreed, stating that some people think that being a fan means choosing fantasy over reality, when in fact they are inspired by it.

Tom then admitted that he had been slightly nervous about cosplaying as The Joker earlier in the day, but he had quickly found that there would be no judgement passed about something like this at Comic Con. “You get to embrace each others’ passions rather than looking down on each other,” the actor said.

He then asked “What made you become a fan in the first place?

Several people replied that their initial starting points had been reading the Harry Potter books, which led them to read and write fan fiction on the internet and to follow and connect with other fans on Twitter. One revealed that he had started out playing Pokémon at a time when he didn’t have many friends, and that playing the game had led to him meeting new people and making friends and had generally inspired him to be part of a whole new world.

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Felton’s next question was “How do you you think it would feel if you had fans?” One person responded that they thought it would be a nice feeling to have fans supporting you. Another said that he is currently part of a band which has begun to develop a fanbase. He said that he has met fans with tattoos of the band’s name. Although it is intended to support his music, he admitted that he finds that quite frightening as he doesn’t want anyone to do that to their body.

One member of the audience who runs a weekly internet pop quiz culture show said that if he could inspire one person to do a podcast or a video show, he would be happy with that. Tom agreed with this statement, encouraging others to take inspiration from the work of the people they admire, pointing out that J.K. Rowling had inspired thousands of children to get into reading and writing through the popularity of her Harry Potter books.

It was time for a fan to ask Tom a question. He asked how much Tom felt he would be willing to do for his fans compared to how much they would do for him, giving the example that if he asked the audience there to dance for him, they probably would. Tom nervously replied that he feels like he has a responsibility to say thank you to his fans, but added that there are limits.

“I feel like it’s important to remain myself as well,” he said. “And not set myself too far out of who Tom is as a person. I don’t think you should allow yourself to change for your fans.”

Having said that, Tom then stood up and performed a little dance, much to the appreciation of his audience.

Next, Tom wanted to know “What would be the best part of fame for a fan?

One person joked that it would be all the free meals at restaurants. More seriously, she went on to say that the influence you would have over your fans would be the best part of fame, because it would give you the power to inspire people, as well as a platform to express your support for important causes.

There was just time for one last question, which proved to be more light-hearted than the rest. Tom wanted to hear the audience’s funniest fan stories.

The first story was told by someone who had been so grateful to her postman for delivering the final Harry Potter book to her, that she ended up giving him a kiss!

felton2Another story was of a fan who had crashed in Kings Cross station when she was late for a train. She knew that she had just one person to blame for the incident: Dobby the House Elf from the Harry Potter series.

The third story was told by a fan who, when getting ready to see the final Harry Potter film, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, had become so emotional about the reality that her favourite film series was ending, that she had ended up late for the film.

The final story took place at a previous Comic Con event. A fan wearing a Star Wars t-shirt found had himself being chased all around the convention hall by a cosplayer dressed as Chewbacca.

Sadly, the discussion then drew to a close as Tom thanked his fans for their answers.

Tom Felton: Meet the Fanatics will be broadcast on BBC3 in early 2015 as part of a series of six one-off, commissioned documentaries. The film is directed and presented by Tom Felton, with Colleen Flynn and Andrew Palmer from KEO Films serving as executive producers. The commissioning editor for the BBC is Elliot Reed. Click here for more information.

You can also see pictures of Tom Felton in his Joker costume on MCM Buzz here.

Photographs by Caitlin Jenkins.

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