The soles of my feet have yet to stop aching. This is the report of the first ever Sherlocked convention on Saturday, the 25th of April. The day had major highs and lows for me, and most points on both sides can be followed back to one common cause: The newness of the event.
The ticket prices gave me a headache months before the event itself. They ranged from a feasible £29 per day pass, all the way up to the VIP Sponsor ticket- which could have been yours for a paltry £2,995. With dwindling funds I opted for the day pass, a photo shoot ticket with Benedict Cumberbatch himself, one ticketed talk and one screening. Little did I know how major the differences between ticket types would influence my experience. Not only were there separate queues for every batch, but even if the front row reserved seats stayed empty as the event began, nobody was allowed to move forward. In addition, the money spending necessaries at Sherlocked felt endless. Pictures for signing had to be bought extra, even if one had paid for an autograph already. A floor map had to be paid for with £10. Vendors were few, which led to double queues forming into the BBC shop on site at all times. The yellow shirted staff seemed to consist of highly knowledgeable veterans and such who didn’t even know the layout of the single-hall venue. A lottery more than anything.
However, there were clear high notes. The free Maplocked talk with set designer Arwel Jones offered a unusual and relaxed look behind the scenes. Arwel talked about difficult sets, such as the fully re-built tube cabin from “The Empty Hearse” or Magnussen’s tower office from “His Last Vow”. The set designer admitted loving the eccentric wallpaper choices he made for the 221B flat. Even if those vintage rolls of colourful wall lining are very much not endless in supply. Arwel shared a few Easter Eggs with the audience, such as a Van Gogh style painting of himself in the Mind Palace sequence of “His Last Vow” and his son’s initials G.W.J. hidden in almost every episode. He settled a long standing debate about the moving vase in a scene in “His Last Vow” [I won’t spoil the episode for those of you living under some sort of Sherlock-resistant rock]. The vase moved deliberately. I repeat, it moved deliberately and it was done to mess with us. It seems the need to tease fans strikes cast and crew members alike. In the upcoming season, there will be a Victorian themed show. Most fans already knew as much, however, Arwel let slip we will see a Victorian version of 221B Baker Street, with nods towards its current, modern counterpart. I for one can’t wait for the Victorian equivalent of a skull with headphones on the wall.
Next I visited the free Special Effects Talk with Danny Hargreaves. It promised and delivered a show of wide range physical special effects used in Sherlock. We saw fake snow- the falling kind and the laying kind. We watched the anchor get shot by a Moriarty volunteer and there were explosions aplenty. The talk was highly practical on the usage and behind the scenes setup of physical special effects. Danny also talked about his thought process in creating such explosive results. He demonstrated how much thought has to go into a gunshot, as the resulting hit or possible blood appearance in the target needs to be exactly timed. The man with 20 years of experience in the industry demonstrated (again on a more than willing tiny Sherlock volunteer) the make-shift tilting stretcher. It gave us the room tilting illusion in “His last Vow.” Benedict, as lovely as he is talented, seemed to have caused Danny quite a few headaches. He can be very spontaneous in his takes, while special effects rely on well rehearsed movements and exact timing. Danny also gave the audience a small hint of fourth Season happenings. Some of the special effects long standing on his personal bucket list apparently have been crossed off during filming the upcoming episodes. All around, this talk was a joy to attend. At Danny’s booth, there was fake blood, limbs, glass, and snow aplenty to touch, wave around, and break.
I could not attend the Benedict Cumberbatch talk, so my personal impressions were a big black curtain, muffled, mumbled sounds through said curtain and a lot of high pitched giggling. However, I have collected a few impressions from fellow attendees who had more luck or money. Benedict talked again about the experience of having his parents on set. He called himself a father and a married man. For the young actors in the room, he offered advice and career guidance as best has he could. There was a live Chewbacca and Smaug impression. Benedict apparently also mentioned the Marvel character Doctor Strange a lot. I did manage to receive last minute tickets for Andrew Scott’s talk, who was lovely to listen to and happy to share. He obviously loved playing a playful Moriarty, even if he kills blind, old ladies. He enjoys playing villains, and impatiently waited through his “sweet faced” twenties to finally audition for one. Andrew tried to do many different takes of each scene in Sherlock, even if half of them were too silly or embarrassing to make the cut. Moriarty should not be overused, the actor stated, and he should not get a back-story, as an unknown evil is a lot more effective. Similarly, Andrew tried to dive into his own dark side to get into his acting mind-set for the character. He feels everybody has a dark side. He repeatedly talked about the relationship between Sherlock and Moriarty. There were to be an element of love, obsession and play between them. A highly competitive match of sorts, in which Moriarty would not want Sherlock to join him, as this would spoil the fun. If Andrew could play any other character in the series, Ms. Hudson would be his first choice. He will also soon appear in the new James Bond movie.
After these talks I attended my photo shoot, a normal affair probably experienced by any con-goer with booked star pictures. However, when the queuing of a new ticket group started behind me, there was a sudden wall of death moment. People closed in from all sides, running, jumping, slamming to reach a favourable position in the queue. The Sherlock Auction stayed in my memory mostly due to ridiculous prices. A script of “A Study in Pink” signed by the actors and producers changed hands for £1600. A mounted frame with Lara Pulver’s [Irene Adler] autograph sold for over £80. The same frame was available at one of the venue stalls for £35.
Around the venue, there were more or less appropriate sets displayed. The 221B set and Mycroft’s office offered a (bought) photo shoot experience. Other displays such as the 221B door, John Watson’s military history and a set design exhibition were free of charge. Somewhat, but not totally unrelated were a black cab, a red London Bus and a classic red phone booth around the venue. There was also a stall managed by the Baker Street Babes – a UK fandom group classic.
Another free talk was given by the team behind “Sherlock -The Network” – a game for iPhone and now also Android. This mean I will finally be able to play the app as well. The game features footage shot with the actual actors on the real sets, never before seen cases and a very interactive game mechanic. The presenter revealed he was not allowed to use any existing Conan Doyle cases as inspiration, as the Sherlock team wants to keep all their options for future episodes open.
My day ended with a screening of “A Scandal in Belgravia,” introduced by Benedict Cumberbatch. As far as Sherlock goes, the actor enjoys the exploration of Sherlock’s and Mycroft’s childhood. Even if he would not want to have Mycroft as an older brother. He is also convinced that Irene and Sherlock shared at least one passion-filled night.
All in all, I enjoyed myself mainly due to some amazing talks with actors and behind the scenes experts. The disorganisation and the need to spend large amounts of money to take part in most of the convention offerings dampened the mood. In the end, I hope the convention will improve next year, and I am already saving to get my Gold Pass.
Any of you thinking about coming to London for Sherlocked 2016 or have any questions about the convention? Let us know in the comments!