By Gretchen Von Cloedt
I’ve been to a lot of cons in my days. Like a lot. I consider myself a bit of a con veteran, if you will. I know the drill and I come prepared. So when I was invited to attend Spooky Empire (which I’ve never had the chance to attend for various reasons) I was ecstatic! What I didn’t expect was this con to be so very different from what I expected.
Let me begin by saying, every con I’ve ever been to could use work on their organization. That being said, I found Spooky Empire to be above average but still needs a little tweaking. It was their first year at that the Tampa Bay Convention Center, so I wont dwell here. It’s a lot of people, and a lot of stuff. Things slip sometimes. The staff of both Spooky Empire and the TBCC were stellar. I had nothing but splendid interactions with them.
There were a lot of artists in attendance. For me, the artists are my absolute favorite. Spooky Empire did not disappoint with the artists! We saw both local and regional artists. One who stood out to me in particular was Scott Spillman (@SCOTTSPILLMANART on Instragram). We had the honor of getting to chat with him for about an hour. His passion for his work is abundantly clear. A true artist, he captures light and shadow with careless finesse. His work is striking with the hard contrasts and brilliant colors.
Another artist who stood out was Devin Lawson (@THESPICYDONUT on Instragram). His work stood out to me because of his homage to the original cartoons. They give me such nostalgic vibes while twisting into a macabre image. If you like quirky pop art, go check him out.
Cosplay was in full effect. Cosplay at Spooky Empire is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. There were a few comic characters sprinkled in, but these were true horror cosplays. There were some absolutely fantastic cosplayers. A few that stood out to me was Deanna Cilmi (@wonder_woman_deanna_cosplay on Instagram) her cosplay of Jareth the Goblin king was phenomenal. I was very impressed with her props and the attention to detail. One of my absolute favorite interactions was the cosplay couple @cosfxstudios. This couple transform into Lydia and the Ghost with the Most. Their ability to not only look like they stepped off the movie screen, but they are complete characters. We were able to totally immerse ourselves with a beautifully constructed set. They completed the experience with authentic looking props and high resolution photos, both digital and prints. Also, Victoria Elizabeth Black (@VictoriaElizabethBlack on Instragram) blew me away with their “Doctor Satan” cosplay group.
I also attended a panel discussion on women in film making. This was a women lead panel, and I learned so much about the struggles women have to be respected as equals in the film industry. It was a privilege to hear from these women regarding advice on how to maneuver through producing, acting in, directing, and creating films. I have the upmost respect for women who climb and work to make their dreams happen. Standouts in this panel were Amy Williams, her passion and drive were obviously clear! Also, ANDYOU Films sent Alea Figueroa to share her insights as a professional actor, producer, and director.
Being a crafter and a maker, I really enjoy the vendors. It’s like a Gothic craft fair, and who doesn’t want to go to that. There were honestly too many to list my favorites. However, should you find yourself in need of Gothic and horror themed clothes, home decor, toys, jewelry or collectibles, look no further. One of the things I noticed while walking around and chatting with vendors was how very nice everyone was. It was refreshing to attend a con where you are surrounded with positivity and happiness. It was quite a juxtaposition being surrounded by horror and gore. The atmosphere was very friendly and that is so rare in larger cons such as Spooky Empire. As a typical con goes, you have celebrities, vendors, panels and cosplays, but the tell-tale heart of this con is the love and hard work that went into putting it on! I truly enjoyed myself and look forward to their next one!