For the first in a (hopefully) long-running series of interviews, AnimeCons.com sat down with Julie McCubrey, the founder and chair of PortConMaine.
AnimeCons.com: How did you first become an anime fan?
Julie McCubrey: My brother pointed out that there was a cool cartoon on Sci-Fi about vampires. I watched it, it was cool. That was the first time I recognized it as "anime" anyway.
AC: What was the first anime con you went to?
JM: Gen Con probably doesn't count, so the New England Mini-Con was the first one I went to. But since I ran that one, maybe the first anime con I went to (that I didn't run) was Anime Boston, actually. [laughs]
AC: ...and yet you were on staff! What inspired you to start a convention of your own?
JM: I was tired of not being able to go to cons because they were so far away. I was tired about hearing how cool Otakon was and not being able to afford actually going.
AC: Running since April 2002, PortConMaine is the longest-running anime convention in New England...
JM: No s***!?
AC: Yeah! Do you find that helps in any way? Are there any advantages from this that you've discovered?
JM: Uh. Maybe. More than three people know about it now, which is nice. I remember trying to start it and having people the day before go, "There's an anime convention in Maine? No way!" Yeah, so... having people know about it is rather nice. [laughs]
AC: In 2003, PortConMaine made the move to a hotel. How did you choose this location?
JM: We decided on the hotel based on our budget from 2002 and the fact that we wanted a hotel. USM [University of Southern Maine] was awesome - affordable, spacious, and wonderfully all ours - but the hotel was something that would give us, well, we thought anyway, more creditability as a convention. Some conventions start out in hotels, we moved into it. [laughs]
AC: Was it difficult to commit to that? Did you have any worries?
JM: It wasn't difficult to commit, after we realized we had enough money to pay for it anyway. And of course we had worries! Money was the biggest worry- then came attendance. One: would we have enough to afford it, and two: would anyone actually show up?
AC: You're returning to the same hotel in 2004. Will there be any differences in layout or available space based upon what you learned last year at this location?
JM: Yup. There will be a bigger vendor's room, an additional room for panels, and a little bit of moving things around for specific events (like the cosplay, auction, and extreme geek.) We'll always be changing layout and space though, as we grow, so I don't expect it to all work perfectly - but I do expect it to work better. At least I hope it will...and my staff doesn't think I'm too crazy in assuming so. [laughs]
AC: What might people find at PortConMaine that they might have a hard time finding elsewhere?
JM: The ability to meet new people in a more personal environment. Even our guests hang out and do things they want to do or play games they want to play. Our convention is big enough to bring events and the taste of larger convention wackiness, but small enough to offer person to person interaction. Plus, PortCon's staff is the best around! [wink] (And no, I'm not biased!)
AC: Tell me about PortConMaine's greatest strength.
JM: The staff and the attendees, the people involved. I think that most of the people involved are incredible, on both sides. Oh, and Giada's art. Our convention mascot's are soooooo nice. [big grin]
AC: AnimeNext moved from the fall to the same weekend in June that you had announced. Obviously, with so many cons, conflicts are unavoidable, but does this change your plans in any way?
JM: It almost did - conflicting guest issues, worry about attendees, a certain Digimon who may not show... But then again, it's bound to happen. Conventions are made and run for the fans, the more the merrier. If fans would like to attend AnimeNext over PortCon, that's their choice. At that point we'd already signed a contract, so we couldn't change dates. Not like any date is free anymore... [laughs] How many anime cons are in the US now? [wink]
AC: Uh...I think "a hojillion" is an accurate count. [laughs] How do you promote PortConMaine to the people of Maine and New England?
JM: Word of mouth, flyers, bondage, sexual ... er. Word gets around.
AC: If someone asked why they should attend PortConMaine 2004, what reasons would you give them? (Yes, this is your chance to pimp the con.)
JM: Pimp the con? OH BOY! OH BOY! Well, I'd say attend because it'd be fun. What else would you be doing on that weekend? My staff works hard at bringing the most fun events, supporting an exciting environment, and at getting to know the attendees. The guests are neat, the vendors are cool and personable, and it's a good place to be. It's not crazy hectic, but it's not slow and dull either. Plus, the more people who attend the better it will get, the more diverse and exciting.
Also, I might drop the gauntlet and challenge them to geek out for a weekend of their life. Play in new events they've never played, try some new video games, watch a new series, [coughs] PLAYEXTREMEGEEK [coughs], dress up like their favorite character... Have fun!
Yeah. I'd say come because PortCon is fun. (And this is a relatively affordable weekend activity.)