Behind the SDCC Hall H #AKF Candles – An interview with Anne Kirn

Along with the candle lights that were passed out to the crowd at the Supernatural SDCC Panel came a note which read:

Everyone is given a candle that burns just for them. When your flame flickers and you fear it will go out, know not even the strongest wind lasts forever; and there are other lights to guide you even in the Darkness…And when your candle burns bright, you can ignite the hearts of others and hope will spread like wildfire…Always Keep Fighting, and you’ll never fight alone.

The Candles and the note were the ingenious idea of a very special young lady called Anne. Anne was kind enough to answer a few of my questions about the SDCC #AKF Candles, what happened after, a puppet called Puppalecki and being on a GISHWHES team with Mr William Shatner.

Hall H
Fans at SDCC holding up the lit #AKF candles (Credit House_of_darkly)

Lucy:  What gave you the idea to make and hand out the AKF candle tea lights at SDCC in honor of the #AKF campaign, and how did you go about arranging it?

Anne: I had the idea to do something as a giveaway to the fans to celebrate S10. It had been percolating while I was working on other things for a long while. Originally it was going to be temporary tattoos, but I hadn’t figured out a design. Then I had surgery in the spring so a lot of plans got wrenches in the works.

When Jared canceled his overseas cons, the fandom kind of went into a spiral I think. The arguments seemed pettier, more aggressive, and more frequent. That’s stress for you, I guess.

The Idea:

I was at my family reunion, and there was some incredibly absurd war going on online and I thought, this is it. We need this. I then remembered that at the first Doctor Who panel everyone lit up their sonic screwdrivers and how cool it was in the dark. So I started looking up things that lit and I stumbled on the idea of LED candles. I then wrote down the text that ultimately wound up on the cards, the symbolism made sense to me.

I asked a few trusted friends if I was crazy and had to believe them when they said no (but also: yes). Then it was all very fast and furious with logistics since I had about two weeks. I have friends at Random Acts who helped me to get an application in and fast-tracked. Then it was a race to get the materials all to San Diego.

AKF Lights
Boxes of Candle lights for the #AKF Campaign

Once at SDCC a friend and I ran back to the hotel to put stickers on (the candles) every chance we could. Once we got to the point of starting to bag them, we realized we had no way to transport them (they were bulkier bagged), but we managed to get a box from the Funko booth, and a few giveaway bags.

Stickers for the candles
1200 stickers for the candles

Giving out the Candles:

The two of us carried all the lights over to the Hall H line Saturday evening, where we recruited 3 other fans to help us. We were still doing our little assembly line on the sidewalk when Misha came to deliver the pizzas, so we just kept working and basically ignored him!

I’d planned to give them out once the line had been compressed into the tents (by the way, standing and waiting with 1200 tea lights strapped to you – super heavy!) but then realized it was pitch black and no one would be able to read the cards. So I barely slept worrying about how we’d do it.

In the end it was madness – we passed some out as they were compressing the lines, passed a bag over the fence to other fans to do the same with the next chute, but we got told to stop by security as it was slowing the line down. So we had to carry the rest into Hall H. Then it was REALLY madness, since we only had 15 minutes between the Vampire Diaries and SPN panels.

We gave them out in the women’s restroom line until we were run off. Then we just started going to the end of row, yelling, “who’s here for Supernatural?” and trying to pass them to whomever put up their hand. Some people thought we were from the studio. One girl asked if we needed help, and jumped out of her seat to run handfuls to other parts of the room. When we emptied a bag, I’d run back to my seat to get another. We finally gave out the last ones moments before the panel started.

Cue the lights:

We had no obvious cue to light them, since if I’d done the question line it wouldn’t have been anonymous – so I was telling people to wait til the Q&A and look for me to put my light up. I had no idea if it would work at all; I put my light up, and my friends did too, and then I could sort of tell that everyone was fishing for theirs.

It wasn’t until the panelists seemed confused, and the Comic-con camera turned around and they were on the screen that I was sure it was even visible past the stage lights. And then they thought it was a rock concert thing, so I just screamed “Always keep fighting” and a few other people did, too. It was terrifying, there was really just this ongoing “I have no idea how this is going to work out” feeling.


Lucy: What does the AKF campaign mean to you and what do you think it means to the SPNFamily in general.

Anne: For years I was using “never give up, never surrender” as sort of a personal motto, which I’d pulled from some dark corner of my brain and didn’t immediately realize was from Galaxy Quest. Jared’s is better. I think Sam and Dean Winchester would like it, but it’s healthier than what they do.

There’s a lot in those three words. It’s not just encouragement; it admits, yeah it’s not going to be easy; you have to do the work, and keep doing it. But being “a fighter”, that’s a brave thing to be. A proud thing to be. And you don’t just have to fight against things; you can fight for them, too. It’s a promise to lay a brick on.

I’m through my darkest times; but everyone has a long road to walk, over rough ground. And I think it should mean for all of us that we’re not alone. Maybe many of us have thought of Sam and Dean when we’re struggling, and it has to mean a lot to think, no this real person is in our corner, too.


Lucy: Did you ever expect the reaction from Jared, also that he was so grateful that he sought you out at the next event you were both at to thank you?
Anne: No, I definitely didn’t. It was hard for us to tell what was happening on stage, even though we were quite close (about 7 rows back, directly in front of Jared). My friend actually poked me in the ribs and said, ‘that paper must have the text on it. He’s trying not to cry.’ But we didn’t know for certain if they knew what was really happening until the end of the panel.

I heard later via a transcript from a meet and greet that it was Rich (Richard Speight Jr) who insisted that Jared read the paper then and there. So I’m in debt to Speight, and haven’t thanked him yet. And I have no idea who in the front row copied the text and passed the light up.

The message card that came with the Candles.
The message card that came with the Candles.

I actually felt kind of terrible about it at the time; I never intended for Jared to be emotionally on the spot in front of all those people. It never occurred to me. I think I was so preoccupied with how to make it happen, I never thought about the outcome.

As far as DC, no, I had no idea. And no expectations. Especially since the plan had been all along to keep it anonymous. I realized on Sunday of Comic-con that I couldn’t be totally undercover because I needed to get the hashtag out on Twitter. But I was at VanCon when Jensen signed up for Twitter, and Jared showed us how fast his notifications were scrolling and said it’s the same thing that happens to him and why he can’t reply. So I thought I was “safe”!

I found out later that a friend from Access Hollywood who working the “red carpet” tried to tell him it was me in the segment that later aired on the show – but she flubbed my name, and it had to be cut. I saw his Facebook post – or rather, it was sent to me by everyone who knew – and that was enough, especially since it went out to all involved and not just me. I couldn’t have held up all those candles; I’ve only got two hands.

So it was William Shatner getting involved (also entirely of his own accord) that ultimately blew my cover, I think. I had good friends who didn’t know it was me until he said so. When I was in DC my friends from my 2013 GISHWHES team were telling me all weekend, he’ll find out you’re there, he’s going to come find you. I kept saying that was a stupid idea, he has no free time to do that, he has handlers, you’re enjoying tormenting me (they were).

I didn’t know for certain that he knew who I was. Actually I didn’t even know when Osric came to take me to the photo op, it wasn’t until after he’d introduced me and Jared said he had something for me that I caught on that he must’ve known in advance who I was, and that I would be there.


Lucy: Please tell us about the photo op that you were gifted with Jared following the AKF tealights, didn’t a particularly famous person (William Shatner) arrange that for you?

Anne and Jared
Anne and Jared

Anne: I still don’t know if I have this story straight. But it was the idea of Sandra, who was featured on the S10 DVD fan featurette. She helped me assemble candles in the Hall H line. She’s friends with one of my Team Shatner teammates (who also helped with candles), and asked for assistance when she was having trouble arranging over long distance getting me a sold out photo op.

Apparently Mr. Shatner was called in to pull strings with Creation, but just went, well I’m DMing “Osiris” and we’re getting this done. And that’s how Osric wound up dealing with the details. This is how I understand it. It certainly added to how flustered I was. If I’m ever that surprised again, I’ll need a medic.


Lucy: How did you end up being part of William Shatners GISHWHES team and what has he been like to gish with?

Team Shatner Gishwhes Picture
Team Shatner Gishwhes Picture

Anne: I had tweeted with him a little when he’d been asking about the hunt. When he posted that he was forming a team and provided an email, I sent a message offering my assistance – not as a team member, just to give them suggestions about what to look for. I also said something about myself so they’d know I wasn’t a random person off the street, but a relatively experienced GISHer. The reply I got back was “great application, let us know if there’s anything you want to add”. At that point, I told my teammates; and we agreed, well, you don’t really back out from that. It was months and several more emails before I was asked to join.

I think most people would be surprised how involved he’s been, since he has a schedule like a 20-something social butterfly/entrepreneur. He’s praised not only items each of us worked on, but been very interested in seeing what other GISHers accomplished and even shared links with us. He is genuinely competitive, I think, but so am I; and the repartee with Misha is just that. It’s a bit of theater. That’s the trouble with actors; sometimes they enjoy having you on because they can. It’s their job. He’s also a very keen advocate of Random Acts.


Lucy: What is your favorite Gishwhes item that you or your team has accomplished?

Anne:  “Rock on Mars” from last year is too easy. It’s really hard to choose, you like items for different reasons. I love the sentiment of the “change the world” item my teammate in Iran did. I spent a lot of time this year on the music video for my “space theme” and the music was done by a very old friend I don’t get to talk to often enough.

It’s really a multiple-way tie. But I think I’ll go with the Google translate version of Carry On Wayward Son. I was in charge of this item, and had jokingly said “let’s ask Louden Swain” when my small-town barbershop quartet turned me down VERY rudely. But then it happened. Really really fast, actually. As if any of us needed reason to love the Swain boys and Jason Manns any more than we do. But let it be known: Rob Benedict gets sh*t done.


Lucy: I believe you asked a question to Misha Collins on William Shatner’s behalf at one of the creation conventions, what was the question and did you get a good answer from Misha?

Anne: That was at VanCon 2014, my first-ever Supernatural convention. Mr. Shatner told me to ask when he’d be announced as having won GISHWHES. I wore a cupcake hat (for “Cupcake”). There’s video. Mostly what I remember is that Misha wouldn’t quite let me get to the question – I think he was very curious about who the heck I was and how I was on Team Shatner. So he was asking me questions, instead. Then he told the audience I was a spy and they should get me. It was fairly harrowing as my first ever interaction with him, to be honest! But fortunately the attendees I talked to later decided I was pretty okay and probably not a spy. I was not stoned by an angry mob. I had Misha sign my printout later, but I don’t think he ever noticed it. He’s easily fooled by a change of hats!


Lucy: Your puppets have become quite famous at the Supernatural conventions, please tell us a bit about them, how they are made and what you are planning on making next?

Anne: Yes, Puppalecki legitimately gets recognized in public. I’ve been a puppetry fan since I was a kid. Years ago I’d done some celebrity puppets that were far more basic; and I’d done a Smoke Monster from LOST as well.

Jared with Puppalecki
Jared with Puppalecki

So I’d wanted to do pop culture puppets for a while, but didn’t get around to it until just before VanCon. He’s my first completed foam puppet; basically he’s built like the majority of the Muppets, from foam with Antron fleece covering. Maybe you can visualize it like a jack-o-lantern, though he’s made from sheets like those used to cover furniture rather than carved from a solid block (some are).

Muppet Misha (aka Dmitri Puppens Krushnic) followed much later.  I also have a Will Graham from Hannibal. I’m close to finishing Dean next. I’m torn about whether to then do Crowley; I’m not sure if Mark will be grumpier if I do or don’t make one. I’d love to make them an Impala, but I’d have to get puppeteering assistance for that.

Muppet Misha - In his Cas outfit
Muppet Misha – In his Cas outfit

I hope to make a video with them, too, but again if you want to do much it takes two people to operate ONE puppet. I do some dorky stuff with them on Twitter though; I’d love to do more but it’s really hard to selfie your own arm. Everyone at cons asks if I can make the puppets talk; sure, but they won’t sound like who they’re supposed to be! I’m not sure how my Jared or Misha Twitter impersonations are, but no one’s complained.


Lucy: Do you have any other projects or campaigns in mind for the future?

Anne: I do, but I’m keeping it under wraps for now. Honestly I always have far too many ideas and never enough time or resources. If nothing else had come of it, I’m really grateful that the candle project worked out; I’ve had other ambitious ideas fall on their faces and I knew going in that was a big risk. I’m not sure how much magic time you get in one life.

In fandom specifically, aside from a puppet film I have a serious video idea I really hope I get to do, and a parody I’m really attached to as well. But I neglected to shoot background plates while I was in Vancouver! I’ve also been working for about a year on a musical, strongly inspired by (though not about) my experiences in the Supernatural fandom, that I’m determined to finish.


Lucy: And finally what are your Supernatural basics, Fave character, episode, baddie, who would you like to see brought back and what would you like to see in S11?

Anne: I was asked this by someone involved with SPN and I nearly had a nervous breakdown. I really don’t do favorites! That’s like trying to pick a favorite piece of a puzzle when it isn’t even complete – ‘ah yes, that one, second in from the lefthand corner’. If I’ve got a gun to my head, I’ve been a Dean girl since nearly the beginning. I hated him at first, strongly preferred Sam until the end of season 1 – then “In My Time of Dying” knocked my socks off. Some things about Dean’s later arcs really speak to me personally.

Fave episode is a nightmare. They have a history with taking off-the-wall, ridiculous concepts and making them not only brilliant meta but ultimately, really emotionally affecting and profound. They should’ve had an Emmy nom more than once for those episodes alone (X-Files did, in wiser days perhaps), but if I had to give it to one: “Fan Fiction”. That’s a whole other essay.

Baddie: Leviathan Cas, in his brief appearance, scared the crap out of me. Chris Heyerdahl as Alastair is a close second.  But Lucifer takes the prize, because he honestly doesn’t seem like a bad guy. And THAT is terrifying.

I think I’d bring back Abaddon and Dark Charlie and have them join Rowena in an evil Red-Headed League. They can have a sass-off with Jody, Donna and Claire. Dean and Sam can just eat popcorn and watch, while Cas and Crowley go to a spa to fix being evil and dead (respectively). Maybe this is the spinoff, not S11!

Seriously though, in an incredible twist, I trust the writers. I think they’re already doing what I’d do in S11; and I hope they’re much cleverer than I am and take that in an exciting direction I won’t expect.


Acknowledgments 

  • Huge thanks to Anne for answering my questions! I loved reading your answers and i’m sure the other fans will as well.
  • E-mail Interview conducted September 22, 2015

Links 

  • Anne Kirn on Twitter  – @house_of_darkly
  • Jared Puppalecki on Twitter – @jpuppalecki
  • Dmitri Puppens on Twitter – @MuppetMisha

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