The masterminds behind the popular Walker Stalker podcast, James and Eric, share how they turned their love of The Walking Dead and all things zombies into the upcoming – and highly anticipated – Walker Stalker Convention. Check out the photo gallery below. It’s just a small sample of the amazing stars who’ll be in attendance. Then read on for the interview and information on how you can get tickets to The Walker Stalker Con in Atlanta.
Project Fandom: At what point did you get the idea for a con?
Walker Stalkers: We first talked about the idea of doing the Con in April 2013. James has been to several Comic-Cons and regional Cons in the Florida area. After coming back from a Con in Florida, he said, “You know what, Eric? We can do this!!”. And, I agreed knowing it was going to be a lot of work. We put our heads down and just started the ball rolling from there.
PF: Can you elaborate on the process of starting your own con?
WS: We announced we were doing Walker Stalker Con in May 2014. In June, we had our first confirmed guests – Lauren Cohan being one of them. She plays Maggie from “The Walking Dead”. In June, we started a Kickstarter campaign with the main idea to build momentum and find our early adopters – so to speak. It was one of the best things we could do. It really tested our promotional and relational skills. Every hour we needed to update our fans and supporters with more incentives, guests and announcements. It was a lot of fun, but also a lot of work. We hit our goal to raise $15,000 within a day of the campaign ending. That really laid the foundation for what was to come. From there, ticket sales continued to escalate. When we announced Norman Reedus and Greg Nicotero would be attending, our ticket sales skyrocketed. And here we are: 49 guests, 25+ Q&A panels, 2 VIP meet & greets, a music concert, and Zombie Bash Party later. Pre-sales for tickets are soaring and we can’t wait to see how things go on Friday, when we open!
PF: What were some of the major hurdles?
WS: The Kickstarter campaign was a huge breakthrough for us. Once we were able to hit that goal of $15,000 when 2 weeks prior we were sitting at $2000 pledged, that was truly an accomplishment. And, it’s all because we have some amazing listeners to our podcast. The campaign revealed to us who our core team of supporters for the Con were going to be. Going through that and succeeding really made us stronger in every way.
PF: What went more smoothly than you expected?
WS: You would think getting the celebrity guests would be one of the major hurdles, but it wasn’t. The guests and their management couldn’t be more accommodating and supportive. We had already built good relationships with them through our Walker Stalkers podcast. So sending invites and receiving positive responses was probably one of the smoothest things.
PF: Why do you think zombies (and the zombie apocalypse) are so popular right now?
WS: Obviously, they’ve had an underground following since even before George Romero’s “Night of the Living Dead” released in the 60’s. But, definitely the rise of The Walking Dead comics and subsequent TV show on AMC have really brought Zombie awareness to the forefront. The concept of a Zombie Apocalypse and a breakdown of our current society in a number of ways has been hugely popular really since the movie Armageddon in the late 90’s. Couple that with some major societal and cultural events like 9/11 has really caused us to face our fears in a way. I think watching “The Walking Dead” is one of the ways we cope with the reality we live in today. Our world could end as we know it one day…and the show, and others, like “Revolution” and “Falling Skies”, allow us to play that out in various ways.
PF: How did you go about evolving your relationships with the cast and crew from “Hi, nice to meet you”, to “Would you consent to an interview”, to “Wanna do a con”?
WS: For us, it was about being kindly persistent at first. Once Greg Nicotero agreed to do our first interview on the podcast, it gave us the credibility we needed to get the next interviews. We will always be thankful to Greg for that – and that’s why he is our Guest of Honor at Walker Stalker Con. From that first interview, we had 27 straight podcasts with interviews with guests from the show. We actually have been missing those interviews over the last few months during the summer break and we’re looking forward to seeing what this next season will bring on the podcast.
It was very natural to reach out to the publicists and managers again after finishing up Season 3 of interviews. The actors and crew truly love doing what they do and they really love the fans. You see it when the fans visit a set location. Cast and crew of “The Walking Dead” are very glad to interact with their fans. It’s a special relationship. That’s why it came very natural for us to take that fan experience we’ve had with them and turn it into a fan experience for everyone November 1 – 3 in Atlanta.
PF: Who (of the cast and crew) was the hardest to sell on the con?
WS: Honestly, there wasn’t a difficult experience with any of the cast and crew. It simply was a matter of working around a cast or crew members schedule to make it happen. Everyone who is coming is very busy – if they are still a cast member on the show, we needed to work around their filming schedule in Atlanta. If they were no longer on the show, then they are working on other films or TV shows, so it was just a matter of coordinating schedules, which everyone coming was able to make work. And, if they aren’t coming to our Con, it’s only because they had a conflict in their schedule and just couldn’t make it.
PF: How have your wives and family dealt with all the work that I imagine has gone into this project? Have they at least learned the difference between zombies and vampires by now?
WS: Haha. That was definitely a running joke throughout this year. James’ wife is very much into The Vampire Diaries series. My wife can’t handle much more than a romantic comedy because she takes on the life these people are living in the film and can’t stop thinking about it after it’s all done or resolved. I got her to watch the TV Series LOST with my boys and she did enjoy that.
As far as how they’ve dealt with our schedule, they are incredibly understanding and gracious to us to let us do what we love! They see how happy and fulfilled it is to run a podcast and put together this first Con. Both James and I also work from home – James as an attorney and I’m an entrepreneur with several businesses – so that makes it easier to be flexible with our work and family hours. We work around each others’ busy family schedules and make it happen somehow. We wouldn’t continue to do this if our wives weren’t 100% on board with it.
PF: Zombie Apocalypse happens tomorrow: (please answer individually) What’s your plan? Hole up and wait it out? Group up with your buddies? Blaze of glory?
Eric: I’m coming to James’ house and putting his 6 dogs and 2 cats up as my first line of defense. Plus, he has a lot more basement space for hiding out.
James: My plan is to board up my house before Eric and his family get there, so they don’t use my animals as bait.
PF: What’s your weapon of choice?
Eric: I would choose a Remington Shotgun with plenty of Ammo and a Crossbow – just like Daryl!!
James: I’m going with a bunch of ballistic knives that I can re-use. Plus, I have a few machete’s that will come in handy if necessary!