When this interview was originally conducted, Sean Chiochankitmun was the Otakon‘s acting convention chair. Mr. Chiochankitmun graciously took some time out of his busy schedule to offer insights on how anime conventions work, behind the curtain.
Note: this interview was originally performed on July 2, 2011 as part of an article series for Anime Dream. All communications were conducted via e-mail.
Anime Herald: What types of challenges does a con chair face? What responsibilities and duties come with the position?
Sean Chiochankitmun: Every day is different for a convention chairperson. On the very best days when all the cogs are working right and the wheels are greased, my job is to look pretty (which does not happen for more than a moment). Flexibility and the ability to remember who is best, decent, and passable at doing any specific task. And delegating. If you don’t do that you’ll go insane. Challenges that we face have best been likened to herding cats. Combine all of this with an over 2 million dollar budget and you get the surface look at being a con chair. (smile)
Anime Herald: Are there any aspects of the position that you particularly enjoy? Any downsides?
Sean Chiochankitmun: I’ve been afforded the opportunity to see things and do things that would make most otakus’ heads explode. That I can call some of major people in the animation industry friends is something that I will particularly treasure for years to come. On the downside, it’s not hard to imagine, but politics and drama make my head explode.
Anime Herald: In an event like an anime con, Murphy’s Law is bound to rear its ugly head. What would you say is your most memorable instance of something awry, and how did you work around or with the situation to keep your event running smoothly?
Sean Chiochankitmun: I think it was with one of the boy pop bands who at the last minute (read the day before their concert) were unhappy with the flooring material on the stage. Having one of my OSS (Oh S&%# Squad, or Otakon Senior Staff depending on the day) Karl Monroe locate flooring at 11PM late at night and having the problem settled by morning was the best decision ever made. Knowing and trusting your staff helps make life a heck of a lot saner.
Anime Herald: One can imagine that working an anime convention is an interesting gig. Have you ever encountered any unusual or outstanding situations that you would like to share?
Sean Chiochankitmun: I think making Richard “Pocky” Kim introduce himself to Kikuko Inoue (the voice of Belldandy) and say that he was as huge fan of her ranks as something I’d never forget. Oh, and this was all during a recording session for Claymore that we were sitting in on as guests of Madhouse.
Anime Herald: The day to day life of convention staff seems to be quite busy. Is there anything that you do to keep things running, while also keeping the stress under control?
Sean Chiochankitmun: Lists. I live in a series of to do lists that are forever circling my head. If you are good at time management and prioritizing you won’t go insane.
Anime Herald: How did you get your start at Otakon? Were you there from the beginning?
Sean Chiochankitmun: I got my start as a regular attendee in 1999. After some friends decided they didn’t want to go on Saturday since they were tired of driving, I decided to gofer, but found it was full. I got there early on Friday of 2000, and started volunteering then! Since then I’ve been on the BoD 7 times, and held every officer position except for comptroller.
Anime Herald: How have your duties changed between now and when you first began?
Sean Chiochankitmun: From a grunt as grunt could be, to con chair. Still a slave to Otakon, just in very different ways.
Anime Herald: Do you have any advice for people who are interested in helping out at a convention?
Sean Chiochankitmun: Gofer Gofer Gofer Gofer, then Gofer. You’ll get a very broad view of the convention, and that helps when you want to start running things.
Anime Herald: Do you have any advice for people who are entering the same position as you?
Sean Chiochankitmun: ~ Gofer Gofer Gofer Gofer, then Gofer. Get to know as many aspects of the convention that you can, and see who interacts with whom. Get people that you trust, and work with them. Don’t try to do everything yourself, or you will go insane and have a melt down.
Anime Herald: Finally, do you have anything to say to our readers?
Sean Chiochankitmun: Come to Otakon! We don’t bite! And honestly, I think you’ll have more fun at Otakon than any other convention out there!