Celebrity talent, animation advice: Halloween at Geek Media Expo 2015

MacKenzie Meins // Contributing writer

Photos by MacKenzie Meins and Elizabeth Tullos

While many people were celebrating Halloween the traditional way, several pops and geek culture enthusiasts took their costumes to the Sheraton Music City Hotel in Nashville this weekend.

Geek Media Expo (GMX) Vol. 7. took place Oct. 30-Nov. 1. In attendance were a variety of artists, merchandise dealers, animators, voice actors, authors, and even a YouTube duo. Every Trade show booth featured something different, so it meant that there was a lot more for the attendees to see and hopefully find something that took their interest. It made for a rich and diverse con experience that anyone could enjoy.

There were a number of events to attend including a virtual reality development and programming panel by VR Experience Engineer DB Buchanan, two separate panels dedicated to Sherrilyn Kenyons’s “Dark Hunter” and “The League” fiction series, and a “Geek Slam” in which cosplayers act as their respective characters in one-on-one slam battles.

“I love how it’s structured,” said Sarita Criswell, a GMX attendee from the start. “You get more close and personal time with the different artists that are here for programming. I love that you are able to actually talk with them, and you don’t feel like you are part of a big crowd.”

Sidelines interviewed two voice actors and an animation entrepreneur who told us about their passions and projects.


Samantha Newark on “Jem and the Holograms”

Samantha Newark poses for a photo at GMX 2015. (MTSU Sidelines/ Mackenzie Meins)
Samantha Newark poses for a photo at GMX 2015. (MTSU Sidelines/ Mackenzie Meins)


Nashville resident Samantha Newark is famous for voicing the character Jem, from the original 80’s cartoon “Jem and the Holograms.” Newark was excited about the new “Jem and the Holograms” movie, in theaters now.

“I checked my Twitter messages, and this was over a year and a half ago, and there was a private message from director Jon Chu that said ‘I’m a huge fan. I grew up with Jem. I watched it with my sisters growing up. We are doing a movie and would love to write you a special part’,” Newark said.

She talked about her experience on the set of the movie, and how it was surreal seeing the names of the characters on the trailers as she walked to the part of the set where she filmed her scenes.

Newark is also a singer-songwriter, and made her first record when she was eight years old.

She is working on her third solo album, a pop album which has yet to receive a title, but she said it has a solid concept and she is hoping to release it sometime in 2016.


Bob Bergen on Porky Pig

Bob Bergen poses for a photo before heading to his next panel. (MTSU Sidelines/Mackenzie Meins)
Bob Bergen poses for a photo before heading to his next panel. (MTSU Sidelines/Mackenzie Meins)


Bob Bergen’s voice has appeared in hundreds of cartoons, animated films, promos, commercials etc., but he is perhaps most famous for his work involving the Looney Toons.

He has been voicing his signature character, Porky Pig, for 25 years. Porky most recently made an appearance on several episodes of the Cartoon Network show “Wabbit.”

Bergen first voiced Porky on Tiny Toons in 1990, but it took him a long time to work up to that role. Since he was five years old, his dream has always been to voice that character.

Bergen and his family moved to Los Angeles when he was 14 because his father wanted to pursue work there. Shortly after moving, Bergen pursued his dream of voicing Porky.

“I just thought ‘I’m going to call Mel Blanc,’ who was the original voice, and offer an opportunity for him to retire because I’m here,” Bergen explained. “And I looked in the phone book and found his number…and called him up. I crashed a recording session and watched him work, and realized he’s still doing it. So I needed to get into the business.”

When Blanc passed away in 1989, Bergen had been working as a voice actor on other roles, but he finally got a chance to audition for Porky and he landed the role.

While Bergen is passionate about his job, he explained some of the unique challenges that come with voice acting.

“Voice actors are some of the best actors in the world, because you don’t have the time to go into your trailer and prepare for the day’s shoot with your acting coach,” Bergen said. “It’s for all intents and purposes cold reading. You don’t rehearse. You go to the job. You might have read through the script at home, but you get up there and they just start recording.”


Allyssa Lewis on entrepreneurship and jobs for local animators

Allyssa Lewis poses for a picture at GMX 2015 (MTSU Sidelines/ Mackenzie Meins)
Allyssa Lewis poses for a photo at GMX 2015 (MTSU Sidelines/ Mackenzie Meins)


Alyssa Lewis studied animation at the Savannah College of Art and Design at the Atlanta Campus.

Since graduating she has worked as an animator at Floyd County Productions on the TV show “Archer,” acted as the Vice President of ASIFA Atlanta and founded My Animation Life, which is a staffing agency dedicated to helping animators find work.

She recently resigned as the Vice President of ASIFA, but not before helping to expand the organization to become one of the largest of its kind in the southeast.

Her heart was calling her to a different path. She wanted to become a resource to help other animators who have had similar struggles as she did when she was first starting out. My Animation Life was a company born out of that goal.

“When I was in school, it was really difficult for me to find work, and now that I am doing a lot with My Animation Life, I just feel more whole as a person, knowing that at the end of the day someone else is a little closer to their own goal.”

My Animation Life has a plethora of resources available to animators including an ever-expanding map of animation studios in the U.S., classes and workshops, one-on-one mentorships, job and internship hunts and even portfolio reviews.

Lewis mentioned really enjoying attending conventions because of the workshops she is able to do there. In the future she hopes to host even longer workshops so attendees get the benefit of having an even more impressive product at the end.

“Conventions are the best place to meet new artists, in my opinion,” Lewis said. “You get people who are motivated, who are go-getters. They are leaving their house. They are paying whatever admission fee. They are setting up whatever table they have, and they are making sure their work is ready to show before they get here… Whenever I meet artists, if I’m serious about recruiting someone, I’m going to go to a convention.”

For more community events, follow us at www.mtsusidelines.com, on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines and on Twitter at @Sidelines_Life

To contact Lifestyles Editor Rhiannon Gilbert, email lifestyles@mtusidelines.com


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