From time to time, we'll be doing Q&As with folks who have interesting jobs or hobbies -- things we all may have wanted to try but never have. Linda Webster, head honcho-ette at the James Gunn Appreciation Society, was kind enough to answer a few questions for The Park Bench on what it's like to run a fan site. JGAS, as it's known on the streets, is devoted to the work and general coolness of Gunn, writer/director of "SLiTHER," neophyte demolition derby fanatic and our August Nerd Man of the Month. Here's what Linda had to say:
What's the best part of running JGAS?
There is so much! The friends I have made, the professional relationship I have with James, the skills I have learned, and the opportunities to do things I would never have dreamed of doing! It’s been a blast! I have so much fun thinking of new ideas or making things happen that even I doubted were possible, like JGAS sponsoring Stan McDonalds’ demolition derby car, for instance. I am sure when James threw that line into his blog, “In fact, the JGAS and I may need to sponsor a car,” he didn’t actually think it was possible – but I did. And not only did we get his “dream” guy, we fucking won that derby! Sorry, can I say “fucking” on this site? [Absolutely! In fact, we encourage it. -- Ed.]
What's the most difficult part of running a fan site? How much time do you put into it?
The most difficult part of running the site is balancing it between my home and family. I’m lucky in the regard that I don’t have to work and my kids are both in school (my oldest is in college and my youngest is in elementary school) so I have many hours to spend on the site each day, but I also have to remember that I have a responsibility to my family which includes all the stuff I don’t want to do like cleaning, cooking, laundry, etc. The other difficult part is that sometimes it feels like it’s another life and my “real life” friends don’t really understand what it is I do or why I do it – and why I am not getting paid for it. I can’t tell you how many raised eyebrows I’ve encountered when asked, “So what do you do?”
How would you describe James' fan base? What do you think inspires such devotion?
James’ fan base is very diverse because he appeals to a lot of people. First of all, he is very smart, so he appeals to the intellectuals, and then he loves comics and toys, so he appeals to the geeks. [Hey, that's us! - Ed.] Then he is the “horror guy” so he appeals to that crowd. Not to mention his crossover fans from his relationships with Nathan Fillion (from “Firefly” and “Serenity”) and Jenna Fischer (from “The Office”). And I would be remiss if I also didn’t state that he’s a good looking guy and let’s face it, smart is sexy so he’s got that appeal as well – just look at all the comments on his MySpace page! He also has a professional following of budding screenwriters and filmmakers who respect the hell out of him and the fact that he makes so much time for his fans and lets you into his life where most celebs are hesitant to cross that line or feel they are too far above fans to relate to them on a personal level. He’s just one of us.
What is it about James Gunn and his work that appeals to you?
For me, personally, I enjoy how fearless he is, whether it’s in his writing or his acting or his directing. He knows what he wants to convey and he’ll fight to get the end-product even if it means making some people uncomfortable or maybe garnering disapproval. He has a real joy for his craft and it shows.
What are some of the weirdest, funniest or most memorable experiences you've had with regard to JGAS?
Weirdest? I suppose it feels kind of weird to me when I’ll hear something about JGAS or a reference to the site, and it reminds me that it’s out there for anybody to see and not just a bunch of files on my computer. It was also weird showing the site to my mom for the first time because there is a lot of explicit language (which is evident by our intro page) and I don’t think she completely understood or approved.
Funniest would have to be some of the stuff that people post on the message board. That place can get pretty crazy. We have the best time!
Most memorable would have to be the demolition derby, hands down! We were literally in the pit area in the middle of the mud and the cars and the noise and it was AWESOME! My favorite moments were the first time I saw the car - James seemed just as excited as I was, and we were grinning like a couple of idiots at the sheer coolness of this bad-ass black car with our logo on it! Watching the race from the pit and the jubilation we all shared when Mac’s car won are up there as well. It was quite a day!
What does James think about JGAS?
I hope he loves it as much as I do. From day one of the [original JGAS] MySpace group he’s been right on board, cheering me along. He’s been extremely supportive and generous with his time. He’s told me time and time again that he is 100 percent behind me and whatever I want to do and he’s proven it by promoting the site in his blogs and interviews, donating prizes for contests, participating in (and hosting) chats in the chat room and posting daily and answering JGAS members’ questions in the Q & A section of our message board. So essentially, he appreciates us as much as we appreciate him. James said it best in a recent interview, “We’re all about appreciation at the James Gunn Appreciation Society”
What are your future plans for JGAS and the site?
I definitely want to keep it running as long as possible. Members are giving me new ideas every day and as long as people are interested and James continues his support, I can see it going for a long time. As for immediate plans, I am gathering prizes and information for our first fundraising raffle and auction. We’ll have lots of fun things to bid on, autographed DVDs, posters, t-shirts, etc. You should check it out!
In March of 2008, we are partnering with the production team behind “CUT! 2008”, a weekend-long film festival being held March 29-30th 2008 at the New Beverly Cinema (Quentin Tarantino’s favorite theater to premiere his films) in Los Angeles, California. James will be appearing with other horror greats including Mick Garris and Tom Savini for the horror panel, and we will also be presenting James in a “SLiTHER” panel (with yet-to-be announced special guests) to talk about the experience of making “SLiTHER” as well as a screening of the film. There will also be an auction and raffle where a portion of the proceeds will benefit Rover Rescue. VIP and Early Bird tickets are available at www.cut2008.net, and there is a “goldish ticket” hidden somewhere on JGAS.org. It will bring you to a page where you can get tickets at a discount.
If you'd like to join JGAS, visit www.jgas.org. Tell 'em The Park Bench sent you!