Q&A with Daniela Chiusa, inspirer and organizer of Jus In Bello convention
Our guest today is Daniela Chiusa, the main inspirer and organizer of «Jus In Bello», the famous Supernatural convention that takes place in Rome. Next year this event will be held for the 7th time!
Fan convention is the wonderful chance for the fans to meet their favorite actors, get an autograph, take a memorable photo or ask a question.
First of all, we want to thank you on behalf of all the Russian fans of Supernatural. Convention in Rome is still the most accessible for us to go and we are very grateful to you for this chance to get together with SPN fans from all over the world and meet our favorite actors.
I`m happy that we can help Russian fans to connect with their favorite guys! It`s our honor and pleasure :)
How long have you been a fan of Supernatural? Do you remember when you watched the show for the first time? What was your first impression?
Honestly, I must admit that it has been quite some time since I`ve watched the show. I`m always so busy with so many different projects that TV time has to take the back seat for me. But I can tell you that I vividly remember the 1st time I`ve watched it. It was the pilot and one of my friends wanted to watch if for quite some time. I didn`t want too because I thought it would be scary. Then one night, we had just come back from a trip and we were wide awake because of jet-lag, so she convinced me to watch it. After the pilot we watched the whole 1st season in a couple of days. It was scary but the good kind of scary, and it was funny and fresh. In the end, like it happens for many other TV shows, my first memory of Supernatural is linked to my friend and having a great time with her, our shared laughter and tea spilled on the couch with sudden gasps.
Why did you choose Supernatural among so many other TV shows for organizing the convention?
This is a good question, but I`m afraid I don`t have a good answer to compare. We keep choosing Supernatural because this show has an amazingly devoted fandom, and an extraordinary friendly and nice cast. This is the best combination to do create a good event. But even our wildest dream couldn`t match the warmth, generosity and passion we have experienced at JIBCON in these years thanks to fans and cast members alike.
How did the idea of organizing the convention occur to you? Have you been to any convention in the US before you decide to organize your own one in your own country?
It was a challenge from a friend at a dinner party that pushed us to start doing this. We had been working on the field for 10 years, but we never considered the idea of a fan convention before. Talking among bits of food and glasses of wine, this friend told us there was this online petition for a fan convention and suggested we should work on it. We laughed calling him crazy. He joked back and before we knew what was happening we had this bet going that we could do it, and do it well even in a country like Italy where events made for fans didn`t exists at all, and the general idea of live entertainment mostly equates to a soccer game.
So don`t emulate us, we`re a poor example to follow in this! Organizing a convention is a LOT of hard work and joking aside it must be done, seriously, professionally, with long lived competence and a huge amount of funds, or not at all.
And yes, to check how others go about organizing things we took part in two conventions, one in the US and one in the UK. We watched their methods, we pondered both solutions and we decided we had to do things our way to make JIB work. Copying others is never the best option if you want to create something unique that is a testament of your work.
Can you recap the main steps of organizing the convention?
I`m sorry but there are too many aspects involved to be able to summarize them in a short answer. Especially I do not want to provide one answer that inexperienced people would take like a «How to do guide: 101 suggestions to organize your own convention». Here in Europe we`ve seen too many times what happens when amateurs try to organize a convention, it ends in tears for everyone involved more often than not.
What were your first steps in organizing JIBCON? Do you remember who was the first actor who said «yes, I would be glad to come to Rome»?
See, everyone presumes that first steps are talking to actors, and I can assure you it`s really really not! I never spoke to any of the guests attending the 1st JIBCON before they landed in Rome a few days prior the convention itself. If you do things professionally you don`t contact actors, you do it properly following the right channels, speaking to managers or agents. Booking a guest is a business involving many people and must be approached with this knowledge. Actors may reply to fans that they are interested in attending an event on social media when asked, but what their managers have to say in private can be a whole different story.
From all the actors for all these years, who was the most difficult and who was the most easy to make arrangement with?
This is a tricky question because if you had asked me the 1st time I would have said that some people were a nightmare to work with. They kept questioning everything, asking tons of details that seemed ridiculously obvious and so on. Then I learned that those same people were just used to dealing with incompetence quite often, especially with newcomers, so they were understandably wary and cautious. Now these people are my favorite ones to work with and I wish everyone else would be as professional and reliable as they are.
So, you see it`s more a matter of getting to know each other and the level of proficiency that you can expect from one another that matters. And apparently easy arrangements don`t always translate in good working partners.
Generally speaking, I can say we are incredibly lucky with our guests and proud that they keep coming back year after year. And we have established respectful and friendly relationship with their representative too, which surely makes things easier.
It is known that Jared and Jensen do not so many conventions in Europe, and you are the only one who engage them every year. How do you manage to get them in Rome annually?
This is a question better asked to them directly, as it`s for them to explain their choices and preferences. I can only say we are grateful to have them with us every time and that we will continue to do our job the best we can to ensure that they keep coming back.
What difficulties have you been facing while organizing the convention?
Oh my, there are so, so many of them that I would need months to list them all!
Just to mention one, having to rework the entire schedule for this year convention a few hours before its start wasn`t a bit easy. Especially because the whole situation was deeply stressing for everyone emotionally and physically. Having to announce that Jared wouldn`t be with us to a crowd of people that had been dreaming of meeting him for months has been one of the hardest things I`ve had to do. And knowing he wasn`t well enough to be there with us made things worse. No one could stop to worry about him and pray for his wellbeing.
Can you remember some emotional (or, maybe, some funny) moments that happened during the organization process?
The funniest bits always happen directly at the convention. There`s no time like when you`re with friends to be silly and have fun. It`s not something specific, maybe just a joke or prank that one person in the staff do and it starts a chain reaction so everyone else get involved too and after a few minutes you can`t stop laughing. Stress and adrenaline always run high at the convention, you`re constantly under pressure and emotions are volatile, so you need to laugh and let go from time to time to keep smiling and never snap with anyone. For example, this year after the cocktail party was over most of the staff gathered together because we needed to prepare the light balls for the opening ceremony. Originally, we had planned for part of the staff to do that during the cocktail party, but we had to change plan because those who were not working at the party were still busy at the registration desk to change extras and provide information to participants.
So we were there, mostly sitting on the floor, with over 1000 small spheres that needed to be opened, activated and closed and all the while we kept singing, throwing stuff at each other, eating Parmigiano cheese and drinking «apple juice». Recounting it it`s like ‘duh… so what`, but the thing is that it took us over a couple of hours to finish, so it was really late and after a long tiresome day already and it could have been a very, very boring task, but doing that together changed it into a good time with friends.
You`ve got very cool team working with you. Can you tell some words about these self-sacrificing people who`s helping you? How do these people come together? Are they your colleagues? Friends? Fandom people?
Partially I have already done that in previous replies, because all of them are as much part of JIB as me and the girls are, and I can never speak of the convention without thinking of them, what they do and how incredibly lucky we are to have such great friends. Without most of them we wouldn`t be able to make JIB work as it does. Among our staff there are some of our childhood friends, there are family members and neighbors, there are people we`ve been working with for the past 18 years and work in this field as well, there are boyfriends and girlfriends, there are friends of friends that we have met and who immediately fit in and understood what the job requires.
They are chemists, biochemists, engineers, physicians, nurses, public officers, people working in AD and fashion, and then brokers, marketing experts, accountants and lawyers, copywriters, professors and teachers, artists and writers. We have our own philosopher, our psychologist and even an astrophysicist! Some of them travels from other European countries or even US and Australia to come over and help.
All of them have very busy lives, and despite that, they take holidays and every time they stand with us ready to do whatever they can to make everyone have a good time. Ain`t this amazing?
What they are not is fans. We believe that a proficient staff needs to work well together and be instructed way before convention day. Staff members need to know what`s going on from the start and how to help participants no matter what`s happening. What people in the staff must not be is interested in taking part in the convention themselves. Their job is to make sure that fans enjoy themselves and help guests through their tasks, they must be able to focus on that without distractions. So it`s easy to realize that having fans volunteering would kind of defeat this purpose.
There are very strict rules on JIB Con and you are known as a very strict leader yourself. Many people think that JIB Con is so loved and popular because everything is organized so well and almost every attendee is trying to behave and not to break rules. Do you remember any situation from all these years when people did something unacceptable and were driven away from the convention?
Wow this is a reputation I like having! My aim is to create a friendly and funny environment where people can relax, all people, meaning fans and guests alike. And I love chatting with everyone to make sure they are having a good time, but I don`t tolerate rudeness toward our guests. So yes, people coming over need to know that they have to behave, be respectful and always remember that guests are people not objects.
Those who have forgotten this, or didn`t care to abide to civil behavior have not only been stopped by security but have been prevented from attending again.
What surprises me is that, to be well accepted at JIB, what is required from anyone it`s just a bit of common sense and politeness in every interaction, nothing more really.
Things I expect people know already and use in their everyday life too. So why these rules shouldn`t apply when attending a convention or seem so strict to some? If you don`t intend to misbehave and make yourself look like an annoying spoiled kid why worrying about them?
Anyway in 6 years there have been only a few people who behaved poorly and other participants helped a lot in keeping things under control by being the first to scold misbehaving fans and insist that they obey the rules. Seeing ‘JIB veterans` assisting new participants by explaining things is a very normal occurrence, and one that makes me very proud of hosting these people every year.
How do you cope with these thousands of emails when the reservation time comes and that insanity begins?
Well, with patience and long working hours. That and keeping in mind how rewarding it is to see people being happy, even for a moment, because of something we do. This world isn`t a very bright place most times, and life can be difficult for everyone, so trying to spread some positivity and bring a bit of joy into people`s lives however you can is the most fulfilling emotion ever.
Many of the people who are going to the convention for the first time, says that it is unfair that those people who visited the event before, have some privileges. Can you comment on this?
I`ve done so already and I have no problem repeating it.
JIB is an association that lives and prosper thanks to the support of people that have been with us since the start, so without these people there would be no event and no ‘privileges to be found unfair` and we wouldn`t be here talking at all.
I find unfair and childish that people expect to have every rights without doing anything to deserve them. I find it unfair and childish that people complain simply because they don`t get what they want, when they want, and served to them as they expect, but that`s life so I deal with it without throwing tantrums like a 3 years old toddler.
And seriously isn`t it a bit illogical to complain about how we run the convention, when you`re complaining because you want to attend it? I understand the disappointment of those who maybe don`t have a chance to attend because there are too many people for a limited amount of places. But JIBCON is what it is because we do things this way, our way, and if you are compelled by the results you see, maybe before complaining stop and think that those results are the product of the same choices you are criticizing.
As for everything else, well we can only do our best as miracles are still a bit out of our league, and so is fitting 1500-1600 people in an event thought and born for 800-900 participants.
It is hard work and great responsibility to organize the event of such range and such quality. What is your inspiration that helps you to do it over and over again?
Without realizing, I`ve already replied to this question when talking about what great great joy is seeing people happy because of something we do. That`s the main reason.
Creating something good, uniting people of so many different countries and cultures for something positive. Watching them become friends in spite of differences and learn to relate in an unique way that mix the best of everything. I don`t think I could ask more than this, and yet every year, you people manage to surprise me a bit more by being simply amazing.
The secret charity project that has been presented to us during the last panel simply astounded me! The lovely lanyards that have been gifted to all participants by another small group of fans were so sweet. And all the lovely messages, the cards, the thank you, the hugs, the warmth, impressive in the best possible way.
Thanks to JIBCON I`ve met some of the most interesting and wonderful people out there, and if this isn`t inspiration I wouldn`t know where to look for it!
Photos — Roberta Bozzolan, @ephraim, Stefania V, Antonietta Siciliano