MondoCon 2017 Interview: The State Of The Mondo Union

In which Scott finds out what's going on in the world of Mondo.

Disclosure: Mondo and BMD are both owned by the Alamo Drafthouse.

This past weekend, the folks at Mondo threw open the doors on the fourth annual MondoCon. Whereas past years found the convention taking place in an entirely different venue in another part of town, MondoCon 4 found the event moving downtown, into the comparatively gigantic Austin American-Statesman building. I sat down to speak with Mondo Brand Director Jay Shaw and Mondo Creative Director Eric Garza to discuss that move, this year's batch of prints, and what lies ahead for the tireless Mondo team.

Here's what I learned...

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BMD: What were the big challenges for you guys, moving over to this venue?

Eric Garza (Mondo Creative Director): Really, just not knowing how it was gonna go after the first three years at the Austin Film Society (AFS) Cinema, formerly the Marchesa. We'd gotten into a comfort zone - we knew what to expect, what the flow of traffic would be like, and so on. One of our biggest concerns was just that fear of the unknown. We felt comfortable in the amount of space, but still: lines can get pretty congested. Once we got in here and started doing the hard math and actually put together a blueprint for the floorplan, though, everything started coming together and...well, I think everything turned out great! 

Jay Shaw (Mondo Brand Director): There's definitely more space. Having everyone in the same building was another big focus. Because of the size of the convention (in previous years), we had to split everything between a Holiday Inn and the AFS location, and while that was a good solution at the time, the feedback we got from artists was that they all sort of wished they were in the same space together. Y'know, "I wish I could just walk down this row and chat with my friend so-and-so!" Same from fans. So, getting it all under roof was a big deal. I think the flow in here is a lot better than before - the aisles are way wider, there's more room to move around and check things out. 

EG: Getting it in downtown Austin, proper, was also a big deal. Being here, you actually feel like you're in Austin at the end of the day. You step outside to hit the food trucks, and there's the Austin skyline right there! It feels like you're in the city, and people who came into town can get out there and appreciate it if they want to. 

JS: A lot of people, this is their first time to Austin, or they only come to Austin once a year for this. It's cool to feel like this location is giving them more of an authentic Austin experience. We did a surprise screening last night for everyone who waited in line, for Batman Returns, and this is the perfect location for it: you're right next to the Austin "Bat Bridge" - which, if people don't know, is a bridge in downtown Austin with about a million bats living underneath it, and they come flying out every night. It's cool to do stuff like that and feel like we're giving fans that Rolling Roadshow experience. 

EG: We were bummed we moved away from the AFS location, but now we get to hold our screenings at an Alamo Drafthouse, which we're really excited about. Now we can give fans and attendees that authentic Alamo Drafthouse experience - watch a movie, order food, hang out in the bar. It's great.

You mentioned Rolling Roadshows a minute ago, so I've gotta ask when we might see the next Mondo Mystery Movie. When was the last one, Die Hard at Nakatomi Plaza? Feels like it's been a while. 

JS: It has been a while.

And they're very exciting.

JS: They are exciting. Here's the thing - we've gone through so many iterations of the Mondo Mystery Movie, and it evolved over the years into a huge event that, for a team this small, was very difficult to put on. We love doing (them), but we realized that it's almost out of this team's hands to execute events of that size. That said, we've been talking with the good folks on the Alamo Drafthouse's creative team and figuring out what we can do in the coming years to resurrect the Mondo Mystery Movie. We're definitely gonna get back into it. Can't really say much about what that's gonna look like or what it's gonna be, but it's definitely coming back and we think people will be excited about what we have planned.

So, you're feeling pressure, then, to top the previous events?

JS: It kinda depends, and Eric can speak to this more, but I think that it breaks down like this: there's a two-part focus to the Mondo Mystery Movie - there's the event and then there's the poster. Both have to be exciting, both have to be perfect. As far as the event side goes, we're always going to try and top a previous (Mondo Mystery Movie event). As far as posters go, there's the need to identify a poster fans are really going to go nuts for - the perfect Mondo Mystery Movie poster. 

EG: That is tough. I think we've done twelve Mondo Mystery Movies to date, and we've learned that once you announce one of those screenings, it really gets fans' brains working. They talk about what the movie's going to be, who's going to be doing the poster. It can be a tough thing to live up to in terms of fan expectations! But I will say that we're working on a poster right now that we really like and that may well be (the poster for) the next Mondo Mystery Movie. It's been in the works for a while now, and everyone at Mondo is just -- 

JS: Oh, that poster?

EG: Yeah, that poster. 

JS: That would make for a helluva Mondo Mystery Movie print.

So, your next Mondo Gallery show is in January, correct? The second Universal Monsters showcase?

EG: Yeah, we wanted to hold that one on the fifth anniversary of the first Uni Monsters gallery show -- 

Holy shit, that was five years ago?

EG: Yeah! October 2012. But, unfortunately, due to circumstances beyond our control, we had to push that back. We're shooting for January now and should have more to share about it soon, but everything we've seen so far from the show is coming together very well. We're excited.

Do you want to tease anything exciting from this show? I know you're very secretive, but...

EG: Weeeeellllll...

Actually, here's what I want to know: is Martin Ansin gonna do Creature From The Black Lagoon? I have been waiting literally for years.

EG: I will say that I would like to revisit, and see completed, Martin's Universal Monsters series. That is an open-ended book that I would like to close.

What's your favorite thing you guys are dropping this year?

JS (to Eric): You got a favorite? Because I do.

EG: Mine is probably Matthew Woodson's 2001: A Space Odyssey. We did this really beautiful black paper for printing on that one, and the Monolith itself is this knockout that shows the paper coming through. We found this really deep, rich black that would absorb all light with minimal reflection, and...I mean, just from a technical standpoint, I think it's one of the best posters we've ever done.

His Under The Skin was my favorite thing at MondoCon last year. Dude's become a MondoCon MVP.

JS: Yeah, he's become a superstar for MondoCon. But now getting something perfect out of him is expected, so he has to live up to this every year now (laughs). My favorite, I think, is Marc Aspinall's Goodfellas. It's a phenomenal poster. The concept's what originally attached me to it. It's the actual moment in the film where things turn. Everyone seems to think that moment is when you switch from young Henry to adult Henry, but I feel like the real turn in the film is where Karen realizes she in. That moment where she says, "I gotta admit, it turned me on", that's when everything changes. Not only is Karen accepting his lifestyle, she's embracing it, and the film starts to be told from her eyes at that point. I adore that moment, and the way (Marc) incorporate her testimony at the bottom so it looks like a billing block...I love it so much.

You've had a lot of success over the last few years branching out from posters - pins, vinyl, statues (that Preacher statue is killer, by the way), and now games. Anything new being added to the Mondo repetoire this year that you'd like to tease?

JS: Well, as you know, we've got three new games coming next year, we've got a ton of toys and collectibles. Brock (Otterbacher, Mondo's Creative Director of toys and collectibles) has so much on his plate, ready to come out, and I'm in love with some of the teases we've seen. Eric, you got anything?

EG: Just echoing what you said, I don't necessarily think any new ventures are on the horizon, but we'll definitely be expanding on what we currently have. Building on the board games is a big focus. On the poster front, we're seeking out new licenses - films and properties that we haven't touched on before. That Goodfellas we talked about? That's our first Goodfellas print. We want to keep diving deeper into Kubrick's filmography...getting to hit titles that are new for us is something I'm really excited about. Same with records, or even here with MondoCon: I'm really happy with how everything turned out, and I think we've expanded upon it in a way that's only gonna set us up for an even-better 2018.

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Thanks to Jay Shaw and Eric Garza for taking the time to speak with us! MondoCon was a blast this year, particularly in its new location (really, you cannot overstate the importance of wide aisles at these things), and we're pumped to see how Team Mondo builds on the experience for next year's MondoCon. Stay tuned for more coverage from MondoCon 4 as the week progresses.

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