Review: Surviving Supercon (2021)

Directed by Steven Shea. Starring (as themselves) Mike Broder, Sandy Martin, Dj Animated. Runtime: 1h 34 min. Released on November 9, 2021.

As I’ve enjoyed more and more documentaries over the past little while, the documentaries made for entertainment, or behind-the-scenes documentaries, are some of my favourites. That’s exactly the case with Surviving Supercon, from director and editor Steven Shea, which takes us on a behind-the-scenes look into the Florida Supercon. Founded by by husband-and-wife team Mike Broder and Sandy Martin, their event has grown to attract over 60,000 fans, and this documentary focuses on their 2018 Fort Lauderdale event.

The film opens with Sandy comparing the work behind a comic con to childbirth; if you remembered the pain, no way you would do it again. But of course, they start almost immediately after their last con is over. Sandy tells us about how her and Mike look over the madness they’ve created during every con. (We hear this story instead of seeing it, which would have been neat, but it’s a great sentiment all the same.)

Surviving Supercon is largely a behind-the-scenes look into everything that goes into one of their cons in the days leading up to it. We see everything they have to do to make it run smoothly, as well as all the fires they have to put out. If behind-the-scenes stuff is up your alley, this is definitely for you, as every passionate person behind this con has contagious energy.

The film candidly talks about obstacles, like the inexperienced security team, or the wrong metal detectors. It’s interesting to see how much can go wrong by some dimwitted mistakes, especially when these third parties at the venue or staffing agencies don’t share the same passion (Sandy calls it “obsession”) as Mike and Sandy. Their pairing is fun to watch on-screen, seeing how they balance each other out, as we learn that Sandy is very much a Type-A personality.

One of my favourite edits of the film is seeing Mike angrily driving on the lot during a stressful time, and it’s edited between him cussing at someone not paying attention in the parking lot. Then we see his interview, telling the director with a laugh, “I don’t have a temper, motherfucker.” Surviving Supercon is made up of many amusing moments like that one.

Comic con fans at the 2018 Florida Supercon. (Courtesy of Surviving Supercon.)

This film is also a general celebration of fandom and pop culture. It’s contagious watching these fans come out and enjoy everything, including the very fun scenes featuring their independent wrestling company, the FSC (Fantasy Super Cosplay Wrestling).

One aspect of the film that’s missing is actually hearing from the fans. Since this is a behind-the-scenes doc, it focuses on the staff a lot more, and while they are fans, to, we don’t hear from any paying visitors or their stories. We only get to see their great cosplay as they pose for the cameras in the doc’s B-roll, or their smiling faces as they rush into the event.

Perhaps the doc team took some interviews and they weren’t usable, but this feels like a blind spot for this film. This is especially when we hear staff talking about meeting lifelong friends at the con, and it would have been cool to have heard from paying fans who met lifelong friends here. When we only hear from those employed by Supercon, it unfortunately feels like a feature-length commercial at times.

Despite this flaw, Surviving Supercon is still a truly entertaining documentary giving us this behind-the-scenes insight. It’s also very much about that sentimental aspect of meeting lifelong friends at comic cons. I imagine for those who attend comic cons on the regular, this film will bring about many fond memories. And while I’ve never personally attended a comic con, Surviving Supercon is the kind-of contagiously fun film that gives you that extra push to go to one.

Score: 75/100

Surviving Supercon is available on VOD, Digital HD, Blu-Ray and DVD on November 9, 2021.

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