Listen to the Podcast Here
Most of us spent our childhood looking up to superheroes, reading comic books, consuming movies and every bit of pop culture out there. Some continue to hold on to that child-like wonderment as fans, attending comic cons and fan conventions. If you are interested in this world and would like to know what it takes to build and grow a large convention with hundreds of thousands of attendees, then you are in for a show! In this episode, Dan Clark sits down with Dan Farr, husband, father, entrepreneur, creator, and producer of FanX—Utah’s largest fan convention. He shares his life filled with child-like wonderment and climb to the top of the celebrity fan experience. With stories from bringing out Stan Lee to the event to working to make the fan experience first, this conversation is not to be missed! Join both Dans as they take us through what goes into an event of a lifetime! Pop culture fans unite!
Dan Farr Shares How His Child-Like Wonderment Helped Him Create A Top Celebrity Fan Experience
In this episode, Dan Farr is a husband, father, entrepreneur, imagineer, Creator, and Producer of FanX. A world-class pop culture phenomenon that brings 100,000 people together in a 3-day Mega Comic-Con style experience with celebrity guests panels that have included Buzz Aldrin, William Shatner, Lou Ferrigno, NSYNC, and the cast of Cobra Kai, autograph signings, pro ops, gaming competitions, photo ops, cosplay contest, kid con, and the film festival. In this episode, Dan shared his life filled with childlike wonderment and climbed to the top of the celebrity fan experience giving us an inside glimpse into the difference between ROI, Return On Investment, and ROE, Return On Experience.
This interview is going to be one of the most igniting, if that’s even a word, and interesting interviews I have ever conducted because Dan Farr is not only a serial entrepreneur but he’s got to be one of the most creative and fun-loving human beings on the planet. Especially if it’s true that when we love what we do, we never work a day in our life, I’m reminded of being on a panel. I was a panelist at the Maui Writers convention in Hawaii.
It’s a great honor as an author. I was on the panel. I was on the program with Steven Spielberg and Matt Damon’s mother. What an extraordinary experience. They opened it up to questions and answers. The first question asked of Steven Spielberg was, “With so many hundreds and thousands of manuscripts sent to you, how do you decide which movies you are going to make?” He replied, “I only make movies that I want to see.”
I immediately think of my friend Dan Farr on what he has been able to create based on what he would want to attend at a conference, what people he would want to meet, and what superstar celebrities and heroes he would want to interact with. To make that a reality, what did he do? He created Utah’s largest convention, with about 100,000 attendees coming every single year. It’s called FanX. Please welcome to my program the Founder, the Creator, and the idea guy of FanX, Dan Farr, welcome.
Dan, I have to say I feel that you’ve set a high standard for me to have to live up to on this show here. I appreciate what you are saying and when you mentioned that when you do something that you love, you don’t have to work a day in your life. I have to say I do not feel like I work for a living. There are times when it’s stressful. When you have a business, you work for your own business. People say, “I want to have my own business.” It’s like, “I’m sorry the business owns you still. You may not have a boss but still, the business owns you,” but I love it.
This brings up a very interesting point. When I interview entrepreneurs, and I’m invited to speak at entrepreneur schools across the country, what you say is most people think, “I want to be an entrepreneur so that I can work for myself.” They end up being shackled and married to their business, which could be disastrous.
They work longer hours working for themselves. They have less flexibility many times than if they were to go and get a regular job. I have had people ask me that. What I’ve done is get into classrooms and things that talk about my career. It’s like, “I want to own my own business so I can be flexible and work for myself as well.” There’s more to it than that.
Fundamentally, in the world of entrepreneurship, we have to realize that you don’t exchange time for money. You exchange ideas for money. In reality, there’s no such thing as a financial crisis. Only an idea crisis. Ideas create income. The title of this show is Power Players, how we can ignite the power within us so that we can also do and think and have the success that Dan Farr and the rest of the champions in the world enjoy. Let’s get right back to where it began. As a young man, how did you decide that you were fascinated or when did you decide you were fascinated by comic books, superheroes, and everything that drove you to come up with this FanX idea?
I’ve always enjoyed pop culture. I watched the Star Wars movies. I remember growing up with the Incredible Hulk and Hercules. Any of the series, TV shows or movies that were a superhero or pop culture driven. I loved them. I’ve always enjoyed that but would never put myself in the category of a super fan. To me, the super fan or the fanboy, fangirl category is somebody that goes out and buys that T-shirt for that fandom that they follow. That dividing line of somebody that enjoys it when they see it versus somebody like, “I need to get this T-shirt or this Funko Pop.” I’m not addicted to Funko Pop but when I was a kid, those types of things were collectibles.
I was not into that. My wife was into that. Many years ago, she set up a Star Wars Christmas tree in our house. I’m like, “Why are we doing that? I like Star Wars but a Christmas tree?” She started getting some collectibles of things, and I didn’t grasp it until I started attending as a vendor for my last business, which was Daz 3D. We started vending at these comic book conventions. When I went there as a vendor, I was blown away by the energy that was there. You could feel it in the room. You didn’t have to be there for a specific purpose.
You can be there and feel the excitement that the people attending the shows were feeling. I would talk to my wife. I talked to other people and worked with it at the time like, “Why don’t we have something like that here in Utah?” We looked into it. We saw that there were a few smaller events that were happening but there was nothing that had that level of energy and excitement. It’s a small portion of it but it didn’t have the full picture of what the event was. I was transitioning out of my last business.
What was that? To clarify, what did you do?
DAZ 3D. I was one of the Founders there. We did 3D software for digital figures that people would use to create art and animation. That’s where we pulled into the comic book portion of it because we have comic book artists that would use our software to help them in illustrating comic books. That was the tie to the show, and we had moderate success there. For me, going to those shows was more successful in hearing what the customers were saying in real-time to get a chance to present the software and the 3D models and see what the sales pitch is, “What does it take to get somebody converted?”
I went there for the purpose of learning the version process. When we go to these shows, we pay for ourselves being there but it wasn’t an online business, which was 99% of the revenue that came in. This was more of an experience to see how people are reacting to the software. I attended those shows at vendors for a few years.
In that process, I got to know some of the celebrities over there and also some of the celebrity managers that would be booking the celebrities at different conventions. In the process, I had talked to another group like, “Why don’t you bring a show to Utah?” They said, “We looked into Salt Lake. In fact, we flew out there and checked it out. I don’t feel like it’s the right place yet. There are some other cities that we feel are more important for us to be in than Salt Lake.” As I transitioned away from DAZ 3D, I thought, “I want to do it. I want to start one here.” I started attending a few other shows to gather the information. I started talking to the managers and the people to get the talent there.
The celebrities became the hub of what the event was. My business partner at the time, Bryan Brandenburg, I brought him in to do the marketing and eventually made him a partner of the business. He and I attended a show in Portland. It was their first year of the show, and we saw that excitement but we knew what happened when you walked into the energy, you think, “If more people knew about this, this could be so much bigger.” That was the first-year show in Portland that had about 15,000 attendees. We were shooting our target of 10,000 to 15,000 people.
Over how many days?
Over three days, we are looking at 10,000 to 15,000 individual people. Some people may probably come in 2 or 3 days. Anyway, we were thinking we were going to do it at the South Towne Convention Center. It’s Mountain America Center now. We had on a reserve one hall. They have five halls there that you can reserve, their 45,000 square feet per hall. We have one hall reserved and an option on the second one. We started announcing that we were going to do the event then we put tickets on sale. People started buying tickets right away.
When you do something you love, you don’t have to work a day in your life.
They were so excited about what was happening. We announced our first 4 or 5 guests. The excitement on social media started building up, and tickets were selling. We are like, “Let’s go ahead and take that second hall. We also had vendors coming in that people wanting to fill the space.” We decided, “Let’s do the third hall.”
Way before you even opened the doors.
Our first event was September 5th, 2021, and this was back in April, May, and June, right around that time after we announced some of the guests. We got to the point we had maybe 8 or 10 guests lined up. One of the managers we were working with managed William Shatner. At first, we are thinking, “Let’s not bring him in. He’s going to be a little too costly for us for this first show. Let’s be a little more cautious.” We decided to hold off until we got to July 2021. We thought, “We have enough people coming to the show,” because we’ve probably had 4,000 tickets sold at that time and knowing how it builds up and it’s getting closer to the event and hearing the what other convention had seen.
We are thinking, “We are going to get to the 10,000 or 15,000 number.” We announced him, and within a couple of weeks, we went from 4,000 tickets sold up to 8,000, 9,000, and 10,000 tickets sold like, “This is great.” We are already at our bottom in July 2021 of what we were anticipating. We expanded. We were at the point where we had 4 of the 5 halls. There was another group in the fifth hall. We talked to the company that manages the Salt Palace Downtown too. Originally, we wanted to be downtown but it’s not usually the community-based conventions that end up at the South Towne or the Mountain America Center.
We talked to him and said, “What if we went down there?” One other thing that happens in Salt Lake in Downtown Convention Center Salt Palace is they have a lot more exit doors. Basically, you can put more people on the floor at the same time whereas, at South Towne, we are thinking, “We can’t have 20,000 people here or 25,000. That’s going to be too many people at one time.” We ended up moving it Downtown to Salt Lake. When we did that, it became another inflection point. We had our first inflection point announcing the band, then announcing guests, and announcing William Shatner, and then announcing, “We are so big. We are getting so much interest in this that we must move it downtown.” That momentum kept moving forward.
We got to the point where we are getting up to the week of the event. We had about 20,000 tickets sold at that time. We are like, “This thing’s still growing.” I had been working for months to try to get into Stan Lee. People know who he is. He’s the Creator of Marvel Comics and Spider-Man. He is the godfather of this whole industry. I have been trying to get him in. He had booked himself or his manager booked him into another show. For one reason, they had to cancel that show. He was still sitting open. I was still pinging the manager and saying, “You need to do this.” I sent a message that, “We’ve got 20,000 tickets sold. You should bring Stan out.” At the same time, Lou Ferrigno was going to come out and do some press for us.
Your childhood hero.
It was fun. I’ve met Lou at some of the other shows. I was working with him directly, and he was going to come out on Tuesday of our event and do some press. He said, “Monday I have to go to Venice. I’m going to get a Lifetime Achievement Award given to me by Stan Lee.” I said, “Lou, you are going to see Stan? Tell him he’s got to come to the show.”
Hop on the same private jet and fly him.
That’s the thing is. Lou talked to him, encouraged him, and twisted his arm. The fact that we had the 20,000 tickets sold, all that came together. On Tuesday, when our show was starting on Thursday, we got word that Stan Lee was going to join us. We talked about the crescendo of like, “How did this come together?” We could not have planned it better. He came in on Saturday and was going to get on Saturday at 1:00. We didn’t even have it for a full day but we had him coming in for a partial day. The Governor picked him up at the airport, and that set the stage. When he came to our show, he was busy as I have ever seen him.
I had seen him at a lot of other conventions. I got to talk to him there but he was so busy that he or his manager wasn’t going to have him take time to do the panel because the celebrities, generally will do a panel. We had 3,500 people waiting in the panel room. Our panel rooms were smaller at that time. Now, they are 5,000 but we have 3,000 or 3,500 people chatting and anxious. I had somebody come up to me and say, “Dan, you’ve got to get Stan in this room. The fans are going nuts, and they need to see him.” The manager won’t let him go. I went over to the manager and said, “These fans in the room that need to see Stan. I know that he’s here and busy.”
The manager said, “Look at all these people. I don’t want to leave these people here.” I said, “What can we do?” He said, “We will get him in there for twenty minutes.” We walk into that room, and the manager gets up. He looks at the room and sees the excitement and the size of the crowd that was there. He turns back to me and goes, “Can you believe this? This is craziness.”
His eyes got giant. He pulls out his cell phone and starts recording the audience. He goes, “I can’t believe this. This is the craziest thing.” Stan goes up on stage. He was blown away by the excitement, the energy. It was the way everything came together. They loved it. They got their opportunity. We could not have planned the way everything came together with the way it did.
Let’s regurgitate. As we established earlier, there’s no such thing as a financial crisis. Only an idea of crisis ideas and create income. Your idea was magnificent. It was as big as it ended up being, even though you might not have known that. Your dream, your idea started off big, not small, ladies and gentlemen. We have to think big.
Number two, in my experience working with entrepreneurs, there are three phases of every enterprise. The pioneering stage, how you start it, what’s the idea, how to get to go on the momentum stage, and the restructuring stage. I used to think they were mutually exclusive. Now, we all know that they are simultaneous events back to your explanation of what happened at the South Towne Expo. One hall than the second hall, which means in the entrepreneurial world, we have to have flexibility. We have to understand that under pressure, you don’t rise to the occasion. You fall to the level of your training, which begins with your mind and attitude.
The third thing that you reminded me about is something that I love to quote from Dr. Jim Rohn, “We become the average of the five people we associate with the most.” This means we must be willing to pay any price and travel any distance to associate with extraordinary human beings. I quote that all the time in this show. Your idea doesn’t have to appeal to everybody but I did. To Galvanize everyone together is the lesson that all of us need to learn. Find our tribe. Find our peers.
The purpose of a leader is to grow more leaders who believe what you believe. Not generate more followers on, and look what you did. By inviting celebrities who believed what the fans believed and fans who believed what the celebrities believed. You, as the captain of the ship, were able to put them all on the same boat and sail on this huge sea of Comic-Con, of FanX, of this extraordinary experience of people who think differently than most people. In other words, they fantasize, which is not a bad word.
It means that they live their lives in childlike wonderment with curiosity, which is probably the greatest quality that any leader, entrepreneur, parent, any friend could have so that we don’t look at each other for what we are but for what we have the power to become. You think about William Shatner. What year was that when you first brought him in?
It was 2013.
He’s now gone into orbit and been able to validate what all of these Comic-Con FanX fans and attendees and ticket buyers talked about in a fantasy world way back in 2013, and now it’s reality.
You’ve talked about surrounding yourself with the right people. It was amazing how the right components came together. I had a lot of people reach out to me and would say, “I do this thing. I’m familiar with this.” We bring them in, and they excel. They did such a great job. The staff that worked together on that first event, there were so many hiccups in that first shot. We were coming at this and saying, “We’ve done these 12 times, 20 times before. This is our first time.” We did partner with Utah Media Group, and they had done events.
They were our anchor as far as how you bring vendors in, how do you set them up and design booths or whatever. They took care of all that. They helped with the ticketing and the mechanical items but there were so many other components that needed to be pulled together. What happens in the panel rooms? We had people come in and put together the panel rooms.
For example, Chris Provost, who’s our emcee at the event, he came in on the very first event. I didn’t know who Chris was but somebody on our team reached out to him and brought him in. He made him the emcee. Chris has just grown. He’s got a big following on the Disney YouTube channel now. His growth in this has been fun to see, go along with ours. It started on day one when he was there. I had no idea who he was. I had never seen him before that event. He’s become a celebrity at our event. When people see him, they get excited.
It’s because he believed in the cause that you believed in, which the fans believed in. From an entrepreneurial business perspective, maybe would you suggest that if you believe in an idea, don’t bounce it off of the naysayers. The people who tell you, “That’s a bad idea or I don’t think it will work.” You go to people who believe what you believe because you said that you had this team of people who had not done it before but because they believed in it and focused on the same destination, they figured it out.
They did, and that’s correct. I did have enough people that would say, “I don’t know. I don’t see that happening. Ten thousand people out, that’s going to be a challenge. I don’t know how you can do it.” We ended up with around 70,000 people when all was done. We had a 2 to 4-hour line to get in, which, as a promoter, I should look at that and say, “That’s a good symbol of popularity.” It made me sick to think that there were people out in the line waiting to get in and experience that event, and we couldn’t get them in the door fast enough. That’s the biggest challenge but it was amazing. People had a great time. We have seen the path to 12 to 15 other shows since then.
Questions that everybody would want to know. It’s not Comic-Con. You started with that concept, idea, and experience of energy but you created and founded FanX. For those who don’t know Dan Farr, he makes it about the fan experience first. When we start talking about entrepreneurship and businesses as a professional speaker, I always relate to what gets in the way. Too many times, I get together with fellow professional speakers and will say, “Wednesday, my audience loves me but Friday, they sucked.” As if it was about them instead of about the audience.
As I teach public speaking, I always remind my students, “Seek to bless, not impress.” If people leave my speech impressed with me, then I blew it but if they leave impressed with themselves with a different mindset and heart set and different recalibrated energy, then I’ve nailed it. If you are nervous before you speak, that means you think it’s about you. If you are excited before you speak, it means it’s about the audience. FanX is more than a brand. It is more than just a title that reflects your personality.
Also, it’s a mission statement.
What can we do to make this a fan experience? Remember, everybody is talking about ROI, Return On Investment. Dan Farr, as I’ve looked into your past and got to know you socially, you are about ROE, Return On Experience. Now the question, what can a ticket buyer expect over a three-day experience as you help them make memories that last a lifetime?
The key is to believe in yourself that you can do something big.
We’ve continued to add a lot to it but from the beginning, we have had the panel rooms. People would have discussions on Star Wars or Star Trek or Star Wars versus Star Trek or whatever. There are a lot of things in the breakout rooms that we had leading in the breakout rooms. The largest panels are the ones that are the celebrities that are talking themselves.
For example, when Lou Ferrigno came to our first event, I mentioned how people were excited about Stan Lee. Lou had told me, “I probably need a room that holds 500 people,” but we put them in a 3,500-seat room and filled it. That’s a good portion of what happens there. We have a lot of vendors that come in from all over the country. Sometimes other parts of the world bring very unique pop culture-related products.
Obviously, T-shirts. We talked about T-shirts early on, and that, to me, is the tipping point of a fan versus somebody that may be as passively interested but collectible items, Funko Pops or a lot of creative artworks. We have a whole artist alley. Many of them are comic book artists, so we do bring in a lot of the artists who illustrate the books.
There is a whole line of celebrities in amongst themselves. You got the on-camera celebrities or the voice actors’ celebrities but the comic book artists and creators are also celebrities. People will bring their comic books to have them signed by the artists. The illustrator or the writer that wrote them. We had a lot of that there, and the artist alley is the creativity in that area.
As I mentioned about the creativity or the, let’s say, the energy that drew me into it was that creativity that was prevalent in these events. We have that and the veterans. Also, with the comic book vendors and basically anything that’s pop culture related. A very unique thing. Some people might do prints Edgemont side of crystal-like. We had people that would do 3D scans and take your scan and put it in the crystal.
Instead of this pigeonholing FanX into comic books and comics, when you start talking about Star Trek and Star Wars, how would you define the celebrity-based, the fan-base? Is anything that’s science-fiction, anything that gets our curiosity, our imagination fired up again?
That is the core of it. The Sci-Fi, the fantasy, the imagination, it really is. To me, people would ask, “Why is Utah such a successful show? What is it about the people here that make the show so successful?” I say, “It’s imagination that people have, and imagination Utah leads the nation in many categories with pop culture fandom.” Including a lot of fantasy writers and readers. Many of them are here in the State of Utah. It is something we love.
The very first interactive video game, dragons or whatever it was called. It was created and produced right here in Salt Lake City by a couple of animators. How cool was that to see? Would you have animated films as part of FanX, such as Moana? There’s a Utah kid who graduated in animation from BYU. I know his parents. I know him so well. With his Polynesian background and artistic expertise, he was not just an animator on Disney’s Moana but he gave some input on the script and the character of Maui. What a great legacy for him to work at Disney in California. For example, are there films or categories that you would represent at FanX?
Games and animations as well. We have had like the University of Utah has a solid games department. They’ve done some stuff with us at the events. They’ve done some panels, and sometimes they have a booth. As far as animation, we do get a lot of voice actors at the show. The voices for the characters, last time we had Winnie the Pooh. Jim Cummings has been the voice of Winnie the Pooh for several years. He’s a fun person.
Jess Harnell is one of our regular guests. We bring him back because there’s a panel that Jess will do with some of the other voice actors. It’s called Twisted Toonz. Basically, they will read a script. Picture Star Wars and imagine Darth Vader. It’s voiced by Winnie the Pooh. They are reading the script. You get to hear these characters with their game characters or movie characters. Sometimes they do impressionists. You are going to have Elvis and Christopher Walken, that will be a character at some point in the script. They change it up. They will do one scene and have it this way, then get the next scene, then change it up. It has been one of our most popular panels.
I’m like a little kid. I’m going to attend that party. For the benefit of those of us who are inspired by the lives of celebrities. Those who are the real deal. The same off stage as they are on stage. The same off screens as they are onscreen. Who are some of your favorite celebrities that you have had since 2013?
There are some great ones. I mentioned Jess Harnell because he came to our first event in 2014.
Tell everybody what voices he does.
By name, you wouldn’t necessarily know but he’s done Wakko in the Animaniacs. He’s the announcer on America’s Funniest Home Videos but his list of cartoon voices, like in the Little Mermaid where the seagulls are going, “Mine,” all the different voices. That was his. They came to him and said, “Jess, I want you to say mine like a bunch of different ways.” He’s like, “Why am I doing this?” They are supposed to seize the movie. That’s where they ended up using it. If you go to Disneyland Splash Mountain, all the Brer Rabbit and all those voices, that’s Jess.
One guy. Can you imagine it sitting down, having a cup of coffee or some scrambled eggs with this guy? You never know who you are talking to.
With Jess, he has been one of our best ones. From the very get-go, the first show, a lot of great people but one person that stood out was Henry Winkler. He was so nice to the fact that I had so many people after the show that told me how wonderful Henry was when they met him. He would have a line of attendees to meet him at his table, and he would talk to people for a minute, and sign an autograph, do his thing with them. He would take a minute and a break. He will walk out in the line and shake people’s hands and say, “Thank you for being here to see me. I will get to you in a minute but I know you are waiting here in line.” He would pay that attention to them.
He’s one of my favorites too. I would’ve followed my speaking career. One of my most iconic tear-jerking stories is about an experience I had with Henry Winkler. I will tell it to you offline but it’s awesome. Keep going.
Henry is amazing. We have had Manu Bennett. He was at our very first show. You would know from Spartacus and the Green Arrow. He’s Deathstroke of the Green Arrow or the Arrow series. He was also in the Hobbit as the Azog character and the big hell orc character. He was the voice and the motion capture for that character. He’s done a lot of things. What has been fun about Jess, Manu, and Daniel Logan, who’s Boba Fett from Star Wars, the young Boba Fett? They developed so many friends here in Utah. It’s not just us that run the convention. They have friends all over the state because they’ve almost adopted it as a second home. In fact, Daniel Logan, who does play Boba Fett, lived in Sandy for a while.
His wife got a job here. They lived out here for a few years. He’s a great friend of the convention or friend of so many people here in the Valley. A lot of the celebrities that have come in have developed their own connection with people individually. They want to take the time. When actor Ross Marquand from The Walking Dead has been to our show a couple of times, we will see him again for sure. He’s such a good friend. He will spend so much time talking to everybody in his line. His line stayed busy the whole convention.
Let’s interrupt again to teach people who are public figures, teach people who want to grow their business, and who want to be an influencer in a completely different way. You don’t have a few million followers but that’s the report card of you making a difference. What would you suggest that we do? What would you see behind the scenes that make 1 celebrity or 1 very successful entrepreneur stand out over another? You have been talking about personal connection. Can you talk to us and teach us about that?
There’s real and fake. People can generally sense when there’s a fake being thrown out of them. It’s being real. I will come back to Jess again. Jess knows people by name every time they come to him and see him in line. He will be back a year later and remember the names of the people that are coming to see him. Many of them. Obviously, he can’t remember everybody but I’ve seen him where he’s done a panel. Somebody stood in line to ask him a question. He goes, “Joe, I talked to him,” but basically, he’s the person he briefly met in line and told him a little bit about themselves then came to the panel.
He was like calling him by name and the people that were with him, remembering their names too. That’s impressive. Sam Jones has the same skillset. I went to dinner with Sam Jones in New Orleans. Sam Jones is the original Flash Gordon. We went into the restaurant, and he asked people’s names. He remembered him through the evening. At the end of the evening, he had some autographs stuff that he gave to people. He wanted to thank them for their service but remembered everybody’s names.
Taylor Swift, the way she kick-started her career and her dad from Swift, put up about $3 million on the inside scoop with how she started in Nashville with her song. Tim McGraw was on the charts for 57 weeks, which is unheard of because of the financial support. Why I bring this up is because Taylor Swift was so serious about individually responding to people’s emails and text messages. Even when she blew up, she filled stadiums, 20,000-seat stadiums, with young girls and their mothers, mostly. I would take my daughter, so that’s why I saw it.
I witnessed who knew the words to every one of her songs. In the merchandise world, she would sell out every single location. Every T-shirt, every hat was gone. She drove people to join her fan club based on what she said in between her songs. It was all predicated on her ability, desire, and commitment to connecting to every single fan in a personal way. We, in the audience, believe she was singing to us so that every girl believed that she wrote that song about their broken heart with her high school sweetheart or whatever.
This is nothing new but it’s unique to those who excel and you are the expert I witnessed on those who perfected it. That’s pretty sweet. As we start winding down our time together, Dan. What advice would you give to someone who has this huge idea as you have, “We can do this in Utah. We can bring this convention to Utah,” and believing that you could? I’m putting words in your mouth so that when you started to expand quickly in ticket sales, it wasn’t a surprise. It was, “This is as big as I thought it was going to be.” Give us some advice. Teach entrepreneurs. Teach people who want to go out on a limb and do something as huge and as big as you have.
The key is to believe in yourself that you can do something big. Many times, people won’t even try to attempt things because they think, “That’s too big.” Having that desire to do something bigger. Here’s the thing. Whatever makes you happy, if you are happy doing something that is very regular and you can count on it and have time to spend with your family and friends aside and your needs are met, then that’s where you need to be. It seems like there are a lot of people that write books. As an author, how many times do you run into somebody, “I have an idea for a book or I started a book. I’ve done this?” It’s 101 or 1,001 that would even publish it.
The first thing is he got finished the book but you got to believe that you can do it. Take the time. I did a Christmas book with Dick Van Dyke in 2005. We published it. People asked us, “How did you do that?” It’s like, “I believe I wanted to do it. It’s something I wanted to do, and I had the connection to Dick Van Dyke. He liked the 3D animation illustration that we did.”
Be patient but persistent.
It took many years to do it. It wasn’t something that happened overnight. It is something that we have built towards it for a long time. Be patient but persistent. The biggest thing is to believe that you can. Visualize yourself that you are doing whatever it is you believe you can do. Visualize yourself doing it and completing it.
When do you know that it’s a million-dollar idea? Is it based on the amount of resistance you get? How do you know that, “I can’t give up on this. This is going to blow up?”
One of the things that do help is you do need a vet idea. A lot of times, people come to me with an idea for something. I asked them the question, “Would you buy this product if it were on the market?” First of all, is that product on the market? First, search for it. Make sure because people have unique ideas but then would you buy it? “No, I wouldn’t buy it.” Why? Does that mean that other people are going to buy it or not? Do a lot of polling too.
You want to talk to a lot of people. Find out if there’s a need because, clearly, there are ideas that we may have for a product or something that we would never use. It doesn’t mean that that’s the only test for it but that’s the first test. You want to at least look at it and say, “Would you use it? Would you go out and seek this product to buy?” First, look and see if it’s there. Are you going to buy it if you see it? If you are not going to buy it, then it’s probably with the best.
It’s like the horrific story of Kodak nor the ones that invented the digital camera but they didn’t think there was a market for it. Now, they are bankrupt. They let somebody else steal the idea. You have a total of four events FanX around the country. The largest in Utah. Did I the numbers right? You had about 95,000 in 2019, and obviously, with COVID, we had to pack our bags and close the doors for a bit but tell us about what’s happening in the new influx of FanX?
In September 2021, we did have an equal turnout. Pretty much equal within a couple of thousand tickets that above what we saw in 2019. We did have a good turnout. People wore masks. We did spend over double our marketing budget to make sure that we were well-attended because we had heard numbers from other conventions around the country that they were seeing about a 30% drop in attendees.
Were you able to maintain a read around that 100,000 attendees for 3 days? It’s unbelievable. What are the other three cities that you take this to? How did you decide that? How did you vet that population that it would explode with that group of people who think like you think and believe what you believe?
In this case, we acquired a company that had started those shows. In fact, Tampa has been going even longer than Salt Lake. Indianapolis around the same time. Atlanta was a little newer show for them. They did run it for a couple of years. That’s one that was still building, although the market is fantastic. It still showed that needs to be built up.
The other shows had a good track record, and we still feel there’s potential to grow. The people that started were worn out and ready to try something different. We acquired that. My business partner now is Jeff Wright and Abby Wright. They came into the Salt Lake show, and we now are part of those shows together.
The last question, the show is called Power Players. If you had one hour to live, what would you say to the world? Tough question. Most people immediately want to say, “I wouldn’t work. I would go fishing with my child and do this.” I’m like, “No. What would you do if you had one hour to live?” What’s your message? What would you say that would help us understand the Dan Farr legacy of leadership and love that you’ve created that you want to leave behind?
I want to bring more happiness than disappointment. I want to help make other people happy. People would say at the convention, “You must be a huge fan.” I’m a fan of the fans. I lived vicariously through them. Who do you want to bring to the convention? I want to bring the guests that are going to create the most impact for the people there, and I can live vicariously through those people there. For me, I want always to be nice to people. I want to help bring a smile and put a smile on their face to be a good person in that way. That, to me, where I get the reward and the satisfaction that I’m doing something of value is how much it’s impacting others in a positive way with people’s lives.
We’ve all heard about writing a mission statement, a vision statement, and the company corporate world. We know that a mission and a vision statement basically define the business that we work in or work on in our organization. A purpose statement defines why and how we do it. Disney is so famous for its purpose statement. It simply says, “We create happiness in others.” I would suspect that they stole that from Dan Farr and not the other way around.
PT Barnum has said, “The most noble of causes is to bring happiness in other people,” or something along those lines that you probably know.
You do it, and that’s your reputation. That’s why it’s such an honor to have you on my show. How do people buy tickets? How do people spread the word that if you can imagine walking into an empty convention, all room space, massive, connected rooms, and feel that energy and being able to take that energy home with you? That’s an experience everybody needs to have, regardless. If you think you are a fan of comic books or of science fiction movies, you will be one when you leave. How do they find you? How can we support you?
That’s pretty simple, FanX.com, and the information is there. You can find us on social media too. Look up @FanX on Facebook or Instagram. I want to say that besides comic books and fantasy, we’ve brought in some singers. Some of our favorite guests have been Nick Carter from the Backstreet Boys. Joey Fatone from NSYNC. We’ve had wrestlers at the event. They have been popular. If it’s something that fits into pop culture, and there’s fandom, even Buzz Aldrin. We had him at one of our events.
We have lots to talk about off of the program, Big D. Being a Utah Native and thinking bigger than your town validates. It’s not the size of the dog in the fight that makes you. It’s the size of the fight in the dog. It’s not the size of the town. It’s the size of the dream, and you’ve inspired everyone across this world to think big and act bigger.
We appreciate you so much for having us here. Obviously, Dan Farr taught us well. Mentored us in what it takes for us to acknowledge our own personal power and deal with what he has been able to do in his life, creating happiness for everyone who needs it. Thanks.
Thank you. Glad to be here. Glad to have a chance to talk about something I love so much. Thank you for doing that.
- Daz 3D
- Utah Media Group
- YouTube – Provost Park Pass
- Twisted Toonz – YouTube
- @FanX – Facebook
- Instagram – FanX
About Dan Farr
Dan Farr is an entrepreneur, known for co-founding DAZ 3D, a 3D content and software company, and for founding FanX® Salt Lake Comic Convention.
DAZ 3D is a company that develops and publishes 3D digital content and software for creative professionals and hobbyists.
In 2005 Farr authored and created (along with his partner and team at DAZ 3D), an illustrated Christmas book entitled Mr. Finnegan’s Giving Chest using DAZ 3D’s products and featured actor Dick Van Dyke.
The book sold over 100k copies. Shortly after leaving DAZ 3D in the spring of 2012, Farr began planning FanX® Salt Lake Comic Convention, a comic book and pop culture convention. The inaugural event (Sept 2013) had approximately 70,000 attendees, which is the North American record for a first year of that type of event.
FanX® Salt Lake Comic Convention has continued to grow to having 80-100k attendees annually. Many of the celebrity guests who have attended the events can be quoted to say that the Salt Lake show is the best and their favorite to attend of any convention of its type.
In 2021, Dan Farr Productions and JWright Productions (Jeff and Abbey Wright) acquired Imaginarium Inc. which produced Comic and Pop Culture conventions in Tampa, Atlanta and Indianapolis, expanding their portfolio of successful events. Dan lives in Draper with his wife Stephanie and their 3 children.