Growing up, I always stopped in the toy isle to look at the latest Star Wars toys. I'd lust after them and check them out in detail since I rarely was able to bring one home with me. Hours were spent playing with the toys I did have. Grand battles were fought on my bedroom floor and throughout my house.
I've been a part of the Verizon influencer program for several years and while getting to try out new phones and other technology is great, getting access to an experience like this is the coolest perk I've ever receieved.
To legally cover myself, know that they paid for all my travel expenses and access to the event. All they asked in return was that I shared my experience on my social channels.
Traveling around the world, I prefer to travel light and that was my goal for this trip.
My plan was to shoot mainly on my NX500 and use my S7 for posting. In addition to my every day carry items, my newly patched GR0 would be loaded up with battery packs since I had a feeling there wouldn't be any free plugs while I was out and about.
Thankfully, one thing I didn't have to worry about was paying a bunch of extra fees for posting while out of the country.
Verizon now has something called TravelPass that kicks in when you land in a country that is part of the program. When I powered up my phone upon landing, I receieved a text letting me know that a daily fee of $10 was all I had to pay to use my plan as I usually do. No more having to sign up for a global data plan before traveling is such a sigh of relief for travelers like myself.
Walking over to the event wearing a badge emblazoned with a Death Trooper and the words "Special Guest" had me exited for what may lie ahead.
Our morning began with a walk through of an exhibit showcasing the costumes of Rogue One by two of the producers of the film.
Each costume had a description of not only the character who would be wearing it, but also what the costume was made of.
As a fan, I could piece together a bit more about the story by looking at the costumes. During our tour, the two pieces of information that we were told that I took to heart were "there are no Jedi in Rogue One" and that the movie is "a father and daughter story."
All of the costumes were cool, but my favorite were the new Shore Troopers that sound as if they'll be playing an important role as they defend "the secret base" in the film.
Verizon filmed our tour, but I'm not sure where or when the footage will appear online. When it does, I'll be sure to update this post.
After the tour, we found ourselves on the Expo floor before they had opened the doors.
I took the time to take a quick spin around and see what was there before the crowds swarmed in.
My biggest take away was how many different levels of Star Wars fandom there are. People focus on specific types/brands of toys, original tattoos and building R2 units.
Who knew you could go to an event like this and leave with a new tattoo to go with your inflatable remote controlled Darth Vader?
The other take away I found myself pondering still today is the dedication to Cosplay.
I saw people of every race, age and gender dressed up as their favorite characters.
Women and men were dressed up and taking photos all around me. It was fun to see more dressed up little girls than little boys. It didn't matter what skin color was under the masks, people were united by their love of the Star Wars universe.
The first panel of the day was one with Luke Skywalker himself, Mark Hamill. Being more of a Han Solo guy growing up, this still had me excited to see. After he pretty much missed out on the last film completely, I was hoping that he'd share some nuggets of goodness with everyone in attendance.
We were escorted in the door early and shown to four seats in the center of the front row. After seeing photos online of people camping out over night to get into this panel, I had no idea we were going to be taken this care of.
It was 100% questions and answers with him.
When someone asked about any favorite lines from the forthcoming The Killing Joke movie, I had a feeling something magical might happen so I took out my phone and recorded his answer.
Once again the network impressed me as I filmed, uploaded and published directly from my phone while sitting in the session.
Nothing new or exciting was shared, but it was fun to see him in person.
We'd skip the line again and go to the official store for the event. Loved that they had someone hand making t-shirts to order there and I picked up a few things for the kids.
Walking around you couldn't help but giggle every so often at where you were. One second you'd have a wookie walk by you and the next you'd find yourself face to face with an AT-AT.
There was a family section and another for video games. Collectibles of every shape, size and variety were there for the purchase.
The marketer in me was impressed to see that Discover Ireland even had a booth set up with a replica of their famous stairs from The Force Awakens that fans could stand and get a photo on. Very smart!
— Discover Ireland (@GoToIrelandGB) July 14, 2016
Our last panel of the day was the one I was most excited about.
The Rogue One panel was scheduled to have the director of the film and some of the other crew involved on stage talking about the movie. My personal hope was that they'd also show a new trailer for the movie because I'm eager to check it out.
Upon once again being ushered in to our special seats, it was instantly apparent that something more was going on by the number of chairs on the stage.
Turns out that this panel was also going to include the main cast of the film too!
Hosted by Gwendoline Christie (of Game of Thrones and Star Wars fame), the panel had her chatting with each cast member about their characters and sharing what little they could about their roles.
It was a riot to watch them go to answer her question, look over at the director to check if it was ok to answer and then give a half answer so not to spoil the plot.
For the first stand alone Star Wars film ever made, they've assembled a great cast that is going to be fun to watch on screen. The sizzle reel they debuted highlighted that this is going to be grittier, while being familiar to all the Star Wars fans.
The highlight of watching this on the big screen was actually watching everyone on stage turn around, lay down on the stage and watch it themselves. Based on their reactions, I don't think they had seen it either.
It was also cool to witness the star of the film, Felicity Jones, being given her first Star Wars action figure!
The Rogue One cast is a refreshingly diverse group of talent. Star Wars has one a great job of making sure the galaxy far, far away isn't only populated by young, white, good looking males.
Emotions were high and the energy in the room vibrated through everyone as Kathleen Kennedy stayed on stage and asked if we'd like to see something more.
She asked for phones and cameras to be put away because no one else was going to be seeing this right away.
I'm sure everyone in the room was as pained as I was not to be able to share it, but they showed us a new Rogue One trailer.
I wasn't ready for the hairs to stand up or the emotions to get so hard from it, but they did.
Let's just say it ends with some very familiar breathing that had all 4,000 people lucky enough to witness it screaming with delight.
At the end of the day, as I sat down thinking about everything I had experienced I found myself getting extremely emotional. Young C.C. Chapman could have never imagined that some day he'd grow up and be able to take part in something like this. All the years of time and work has opened some down right amazing doors and for that I'm eternally grateful.
Thank you again to everyone behind the scenes who made this trip possible. I was very fortunate to have been asked to be part of it.
Oh and if you don't follow me on Snapchat yet, I downloaded my story from the day so you can watch how I shared my experience on that channel.
I keep looking at my new Rogue One poster and smiling.
Thinking back to everything I saw and did while in London and how thankful I am to be able to share it with all of you.
In addition to the photos in this post, you can view my entire Flickr album here.
I don't know what next brand sponsored adventure I'll be going on, but it is going to be hard to top this one. :)
Disclosure: As a member of a great group of Verizon influencers, I occasionally receive products to test drive and experiences to take part in so that I can share my honest thoughts on them. No additional compensation is provided, neither were any favorable comments promised. All opinions are my own.