This week I interviewed cosplayer and LARPer Andy Valentine aka Valentine Cosplay. Specialising in prop making and performing Andy has wowed us with his talent to truly become the chracter he is cosplaying; performing unique skits from swordfighting to stage monologues.
How did you get involved in the wonderful world of cosplay?
Actually, my friend suggested that the pair of us go, and being a lifetime member of the geek club, I jumped at the idea and couldn’t imagine not dressing up. Making that first outfit – a version of Ezio from Assassin’s Creed 2 – got me completely hooked on the many processes behind making costumes and props, and the amount of detail that you can go into, as well as learning to perform and accurately portray the character. I pretty much haven’t stopped building since then.
As well as cosplay you also LARP, do you have a preference?
They’re both very similar in a lot of ways, but also very different. I wouldn’t say that I necessarily prefer one over the other, but there are definitely elements of each that I prefer. Cosplay allows a lot more versatility as far as types of outfits, and you tend to be replicating someone else’s design, plus the emphasis is typically on the way something looks, rather than the durability. LARP on the other hand you tend to craft your own designs, and they have to be hard-wearing as well as pretty because you’ll be getting hit a lot, thus the thought process behind it alters.
Also, I love the immersion of LARP. I’m a big fan of being in character (something that I think I bring to cosplay a bit more than most people) and you can spend three or four days straight not breaking out of the person you’re portraying.
I really believe that cosplayers should try LARP, both for the experience and to help them realise it’s OK to get completely lost in a character.
Most will remember you for your skit at LFCC, what was the motivation behind this?
The thing about most open masquerade competitions is that it’s easy not to be memorable. Walking on to stage, holding three poses, and exiting the stage is all well and good, but if you do something more interesting, people are going to remember it. The LFCC skit where I re-enacted Vaas’ “definition of insanity” monologue was just the most obvious choice for that character. I’ll admit, getting off the stage and shouting at one of the judges inches from her face was a spur of the moment choice as I was completely in character and it felt like the right thing to do. People still talk about it now, so I guess it was the right choice.
What do you have lined up for us at this year’s London Anime Gaming Con?
I’m most excited for my new panel on “CosPLAY: Performing the Character and Method Cosplay”, in which I’m going to be talking about some of the methods I go about learning how to really ‘be’ a character. Also, I’ve coined this term “Method Cosplay” because I personally started to go down a very method actor path when I’m preparing for an event, and I’m going to be introducing that to people. Then there’s the usual Cosplay 101 and prop making panels that I’ll be on too.
As for cosplays, I’m hoping to dry run Prince Oberyn from Game of Thrones before LFCC the following week, and I’m super excited about debuting that cosplay given his recent popularity. Also, I’m going to be doing Sparky Polastri, the dance instructor from Bring It On, just because it’s pretty simple, but going to be good fun to play. Expect to hear “Prepare for total domination” blasting from my boombox whilst being accompanied by some pretty questionable dance moves.
Do you have any other big cosplay/prop plans?
I have a number of things in the works at the moment. I’m actually making all four of Prince Oberyn’s outfits (sun cloak, evening cloak, Joffery’s wedding cloak and armour), as well as my updated LARP armour at the moment. Once they’re done I’m starting on my biggest project to date, a 10ft tall G1 Starscream from Transformers, which I’m hoping to have done for either MCM or WLFCC towards the end of the year. My cosplay friend Spider-Trooper will be taking his 10ft G1 Optimus Prime to the same event, so we’re going to team up for some team cosplay awesomeness.
What do you find the most challenging part when making your costumes and props?
I’m a complete perfectionist, and I’m rarely pleased with what I produce. When I was working on the Fallout AER-9 Laser Rifle, I scrapped six versions of it before decided that the seventh iteration was up to standard. The other six still remain in a pile in my garden after I threw them out of the workshop window. I also get frustrated when I’m not able to do things as cleanly as I like. That said, it’s that level of detail which has got a lot of my stuff – props especially – noticed, so it pays off in the end.
Protip: when you’re learning prop-making, start by making items that need to look weathered. It allows you to cover your mistakes, and a lot of the time, adds to the effect.
Generally, if you look shy and timid it shows. If you close up with your head down and your arms crossed it means that the judges can’t see the whole of your outfit, and that’s always a shame. But if you breath heavily for a few seconds before stepping out and then throw everything that you have on stage for those 30 seconds, you’ll make a much bigger impact and be much more memorable. Remember, these things are judged on your showmanship as much as your craftsmanship. There’s no point in making one amazing and skimping on the other.
You recently entered the LSCC Cosplay Championships, what was this experience like?
To be honest, I treated it pretty much like every other competition I’ve ever entered. I made sure my outfit was to a standard I was happy with, I ensured I knew what I was doing with my performance (though I ended up freestyling all of the sword art in the end when the adrenaline hit), and just ensured I remained confident. I was pretty gutted not to get into the finals that time around, but I’ve learnt from my mistakes and will be making sure I improve going forward.
What was it like being judged by some of cosplays biggest names?
Again, I treated it no different to any other competition really. They’re just people with opinions at the end of the day. Sure, they probably knew what to look for more than most, but that’s all. I used to work in the film industry and met most of the big names in Hollywood so don’t really get “star struck” anymore. Sure, I respect people for the name they’ve managed to make for themselves in the cosplay arena, but to be honest I get so “in my own head” once I step on stage I didn’t even notice they were there.
Will you be competing again? (UK ECG Preliminaries at Hyper Japan are approaching!)
Yup, I sure will be, though probably not until next year. I want to up my game even further when it comes to performance in competitions, as such I want to take my time and make sure both the cosplay and the character are locked down tight and ready to compete with, rather than rushing to get something done for a specific date. As for what I’m going to enter with, you’ll just have to wait and see, but I have some pretty exciting ideas.
As someone who has guested at conventions and competed in cosplay contests, do you think it is harder for boys to get recognition in cosplay?
When it comes to number of followers on social media, unquestionably yes; but that’s a whole other discussion that I won’t get into now. On the convention floor though, not really. I get just as much attention as women at cons, if not more, but as I’ve said before a lot of that is down to the effort I put into the detail of my cosplays and how I portray them as I’m walking around.
To be honest, if the whole reason you’re doing cosplay is for the number of followers you can gain, you’re doing something wrong. It should be about having fun, spending time with like-minded people and expressing the love of a fandom. If I never gained another follower I’d be quite content, because I do what I do partially for me, and partially to try and pass on a few learning experiences to anyone who wants to listen and learn more about the art. After all, if we can all learn from one another then we all benefit and are all able to make cooler cosplays and props, which has to be a good thing.
Thank you for the great interview Andy! Keep updated with all of Andy’s antic on Twitter @valentineprops and on Facebook Valentine Cosplay