MCM Expo Birmingham 2014.

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The Convention:

On the 23rd of March I attended the MCM Expo in Birmingham in hopes of redeeming the disappointment that I had experienced in the previous week at Emcon. As you can see from the image above I actually got in to this convention, especially as the convention itself was held at the NEC; which was incredibly relieving as I was unsure as to what the queue and lines would be like seeing as it is a fully established convention. As this was the first ‘big’ convention that I had been to, as I have only been to ones that were close to my own location I was really looking forward to attending something that has been fully established and even on par to the conventions that are in America. I was also eager to see how the experience of attending a convention like this due to my project implementation revolving around a ‘convention’ special of Geek Magazine, I felt that this calibre of convention would be better suited; especially as it they would be easily accessible to the publication’s reporting staff.

The Cosplay:

The convention itself had a great number of attractions, from stalls where you could buy comics and collectibles, gaming competitions and exclusive displays to autograph signings and panels with actors and comic book writers and artists who are deemed ‘geek legends’ ; and of course, who could forget cosplay! The Cosplay itself ranged from a variety of genres from video games, comics, films as well as anime and manga; which really showed the type of diversity that such conventions tend to have among fans. It was amazing to see just how intricate and accurate some of the cosplayers costumes were; whole time I kept questioning just how much time and effort they must have taken to create as I was truly amazed by how incredible some of the detailing was. There was even a Cosplay Parade which included a wide range of characters from Star Wars’ Imperial Gaurd, to Batman and Doctor Who; all of which were highly impressive as not only did they look screen accurate but they also embodied the characters as well.

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As Cosplay is really one of the main attractions at conventions such as MCM Expo, there was also a lot of coverage as well with many booths solely catering the Cosplay photo-shoots and even official photographers for MCM asking chosen cosplayers to pose for them. I was one of the lucky few cosplayers who actually got chosen to participate in such photo-shoots, while also being asked to partake in a ‘Cosplay Music Video’, of which should can be seen in the Youtube video below by Kean Tyrone Tagaro. It was exciting to see that my Cosplay was getting so much attention, especially as there were a few other cosplayers who had decided to portray this particular version of Lara Croft as well.  So I felt incredibly flattered and lucky to see that these photographers and other Cosplayers alike thought that mine was just as good and if not better; especially seeing as this is my first real Cosplay. The images below are actually with a Cosplayer who portrays a Borg from the Star Trek series of whom I have actually met a few times before but not in costume and it was amazing to think that he felt that my cosplay was of the same calibre as his, enough to be photographed with anyway. For the images below, I used my tripod in a less crowded space within the convention so that we wouldn’t be bothered nor be an inconvenience to others. I really like these two shots in particular mostly because we both look relaxed but very much portraying our characters by using poses that reflect their personalities; so you could say that we were very much paying homage to ‘true cosplay’. The second set of images are by Thrashdslr Photography who were one of the many photographers of whom I did a mini- photo-shoot with as well; I have linked their facebook page so that people may want to take a look at their other awesome Cosplay photography!

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I was also very much in luck as a few of the Cosplayers who I had been in contact with for the interview articles were attending the convention as well, which enabled me to organize a time to meet with them and put together a photo-shoot. I was surprised as the two that had told me they were going to be there had actually decided to Cosplay as completely different characters that they had mentioned in their interviews. However, despite this I couldn’t fault them on their costumes as they were probably the most accurate portrayals of their characters that I had ever seen; not to mention the craftsmanship that gone in to their costumes were beyond impressive and convincing enough to think that they were ‘film’ standard costumes. I have decided that I will keep them nameless in this post as I want to keep their identity from being revealed until the final product is produced, of which I have promised as I value their privacy. I also feel that keeps the idea of mystery to my final product, but I can say that the images in this post to include two of them.

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The Cosplay Masquerade:

As you will know, before the convention I had taken the plunge and entered myself in to the Cosplay Masquerade, which was to be a lot more competitive than the Cosplay Competition that I was supposed to enter at Emcon. A few days before the convention itself, I put together an audio track which included a song entitled ‘First Blood’ off the Tomb Raider Sountrack. Initially I was only going to actually use the song itself, but after reading the rules and regulations I realised that it needed to be much shorter and that I needed to supply a performance for the judges to see. As I wanted to stay true to the common idea of performing a skit in the masquerade, I brainstormed some ideas of how I could act out a scene in the very short time that I was given on stage which would only be a minute! With this being the case, I felt that it was far too short time-wise to act out an existing scene from the video game; I thought that it could be interesting to put together my own scene using the music and possibly some existing dialogue from the video game’s trailers. This is something that I drew inspiration from looking and researching a lot of existing Cosplay Masquerade skits, in particular one my Cosplayer Holly Conrad, who showcased her costumes by performing a skit from the video game Mass Effect which you can see in the video below.

With the video shown above, Cosplayer Holly Conrad put together this skit using dialogue from the video game along with the official soundtrack. I was amazed by how fluid the performance was, especially in the short time that she had been given to perform as well; and so I was heavily influenced and wanted to recreate something which was of the same idea. For this, I downloaded the program Audacity and put opened up my song of choice in and cut it down to the segments within the song that I felt were most poignant and memorable while also capturing the emotional aspect of the scene where Lara kills for the first time. As this was to depict the moment where Lara makes her first kill, I added dialogue from two Tomb Raider trailers that were released a few months before the game of which I felt showed the same amount of emotion that the scene I cosplaying her as did as well. Once this was done, I then practiced the performance with the props that I had made so that I could see how much movement I was able to do while in costume on the day. The photographs before are of me rehearsing of which I used a tripod so that I could photograph myself without any trouble.

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On the day of the convention itself, before the masquerade I was judged individually by the judges who would later be seeing my performance. The idea behind being judged on our costumes beforehand was to enable the judges to see up close what our costumes were made out of while also giving us a chance to explain how we creating them through initial design and ideas, along with describing the making process in detail. This was quite a nerve-wrecking moment for me, even before the actual performance as I had to remember all the processes that I went through in order to make the costume; however they seems impressed given that it was my first cosplay and so this gave me some confidence for the performance later on in the day.

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As you can see from the image above, the other cosplayers who were performing were of a very high standard. Which made me feel quite nervous even though I have done my fair share of acting, I have never done anything of this calibre where I have had to make a costume,  put together a skit and perform it in front of a majority of the conventions attendees before. Before I was to go on stage, I listened to the copy of the track that I had put together on my Ipod so that I wouldn’t miss any ques which contained speech that I had to mime or act out.

Above you can see my performance which again I filmed with my tripod already in the audience which was looked after my a friend that had gone with me. I was incredibly nervous about the performance and it felt like a very surreal situation that I had found myself in, which meant that it was really over before I knew it. Looking back at this performance, I really feel as though the nerves got the better of me a little and I felt that I could do a lot better than I actually did. It is something that I have to remind myself that it really is my first ever Cosplay and so I must cut myself a little bit of slack at least. However, the experience as a whole really has educated me in to just how much time and effort goes in to competitive Cosplay; along with the realization that it takes a lot of courage to go up on stage and perform as a character that you have such an appreciation for as a fan that you can’t help yourself but want to ‘become’ that character.

As you can tell I didn’t win the masquerade, although I feel that this experience has been incredibly worthwhile and something that I personally would like to do again so that I can hone my skills. Journalistically it has been a real eye-opener in to what this type of fandom is like, and I am sure that at the Wales Comic Con at the end of April I will be able to feel more comfortable in partaking in this sub-culture for the Geek Magazine readers and audience.

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