Equilibrium – Props and Cosplay with Michael
Michael made his first prop when he was 10 years old, it was a ‘Gunblade’ from ‘Final Fantasy 8’.
From there, he followed his dreams and has worked in the West End several times on productions such as ‘Midsummer Night’s Dream’ and ‘Flarepath.’ He is currently a member of Central Speech and Drama School and I’ve been privileged enough to work with him in a couple productions including the West End’s performance of ‘Run Rabbit Run.’ One great attribute of Michael is his ability to innovate, creating a post box for the letter’s days before we were due to act out our war scene.
Any career within the theatrical profession is difficult and requires a lot of dedication. Not to mention luck and patience. Everyone must find a starting point and use that as a platform to push themselves to the next level.
“I got into my industry from being an actor. One day, my group had a script given to us that I personally didn’t like, so I asked my tutor at the time what my other options were. They told me that I could either do lighting and sound, or I could design and build a set. I decided to design the set as it used my carpentry skills and I found it so much fun that I continued down the path of a technician ever since”.
As many within the profession say ‘you are only as good as your last job’.
“My passion for the theatre has allowed me to gain a lot of experience and knowledge in these few years, I have spoken to many different professionals and have worked with a few of them. I have been to a few different theatres and have worked there either as a professional or as a work experience student. I have pushed to gain more knowledge and so I now have experience in all areas of the theatre world. Through this, I have found many similarities to Cosplay, such as with the costume, props and acting used in both theatre and Cosplay”.
Michael found Cosplay in the same manner as myself, combining his sscenic construction knowledge and passions to re-create and experience his favourite characters. With Cosplay, the stage leaps out of it’s conventions, allowing Michael to experience the characters instead of creating an immersive world for them during his set building. With Cosplay, the floor becomes the stage. The character’s live, breathe and move in a promenade performance known as ‘The Convention’.
“I’ve had a passion for anime and gaming of as long as I have had for carpentry and theatre. When I found out about Cosplay, I was very excited as it combined both of my favourite worlds together”.
There are similarities with Cosplay and Prop building but key differences that also need to be taken note of.
“Props for Cosplay need to be a lot safer then props made for the stage, as you will most likely be very close to other members of the public. So for this, I would start off by looking into getting materials such as Styrofoam, as it is easy to carve and very safe. Of course, you can use other materials such as cardboard, plastic, etc. However, the first thing you need to do is know what you want to make and how it is going to be used. That will determine what sort of material you will need. Also, you will need tools. These can be brand new, top of the range tools…or they can be just what you have laying around such as a normal knife for carving the foam”.
Checking the prop specification rules for each convention you’re planning to attend is also a must. The general rule of thumb is if you were to hit some one with it, the prop must break first. You will also want to research into peace bonding your weapon (preventing it from being drawn out of a scabbard), tipping, painting guns and height restrictions. Conventions usually do not allow wood, weapons that are too realistic or weapons that measure longer than 1.6m (5.2ft). Conventions like Martial Art’s Expo have a much more relaxed policy. The rulesets themselves are there due to venue restrictions and the external security staff, as opposed to the Cosplay organizers, but when in doubt get in contact with them and they should be able to help.
Material’s for these props are always worth experimenting with. Many prop makers have a specialization in one particular material, whereas others like to expand their skills and practice with several.
“Sourcing materials is a long and laborious task, but you will get back what you put in. Spend the time looking and you’ll find some cheap places to get what you want. For good advice speak to the people you find the materials with, they might be able to point you in a better direction or give you a discount”.
By networking and creating connections for things like your materials, you’ll start to establish your own work base. This is also very useful for launching a portfolio, then a career either commissioning Cosplay weaponry or as a professional prop maker.
“YouTube is a wonderful site, with loads of ‘How-To’ videos, but they don’t have everything. Using books that are designed for prop makers is the best thing to use, as it has everything you’ll need. Also, if you have more, you can then have different ways of creating the same piece. This means you can find out which is better for you and what you are planning”.
Ideastap is an amazing resource for both jobs and projects within theatre. Besides opportunities there, are ways to get funding for your own projects! Check this every day if you can!
The Old Vic Theatre supports a lot of community projects and new talent. It’s always worth a look to see if you can get involved or trace back any leads from ideastap.
Theatres in bigger area’s usually have a minimum of one or two actors from a drama school, like Central Speech and Drama, or they have creatives with extensive backgrounds in the industry. Your local theatre is the best place to start. Always be pro-active, ask questions and follow up any leads given to you. The more you reach out the more opportunities will come your way!