Sunday, January 22, 2012

Real Limitations, and How to Overcome Them

As I muse over my most recent entry, it occurs to me that maybe among my impassioned views I left something out. Don't get me wrong, I am a firm believer that there is no excuse for limiting yourself because you're afraid you aren't up to the challenge, but that doesn't mean there aren't some limitations that are less within our control. I suppose I will therefore amend my statement “You can accomplish any project you put your mind to,” and instead I offer this: “With enough time and money, you can accomplish any project you put your mind to.”

I hate to bring up the “m” word, but it's true. Cosplay is an expensive hobby. First with the cost of materials: though you can be resourceful and use some less traditional supplies, things like fabric, wonderflex, craft foam, paint, and other stuff needed to construct a costume aren't always that cheap and tend to add up. Then there's the convention ticket/badge/membership/etc., which even if purchased ahead of time can run pretty steep. After that you need to consider transportation and lodging, and also food. When you think about it, a weekend at a convention can run easily over $200, and that's not counting your costume!

Note that I said these things “less within our control,” though. That doesn't mean they are completely out of our control. Careful planning (both in terms of time and money) can help a lot. Be choosey with what conventions you attend. Do you have to go to 5 conventions this year? Which ones are closest? I try to avoid anything I have to fly to, both for ease and cost, though usually I try to save my pennies and treat myself to Dragon*Con if I can manage.

Another idea: consider alternate options for lodging: do you have a friend that lives 15 minutes from the convention? Now, obviously staying at the hotel is the easiest option, but when money is tight it's not always the best. Also consider how many days you need a hotel room. Again, Thursday through Sunday is easiest, but do you really need a hotel room all Friday and/or Sunday? Then of course, as many of us already do, there's splitting the cost of a hotel room a few ways. Let me pause here to remind everyone that most hotels have a 4 person per room limit. Going over this limit puts you at risk for being kicked out of the hotel. Also, personally I have never slept comfortably in a hotel room of more than 5 people anyway, so I would discourage anything over that.

Back on course now, let's talk badges. Most conventions offer discounts if you buy early. Some even have a special deal valid only the last day of the con to buy next year's membership. There are also ways to get your badge comped or reimbursed: volunteering is the most common way, be it traditional volunteering to help run the event, special performances (like key roles in Anime Boston's CosPlot), event judging (though that is usually invite-only), or panels (check individual conventions for specific guidelines). Secondly, if you happen to write/report for a legitimate news source (blog, podcast, magazine, etc.) and you want to report on the convention you can apply for a press badge, which is usually discounted if not free – if you want to enter a contest, though, check with the convention to see if you are allowed to do so on a press badge. Some cons also offer group rates if you can get 10 or more people to register together.

So, those are some ways to save money and decrease your cost for attending cons, but I feel the elephant in the room needs to be addressed: the easiest way to help afford conventions is (if you don't have one already) to get a job. Now, this is a very personal issue that I won't go into great detail on because there is no right answer for any one person, but one idea that my be right for you is to start commissioning. If you trust your skills enough and are dedicated enough to make costumes for hire (something to be perfectly honest I cannot do) this is a great way to hone your skills and make a little extra cash. You can have stock options of what you're able to do, or negotiate each project as you're hired. You can make whole costumes, just wigs, just props, just accessories, you can have pre-made “on-the-shelf” items, you can do artwork. If you trust yourself to be motivated enough by the payoff, this is a great way to help fund your hobby, just be sure to research it somewhere or thorough someone who, unlike me, actually has commissioning experience.

Now, to move away from the money issue (I really did not mean to talk about it at such length!), lets talk about the other major real limitation: time. Of course, I argue this isn't necessarily as strict a limitation as we imagine it to be. If you want your next costume done by your next convention and you don't finish it is it really the end of the world? No. Is it a huge disappointment and might you loose steam to get it done after the event? Probably. That doesn't mean you still can't finish it for the future, though. But let's backtrack a little bit: while I refuse to let imagined level of skill hold me back when it comes to making a costume I do use it as a factor as to how much time I need to leave. My biggest projects, like Soopy-Kun and Suzaku-no-miko Miaka, I started working on 2 to 4 months before the convention. My current major (and secret) project was stared over 5 months before the convention. If you think something is going to be difficult for you and you want it done a certain time, give yourself a big head start. Honestly, the biggest factor in ornate, amazing, difficult-looking costumes is TIME. And yes, to a lesser (but still notable) extent money.

So, to sum up: yes, there are real limitations that may hinder you in this hobby, but, as I said in my last post, whatever you perceive as your skill level should NOT be one of them! If you want to cosplay something, be it seemingly easy or hard to make, as long as you allow enough time and money you can truly make anything.