My Other Me: A Film About Cosplayers is out now on Xbox 360, PS3, CinemaNow, iTunes, VUDU, Blinkbox in the UK and various other digital distribution avenues. Check it out, you’ll be glad you did. The film not only takes a look at cosplay but the people who call it their own and the challenges they face day to day.
As long as we’ve had Dungeons & Dragons and comic books we’ve had outsider kids that loved them. Often picked on and shunned for their hobby these kids were often seen sitting alone at the school cafeteria probably nose deep in a graphic novel. Sure the stigma of comic books and video games has faded but those outsider kids haven’t gone away. Many of them have found a new outlet to express themselves and feel safe in what is called cosplay. For those of you thinking ‘What the hell is that?’ let me explain. From games, to comics, to cartoons, to anime there is a wealth of crazy and over the top characters just begging to be turned into costumes. Cosplayers love these characters more than most and from the simple to the elaborate make costumes that they wear to conventions and other events to show themselves off. My Other Me: A Film About Cosplayers focuses on this world and three young individuals in particular. I really want people to watch this film for themselves so I don’t want to give much away but I can say with certainty that watching these three people grow over a two year period is a riveting experience. You’ll find yourself cheering for them and ultimately you’ll see that this world of cosplay was absolutely vital to them getting past some of the various hurdles in their lives. Each character is compelling in their own way and I felt a crazy connection with them. The film created genuine emotion in me to see them succeed.
Growing up as both a gamer and a comic book lover I can certainly identify with what it means to be on the fringe of society. The lonely little nerd in the corner who would get poked fun at just because the things I enjoyed were out of the mainstream. Seeing as how massive video game entertainment and comics are now I must admit that I feel vindicated in some small way but I still remember those feelings of pain as I struggled through those days on my own. My point is that I can very much identify with kids going through the same struggles today. That’s why I was so excited to not only sit and watch this amazing documentary but be able to have a chat with director Josh Laner afterwards.
COG: So when you set forth to work on this project what inspired you to focus on cosplay of all things? Because no one else has done it yet.
JL: Right, it’s now being done, you see a lot of it being done in TV shows such as ‘Heroes of Cosplay’ but when we first started it wasn’t really being done aside from on an amateur level with people posting YouTube videos and such. I knew little to nothing going in but I’ve always played video games, D&D and such so I’ve always been on the fringe of society. I’ve known about cosplay but I never knew all that much about it. I was out walking my dog one day back in 2009 and I saw a bunch of people walk past me dressed as Mario, characters from Final Fantasy, characters I recognized. I decided to just follow them… I had no idea what was going on.
COG: Just decided to stalk them and see what was up then?
JL: Haha, yeah basically. I followed them and we ended up at the convention centre where Anime Evolution 2009 was going on and saw that they really enjoyed having their pictures taken. The thing that I noticed the most though was that more than anything else it was a social gathering. The outside of the convention centre was absolutely packed with cosplayers playing a game that is now known to me as the glomp circle. It’s kinda like spin the bottle where they kick this empty bottle into the middle of the circle and whoever it points towards they have to go and run and sort of tackle hug them. At points in the game there were multiple bottles being kicked into the circle and everyone was just running and hugging each other and honest to God I honestly thought, this is the first time or only time that some of these people get any kind of human affection.
COG: At this point you realized pretty much right away that some of these kids were those outsiders of society. They’re the kids who get picked on or ignored.
JL: Yeah, exactly and I identified so well with that. I can relate to them and I was so happy to see that there was this place where they could come together and be as weird and as crazy as they wanted and there were people there who were just like them. They could feel safe and not be called a freak and just let their hair down.
COG: Working through this project was there anything you took out of it that made you sit back and say ‘Wow, I’m really glad that I did this’?
JL: I really just loved seeing that human connection, seeing human beings connect with each other. I think it’s fantastic and no one should be alone or feel like a freak. This was their own avenue to feel loved and wanted.
COG: Obviously you see cosplay now making a bit more of a push into the mainstream. You’ve got people like Jessica Nigri getting famous for it. When you filmed this did you notice that push? Do you see this being taken away from all the freaks and geeks?
JL: I noticed it, there is definitely that mainstream creeping in but I don’t think it’ll ever be taken to that level where you’ll be able to take it away from these kids. Not mainstream enough to do what X-Games did for say extreme sports or anything but you’ll see a lot more normal people testing the waters with going to cosplay conventions.
COG: Over the course of filming you met hundreds of these kids and let’s face it they are labelled as these freaks of society. Did you find that they accepted this label or that they didn’t care? Fine call us what you want, this is who we are and if you don’t like it who cares?
JL: It’s about a 50/50 actually. There are some that just go out there and wave their freak flag high not caring who says what and there are others who I’ll say are a bit more reserved about their involvement. Not to say they’re ashamed but they’re not about to go boast that they’re a cosplayer.
COG: One thing I noticed watching this film was that not only the three people you focused on but on some of the other people you interacted with as well, it’s clear that a lot of them have serious issues and that cosplay for them is hands down a form of therapy for them. What’s your take on that?
JL: It really is. It helps them become more connected with their true selves or get that acceptance that they can’t seem to find anywhere else. We deal with mental issues a bit and gender reassignment surgery so the film goes much further than just showcasing freaks in costumes. There’s a much deeper meaning in all of this.
COG: So you’ve got this worldwide digital release here on October 15th. Are you excited? Nervous? What do you think the reception is going to be?
JL: I am nervous because I realize that not only regular people but cosplayers themselves who are going to see it will be the most critical. I mean one of the ways to make that connection with people is if they can see themselves in the people they’re watching and this clearly isn’t something every person can relate to. A lot of people hands down won’t identify but I think for the most part that the people who see it, or who have seen it for that matter, and know that it deals with transgender issues and homosexuality can see past the costumes to the more human side of what we’re putting out there. We’re showing the truest form of cosplay that most people have ever seen. Dressing up in costumes is a part of it for sure but not the only thing. I mean we get into addiction and family issues too. We’re putting it out there that there’s more to these people than cosplay and they have real lives with real problems and just because they’re not in costume doesn’t mean they’re not cosplayers. This is a huge facet in their lives.
COG: Finally, what do you hope people take away from this? Are you setting out to change people’s minds?
JL: I don’t know if we’re going to change people’s minds exactly but everyone has a time in their lives where perhaps they felt like they didn’t belong. I hope they can identify with that piece of themselves and take something away from the experience.
Feel free to check out more info on My Other Me on their fan page here: https://www.facebook.com/myothermemovie