It’s been a bit more than a hot minute, my apologies. I’ve returned to you with part two of my guide to Masquerades and how to actually win a thing! This portion focuses on the performance aspect of competitions.
Last time we talked about this as a step 1 but this applies to both craftsmanship & performance contests soooo here’s a recap:
Step 0: DA RULES!
- Pick your convention, then read up on their rules!
- Things to consider:
- What division you should compete in (Youth, Novice, Journeyman, Master)
- Craftsmanship only, Exhibition only, or combination
- What’s allowed (e.g. no Homestuck @ AB because it’s not anime, number of people, props, have to make everything yourself/not)
- Time limits per division/number of people
- Theme for the year (will occasionally get you some brownie points)
Step 1: The IDEA!
- Think about what you want to do
- Talk to partners in crime
- Challenge yourself! Look at what people in your division have done previously, and hold your skit to that standard or higher
- Start planning! (Best to start vague in case you aren’t accepted, especially with cons that quality screen skits)
Bad Idea, Good Idea
- Bad idea: using old memes, dance-offs, dance skits that are literally just carbon copies of K-pop videos with anime characters instead, anything that’s been done before
- Good idea: making fun of old memes, tired skit ideas, or doing a dance skit that tells a story with original choreography (see DiamondDustProductions’ Best in Show skit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GajeU_wpZ_E)
- Bad idea: making a ton of in-fandom jokes that no one outside the fandom will get (unless the series is popular, but you run the risk of it going over the heads of judges not familiar with it)
- Good idea: making a ton of cross-fandom jokes for your obscure show (see HSCAbby’s Berserk skit here: https://youtu.be/lag3ZHweRPA?t=35m44s)
Step 2: Dat App
- PAY ATTENTION TO DEADLINES!!
- Different cons have different rules for applying to the Masquerade
- Find out if your division is first come, first served, or if the convention quality screens skits first
- Have a general idea (or more) of what you want to do for your skit
- The more info you supply, the more prepared you look, increasing your odds of getting a slot
- Stay up until midnight, wait for the servers to crash…
Step 3: Working with the Coordinator
- Most conventions want a script, pre-recorded lines/sound, any video you’re using, and potentially even practice videos if you’re doing a dance… the sooner you get this stuff to them, the better
- If things get delayed, someone in your group can no longer participate, or you need to make changes to your idea, early communication makes things 9000 times easier
- If stuff goes wrong AT the con (read: security lines at AB), make sure you have a reliable way to get in touch with the Masquerade staff so they can bail you out
Step 4: Skit Prep
- As soon as you’re accepted, it’s time to get to work on your script & A/V stuff and send it over to the Masquerade coordinator for review
- PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE (repeat 10 more times for dance skits)
- Practice in front of someone who’s not part of your group or, even better, who’s not into the show you’re cosplaying from; if they’re entertained/“get it” you have a good skit
- Ask the Masq Coordinator how big the stage is and find a place that’s the same-ish size to practice; if you can’t, find out about your con’s dress rehearsal policy
- Don’t be afraid to drop out: if your friends aren’t showing up to practice, your costumes aren’t done, or you’re just not thrilled with your idea, it might be best for your overall well-being to just drop out of the Masquerade for the year. It might feel really disappointing and painful especially if you’ve put a lot of time/effort into your skit, but saving yourself the embarrassment of doing a sub-par skit is priceless. I’ve only dropped out once and even though the skit was a good idea, we didn’t practice, and our costumes were low-key falling apart. I’m glad I didn’t compete because I would have been kicking myself for years to come over a bad skit.
Step 5: At-con rehearsal (might be optional, required, or non-existent)
- SHOW UP ON TIME!
- Optional: be wearing the costume you’re going to compete in
- Ask a friend who’s not in the skit to record you so you can make any last minute changes to blocking and to listen for audio problems
- Last chance to communicate any issues with audio or lights with staff
- BELIEVE IN YOURSELF! YOU GOT DIS!
Step 6: THE MASQUERADE
- Eat beforehand or suffer grumbly tumblies!
- Show up on time to curtain call! Staff usually has nice peptalks.
- RELAX. Deep breathing!
- Make friends backstage. Compliment each other!
- WERK IT!
- Stay until all awards are handed out unless you have an emergency.
Step 7: The Aftermath
- Don’t be a sore loser
- Be gracious if you win
- There’s a limited number of awards that can be handed out each con; there’s a pool of lots of potential winners
- Your costume/skit were probably amazeballs and judging can be tough
- It’s a learning experience, so DO IT ALL AGAIN NEXT YEAR.
HUZZAH, you’ve reached the conclusion of “do as I say, not as I do” — this guide isn’t a fool-proof method for winning skits/costumes, but it will help you to put out costumes and performances you can be proud of, rather than wanting to wipe your brain clean of the memory of them. 😀