Techta's 2014 Halloween Costume Contest Entry

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I've been a costume enthusiast my whole life, but even after working hard on a Prince Robot IV costume with the help of family and friends, I have never considered myself a cosplayer until now. I have had so many ideas and wishes, but lacked any real experience to make something on my own. I've never made a prop, never sewed a costume -- I am an expert in the realm of thrifting and modification of existing objects. But finally, I was inspired enough by various cosplayers and prop-makers to take that leap. So, I sat down like a complete noob and said, "If there is one thing in the entire world that would be worth selling my soul to make, it's the assault rifle from District 9."

Let me briefly say, for no other reason than I feel it needs to be said on my part, that District 9 is by far the most influential movie in my entire life. It is not only my favorite film, but it is one those few things that I can really boil down to be the impetus for change in my life. There was my first job at the Marine Science Department, and then there's D9. To call myself a fan would be part of the story, because really the film touched me deep in a way no work of art ever has, and it represents such a vital period of happiness at a time in my life I felt couldn't be darker, that the idea of having a tiny piece of that world to hold in my hands would be worth climbing any mountain.

So, I set me eyes and said, "I can do this. I can 'fokken' do this."

And thus began a journey into complete mystery, and the selling of my soul and a month's worth of paychecks towards newfound experience and adoration in the realm of cosplay. Thus began the construction of my very first prop, the District 9 Alien Assault Rifle.

1. So basically, I projected some concept art onto the wall using the projector at the lab I work at. Traced it, made templates using some of the Uhaul paper I line my bird cages with, and started cutting leftover EVA donated from a fellow DragonCon-er. Do not use newsprint, it sucks. Use card stock like everyone tells you to. Also, pinning the template with sewing pins is really helpful, but still sucks with newsprint.


2. I used a generic brand contact cement to adhere all the pieces. I did this in one prematurely cold afternoon. I used hot glue for small details which turned out to be a major mistake.

3. I "borrowed" my dad's Dremel to sand the heck outta the thing. There are a lot of rounded edges and being terrible at cutting (always have been), I elected to Dremel most of the edges down rather than bevel. The small amount of beveling I did pretty much butchered some parts, so...for future project, bevel the pieces before gluing them on. Why was the hot glue a disaster? Well, common sense or not, I figured the Dremel would sand the glue before it'd get melt from the friction, but I was wrong. It melts instantaneously when you put a Dremel sander to hot glued pieces. Destroyed several tips before I figured out what was going on.


4. I did a LOT of research -- days of it -- before deciding on Mod Podge to be my gap-filler. Probably about 8 layers. Time-consuming, but since I don't need flexibility in a gun, it worked really well. I used a tape technique to fix some goofs. Worked well in small doses, but large amounts of tape buckles and wrinkles. I recommend tape for small boo-boos, but not large areas.


5. Ah the ever-useful Plasti-Dip. I went a little crazy and figured, THE MORE THE MERRIER, and did about 8 layers of this. It took 3 days because I found it put a much better coat when a. it wasn't cold and dewy outside, and b. the previous coat really had a good chance to set up. In future projects I may do even more coats, because there were still areas that weren't metal-smooth enough for me. I really didn't see a downside to piling on the Plasti-Dip for this project.


6. I normally don't prime things. I'm super lazy. But for this I slapped my wrist and said, "just do it, it can't hurt you." I have no idea if it helped, but I'd rather be safe than sorry. I feel like it helped stiffen it up and I didn't have to use so much spray paint because it didn't soak in or set unevenly.


7. I did a bunch of test paints on Nerf guns sitting around the house. Finally I chose my paints (spray paint from Home Depot): semi-gloss white, black, and gloss orange.

8. Found Objects for the canisters. I used a Nalgene, a PVC glue can, PVC pipe, bottle caps, and syringes to make the various doodads. Paint before attaching. I hate doing that because I'm so eager to see it put together, but really, you just have to, ugh. I didn't glue some of the pieces in real tight because I have a friend who may be helping me 3D print the exact pieces to give it that extra finish.


9. Weathering and such was done in a few hours with some regular acrylic paint. It was 2 days before Halloween and I wanted it done! Sadly, I know I could have done better, but I'll just have to up my game on the next go around.
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10. Make a costume in 2 days to compliment your new awesome prop!


11. Schedule a photoshoot. I was so, so, so, floored that I even was able to get this far that I knew it wasn't enough to have some crappy cell phone photos. With 2 friends who love taking photos, there's really no excuse. This was my first shoot in front of the camera, and I was actually really shy at first. It was a huge step for me to be the subject of a shoot rather than hiding behind the camera. I really terrified my parents by turning their daughter into a beat-up mustached Afrikaans man.

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Oh, and apparently we need proof, so if the above isn't enough, I threw on my costume for a quick photo. I didn't have 2 hours to do the make-up, I am sorry :(


So, there it is. Probably the fastest costume I've ever complete AND the one I am most proud of. District 9 changed my life, and doing a Wikus cosplay was, until a few days ago, beyond my wildest dreams. Now I look around my room and see this creation and think, "Yeah. I did that. I freakin' made that. There was nothing there, just raw materials, just raw potential, just a few weeks ago. Now there is a physical representation of one of the best things to happen in my life." I conquered fear, I conquered doubt. I made friends and learned more than I ever imagined in just a short amount of time, and on top of that, got to immortalize the experience with a photoshoot.

I think now, why the hell did I give up my dreams to work in film? Maybe there's a sense of regret, but regardless, I wouldn't be where I am now if Mr. Neill Blomkamp hadn't made this film. Imagine if he'd made Halo like he was supposed to...god who knows what my life would have been.

Thank you so much to The RPF, to my friends and family who continue to support and encourage me, to DragonCon, and to Weta Workshop and Neill Blomkamp. It only took me 21 years to find a hobby to feel passionate about, but I have now. And I can't wait to see what I can do next!


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