'Cosplanet' Documentary Charts the Origins and Growth of Cosplay Culture

Co-director Patrick Meaney talks about the new crowdfunding campaign for the movie.
Respect Films

Cosplay — fans dressing up as their favorite characters, or as mix-and-match variations on multiple characters and ideas — is a big part of comic book culture, and becoming moreso every year. A new documentary, Cosplanet: The Evolution of Cosplay, intends to explore the origins and growth of the subculture, and co-director/producer Patrick Meaney talked to The Hollywood Reporter about the project.

The project got its start during the production of an earlier documentary Meaney was involved in, he explains. "While we were working on She Makes Comics, we spoke with several cosplayers and heard a lot of fascinating stories about the world of cosplay, going back to the very early days of fandom in the '60s and '70s," he says. "We didn’t have enough room in that film to include all of the cool stuff we heard from interviewees, so we started throwing around the idea of doing a project more focused on cosplay."

The addition of Lauren Bregman — cosplayer and owner-creator of Castle Corsetry, which makes costumes for other people — moved the idea forward.

"She talked about how there’s never been a great documentary representation of what it’s really like in the world of cosplay, or the history of the hobby," he says. "Our goal is to make the definitive look at the world of cosplay, from its beginning to the present day, from super-high-end screen-accurate replicas to casual fans who just want to go and have a good time."

Calling cosplay "a great microcosm for fandom as a whole," Meaney suggested that cosplay's increased visibility in mainstream media is in part down to the growth of comic book and geek culture overall, but also that it ties in with the growth of a modern crafting movement.

"People are using computers at work, looking at their phone or TV at home, and I think there’s a desire to engage in something tangible and crafty, rather than digital," he said. "The people we’ve talked to use a blend of old-school techniques, like sewing or corset-making, combined with new materials like worbla, a moldable plastic, to make stuff. YouTube tutorials and e-books have made these techniques a lot more accessible than they were in the pre-Internet age. It’s a community of people helping each other to make cooler and cooler stuff."

Cosplanet will be turning to that community itself as it heads toward completion. The movie is launching an Indiegogo campaign to complete production, with Meaney talking up the crowdfunding model as a whole. "We can reach out directly to the potential viewer, and engage them in the film throughout the process. We can talk to people and understand what matters to them about this subject and create a film that delivers an authentic look at whatever topic we’re tackling," he says. "If your pitch resonates with people, then you get to make the movie. That’s a pretty great deal."

Watch the trailer for the crowdfunding campaign below.