Anime Los Angeles 2020 concluded its 4-day anime goodness at the Ontario Convention Center on January 12th. ALA is one of the best conventions for anime fans and industry hopefuls alike, featuring a tightly-knit community and lots of charm. This convention included an amazing line-up of guests filled with music performances, cosplayers, and voice actors from your favorite anime. You can catch my full recap of Anime Los Angeles 2020 here.
Newcomers to an anime con will always first notice the vast number of attendees in cosplay. Cosplaying as a character is a long-standing tradition among enthusiasts at almost any convention. Every convention features a wide variety of cosplayers, ranging from beginners to professionals. But all of themn are able to share tips and stories about recreating their favorite characters.
This is what makes an event like Anime Los Angeles 2020 the perfect opportunity to increase one’s fame (or notoriety). You can take pictures with fans and mingle with other cosplayers. I often asked how certain outfits were made or about the effort that goes into creating exciting and unique cosplay. Luckily, I found some of those answers during my interview with Evil Ted. Evil Ted (Smith) is a prop and armor crafter who got his start during the Hollywood boom of 1998. Using his years of experience creating props, he made a video called “How to Make a Foam Helmet”. It led to a career of creating instructional How To’s and live streams for those seeking to perfect their cosplay.
The Rise of Evil Ted
Before the interview, I attended one of Evil Ted’s panels to get a glimpse of how he interacts with fans. He has a certain way of speaking that keeps people captivated.
Evil Ted came to Hollywood to become a prop guy at the age of 25. He quit his job as an insurance salesman, sold all his stuff, and drove to LA to start working on various movie production sets. Movies and shows like Star Trek, Pirates of the Caribbean, The Walking Dead, and Batman feature some of his most notable work.
“Like any kid growing up in the Midwest, I saw Star Wars at age 14 and my mind was blown. [I realized] that all that stuff had to be made, [and in] the 70s there was no YouTube or books [on movie prop production]. In that era, all of it was a mystery as Hollywood [kept] it secret.”
He described the changes in Hollywood culture when it came to producing behind the scenes footage for movies. Audiences would buy their favorite films which came with extra content like director commentary, deleted scenes, and production footage. Evil Ted noticed this trend and set about to creating videos of his own. “I wanted to start doing videos that showed people that they could make really cool movie props at a fraction of the price,” he said. Thus he created a website where people could download and buy patterns for making their own props without having to use resin or compound materials.
Evil Ted is a big advocate for DIY projects. A major part of his philosophy is “if it’s too expensive to buy, build it yourself!” He expanded on his upbringing as a kid in the Midwest, where building and creating something was a part of the culture as opposed to buying props off of Amazon. The amount of experience and knowledge Evil Ted gained over his career motivated him to create videos to show people that creating props is an accessible opportunity.
Day One of Myspace
You don’t often get propmakers at conventions that teach the community to get themselves involved in creating their own costumes. Evil Ted stood out among the other guests because of the community he’s built over the years. “I come from an industry that is cutthroat and it was all about techniques,” he mentioned. Evil Ted elaborated that people would keep their techniques a secret to gather fame and notoriety. He feels differently:
“If you think your technique makes you special, your a ‘knucklehead‘ because necessity is the mother of invention. Someone will figure it out and do it in their own way so why have them struggle? Why not [share] the technique? Your technique is not what makes you good its who you are as a crafter that makes you good.”
He started building his community since the early days of Myspace and has evolved and spread his community to different social media platforms like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, and on his own dedicated website. Evil Ted mentions that he loves and is humbled by the community that he’s built. People will thank him for his tutorial videos at other conventions around the world.
“I go to conventions in different countries and these kids come up to me with amazing costumes and thank me for it. I appreciate [the sentiment] but I [only] gave [them] the map and they took the journey to create a breathtaking costume. I’m happy they give me credit for it but in the long run, it was they who built it. My job is to fuel their passion and [help them] create the fire and flames to start it.”
He loves to foster a positive community of crafters that help each other improve their costume and prop making skills. Evil Ted told me a big reason why he streams on Twitch is that it’s an avenue that allows creators to directly interact with fans in case they can’t meet him in a convention setting. Honestly, it’s impressive that he had the foresight to start building his social media presence as early Myspace’s inception. He managed to maintain a supportive community while actively weeding out bad apples that might’ve been there to cause trouble.
Taking the Plunge
Evil Ted built his career by dropping everything he had and driving to the star-studded street of Hollywood, Califonia. Several voice actors I’ve interviewed, like Sean Chiplock and Laura Post, also come from the Midwest and moved out to California to pursue bigger careers. He is well aware that his naiveté was a double edge sword — he was reckless, but he managed to create an opportunity that he wouldn’t have had otherwise. I asked Evil Ted what advice he would give to a person who loves creating costumes and cosplay, but wants to take it further into something like movie or TV production.
“[In] your home town, start looking at the local theatres or theatre companies, look for people creating independent films, heck help your friends build great Halloween costumes. Start creating projects and advertise yourself that you are willing to make or help for X amount of money. [The main] thing is to start getting used to building things for other people. Start building a portfolio and a body of work, keep building and perfecting your craft.”
He elaborated that when he came to Hollywood, there were tons of FX studios at the time. Nowadays, newcomers should take advantage of their local scene to build a body of work before heading to Hollywood. “Have something to show,” said Evil Ted — something that can be done at home at any level.
However, he also mentioned that one key aspect to improvement was knowing that every project wasn’t going to be perfect. Armor crafters should start with something small like a bracer for an entire armor set. By the time you get to the final pieces, “You’ll look at your initial bracer and will be confident that you can improve it.” Failure is part of the process and Evil Ted’s best and greatest advice is to know that you’re going to fail but that it shouldn’t stop anyone from starting.
Thanks for reading and you can find him at eviltedsmith.com with various links to his social media accounts and his Twitch channel. Don’t forget to check out my interview with Skip Stellrecht and Lauren Landa at ALA2020! For more great interviews, reviews, editorials, and news stay tuned to CultureOfGaming.com or check us out on OpenCritic.com!