The horse arrives.
So you want to be a part of the NCC team? Interested in it, maybe-possibly? Or just curious as to how the system works for the teams, contestants, judges, assistants etc.? It all sounds real fancy and all, but in reality the experience is quite different than what it may seem from the point of an outsider, so I decided to write on entry of what you must be capable of in order to successfully perform your part.
Iceland's committee member doing an important part of her work, letting people back home know what's up!
Let's first look at the basics. All team members (a team = contestant/s, judge, committee member, assistant/s) except the assistants will get a free flight ticket and daily food stamps. The assistants will have to pay their flight and food (food's cheap tho), but like the rest of the team they'll receive free entry, transport from the airport and lodging with their team members, plus a free breakfast every day and equal access to staff areas.
This year the sleeping had been arranged by putting all of the teams into one big room with a door that could be locked, and we all received air mattresses, sheets, quilts, pillows and the like. Not to mention the room was one of the best ventilated because unlike most con-goers the NCC team members have some rules about cosplay-wearing, and sometimes they must keep going and do their best even if the weather conditions aren't exactly ideal - imagine a heavy cosplay in °30-33C heat, not fun.
Iceland team practices holding things.
One problem we had due to the arrangements, though due no fault of the con itself, was that we had to share showers and toilets with other con goers. I'm not being a prissy little princess here who cannot mingle with the plebs, nope - the problem were the prissy little princes/ses among the con goers.
Just picture this. Närcon offered several changing rooms for the con goers and us alike, so what do people do? They use toilets instead. They lock themselves into the few loos that the place had, staying there until they deemed their cosplay and make-up and tooth-brushing was suitably well done. At the height of idiocy we saw people with their cosplays under their arms queue for the toilets of the changing rooms because changing rooms were not good enough for them or something I'm sorry I'm just being buttmad here, but come on kids, again not fun to wait 20min for your turn to pee.
Assistant getting a headrub from competitor. After wearing a wig for a few hours this is heaven.
The jobs of the team members vary and oftentimes overlap a little, but they can be summed up as follows.
Photo by midvinterdvala.
Contestant: competes, gets interviewed, wears cosplay in whatever the conditions are for as long as necessary whenever necessary. Necessary times are pre-judging, a photoshoot, dress rehearsals and competition, of which rehearsals and competition may mean hours of being in full cosplay. Has to be available several times a day up until the competition is over. Ideally the person competing is a different one every year, though some competitors have also partaken in NCC sometime in the years before.
This year Iceland's judge and committee member were the same person. Means double the workload for no extra profit.
Judge: judges. Needs to attend meetings with other judges, info meetings, all judging of course and some publicity such as being presented on stage. Judges don't necessarily have to cosplay but all team members can if they want to, for as much as they want to. Ideally changes every year, can f.ex. be the previous year's contestant because they already know how the NCC and the Närcon itself work.
Committee member: is the link between Närcon and their own country. Decides how contestants for NCC will be selected, arranges pretty much everything that happens before the con. During the con they keep the social media part up for the home country and the rest of the team well informed about things such as schedule, extra activities, any changes that happen etc. Iceland currently has a committee member.
Assistants to the left.
Assistant: otherwise referred to as slave. That's only half a joke by the way. Assistant is the one who handles everything that needs to be handled by someone else than the three above, usually physical stuff. Competitor needs help with their cosplay outfit? Assistant does it. Competitor needs food or water, safety pins or whatever but something's coming up within an hour and they aren't allowed to leave their position? Assistant runs. Thing they need is all the way back in the sleeping quarters and assistant's feet hurt for running around all day? Assistant still runs. Assistants carry things, hold things, lead if necessary, fetch, roll, play dead, anything that's needed. Ok playing dead and rolling aren't actually very helpful BUT all the other parts are.
Is being an assistant therefore just bowing down in front of the might of the higher-ups? FAR FROM IT. I was the assistant of the team this year and despite the parts of the job that were uncomfortable I never felt like I was looked down upon or taken for a servant. In fact assistants get a lot of respect for doing what they do because everyone knows that if it wasn't for the assistants it'd be them. We also received loads of help from the Närcon's own NCC team... The Man Who Worked the Hardest we love you so much...
People charging for the best spots.
To sum up the whole journey (lol) it goes like this:
1. Committee member gets to work and makes sure everything's ready for the cosplay competition where the competitor is chosen. This year people submitted photos for an international judge panel, next year we'll have an actual cosplay competition because we'll have time to arrange one - Iceland's competitor was selected just 2 months before the competition this time which is very little time for making a NCC level costume. The winner will be informed of their duties and the committee member may make a few relevant recommendations and/or give advice. They will also handle social media.
2. The competitor finds themselves an assistant and gets to work on the cosplay, plans their skit, finds suitable music and background video according to the info they're given. Once the competitor has their flight info it's a good idea that the assistant books theirs for the same flight. The team members will have to confirm their arrival in a requested way (committee member and the Närcon team both keep you informed).
3. The convention nears. Närcon sends the team the intended convention schedule. Competitor's stress levels begin to rise. Nights will be spent on working on the cosplay. Just kidding. Maybe. Luggage will be packed.
4. The team flies to Sweden. They're picked up by a con member who drives them to Linköping - a roughly 2-3h drive. There they'll be shown their sleeping area and given a pass that allows them free access in the area. All practical matters are sorted upon arrival and the team can settle in and relax - the work begins the next day.
5. Starting with breakfast and then most likely a thorough briefing, the contestant and the assistant will then run around the whole day from one scheduled activity to the next. Committee member and/or judge may accompany them if they're not needed elsewhere. There will be an opening ceremony in the evening and possibly a parade, in which several of the team members are called to participate - you may end up onstage at the opening ceremony even if you're just the team's assistant, I mean that sorta happened to us. This is a hectic day, but it gets worse when
6. - day two arrives. Now the assistant will run around, be sure your feet are sore by the evening! The competitor is required to be in cosplay at given times, the assistant should follow like a shadow or at least be available when needed. Judge will be busy on both days, first day in meetings etc. and second day as a member of the judge panel. There's dress rehearsal and later in the evening everything peaks as the competition takes place.
7. Day three is a lazy day. For once the team can come and go as they please pretty much all day, the only thing they'll be required to participate in is the price giving ceremony in the evening.
8. Last day of the con, the teams eat breakfast, pack up and are transported to the airport according to their flight schedules. Home sweet home!
- Be nice to everyone (duhh). Winning is nothing compared to the friends you make during the competition, and personally I can't complain at all. Everyone was so nice to everyone, helping each other out even! My eternal gratitude for the safety pins that I got from the Finns and Swedes!
- Use your free time smartly. Rest if possible rather than run around. But if something really relevant to your interests is going on, you've got enough free time and you're not feeling tired - go for it!
- Never risk your health, not even a little. Don't stay in direct sunshine without a hat and sunscreen, drink enough water if it's hot, don't try any dangerous activities, don't drink alcohol (the last is actually a rule for the teams) and so forth.
- Take the competition seriously but not too seriously. Do your best but don't beat yourself over the head if you don't win, remember to eat well, drink enough water and breathe deeply. :D
- Have loads of fun!