Interview with Cosplay Universe Co-Directors Jordan Rennert and Jonathan McHugh

Interview with Cosplay Universe Co-Directors Jordan Rennert and Jonathan McHugh

Today, we were able to sit down with co-directors Jordan Rennart and Jonathan McHugh of the documentary Cosplay Universe. In this documentary, they showcased the proper history of cosplay while sharing the stories of cosplayer such as Yaya Han. Cosplay Universe is out now on all streaming platforms and the links are below after the interview, so you can have the opportunity to watch the documentary.

Excerpts from the Interview:

What inspired you to create a documentary about cosplay?

Jordan: Let’s see, we had made these two other documentary projects. One was called, “She Makes Comics,” about the history of women in the comic book industry and while we were making that documentary in around 2014, we heard some really amazing stories from this fellow cosplayer Wendy Pini. Wendy is not only a cosplayer but is also the writer of a really popular independent comic called “Elf Quest.” She began to tell us some of these awesome stories on how she was involved with costuming masquerades at San Diego Comic Con in the 1970s. And suddenly, there’s this whole history of cosplay that we had never heard of, and it sounded like a very different awesome.

Jonathon: Have you seen Big Lebowski, Vic? Well there is a legendary character played by Jeff Bridges called the Dude, there is an actual dude that is crazy as the character of the film. He is from the same town as Jordan and Patrick, and lived across from me, and told me I should meet these kids. I started to work for them 8 to 10 years, working on these films, but also working to help fund and find distributors. When Patrick got a feature film but couldn’t finish the history of cosplay, I happily jumped in with Jordan. Since then, we have been honing the story in, figuring out how to get these amazing characters from the American cosplayers, and attending the Cosplay Convention in Nagoya, Japan. We also came across a situation with the Mexican team and Italian team which had a love triangle that became a big part of the storyline in the movie.

How receptive were the cosplayers to get their stories out there?

Jordan: We reached out to Yaya in 2015, where she put out a bunch of panels on the history of cosplay. She has been an archivist and documentarian for cosplay for many years doing these panels. This was probably one of our biggest inspirations. We wanted to make this film for others to understand about cosplay and where it came from. We would sit down and talk with her many times and soon she just became the subject in the film because her story was so emblematic of cosplay. She was originally born in Asia and came over to America and had this moment at Anime Expo 1999 and just grabbed the bull by the horn. Her mother didn’t accept the art form of cosplay to be something serious – which is a journey many cosplayers go through. Cosplayers want to be accepted for this art form that they put all of themselves into. 

Jonathon: We found stories we didn’t expect to find! We were looking at New York Comic Con footage one day and there is this 10 foot Hulkbuster guy walking around dominating the room. I literally said to Jordan, “How do we find that guy!?” Not only did we find him, but we flew from L.A. to Providence just to interview him. We went to interview him 3 different times until we got into depth of his Aspergers and how the only time he felt like himself was when he was in his costume. This struck me on a psychological level. Cosplay takes it to the next level of empowerment where people can step outside of themselves. There are some powerful stories told in this film and I hope everyone watches it.

Was it hard during Covid situation to get the film out into streaming and movie theaters in 2021? 

Jonathon: We originally had a domestic partner who had this film setup for Netflix, and we were going to launch – but weren’t really ready. Netflix said they really liked our film and wanted to put it on. Jordan and I pulled our hair out trying to get the film ready, but we later learned during this process the company was going bankrupt. We couldn’t deliver the film due to this and this wasn’t going to work with our investors. During the pandemic, we finished the cut and were going to deliver it to our international distributors. Then, as Covid starts, the international distributor goes bankrupt. This took another 2 years, during the pandemic, to make another deal out for our film. Eventually, the timing actually worked out perfect for us. The ending got so much better too. 

Jordan: A non spoiler part here: We got stories from a different generation of cosplayers experiences as well because of this. Key, who we discovered after meeting Tom, represents Gen Z. Key was very much like Yaya as his parents didn’t understand what their cosplay personally meant to them. The final scene of the film had a pretty climatic conversation with Key and his family and it only came about as we had this extra time and gave us an opportunity to finish this film as strongly as possible.

Hardest challenges of the movie?

Jordan: The editing and sequencing of all these stories flows very well I think because all these scenes belong together. When you’re editing the film, you can take it any direction as many times but it doesn’t flow. One of the biggest challenges of film is not gathering all the scenes but getting one story and one scene to give a good flow.

Jonathon: Picture a huge cork board with index cards of many colors to patch those scenes. Then comes a new scene to see where it go? and how does it work?  It’s quite a full process and I think Jordan and I learned a lot from it.

Is there discussions to do a part 2?

Jonathon: We have talked it about it. There are obviously a lot more stories out there and a lot you can do with it. We wanted to make a film true to the fans and stop disregarding it as nutty. I would love to do more international work with Svetlana as well. 

Jordan: I would like to get into other International cosplay cultures that have emerged in different regions but as Jon said, we are not quite in production at the moment to find the resources on that path to make it happen. We learned in this last process that it took 7 years in this path but yes, I would love to.

Last question: Where can our fans find you on social media for another Cosplay Universe movie or other projects you’re doing?

Jordan: You can follow us at Instagram at COSPLAY UNIVERSE MOVIE 




More Information of Cosplay Universe:

Please give us a follow and live to people to check out the movie as well as let us know what they think of it. The movie is available on Prime Video (below) and you can rent or purchase it.

Watch Cosplay Universe on Prime Video here:

Complete Interview Here: