Dani Yuan, Dagger-6, went from proud Marine to space marine. Anatomy of War creator Roshawn Rochester chats with the cosplayer, photog, and film omni-talent of the Halo fan community. -Ed.
Red-Headed Mule: Can you explain what Dagger-6 Productions is for the people that don’t know?
Dagger-6: It’s basically just a slightly more official sounding name I can use for branding. There’s this trend of cosplayers often utilizing pseudonyms for a measure of initial privacy, plus it sounded better in my head than “Dani’s costumes, films, photographs, and other random hobbies”. Looks nicer on business cards too.
RHM: How long have you been cosplaying?
Dagger-6: I used to recreate characters from video games when I used to airsoft, which consisted of hunting down the uniform items various characters wore, such as the Gurlukovich soldiers from Metal Gear Solid 2 or the human grunts from Half Life.
But it was in 2009, when I discovered the 405th, that I really started to get into crafting my own costumes, and the first time I wore something I made largely myself was at Anime Expo 2009, where I showed off my first iteration of my ODST costume.
RHM: What got you into cosplaying?
Dagger-6: I was sitting around playing a lot of Halo and video games during the summer of 2009. I’d just gotten back from a military deployment, had a rather rough breakup, and was just counting down the days until I could move on to start my college studies at UC San Diego. One day someone shared me a link to a video where a cosplayer by the name of SkullCandyGirl showed how to make a Halo costume for $100.
While that number is now well known to be a little misleading, it got me to 405th.com, the Halo costuming hub, and I started reading eagerly on how to create a costume of my own.
RHM: Did you find it intimidating at first?
Dagger-6: Definitely! The 405th, while a great resource, is honestly kind of a mess. It’s got a lot of information, so much that it’s an information overload, where it can be hard to find what you’re looking for without sifting for hours and it’s nearly impossible for the volunteer moderators to organize.
And the first costume I tackled involved fiberglass, a material that many cosplayers find horribly uncomfortable to work with. But, if you take the patience to read through everything, you can learn a lot, and members on the 405th are largely supportive, with mottos such as “If we can make it, so can you” being commonplace.
That sort of encouraging atmosphere in the costuming community, where even Stan Winston’s son points out that his father “started out in a garage”, really helps you feel confident that despite how daunting a whole Spartan, Iron Man, or whatever costume might seem, if you put your mind and dedication to it, there’s no reason you can’t succeed.
RHM: You were talking about the motto “If we can make it, so can you”. In regards to cosplayers in general, do you feel the community as a whole welcoming?
Dagger-6: It can be a bit intimidating at times. I think a lot of costumers can get burned out from people taking an inch and asking for a mile. It can be disheartening when you put out materials to help people create their own costumes then get bombarded with demands, not even request or inquiries, that you create a full Halo costume for $100 and deliver it next week.
I actually had an e-mail not too long ago where someone was asking for a Master Chief chest piece for $80, which would barely cover the cost of materials and completely discounted labor. So if you talk to a costumer and they seem a bit wary and distant, there’s often a reason for that (we won’t even touch the issue of women cosplayers who are often judged solely for their physical appearance and not their craft).
But as long as you bring a positive and mature attitude that is willing to put forth work, you’ll find many people eager to help you succeed. It’s welcoming…like a potluck. The community will open the door to greet you, and there’s plenty of things to share, but you need to bring something of your own, even if it’s just the willingness to create things or a respectful thankful demeanor if you’re asking for commissions.
RHM: You have really made a name for yourself with your Halo cosplay and videos, and you have another one on the way that looks to be very promising.
I have to admit, I got goose bumps when I read that the picture you teased was live action and not gameplay? Do you plan to create more Halo live-action movies in the future?
Dagger-6: Definitely! Right now we’re focused on finishing our short film, which is looking to be around 40minutes or longer. But the Halo universe is so vast, I think that like Star Wars, there is a nearly unlimited amount of stories you can tell.
Hard core science fiction, horror, military epics, political power struggles, espionage thriller, comedy, and drama are just some of the topics that you can easily create. It is actually a hope of mine to set up a Halo film source that promotes the creation of more Halo cinema, not just by me, but by the entire amazing Halo community.
RHM: It’s my understanding that you are also working with another production team with your new film. With that in mind, how do you feel cosplay plays a part in your business relations?
Dagger-6: Cosplay is actually what got me in contact with the other production teams, as originally I was supposed to help out with costumes. However, my scheduling didn’t work out so that job ended up going to other incredibly talented folks and I ended up filling in other positions.
Where cosplay has been a bigger role in business relations is with 343i. It’s been a great way to catch their attention at conventions and show off what we’re capable of creating. Cosplay is a not-quite-less subtle way of wearing a sign saying “I really love this fandom and creating crazy things from it”, and in a business where meeting people is a huge part of success, it can be a great starting point.
RHM: Have you ever thought of creating a Kickstarter to help fund your films, or even the Halo community you would like to create?
Dagger-6: I was actually in charge of creating and running a Kickstarter where we raised over $10,000 for our film. Kickstarter is a great tool that I definitely intend to use more in the future.
With that said, it has to be used more surgically than simply asking for money. If you want to do that, throw up a “donate” button instead. A Kickstarter needs to come with a clear plan and commitment to finish, especially since legally it skirts an incredibly grey line about making money or selling products from the Halo franchise. It needs to be used smartly and responsibly, asking for just what’s needed to complete projects, or else 343i might be forced to develop a clearer, and likely stricter, policy concerning its use.
RHM: How would you explain cosplay to someone that thinks it is just people costuming?
Dagger-6: Cosplay is an art form. It takes a huge variety of hobbies and skills and combines them all together to create a truly unique experience. Mechanical engineering, sewing, painting, sculpting, acting, and photography are just a few of the things that come together in cosplay.
But what’s an even bigger part is the love of a fandom being shared. Children, adults, and even the game creators themselves get a real kick out of seeing the characters they know and love come to life before their eyes, no matter if it’s a movie quality suit or just an incredibly creative fan making the most out of what they can find around their house.
RHM: Are there plans for any movies based on the Halo books?
Dagger-6: At this point in time, none of the scripts I’ve got in mind for future Halo films are based primarily on the books. But the books certainly serve as a source of inspiration. Mona Lisa, from the Evolutions anthology, makes me feel that visiting the horror genre with the flood could make for a very compelling film, and that’s definitely a project I would love to do if I could get enough interest and funding after we finish The Fallen.
RHM: What is your favorite thing about the Halo series?
Dagger-6: The sheer creativity it inspires. As I mentioned above, there’s something in Halo for everyone. It’s definitely more than just a mountain dew fueled online smackfest. The screenshot and forge art galleries on Halo Waypoint are mind blowing. People have created replica Halo weapons in lego bricks and real life warthogs from land rovers.
An entire entertainment studio jumpstarted thanks to two Halo characters bobbing their heads contemplating the meaning of life. Fan made comic books and songs are known just as well as the official creations. And 343industries has been extremely supportive of the fan community the whole time. There’s not only something on the table for everyone, but plenty of room left for fans to bring their own unique flavor.
RHM: I don’t know if you’ve had the chance to listen to it or not, but our own Clarence Riley had an interview with Todd McFarlane (McFarlane Toys!) and he touched on figures in general. Do you think that the McFarlane Halo figures brought a new respect to the series?
Dagger-6: It’s always great to see major names such as Todd McFarlane being such great fans of the series and taking the time to create high quality collectables for fans to enjoy. I’m sad to admit I’m not a huge collector (all my money goes into cosplay, conventions, and film) but one thing I do appreciate is that 343i, and Bungie before them, worked closely with third party licenses, such as McFarlane, to ensure that something worthy of the Halo name was created for fans and not just a cookie cutter cash grab.
RHM: If you were given a big enough budget, what story would you like to tackle most and who would your cast be?
Dagger-6: Frank O’Connor once spoke of a ‘Band of Brothers’ like series for Halo. While I loved Forward Unto Dawn and thought it was incredible, including doing a great job of capturing many aspects of war (one of my favorite parts was the footage of Thomas Lasky’s brother), I would love to see a film focused on the marines and regular soldiers of the UNSC fighting to protect the humans of Earth during the covenant invasion.
Science fiction can be an amazing vessel for discussing modern day issues, and I think a military epic along the lines of Band of Brothers, the Pacific, or Generation Kill would be perfect for the Halo universe.
RHM: Did you find it easier to be a producer for your Halo series since you are a fan of the series itself?
Dagger-6: Being a fan of the series just opens up so many doors as far as what you can create. Not only has being a fan helped me form great friendships with current and former 343i staff, it’s also helped me be able to form friendships with the Halo community at large, and we’ve received much help from fans crafting props, donating funds, giving feedback, and even helping out on set! Though my vision of Halo and what I do to show my love of the fandom may differ from others, at the end of the day we all bond together in our mutual love for this franchise and work to support each other as we create and enjoy this amazing universe.
RHM: Are there any other brands you would like to tackle in the future?
Dagger-6: As far as live action films go, all my attention is focused on Halo for the immediate moment as there are still so many stories left to tell. However there are many great universes out there I woud love to play with. Mass Effect is a big one (Head to Youtube and check out UAT’s ‘Red Sand’ for a great Mass Effect fan film).
Another project that has crossed my mind and burrowed itself in there is an Assassin’s Creed film, but one that goes beyond the eras seen in the game. Following the order of assassin’s through fuedal Japan, depression era America, or the Cold War and beyond could make for some great historical set pieces and creativity.
For cosplay, the sky’s the limit. I’m working on costumes from Persona and Puella Magi Madoka Magica to add a little variety to my all-Halo-all-the-time lineup of costumes.
RHM: If you had the chance to turn a dream into reality and become a character in a movie, which character would you be and who would you star opposite of?
Dagger-6: Well, I already got to be an evil blue Master Chief, starring opposite of Felicia Day and Sandeep Parikh, beating up Hercules and kidnapping Stan Lee. So that was pretty much higher than any aspirations I’ve ever dared have.
If 343i ever makes another Halo film, I’d be incredibly happy if I could just be a regular ‘ol Marine or ODST, opposite the Master Chief. Or a space janitor. As a Halo fan, any position I could land on the official Halo film would be my dream.
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