View Full Version : Actors benefits

02-16-2010, 12:55 PM
I was hoping to elaborate on an old posting, but I couldn't find anything down this alley (god forbid there are too many threads created). We are looking to beef up our reward system for our actors. Right now, we feed them three times a night, give them plenty of soda and water, and they get field trips to other haunts, and t-shirts, and a big party at the end of the season. The only problem with all of this is... it doesn't encourage the actors to come as many nights as possible. If you set a minimum... most of the actors make sure they squeeze in minimum number of nights to reap the benefits...

At our haunt, we have the Bone Crew who builds and runs the haunt... then we have the rest of the actors. We have a great system in place for the bone crew (road trips to haunts on the east coast, trip to transworld for some, etc) but we don't have a good system in place for the basic actor.

So our new idea is to do a points system for the actors, and provide a listing of prizes/goodies that they can redeem points for at the end of the season. (all of the goodies are tagged with our brand name). We're thinking to use comp tickets (for family and friends) t-shirts, jackets, skate board decks, and other swag we get along the way.

Does anyone else use this type of system?

what's your opinion on this type of system?

Any other goodie ideas?

Haunts of Richmond
02-16-2010, 01:17 PM
So this is in place of an hourly wage, I assume?

- Ryan

02-16-2010, 01:34 PM

Indeed. Our event does not have a payroll of any kind... but we spare little expense when it comes to the actors. I would say more than 60% of our actors will miss less than 3 nights out of 15. Its the other 40 that I am trying to keep consistent. For the most part, we have an open door policy to our volunteers. The more they come, the more they get in return. Many of the high school kids actually get service hours for their time spent at the haunt.

Allen H
02-16-2010, 02:37 PM
I remember the one you are referring to and I cant find it either. This is a great topic to update anyway as it is pertinent to many on the board.
I love to do ticket trades with area businesses, then give the "prizes" I traded for to my actors. Movie theater managers will often trade for movie tickets, some resturants will. Their employees need incentives too. It works out for both parties.
Here is a similar thread
not exactly the same but close. and another

02-16-2010, 02:55 PM
Yes, we use a similar "point" system, and also run a volunteer driven haunt... which is usually a pretty amazing experience. The system changes and morphs a lot as we learn how to do this ;-)

A few things I've learned over the years:

1) There are people who want to be heavily involved, and others that find it a "fun" activity, but don't need anything else out of that. Embracing both, and not taking things personally from the either group is crucial. You can't force people to come more often if they don't want to (even paying them does *not* yield the result you want). Treat everyone with respect, but reward those that help the most. Especially if that reward is RESPONSIBILITY.

2) Make sure your system allows for growth opportunity for the people who want to use it. Our program embraces all sorts of people, but the best individuals are the ones you watch "grow up" over the years, and know that because of your involvement in their life, you've helped them reach goals or become better people because of it. Be willing to offer skill development opportunities (pay for a class at a local community college or adult learning center for skills that directly help your business - marketing, welding, painting, theater tech - you name it, and classes are cheap in the long run).

3) Don't be afraid to change your system. Just because you write something down and communicate it to your team does NOT mean you were right in the first place, or that it's set in stone. Change your system in ways that works in your area. Be willing to admin when you were wrong, be the grown up. Ask your team what they find valuable about being involved. In my experience, the "stuff" is cool, but making new friends and memories is what keep folks coming back. LISTEN.

4) Peoples lives change, and as folks grow up, get married, have kids, whatever, they will come and go. But, the experiences they have with you and the origination will shape their lives forever. Do your best to give them good memories... and know that it isn't always possible to do that.

I could write a book about this subject, but there's just a few things that I've learned in the past 10 years of running a volunteer based haunt.

-- Ian

02-16-2010, 04:49 PM
I used to run a volunteer haunt and a simple trick that worked was that we could give a few awards at the end of the night (Best actor, best makeup, best room) which were just certificates I printed out. It really inspired the actors to try to get the title of being the best for the night and it kept our numbers steady the whole season. Sometimes a little competition goes a long way.

Then after the last night of production, those who had won the most "best of the night" awards were given special prizes (we used gift cards, Midnight Syndicate CDs, and movie passes).

02-16-2010, 08:07 PM
We do a prize give away at the end of the season. For every 3 nights worked they will get one ticket to use on a raffle prize of their choice. The more 3 night sets they work the more tickets they get to increase their chances. This year we gave away laptops, ipods, cameras, etc. Last year there was a 42" flat panel tv, and some other goodies. It sure gets them excited!

BTW, how do you feed them 3 times a night?!?! We feed them before the show, they do the show for 4-5 hours then they go home. Where do you fit in more feedings?


Kelly Anderson
02-16-2010, 09:25 PM
I may have been the one that talked about it in an earlier post of mine. Our haunt meeting tomarrow night I have set up for it to be voted on as we need to get it established early.

Our haunt is totally volunteer and one of our biggest problems is keeping our actors engaged and wanting to come back night after night. And being about 95% or so of our actors are still in highschool it is very challenging at times as we have to rely on them so much. I am very appriciative of the effort they put in to our haunt as the rewards in the end beniefit many of them that are enrolled in the boys & girls club. But even at that we should still offer something as a way to make them want to be reliable, dedicated and work hard while they are there helping.

My actor incentive program, which at this point is just a basic idea, I would like to have each actor on a points system. They would recieve a given amount of points just for showing up to work and then recieve additional points up to a certain amt based on factors of performance, staying on task, offering help where it is needed, and not thinking they can talk on their cell phone whenever they please.

Being we now break our haunt up into sections, each section which could be several rooms, are competeing against the other sections for a travelling trophie for the night. In addition to winning the trophie for the night, the winning section actors would each recieve a bonus point over and above there regular nightly score.

At the end of the season the points would be added and the top three would recieve prizes for there continuous effort. Right now if this goes through I aim to get a scholarship or some type of grand prize for 1st place and also decent prizes that a teenager would want for 2nd and 3rd place as well.

It is still unclear who would fund the prizes. Whether we find a sponcer or if the club issues the prize I dont know. We need to decide on it. My consern is that if the club decides to not ask for an outside sponcer and just fund it themselves is that the prizes would be cheap and this program would be a waste of time and not be much of an incentive.

So if your going to make the effort to do this, make it worth your time and make sure the grading system is clear and fair to all.

02-17-2010, 09:02 AM
Allen - thanks for the other posts quotes.... I know its frustrating to have too many posts on the same subject. I like the ideas with ticket trades with other businesses. Your ideas have opened a few doors in my mind on local businesses to trade with (movies, mini golf, etc.)

Ian - You hit the nail right on the head with dissecting your actors mentalities... We have some guys in our group that are here year round and they think about this haunt as much as I do... they have a lot to contribute. Indeed, there is nothing that we can do to force the hand of a teenager or young adult who doesn't want to devote 2-3 days of their weekend to your haunt (paid or unpaid!)

Joel - We have an awesome vendor who sells all the food products at our show. We are not equipped to deal with the food at this time, and I don't want the health department to give me more headache than its worth! So... part of our deal is that he feeds our actors when they come in the gate and walk by his booth (1st feeding). We do a ticket trade and sponsorship trade with local restaurants to provide sandwiches and/or snacks for the middle of the night (2nd feeding). We send a golf cart towing a beer(less) cart from a local golf course through the hayride and to the back doors of other 2 haunts to deliver the sponsor's food. It takes about 90 minutes to get to everyone. Then, depending on the work load and number of actors, we usually get 20-30 pizzas from a local pizza parlor for the 3rd and final feeding. In addition to all of this... we have homer buckets at each set filled with ice, soda and water. The last thing we need is for our actors to hop on the radios and start bitching about being hungry... Now at our show... if you're hungry... its your own fault!

Over the last several years, we have had compliments from our actors about the therapeutic rewards that come from participating at our show. More than half of another area haunt left and came to our show (from paid to unpaid) and felt more respected and appreciated than being paid minimum wage at the other haunt (this was between seasons, not during). Our crew is a tight knit group of great people who deserve much more than they receive... I just want to be sure that they don't feel like they're left out. However... it is extremely hard to accommodate 100 - 150 actors per night... and make each one of them feel special. So hopefully that 60% that come most nights... can improve to 65 or 70.

On a completely different note... I'll be switching screen names to Zombified. I often feel hesitant to respond to some posts feeling like the response is not in the best interest of the haunt, and I feel like my current screen name represents the haunt. Furthermore... I don't like finding my posts when I search via google for LOTF.

Thanks for the replies! I love the ideas!

Allen H
02-17-2010, 09:38 AM
One thing I can tell you that made didfference for my park is really simple.
Know their name. I make a promise to everyone on orientation that the next weekend that I will know their name. I figure its the least I can do. They test me to, when they are in line for make up they ask "do you know my name?" and I always get it.
I have to work very hard to do it, but I cant think of anything more to prove that they are a person and I know where they are coming from. When they know I know who they are I think it weighs heavier on them when they want to quit.
Allen H

02-18-2010, 07:38 AM
When I had problems of actors deciding to miss one night to go to bar; football game; monster truck show, etc. and just ditch me last minute we initiated a two tier pay rate. You got a hourly rate every for every night here on job. There was also a bonus rate for showing up every night you were scheduled. At beginning of season if you wanted a night off on Oct 22nd sat night....fine as long as it was on your schedule and I knew you were going to be absent and could have others qualified to cover that spot and do a good job.

Everyone who showed up every night got their bonus hourly wage on last night of season. This meant if somebody wanted to just skip out on me last minute; they were forfeiting the $110 bonus last night of season. They had to seriously think about if skipping out on me one night to go party was worth losing $110 bonus. Dramatically cut down no shows. Of course I could override and excuse their absense later; like when tornado hit town and killed a guys aunt and still give them bonus even though they missed a night.

02-18-2010, 08:38 AM
Why dont you just pay your actors guys? Don't they work hard enough to earn their pay? I believe you should not ask of your employees anything you wouldn't do yourself. So unless you don't make any pay from running the haunt don't expect them not to for staffing it....


02-18-2010, 09:45 AM
Well.... that's a can of worms you're opening here, but here is my opinion (which is based on experience)...

And, let me say that our haunt does not pay anyone, even the owners. It's a community event, and everything we make from the haunt goes back into it to continue the event.

With that being said, there's a lot of reasons why we don't pay our actors. I've seen a lot of haunts over the years, and 90% of the time, I can almost immediately determine if the acting staff is paid or not, based entirely on performance. Paid actors tend to treat it more like a job - they do the minimum to get paid and live thier life, but the passion is lacking. Volunteer crews have a lot of heart, soul, and passion put into the place, and it shows immediately when acting in a show. The very best haunts I have seen have been volunteer based haunts. Not to say that there are not good paid haunts - there are - they just don't have the same passion. And customers can tell the difference.

Volunteer haunts are tighter knit. They are big, disfunctional families. People involved in volunteer haunts have to learn about differences people have with eachother, and more importantly how to deal with them. Volunteer haunt individuals grow more, because they have to.

Volunteer haunts can provide more growth opportinies than paid ones. They have more capital to invest in personal development of the cast and crew.

Volunteer haunts have less turnover. Our "core" crew stays with us for a LONG time. I have people that have been with us since our first year (A decade ago!). They love that they have a way to particiapte in thier passion, without having to pay their own hard cash to do it.

These are just a few reasons why it works for us. Maybe your community is different, maybe economic times make it more difficult in your area... who knows. A volunteer haunt isn't the easiest route to take (it has drawbacks - but thats another post) - but on the first night of the season when you hear the screams of your passionate crew - it's totally worth it.

-- I

Kelly Anderson
02-18-2010, 09:46 AM
Why dont you just pay your actors guys? Don't they work hard enough to earn their pay? I believe you should not ask of your employees anything you wouldn't do yourself. So unless you don't make any pay from running the haunt don't expect them not to for staffing it....


Thats a great idea and I agree!! But what do non-profit charity haunts do?? I as someone who volunteers countless hours of my own time and sometimes money, I dont make a cent off the haunt. But I really like helping building and running the haunt so it dont really matter to me so long as the money goes to a good cause.

But being about 95% of our actors are kids and they know we rely on them greatly, I feel they need to be shown appreciation differently and more often to keep them interested enough to keep coming back to help.

As a non-profit event, paying anybody to do anything is not an option.

02-18-2010, 01:15 PM
Just to clarify, I am not really aiming my comment at community events or charity events where all the money goes back into a cause or charity, that's completely different and with a charity you usually have a nice pool of volunteers there ready to go.

I was referring to the haunts that are FOR PROFIT, that in many cases do more than well enough to pay their actors but their still trying to get free labor. That all works for a couple years but when the lines get long and the actors are there until 2am and the haunts making a lot of money, before you know it they'll all be there with their hands out, and they would be right to do so. I say, man up and take care of your staff if you are running a business run a business and pay your staff....

Also, I've seen and worked with volunteers who were horrendous performers, and not motivared at all. It's all about lucking into great and spirited performers and staff. The best thing about paying them is you can easily fire them if they are not up to par, it's a bit messier with volunteers I've found.


02-18-2010, 01:32 PM
Agreed, some volunteers are not very good at acting. Sometimes it is up to us to help them find where they fit in ;-)

Please don't think I took any of your comments the wrong way, I think it's healthy to express our experiences and discuss the pros/cons and why we do the things we do!

-- I

Allen H
02-18-2010, 02:13 PM
I run a park in TX. We have about 100 actors we pay them. I hate it. I wish that we were a volunteer haunt. I do not make profit from the park, I get paid to do my job. My main issue is that we get many people who want to draw a paycheck. they dont care if they work at my haunted house or if they work at Mcdonald's. I do my best to weed them out early in the process or give them a passion for what we are doing and try to give them the fever.
I am a professional haunter, it is just about all I do. I want amateur haunters to work for me. Not because they are unpaid that is not what amateur means. Amateur means that they love it. It comes from the word Amore. A love for what we do is imperative to doing it right. The best way to surround yourself with people who love what they are doing is to not pay them. As soon as pay is involved it is a job and not a passion. So I fully understand haunts that have volunteers as opposed to paid actors. It should bee a hobby that they are passionate about.
In the haunt that I own I approached pay differently. I pay my actors based on how many people come through. they get a number per head. On busier nights they make more money on slow nights they make very little. I did that to ensure a spirit of ownership and belonging. It works, I have a great loyal team there. The average haunted house cannot afford that, I really cant afford that. I do not make alot of money at my show, but I have the best team ever.
Allen H

Phil Miller
02-18-2010, 06:35 PM
we're in our 13 th year and we used volunteers our first year to get started and I thought it was a problem. also, the labor board told us that we can not use any volunteers if we are for profit. here in Delaware unless your a 501c3 or like that you have to pay them minimum wages at the least. I believe that may be a national labor law?
anyway, last year we still gave $170,000 to our charity and paid 150 people on payroll. Our payroll and Workers Comp expenses were well over $100,000 and I still wouldn't trade that to go back to none paid volunteers, just my opinion. PS.. Pat, hope to see you in St.louis

02-19-2010, 05:20 AM

I understand your point but to be honest from what I have seen it's not about the paycheck for people who love it. It's lke pro sports, there are many people who are pro athletes who have the passion and are great because of that passion which drives them. They would do it for free, they just happen to get paid but their passion in not to be rich its to be great or the best, and that's how it is with haunt actors or any employee its not that volunteers are better not by a long shot. Volunteers could have the same approach as a paid employee, instead of getting paid though they are there just burning hours for community service or there because their friend or relative is there and brough them, and just to "hang out" with friends or to try to land a gf/bf it's basically the same idea whereas they are not really motivated to be great just there for a sense of community or something to do.

Bottom line, people who really have the passion have it regardless of getting paid, since no actor is really making enough to do much with it anyway they are there because they love it and want to scare people, have some fun and blow off some stream maybe from home or their real job.

If you are a for profit haunt and not paying your actors, you;re digghing your own grave. Sooner or later they will lose motivation as it gets tougher and tougher and more demanding on your time, it's not worth it you need some reward and movie tickets don't pay the bills! lol

IMAX, no worries exchanging our opinions and ideas is what these forums are all about! I'm glad to discuss this topic with you here!


02-19-2010, 05:21 AM

How many actors do you guys have? And how much is workers comp approx? Or per person?


02-19-2010, 07:22 AM
I think it depends on the interpretation of your insurance carrier... but the workman's comp rate for amusements is 7%. To put it in perspective, office help is somewhere between 2 and 3 %... farming 15% and construction can get into the 20% range. If you make workman's comp claims due to injuries in your haunt, your rate can increase. I have heard horror stories about businesses being raised to 35% after a major incident! Rule of thumb... take an employee's hourly wage and double it for total costs per employee.


Phil Miller
02-20-2010, 08:01 PM
our Workmen Comp in Delaware is based on Gross wages, we fall under "Entertainment" so that is the hightest rate they have, 9.99 % , now if you own a contracting type biz then you only have to pay 3 % . so if our pay roll is $100,000 we pay $9,999 to Workers Comp for the year. We never had a claim in 13 years, but I was told if we had a claim the rate still stays at 9.99 %

Haunts of Richmond
02-21-2010, 07:37 PM
We're a for profit haunt and pay our actors. Two years ago we had a basic per hour wage for all actors, regardless of the night they worked. This year we decided to stagger the hourly wage to more per night the later we got into the season. We also provided a Blood Lake water bottle, as well as giving them soda and candy every night... with a big dinner from Chick-fil-a on Halloween.

Another thing we attempted to do was build on a volunteer system. We figured out a minimum number of paid actors we could afford/had to have every night, then created a volunteer pool off of that. While the volunteers didn't have an hourly wage, they had complete flexibility of their schedule (could choose the night(s) they wanted to help out), as well as the ability to move up to our paid cast if we had some no shows or ones that quit. We also had a handful of gift cards for them as prizes on random nights.

This system is definitely something we'll continue to work and improve on. It's really the only way a small haunt like ours can continue to be for profit and afford to invest in improving and expanding the show every season.

- Ryan