View Full Version : So, who trains your actors?

06-20-2010, 10:48 AM
As someone that goes to haunts and trains actors, I'm curious as to the methods that haunt owners use to train their actors. Do you let veteran actors apprentice novices? Do you watch how-to videos? Hire people to come in and train? Let them fend for themselves? Now that convention season is over, I'm starting to see local haunts beginning to advertise the need for actors (no experience necessary). I guess they'll have them ready by September...

The large theme-park haunt I used to work for failed to provide any serious training for their new actors last season and I heard a lot of complaints about how it took a couple nights before anyone really got into their routine. (There was a lot of turnover last year)

(As always, if you need someone to help with your actor training, I'm always for hire. Drop me a line for details...)

Jim Warfield
06-20-2010, 08:44 PM
They can not work here. I have strict rules about this sort of thing.
Nobody will ever be allowed to work here if they soil their pants and don't know what a toilet is.
Such special defects are beyond what we are seeking for entertainment for our patrons.
As a worker in a haunt you can only get away with blaming the customers for getting scared and making a stink just so long before everyone's nose will be pointing your direction.

06-21-2010, 11:40 PM
Here is one way the haunt that i am a lead of is deciding to train newbies. before i got there they use to have management train the actors in there spot and what they wanted them to do. it works if you have a small haunt and a lot of newbies but lets face the facts they are not going to scare them exactly the way you want them to. last couple years there was really no training for the newbies at all and it hurt royally the second year. This year managment and leads got together and decided to start a mentor program that would help with training newbies. This is the first year we are trying this and we are hoping it works. Once we get past the orientation night with management for example i would take the people that are in my haunt and start working with them and make sure they understand all the ins and outs of scareing as best as i can. I know that the first week we are open we will be getting some heavy training done to get everyone close to the same page and see who will really work out and who will not. It is not a full proof plan but it is something to work on. later in the coming years for the ones that stay at the haunt will be the ones training all the newbies so the Leads can work on the veterans and help them become better. the way i see it everyone is different in how they are scared and we can all ways improve scare tatics all the time to make the haunt better.

Lead of Alice's House of Nightmares @ Arizona's Original Scream Park

Jim Warfield
06-22-2010, 06:56 AM
Must be identified and corrected.
Nobody can scream their voicebox out all night long for a few weeks .
How aggressive do you really want any of your helpers to actually be?
Paying attention to the customers, respecting the customer, giving a good energized performance within reason, are all items to be figured out beforehand if possible.
Total freedom of deciding certain things can lead to incredible new things in a brain-storming session but people just set adrift on their own, in the dark is asking for big problems.
There is alot more to haunted entertaining than most newbies even begin to realise.
"Well, it's Not Brain Surgery!"
Yes it is......

06-22-2010, 07:22 AM


As far as actor training ,.. in some of the haunts I workled at and have helped manage in years past, essentially what they would do .. is take the actors to thier assigned rooms and "show and tell" them what the room entailed , and told them "just be part of the room" ... to real "formal" training before hand, many times they just assumed that people would get the idea from ther room they were in .

SOMETIMES this worked out in a good way .. other times , it didnt , much of it depended on the actors.

HOWEVER, now as being a co-owner of a Home haunt ( soon to go commercial) we have ALL of our actors, veteran and newbies alike, go thru , I belive Kelly Allen says in his book, "spook school" , and it DOES HELP .

It shows the newbies what is expected, and gives a bit of a refresher course to the veterans, and we each learn off each other. This way it gets every one on the "same page".

Granted, yes there are somethings that are "standard" for each and every haunt venture/attraction but as laws and such change, so will the "technique" of scaring as well as what can and cannot be done.

As being one of the liasions(owners) for our haunt, I can say things can change drastically from year to year, as to what can and cannot be done, and every one has to be up to speed in regards to that.

Case in point ... 7 years ago when I started as a manager for Lockport Haunted cave, we spent AT LEAST 2 weeks, 2 or 3 days a week,(never less but always more as the years went on) on just rehersals,and training for actors in our assigned area, going over the script, and telling the actors ( at least 12 of them on just my team specifically) what was expected.

Each actor had to fill out an appilcation, for conact information, and other "legal stuff", it didn't mater if they were voulenteer or paid wokers, or wether they had done a haunt befoee or not, and if you missed more than 2 or 3 reheasals in the time frame (other than for emergency or medical matters) you were "cut" from the group. Also they HAD TO COMMIT to doing the full run for the haunt, again unless emergency or other matters came into play, if you missed a day or more you were also "cut" from the group.

The reason for the commitment was the fact, essentially, you are being trained for you charecter, and if for some reason, you don't show up, that puts a "burden" on the rest of us to fill your spot. Which consiudering the nature of the haunt as it was , was designed specifically for each individual charecter.

Once done with training, they the actors had the freedom, to an extent, to make thier charecter they portrayed thier own, adlibbing or what have you , to make each charecter unique, and have thier own personality, to the actor.

Each haunt of course, will have diffrent things and diffrent ways of doing thier training, depending on thier actors and what have you, that was just the way we did it. And it worked fantastically. Especially, when it came to being creative with the charecters.

Just my thoughts, on actor training.


Allen H
06-22-2010, 09:19 AM
Surprise! I train my actors. lol
I actually do not use my own actor training video, I fear that my guys will see it as me slacking and doing something else while they are in training. They get all the same info and then some over a two night mandatory training sessin as well as a volunteer night of training.
Often I will assign "sweet" spots to those who come to the volunteer training, I normally have a pretty good turn out for the unpaid volunteer nights over half of the cast makes it.
Then we have an orientation put on by HR about safety, the grounds, medical issues ya da ya da ya da, but orientation is seperate from actor training.
I use lecture and excercises to inform them of what I want. Most of what I do are on my DVD's avalable on my website.
Im not the end all be all of haunted house acting by any means no one is, it is a craft that has many students and few masters. It is the ability to read a gueast and then craft a custom show just for them in the time it takes them to walk by your set.
Most owners dont really train their actors, they are to busy. I urge you to find the time. If you cant then it is worth the money to bring in a pro like Badger.
Allen H

06-22-2010, 04:02 PM

I agree 100% about taking the time as a haunt onwer to TAKE THE TIME train your actors granted as owners and all the paperwork and other "kleg work" tat has to be done as owners or even managers we should ALL take the time to train or at least make our perence known to the actors., this does 2 things

One, it shows them you are not just a "general slacker" and you care about them.

Second .. with actors involved in the production,, either paid or voulenteer, in a way it sends(or sets) a a bit of "community" amongst the group you are working with.

This way it brings every one together, as a "unit" and every one knows what the other is doing, actors, owners and managers, and allowing things to run like a "well oiled machine".

Which is the way it SHOULD be.

As far as "sweet spots" to be honest, and my not knockin your comment in that regard, but any sopt in a haunt can be a "sweet spot" much of that is up to the actor that is in it.

We have a bit of a policy tho.. the "veterans" DO first crack at a positon of thier choosing. Each actor veteran and newbie alot gets a clomplete layout of hour the haunt is designed.

And what we have found tha has happned .. especially those that have been in out crew for years, many of the Veterans will choose to take a "light role", either as being a roamer thru the haunt, or a part that is more "interactive" with the patrons. Or on the other hand they will alow the newbies to take a certain part so they learn HOW to be more interactive with patrons.

Case in point .. for me .. I stand at about 6ft 2 inches, and just about any spot I would be in .. I can come across as rather "forebodeing" , but my typical charecter is a "grim reaperish" type of charecter, have also been know to do a good Freddy , ad well as a Pihead charecter. Just depoends on my mood .

Many times we allow our actors to choose what spot they woudl feel comfortable doing.. ansd we will tell them what we expect, but ultimately its up to them to make the charecter thie own .. with thier personality and what have you .

As far as your "end all be all" statement, no one ever will be, as far as I'm concered. And if they think like that, doesnt matter how much training you do, if you " come off" as someone like that to your crew, the respect WILL diminish , AND IT WILL START TO SHOW IN THE PRODUCTION QUALLITY.

Fellow haunters .. take care of your actors .. and get involved with them as much as woudl be possibe... keep the 'communications lies" open for them .. and let them knwo you care .

Just my thoughts.

Jim Warfield
06-22-2010, 06:26 PM
A quick "Gotcha" moment repeated over and over, struggling to see out of a mask or costume, maintaining one's composure and sense of direction and purpose and timing the entire time.
One good, interesting line , well spoken, timed right or speaking almost non-stop all night long.
Trying to come up with good help is tough, a few years ago an article stated that the main fear most people have is the fear of public speaking. Even with make up or mask, in a dark area, this public speaking fear still finds many people, unfortunately.

the ogre
06-22-2010, 07:46 PM
for the first time in 21 yrs the haunt i work at will be doing "scare school" and who is doing it? none other than myself. lol im very dedicated and have been one of the most intense highenergy actors for the past 5 seasons. they approched me about doing it and i said suuuure. im in college to be a teacher but some how i think this is gonna be a tad differnt. ive made a pamphlet, nothing to extreme but i hope i can teach them somthing. we shall see

06-22-2010, 07:54 PM
This is only our 4th season. This year our focus is actor training. Just had a company bail on us so we used Allen's video to show our actors. It seemed to work very well. We have Badger coming in to train for a day in August. I think this will be a great help for our people and make our house over the top this year for this area.

This is a problem we had and lacked just throwing people into scenes. So training not only the actors but the owners is always money well spent.

Thanks Allen, the video was great and tons of positive feedback. Can't wait to see you Badger!!!!

06-24-2010, 02:35 PM
When I've run haunts, I was in charge of actor training and it was something that I focused on year round (we did lots of activities, seminars, and acting games in the off season). When we had new actors show up during production, I would work with them before the show opened and talk to them about the room, their ideas for their character, and make sure that I put an experienced actor in with them. Throughout the night I would go into that area and "play" with the new actor and give them pointers, fix any bad habits, and make sure that they aren't getting frustrated.

I believe your actors are some of your best assets, so proper education and training is a must. They should also be treated well (a little appreciation goes a long way) and I've used "Best of" awards each night to promote them to strive to be the best.

I love training actors and it is one of my favorite things to teach, whether it be at a Con or at a haunt.

07-02-2010, 03:28 AM
We have been progressively getting better and better at training our actors. As far as who trains them- well that would be the stage management team. It use to consist of just myself and the director/owner- but as we go along we are starting to add Haunt Leaders who are veteran actors that can lead their own portions of training.
As far as the process...
First we recruit heavily from local theaters and the college's theater program, usually you get some pretty good ones who are looking to have some fun.
Second we have an orientation night. We spend it going over a lot of things- but also going room by room through our haunt and 'talking' the scare out with the actors. We also spend some time going over some big points that get reiterated over and over again- movement and sound.
While moving between stations- actors have to move in a certain way (zombie dragging their leg, creature on the prowl, bobbing ghost head) , then we have stations to talk about the value of keeping close to customers while not actually touching them. This takes some time and we work in groups going back and forth to get people comfortable moving in tight spaces and working themselves around scenes. Then we work on sound...I push it every year that actors do not have to scream themselves horse to get an effective scare. We work on practicing screaming at different volumes to get actors use to using a volume they're comfortable with and can go all night.
Then come the Boo Camps:
During Boo camps we assign veteran actors with new actors and we start running scenes. We do improvisation exercises to keep things interesting for the group and have people act in front of everyone to get use to being scary in broad day light. Then we do some dry runs for everyone to get use to moving around the haunt and working as a group.
Dress Rehearsal:
Is our soft opening. Perfect chance for actors to invite family/friends for a super discount price to go through the haunt and have a good time. Also gives us valuable time to give our actors real time scaring and reduces the number of pesky requests on busy nights of 'my family's coming through- can i have an awesome spot/ can you tell me when they're coming in????'
It also gives time for actors to build some confidence because they're having their support group come early on.

Of course during all this the director can move around and make adjustments as he see's fit- and you pray for limited turn over so your actors get better and better every year!

07-23-2010, 01:52 PM
Great thread!

Clap! Clap! Clap! Chop! Hack! Drag! Drag! Drag!

08-09-2010, 06:40 PM
Most owners dont really train their actors, they are to busy. I urge you to find the time. If you cant then it is worth the money to bring in a pro like Badger.
Allen H

Thanks for the kind words Allen (I sent the check yesterday) :)

I'll be heading up to Spookhaven this weekend to begin the 2010 season of actor training and have several other haunts lined up. I still have a couple available weekends in September. If you would like me to come to your haunt and put on my "Boo Camp" for your actors, please drop me a line. I would be more than happy to talk to you..

08-21-2010, 09:41 PM
I've assisted and or run actor training for the past seven years.

I prescribe to a different school of thought about actor/scene selection. It is best to pick the actor that best fits the scene and theme even if a veteran preferred that particular scene.

Actors are trained to trust management's judgment as we run through the haunt over and over during slow nights to drill them and find the right actor for the right room.