View Full Version : Haunt in OK Did or DIdn't pay their actors... read the story

03-16-2011, 01:07 PM

The reason I bring this up is because this is NOT the kind of press you want when you can avoid it... you getting sued for a broken arm not stuff we need to discuss around here but not paying actors. Something is up here.


Allen H
03-16-2011, 02:17 PM
I cant tell you how often I see multiple owners go bad. You start for fun, then money becomes an issue. Its the same reason alot of marriages fall apart, there a partnership too.
Allen H

03-16-2011, 04:19 PM
I think it's shameful that for profit haunts still don't pay actors, very unprofessional I think.


03-16-2011, 06:29 PM
It is shameful. I operated a haunt in Oklahoma for 8 years and paying staff was a priority. I just don't know how this can happen when you rely on these folks to be a team and make the attaction a success (which the owner relies on).
It's unethical to think differently.

RJ Productions
03-16-2011, 09:55 PM
Sorry Darkangel and Tom but I'd have to disagree. We are a for profit attraction and we are the only one in Vegas that can still use an all volunteer cast.

But to be fair it's not like I don't spend money on my cast. We have several pre-haunt functions, several during the run and several after the run.

We just took the cast to see the Titanic Exhibit, next week we take them to the Mini Gran Prix (go-karts, pizza party..) They get t-shirts, hoodies, hats etc.

Just because a haunt is for profit doesn't mean they make a ton of cash!! We actually tried a paid cast twice and both times the level of our
actors was noticable down!! Customers stopped and told us the acting wasn't as good as the year before! The cast we have now are there because they want to be! Our houses are very actor oriented. They have built up a reputation so that while every one else has trouble filling maybe 20 spots, we had over 150 audition!

When I explain how the concept works, it is best discribed as a live theater presentation. If you have a community theater group the producer is the one that backs the production, rents the theater, pays for the advertising, covers all the expenses. The actors act for free because they love to act. The producer provides the space for them to "play". If the production does turn a profit it allows the producer to fund the next production. Our haunt works on the same principal. If I don't make enough...we don't play again!!

A volunteer cast is not for everyone. It takes a lot more work to maintain and operate. For us it is worth it because of the level of acting it produces. The first couple years I might not have felt that way!!!

Jim Warfield
03-16-2011, 10:13 PM
I could never get used to the smell! Those decrepit French Foreign Legionair guys! WOW!! Whee!" Way too long in their jungle outposts with no hygene in a bottle.
Why would not a haunt pay their employees? We ALL make millions, right? Just ask any customer as they remove shoes and socks on a busy October weekend as they try to "cypher" the $$ coming in.
I have no trouble at all remembering what it felt like those times working for others that I did not get paid, or paid much less than I should have been. "If I pay you now, what will I use to buy my family their Christmas presents?"
"If you don't pay me, how am I supposed to buy MY FAMILY(4 kids) their presents?" Duh? Since I have been working for you for the last month!
"If I have to pay you now, I'll lose intrest on that money, I'll pay you next month." (So then my Dad had to borrow money to pay his suppler and PAY intrest!? "Duh?"
I also have no trouble remembering what it was like to "Winter" in a concrete culvert under a road in NW Illinois in December.
(Probably not the culvert for "everybody" since it's one end emptied into a large grave yard.)
PAY Them if they are not volunteers!

03-17-2011, 02:10 PM
Sorry Darkangel and Tom but I'd have to disagree. We are a for profit attraction and we are the only one in Vegas that can still use an all volunteer cast.

But I'm sure your actors knew of no pay ahead of time. Volunteer is the key here for you. That's not the same. These were "payroll actors".

Back in 2003, I had to take out a new loan just to get my actors paid because they were told ahead of time they would get paid. I didn't make enough by the end of the season to pay them all so I had to do something to make it right, for them... that and this is how I was raised. Honor your word or pay the price in the long run, either by court or by God.
Or just have no self respect...

But then there may be issues with the original story that we don't know about. But if they were told of payroll status ahead of time, pay them.

X-Treme Torment
03-17-2011, 02:32 PM
Allen…… i totally agree this past year at our haunt my partner was all about the money..... He didn’t want to pay the actors because he was going to Hawaii this winter but i took the money out of my pocket to pay them and that was also one of the reasons we split this year at TW.

03-17-2011, 03:07 PM

You should be paying your actors if you're a for profit haunt I've seen you talking about being professional, do you think the people who work at say, Toys r Us are volunteers? Of course not you can take your staff to movies or events all you want but it should be in addition to paying them. I read on a posting before where Larry said one criteria to be a pro haunt is to pay your actors. Paid or volunteers should not really impact the quality of their performance sounds kind of like an excuse? Train them paid or volunteer they'll be about the same, but it's the principal that applies here.


03-17-2011, 04:59 PM
If you telll your actors they are getting paid you need to pay them if they know they are not getting paid its no big deal...

If I had a horrible season, I would know that sometime in the middle of that season right... I would have started laying off some of the staff, getting the costs under control long before. The bottom line is however that I would pay my actors before I would pay for my rent, radio stations or whatever... you can always work with those guys on payments or whatever. You have to pay your actors and staff FIRST!


03-17-2011, 06:00 PM
a little cost turns into a big one. you always hate to see this. i hope it works out.

Bradenton Haunted Trail
03-17-2011, 06:45 PM
I had a pro haunt in 1996 and lost almost 30k and i paid my actors first, Even though i new i was losing my shirt in the process. I am jumping back into the pro arena again this year after 5 years of a charity Haunt. I am going to try a mix of paid and volunteers. but the volunteers have a way to make a little money by passing out flyer's with a special code on the back that will get them some money for every flyer that is turned in with there code on it.


Greg Chrise
03-17-2011, 07:58 PM
Just making a great charity haunt even with volunteer actors can suck away tons of money over time. Oklahoma is one of those states that doesn't care, they only go after what liability has been reported to them. Doubtful that the helpers all got together and decided they got robbed and called up the Labor board. More like both of these guys are trying to be companies reporting everything but their businesses and money are not developed enough to have even considered such a strategy. The second guy in can't take over the same helpers and just claim some date, he took over the whole liabiltity as the first guy set up an account with the state. States are real good at wondering where their income is once it was pre registered.

A few weeks ago, politians had been using the word small business this and that so many times, I decided to look up the definitiion of small businesses they think they are going to help or hurt. The definitions turned out to be companies with 50 to 100 full time year round employees. And in fact businesses with a net profit below $6700 income are not recognized as any more than a start up even if it has achieved no more than this for years and years. And so the tax liability is deemed how diligent the reporting cycles and the tax level determinded.

Still what happens is every Joe and Jenny go out and start a "company", they get all the forms and register because some dumbass accountant told them they should or some employee at a bank thinks that's how they think it is done. When in reality they were not at an income base yet to require any of that crap. They might never achieve 50 full time employees. But, on a State and local level things change, if you have one employee they want the money for unemployment compensation, wage taxes. When you get over 3 employees they want to see workman's comp insurance. Because that's what the states DO! Then of course the Social security people get called and want all this information too.

These guys not telling the labor board what they can and will do rather than just tell us how many millions do you think we need to pay is the haunt they really created. Education is SO expensive.

Dark Scares
03-17-2011, 09:19 PM
Ok I knew the name rang a bell. I pulled out my business cards from Transworld and this very Jay Stephens from Tumbleweed talked to me almost non stop through the lights on tour of Lemp, asking me about our haunt, and telling me how he was trying to buy something like a new 25,000 sf building. That is disturbing to me, as a first year haunt owner last year, paying the actors was always first and foremost on our minds.

03-17-2011, 09:24 PM
Hey one thing I will say is there are two sides to every story and even if they settle this thing doesn't mean they did anything wrong. There is a good chance they did exactly what they said, and the actors turned on them for something else, who knows. On the forefront it seems like they didn't pay their actors, but on the flip side I wouldn't be surprised that they did. I know in my dealings there has been several situations you know you didn't do anything wrong but you settle something anyway just to get past it... so don't rush to judgement.

If someone knows these guys I would love to hear about whats really going on. But I would say not paying your actors isn't good.


Dark Scares
03-18-2011, 08:40 AM
Very true Larry, it would be good to hear both sides. Sometimes I think there may not always be a clear understanding of expectations and compensation.
Being a new haunt, We now realize now how important it is for everything need to be in writing, and agreed to by both parties. I am one of those people that my word is good and I just expect the same of everyone else, but the world is not always like that unfortunately. Actor contracts or agreements would be a good thread.