View Full Version : Asking the actors what they want...

03-01-2009, 03:37 PM
First a bit of background, the haunt i work at is a commercial haunt here in Bakersfield and is about a 30 min walk through maze. We employed roughly 40-60 actors and had a complete make up department, front of house and security. This past season was my first acting and in the industry and i loved every second of it. This season I am taking on much more responsibility, helping with construction and design, building some pneumatic props and a ton of other odds and ends. One of the things I want to do is help my fellow actors out this season and get us as a team better organized. Our owner was so busy this past season he relied on the more experienced actors to mentor the new people and that was an unorganized mess. So back to the point, as an actor what would you like your haunt to be/do what ever.... What I'm saying is would you like a bbq say in July or August to get everyone back together and start bringing the new people into the family, would you like classes on scaring in a haunt, time in the haunt with lights on to practice and get to know your area, an actual handbook on do's don'ts and how to's for acting. How do you like the haunt actors organized withing the haunt itself ie senior members get the pic of the spots, assigned spots as apposed to roaming around freely? We had three different themes and everyone was assigned to a room and only 4-5 actors in the whole cast could roam the haunt or go out into the que. What would you like in terms of nightly accommodations, are you ok with a single bathroom brake and a bottle of water or would you prefer an craft services table with food and what nots that you can much on on your brake? We were allowed brakes about 2-3 times a night or if you needed one. I personally never used the brakes i didn't want to miss the scares, and i had a bottle of water stashed in my room so I was fine. For after season activities what would you like? I've seen haunts do awards dinners and the like which might be fun. We do pay our actors and had a pizza dinner a few weeks after closing and that seemed to fit everyone just fine but awards could boost moral. Do you want t shirts or something of the like or just a paycheck dinner and some good laughs? Let me know what you all would like out of your haunt for this upcoming season. I want to make things fun and memorable as well as easy for our actors.


03-01-2009, 04:33 PM
For off-season recruiting/cast bonding time, I like to have monthly activities. They can vary from seeing the newest horror movie, traveling to a theatrical event (plays, renaissance fairs, sketch comedy, etc), going ot another haunt, etc. The idea is to have fun and have the cast and bond, and try to learn a little in the process. Picnics and BBQs are also great in the summer.

I always recommend playing acting games in the haunt in the off-season, because this teaches the actors the layout of the house. We've had good luck with a hide-and-go-seek/tag hybrid game called Battle Royale. Not only is it fun, but it teaches timing, helps actors learn the best hiding places, and how to "hunt" others in the haunt.

During production, I used "Zone Leaders" which were more experienced actors that patroled a specific set of rooms. They would give the actors tips and suggestions, cover them for breaks, and see if they needed water or cough drops. We also had a Water crew, that would go through the haunt every 20 minuts or so with water and cough drops.

I love having an end of season Awards Banquet. It's great to have a formal end to the year, as well as a great time to recognize your cast and crew with awards and t-shirts.

Dr. Giggles
03-01-2009, 05:35 PM
See, i dont agree with many haunt scaring classes. Only because yeah they will teach you control and all that but the best is from experience. So i say no to that. If the elders have tips for the new guys then let them share it at will. But i say that there should be atleast one bbq or something at the end, it helps the family sense. At the Haunted Trails its only my first year at this haunt but i was welcomed with open arms. Honestly the best thing all actors can do is welcome the new people and give advice where its needed.

03-01-2009, 05:56 PM
our haunt is out doors and is constructed new every year so we cant do year round things at the haunt but we are in southern ca so we have perfect weather to have get together and what not. What are your thoughts on a basics of how to scare. I know the good scares come with experience but how to move and scare with a strobe light or in a dark maze, how to scare forward very basic stuff that a first timer could understand in 30 min. I know my first night all i got was stay low find spots in your room and dont say boo or rahhh.... I quickly figured out a bunch of different techniques which i later found a whole article online about but figure if i had a quick lesson or a paper with tips and tricks it would have been helpful.

Dr. Giggles
03-01-2009, 07:47 PM
Once again you will learn with experience. I mean being in a strobe room cant really be taught, neither can roaming dark mazes. It will come. Then there are people that just arent cut for haunt acting. It happens just isnt good for them but they have a passion and they try their best anyway...this is good. I am just saying that EVERYTHING comes with time. You would learn more in 1 season of just doing it, then 3 seasons of haunt training.

03-01-2009, 07:50 PM
very valid points, I'm just trying to give everyone the best head start they can get.

Dr. Giggles
03-01-2009, 07:52 PM
This i understand. I mean tips are ok but i think formal classes are sort of a waste of time. But dont get me wrong advice from edler actors is always useful. Especially if you are new to a haunt and or new to a room and the elder actor has been there for a while.

03-01-2009, 08:04 PM
I also agree on the formal class issue, every haunt is different so unless your owner is the one teaching the class then all information from the instructor will be fairly vague when it comes to your haunt or you specific room or scare. Speaking of this what 2 or 3 things would you say to a new actor at your own haunt? If no one minds I would like to compile a handful of basic tips and tricks that seem standard across the industry.

for example
I would tell them to wear good shoes (you spend all night running, jumping and standing on your feet so take care of them)

Have some time set aside before opening night to go through the whole haunt to get a basic idea of where everything is. (this is more for safety and general knowledge then finding all the scares in the haunt but do take extra time near your area to learn several different hiding spots or scares just encase you need them and to know where any hazards are near your area.

DON'T DO THE SAME SCARE ALL THE TIME. don't be afraid to try new things especially as a new actor, even if you screw up or it doesn't work how you thought then you get a do over in less then a minute so try something else.

Allen H
03-01-2009, 10:33 PM
Hey guys, Where this thread is heading is starting to worry me a bit. Actors need every tip and scrap of advice they can get. Experience will come yes, but at what cost, a broken nose either from a guest or from forgetting exactly where a wall was? Or maybe at the cost of injury to a guest.
I have worked as an actor all over the county and it is all the same. I do not know how many haunts either of you have worked at, but there are major similarities between shows. I do two days of classes for my actors now, thats two three hour sessions before they ever get into my haunt to see the maze and know the layout. It is that important.
Yes you can give a 15 year old a black robe and a mask and he will scare 4 out of 10 people in each group. If the actor is trained from day one and has a decent costume and the right attitude he will scare 7 or 8 out of 10. The scares are a third priority behind safety and procedure. For example
Id rather have an actor who shows up everyday on time who scares 5 or 6 out of 10 then one who only shows up when he feels like it and scares 8 or 9 out of 10.
Nzane I sell an actor training DVD that Does a pretty good job of laying out basics and allowing actors to learn from my mistakes as opposed to having to make costly mistakes themselves. Im working on a second DVD right now that has even more info. It is not a waste of time.
I became artistic director of an attraction last year that had been open for 11 years and had a terrible reputation for show quality, The actors were the same and when reviewed by local haunt reviewers the show jumped from a 7 to a 9, the main difference was the training!
Pm me if you would like a copy of the DVD. I wish you all the luck in the world with your troop of actors, do not make the mistake of sending them to their sets without training them.
Allen H

03-01-2009, 10:39 PM
Thanks for that Allan, i will def look out for the new DVD and will order your current one as the season nears. Would you be willing to contribute a few pearls of basic wisdom to the list?

Allen H
03-01-2009, 11:57 PM
I use acronyms that are easy to remember for actors, here is one of them
F.E.A.R. this is what makes a good haunted house actor.

F rightening
E nergetic
A ware
R eliable

Frightening -is pretty obvious, they are paying to be frightened while they are in your show, they want to be scared run three steps then laugh. thats when you are doing it right

Energetic - is all about pacing being able to deliver the same show at 1am that you delivered at 8pm. Energy is about being able pace your self and learning to operate on a level 7 energy level most of the night, that way when you need to you can turn up the dial, if your burn on level 9 then when you need to you do not have any more to give. Its treating your body right so you can maintain your work through the night and the season.
Awareness - This is the most important thing for a haunt actor. awareness is knowing where the groups are, and who is in them. its knowing that the gap between two people you see through your peephole is a 4 year old who is not tall enough to be seen, not a good space to jump out (thats how I kneed a 4 year old in the face). Its getting to your set before show and noting that there is a bulb out and notifying the manager so its fixed before show. Its knowing that light and sound levels were set the way they are for a reason and you should not change them without permission. Awareness in knowing that the actor behind you has an issue and needs you to stall the group and being able to do so without dropping or breaking character and in such a way that the stalled group never even notices it.

Reliable - almost self explanatory but you will never fully understand unless you are the owner and you are short four actor how important reliability is. Be ready to work (in costume and make up) 20 minutes before show opening. Reliability is being on set for every group except when you are on break, its also coming back from your break exactly on time. Its also making the most of the set you are needed in and not complaining about little things.

Im not the best typer in the world but that "pearl" is a biggie, I use it alot and the actors repeat it as a chant before show. Lots more in the DVD so nab it if you are able to. Keep in mind that acting is objective, I try to mold actors into actors that owners like as opposed to actors that are the scariest things ever, scary is important and I never forget that but showing up is more important cause if you miss nights or if you miss groups you did not scare those people at all.
My advice is from 10 years in year round haunts and from working in different seasonal haunts all over the country, I have done it long enough to see patterns that you do not catch onto until you have scared your first 500,000 people or so.
Allen H

03-02-2009, 12:11 AM
Exactly the kind of post i was looking for, thank you.

Dr. Giggles
03-02-2009, 09:32 AM
Of course i meant no scare classes. Safety and all that probably should be breached in a conversation by the owner at least once. To all cast members. Thats how it is in our haunt. Then we go home come back and make kiddes cry.

04-02-2009, 08:55 AM
I agree that experience is the best training, but if you put someone who doesn't really know what they're doing out there and expect them to be scary, there will be some disapponted customers who will tell others "That one guy in the XXXX area was terrible" They'll tell their friends, who will tell their friends, etc.

I think that enthusiasm and the desire to learn is more important that actual book-training, but those people are the ones who listen to the more experienced actors and inevitably turn out to be the best actors.

Scarowinds hired nearly 400 actors last year, most of them first-years. Every one of them went to a two-hour basic training seminar where they learned how to pick their targets, what works, what doesn't, and a lot of common sense stuff. I was shocked that a LOT of them didn't know that groups of pre-teen girls often make the best targets. When they were put into their individual areas, they received more one-on-one instruction on how to utilize the room, what props were good for this or that, and stuff that wouldn't work in other areas of their mazes.

I trained two of the 11 mazes and scare zones in our haunt last year and both of them were voted among the top 3 "Best Scares" in the park. Hopefully this year I will be able to go through each maze and offer instruction to the new guys/girls. (I took Bob Turner's "Hauntertainer U." course in teh summer of 2008 and got a lot out of it. )

I don't claim to know it all and learn new things every night I'm out in the park, but I had lots of actors come up to me during the year and ask what they could do to improve their areas. I look forward to these folks training new actors over the next few seasons.

Just my .02 cents...