View Full Version : What do you trust your actors to do?

Dr. Giggles
03-11-2009, 07:47 PM
Ok i am starting this thread because i am very lenient with my actors as to what they can use as props. As long as they are not real wepons (i.e. knives, axes) they can use shovels, chains. But im very strict as soon as they make contact with a customer no matter how slight they loose the right. What are your guys views on props for the actors? What do you allow them to use and not to use? I know this is mainly common sense but i trust my actors because i have had them for so long. (Practically same crew over and over with the exception of 1 or 2 new faces, but they tend to be to scared to use props) I mean i even use a chain myself as a prop. Whats everyone views, is there anything you would be OK with but nervous? Straight up NOT allowed, and what would you be perfectly ok with?

03-11-2009, 08:50 PM
What you can do to keep things in a controlled environment is to create strike points or strike areas. These are the places PRE selected that the actors with these interesting noise making props can only hit. So if your actor is by a wall a table and a chain link fence for a ceiling then the three strike points would be the corner of the table, 5 feet up on the wall, and the ceiling. Vincent This Time!

Jim Warfield
03-11-2009, 10:29 PM
A customer wandering in the momentary darkness between the 2 by 4 and the assigned strike point is never good.
This happened or so it was written about on this site one time.
We are all creative people and we have to use this to imagine what could go wrong with the things we build or make happen, before they happen.
Here we use mostly facial expressions and the voice speaking, acting to ellict fearfull reactions, this can also be very dangerous if some young woman becomes smitten with you as you are pretending to be something you are not.
It might be fun until she finds her guaranteed dissappointment as the truth wanders in.
Been there been done by that.

Allen H
03-12-2009, 08:06 AM
Dr. Giggles,
This is a toughie to ask, and even harder to answer. First year actors in my shows are not allowed to use words until I give them the power of human speech. At opening meeting I call them up to the front and put my hand on their heads and say speak. This mini ceremony helps bond the group and it helps get the actors to rely on physicality and primal growling and grunting to sharpen those skills which will only be enhanced by speaking later.
They also start by using no props as these can become crutches (see how scary most chainsaw guys are when their saw breaks down). Once again developing the basic skills before the addition of extras.
Seasoned actors develop niches and great characters spring from the use of props. Depending on the theme of the show I allow different and various props.

Squeeze LED flash lights for scares and defense blind them and leave them.

Custom made plastic knives

Custom cleavers

Plastic chain (Knew of an actor that lost his pinky when a customer grabbed his real chain)

Various noise makers

wooden clubs (great noisemakers)

Leaf blower ($100 idea here, In a black light room or area attach the florescent nylon marking tape to a screen at the end of the blower, the effect is awesome. lengths of about four to six feet whip around like crazy.)

Stilts, they are costume and prop at the same time, and weapon if need be.

Spark wands ( I love these things) I like to set up the sparker over head and let them rain down before they group walks through that area)

umbrellas- ok stop laughing suddenly opening a spring umbrella in a semi dark hallway scare the hell out of people, they also use it to hide behind.
Thats all that my head will spit out right now but there are some good ones in there, prop use should be granted in stages, do not give them every right all at once.
Allen H

Ken Spriggs
03-12-2009, 08:13 AM
They also start by using no props as these can become crutches (see how scary most chainsaw guys are when their saw breaks down).

Funny.......when mine broke.....I threw it into the crowd and went to home depot IN COSTUME to pick out a new one!!!!! The girl at the register ran like the wind when i went to check out.

Dr. Giggles
03-12-2009, 09:44 AM
Ok allen i must dissagree with you. I am six foot five so i do not lack intimidating stature. In our haunt we are never in the same place twice. (The pro haunt i worked at this year, The haunted trails of balboa park) Unless you are scary good at that room. (Mine was the clown maze...never got outta there...not that im complaining hahah) So one night i was put in the chainsaw room. I learned something that day, if you cannot scare someone without a chainsaw. You are not necessarily guranteed to scare someone with a chainsaw. This is not from personal experience trust me, i made a great many cry and beg for freedome from my domain of mental rape. But thats another story. There was one new guy, and i dont mean to be rude or a basher but he was garbage. He scared no one. He was a big fellow to about 6'9 could even have been seven foot. So yeah its kind of annoying it does take SOME acting to be able to scare with the saw. But back on topic. I understand where you are coming from with the limiting of what the actors can use. Like i said all the actors i use have been with me for years.

Allen H
03-12-2009, 11:49 AM
Doc, it sounds like you are agreeing with me as opposed to disagreeing. Get their basics down first then they are better when they get to use props.
This season when me (with plastic cleaver) and one of our chainsaw blokes had someone cornered they would normally pick him to run by as opposed to getting closer to me. A good base of scareing skill should be in place before they get props that way when they get them they are even scarier.

That would have been something to see, I once had cops draw on my actor playing Jason when he went to his car (5 blocks away) in full costume....good times.
Allen H

Dr. Giggles
03-12-2009, 02:12 PM
Well i agree with you on the use of props. But not the use of chainsaws as a crutch. Because one fellow he was a chainsaw every night. Last night of the season he wasnt a chainsaw..he was a scary man. If we gave out an award for scariest actor of the night its likely it would go to him. But yeah i agree 100% on the basics down ATLEAST. I mean i have been doing this for like 5 years and i only recently started using props.

Jim Warfield
03-12-2009, 03:54 PM
Could a prop be just the idea of an object? Taking the time to talk and the customer to listen and comprehend...then they begin to anticipate what if??
I have always believed that allowing the customer's own mind to be stimulated works the best since they know what scares them. It might begin with them just getting weirded-out by something said or looked at, "tick tock." Clock is running inside their head, drawing up the items, objects, experiences that scare, scared them.
What waits around that dark corner?
A chainsaw?
I'm not afraid of chainsaws.
A 30 foot long snake?
Snakes don't bother me.
What if it was a toothless old woman who smelled like moth balls?
NO! Tell me my Great Aunt is Not around that corner! Please, say it isn't so! I'm scared now!

03-16-2009, 01:31 AM
First year actors in my shows are not allowed to use words until I give them the power of human speech. At opening meeting I call them up to the front and put my hand on their heads and say speak. This mini ceremony helps bond the group and it helps get the actors to rely on physicality and primal growling and grunting to sharpen those skills which will only be enhanced by speaking later.

I love this idea.
We spend a lot of time working on speaking parts with our actors that sometimes they lose the ability to grunt, howl, and scream like any good creature of the night.

As far as actor responsibility goes. I run by the rules that if the prop master, stage manger, or director doesn't give you a prop to use- you don't get to touch it. I've also found that giving chains or other props can inhibit an actor. They start smashing something around, not only breaking the prop but wasting their efforts less on intimidation and more on noise.
Even a table can be a bad prop, especially with new actors. Some like to jump on top of them or hide underneath, and once the excitement begins the injuries start to mount.
I'll defiantly be starting a program of 'no speaking unless my mighty powers bless them upon thee.

Allen H
03-16-2009, 10:04 AM
Lots of stuff like this will be on my second actor training DVD that I am working on now.The first one covers basic haunt acting and the second will cover working outside, and working inside the haunt as a group using coordination/ cooperation for better scares. There may be a segment on stilts in haunted hgouses as thats one of the things Im known for.
Allen H

03-23-2009, 05:03 PM
One thing we do at our attraction... we have a group of core people called the 'bone crew', then set directors, then we have our general volunteers. The bone crew and the set directors are the most trustworthy... they earn their way into the inner circle, and they have a vested intrest in the program. These are the most trustworthy people. I would trust these people with my life... seriously.

The volunteers... however... will f' up your stuff in a heartbeat!!! Our first season, I had more than 20 masks stolen, props stolen, broken, etc. We also had a group of customers break into our actor's facility and ransack the place.

Last year, however, we had EVERYTHING under lock and key. We had 65 masks in total, and at the end of the season... we still had 65 masks. We instilled an incentive program for our volunteers where they received gear, gift cards, and a party at the end. They signed out-and-in everything they needed for their scenes, if they didn't treat it with respect, they lost out on rewards. They signed on the dotted lines, and at the beginning of the season, we had parents sign an agreement/waiver that they were responsible for anything their kids broke/stole/etc.

We threw out a group of kids that always tore my stuff up after they missed a safety meeting, and showed up late. Make rules and stick to them.

Don't know if this is any help at all, but if you care about your stuff, and make the time to secure it.