Surprisingly this is my first year working for a professional haunt and I need a bit of professional tuning on my act. Huge step up from my garage haunting days. Don't get me wrong I'm a scary guy but a little help never hurt and what better place to seek guidance than this wonderful part of the internet.
Any major DO's and DONT's, techniques to save and make your voice last and really pretty much anything else worth slapping down on the table would be great information.
Really any feedback is nothing but a huge help! Thanks guys :D
You could always get one or both of Allen's DVD'S at http://www.stiltbeaststudios.com/About.html this would be a great help for you.
P.S. The biggest DON'T in do not say "BOOO"...lol
Lets see Dos and donts
DO watch your audience- your whole audience not just the ones who are scared try to see the faces of everyone in the group read tham and learn who needs more or a different approach from you
DO be ready 15 min before the haunt opens so you are prepared and not causeing stress to anyone in your chain of command
DO respect the set designers and not alter lights or prop placement
Do try to be positive when dealing with other castmembers- bad attitudes spread like a cancer through a cast, its the enviornment dark and loud its easy to be upset. Instead of focusing on the set that is meant to disturb people, focus on the guests reacting to your performance
DONT bring your phone in the house- those FB messages will be there when you close
DONT say hello to friends who come through- if you do you are ripping them off of the show they wanted to see, and making it harder for the rest of the cast to scare them.
DONT sweat the small stuff- haunt owners and managers are nibbled to death by ducks with tiny problems every night- write down the things that need adressing because conversations can be forgotten; give it to your manager at the end of the night- unless its a safety issue.
If they are bigger than you, reach for their feet
If they look freaked out, go for a harder target
If a door you are scaring through opens in, put your knee behind it- someone will kick it and its better it stops at your knee than your nose.
I could write these all day, but im tired- Im sureyou will get a ton of great advice here.
Use the same costume every day. Make it a "character" you play and develop that character. My best actors seem to be the ones that by the time they put their teeth in they become someone completely different than who they are without their makeup and costumes on. Its an amazing transformation and its fun to watch develop.
I suggest Allens videos as well. He covers everything !!
Like Allen, with my 19 years under my belt I could go on for volumes, but will give you 5 of my top tips:
1. Do not break character unless absolutely necessary. If you need to talk to a coworker out of character pull them aside out of the customer's view to do it.
2. Have variety to your act for both your sanity and the customer's entertainment. Saying the same line 2,000 times a night will get old, and often if there are others that are learning around you they like to mimic...and it will spread through the haunt. It is a lot harder to mimic a full character with volumes of dialogue. However make your act appropriate to your scene or position. If you only see them for 5 seconds, dont try to tell them a story, however if you are entertaining a cue line, that might work.
3. No scare is worth putting yourself or others in danger. Know your boundaries, and if you can't read your customer's proceed with extreme caution.
4. Check your costume/makeup/mask before going into your acting area or in front of the crowd. Nothing is worse than a mask not tucked in, a t-shirt showing from a mis-tied costume, forgetting to change out of your white sneakers into boots or black shoes, makeup on your face but not your ears or back of the neck/hands, etc... The more realistic you look from head to toe, ears to eyes, the better chance you will have of convincing the customer you are something else with your act. However if you get really good, you can do it without the costume...you might just get a lot more weird reactions from people...lol.
5. Have fun...just like any musician you see live...if they are having fun/really getting into what they are doing and it shows the audience will respond better....use this same formula with acting. Dont get bummed out if you dont get a scare off someone, roll with it and make the most of it.
Mike "Pogo" Hach
This is really helpful guys, gotta work more on my character. I'm going to be using my CFX Flayed Frank so I should probably act like a tormented soul who's only purpose in life is to find a new face to wear.
This is my 19th year too so I've come out of a few thousand closets, walls, etc.
A quick list of things that matter to me-
1. NO DAMN WHITE TENNIS SHOES UNLESS YOUíRE PLAYING A DEAD ATHLETE!
2. Goes along with number one- costume the whole character, not just the mask. If youíre playing a gory faceless zombie kind of character your arms and hand need to either match or be covered up. A badass mask still looks like crap if the skinny arms of a 15 year old girl are reaching for me.
3. I like startle scares so I'm usually playing either the distract or the startle.
-If you are playing the distract you are selling that character. You've got to make them believe the whole thing to sell it for the startle. You are making them focus on you with full attention so they never see the startle coming. Stay out of their personal space and work on the boundaries of it. It makes you appear dangerous and that you might get in their space at any moment. If you get in their space and don't do anything with it you've proven yourself to not be dangerous and they will start looking around for something else that might be.
-If you are the startle get your timing down. Learn to read groups and hit the right spots at the right time- either the middle or the back. There are very few good reasons to hit the front of a group. Your scare lasts 3 to 5 seconds- that's it- THAT IS ALL! Did you hear me? THAT IS ALL!!! Get in, do your thing, and get back out. If you have the time circle behind and hit them again on the way out but don't hang in their personal space and linger. Any more than about 5 seconds and you are just on their nerves. Don't be that guy that gets up against the face of the one girl in the group you scared and linger there all the way to the next scene. Yeah she might be scared but the rest of the group is just annoyed by your presence and you haven't given them or her the chance to relax a little so the next room can scare them too. And if I'm in the room behind yours and you follow them into it Iím going to scold your ass for screwing up my scare. It's all about rising and falling action and adrenaline. They have to come down before you can jack them back up.
4. IF YOU GET SMACKED OR PUNCHED IT IS PROBABLY ATLEAST HALF YOUR OWN FAULT- this goes back to reading a group and working personal space. The closer you get and the longer you stay there, the more handsy you are... the more likely you are to get assaulted. The first couple years I worked as a teenager I got hit half a dozen times at least. The last 10 years.... ZERO. I had one drunk take a swing at me last year- I backed completely away and shut down the house right there, held up the groups behind and escorted them out of the house and to security who was waiting via a radio call. Learn to read people and you will save yourself and your haunt owner a lot of problems- because I hit back!
5. Over time try to develop at least two distinctly different characters that can be played in a pinch. It makes you more versatile and more valuable as an actor to the haunt owner. If Iím planning to play a clown I still have the gear to play another character incase someone in a key spot doesn't show and the boss needs to move some people around. I also carry a generic sock mask that can go with about any scene. Put a wig on with it and you are a clown. Cover-alls and a hard hat and you are a dead construction worker in a toxic waste scene. It's a good tool to have in your bag of tricks.
First couple days were pretty good! Got to experiment a lot and I realized I am definitely a startle actor. I found an extremely effective scare is sliding at patrons with knee pads.
My spot is usually in a long flickering hall way where the lights turn off every few seconds. When the customers come I slide at them as fast as humanly possible and stop an inch in front of them. The looks on their faces are priceless.
They have no idea what hit em :D