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Thread: basic actor guidelines

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  1. Default basic actor guidelines 
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    Last night I recieved an email for a new haunt actor asking me for advice. The following is my response. After writing it, I decided to repost the same information on my blog and to share it with everyone here on the off chance that someone finds it useful. If so, you have my permission to use it to distribute to your own actors or in any way you see fit. Fell free to add to it or do whatever you like.

    Smacky's Haunt Acting Basics

    Be valuable: That means show up on time every time. This is the NUMBER ONE most important thing that a haunt owner loves. If you cannot be there let them know. If you are going to be late, let them know. Be the person that they can count on. Be a professional and they will treat you as one.

    Sometimes this is tough. Sometimes it means that you will have a 'crappy' job -- maybe you are pushing a lever all night and that is all you do. I invite you to think of it differently (and realistically). In a theatre, someone you never see opens the curtain; someone is working all those lights. They are no less important than any actor is, and without them, the show does not happen. If you become the person that your haunt owner goes to first (because he knows that you will get the job done right every time) and you can rest assured that you will very rapidly find yourself doing the more glamorous jobs you want.

    Why? The owner wants his most reliable people in those positions. Earn his trust and that is where you will be. Remember too that whatever your job, you are an important part of a TEAM of people, working together to provide a quality entertainment experience.

    Do not terrorize: by this, I mean, get your scare and get out of the customers face. It is tempting (and almost irresistible) to target the quivering pre-teenage girl and ride her until she is in tears. Don't! Get the scare and move on. Better yet, ignore her completely and scare the crap out of her oh-so-cool friends. More important, you can bet that the less skilled actors are focusing their attention on the easy scare, which means the others are probably starting to get bored. Correct this.

    Timing: Timing. Timing. Timing. The group knows that somewhere in this room, hallway, or whatever, something or someone is going to pop out and yell 'Boo!' Often, that wait is more frightening than the guy doing the scaring is. Timing means knowing when to strike for maximum impact. Be patient and wait for what you think is the right time, then nail them. After every group, study what worked and did not, and refine what you are doing. Always work to time your scare to both their anticipation, and to whatever distractions are built into the room.

    Approach: Approach them in a way they did not expect. Come in low and slide or crawl across the floor, come in high and leap from the ceiling, Come in FAST, or if they expect that, stand there and make them wait, then strike. But always try to give them something unexpected. Something memorable. If you have an idea about how a scene might be improved, talk to the boss -- he probably wants to hear it.

    Safety: And this one is important so please read it all.

    NEVER touch a guest if you can avoid it, and never let them touch you. Particularly, never get hit. Watch the people coming through and keep a safe distance. If you get in their face be ready to get back quickly. Safety is very very important, not just for you, but for the show. Every incident that happens means stopping the show, even if no one got hurt, and that sucks. So just be smart.

    Always be on the look out for potential safety issues, and if you have the slightest concern notify your supervisor or the haunt owner immediately. If you think a scare, or even your scene is unsafe, do not do it. Seriously. Again, IMMEDIATELY notify your supervisor or the owner. There is not a haunt owner in this country who will not love you for catching a problem before it develops, and you will never get in trouble for not doing something you feel is unsafe.

    Know the fire evacuation plan for your location, and what your duties are in the event of a fire (or other) emergency. Remember, you are responsible for the safety of the customers in your area, so know what you are supposed to do and do it like a pro.

    Acting: You are an actor, so ACT. If you do not know how your character would react, it is sometimes helpful to picture a movie character and pretend to be them.

    Ask yourself, 'What would Brad Pitt do here?' or 'How would Captain Spaulding react to this?' Then do it. Go crazy, go over the top, forget who you are and lose yourself completely in who you are pretending to be. No one knows who you are, and all they will remember is that psychotic nut doing back-flips in the padded cell. Or perhaps you are acting by doing nothing at all, attacking them with stillness and allowing the power of your mind to destroy theirs. For example, consider Anthony Hopkins in "The Silence of the Lambs." He never moved fast, and (in fact) rarely moved on camera at all. He allowed his presence and posture to dominate the viewer.

    Attitude: Be a professional, but have FUN. If you blow your scare, flub your lines, or even fall flat on your face, do not sweat it. There will be another group along in thirty seconds with no idea how bad you just screwed up.

    The Boss: Always listen to what the haunt owner or manager want you to do. If anything they say differs from what I have written here, go with what they want. It is their show, and they might well have a better idea of the overall flow than you. They might even want you to be less scary -- just do it, they would not ask if they did not have a damn good reason. The ONLY possible exceptions to this rule are safety. Never do something you think is unsafe, even if someone directs you to. Take the time to explain to them what the problem is -- it is entirely possible that they did not think of it. I can say this with assurance, I know a lot of haunt owners and I have never met one yet that would knowingly do anything to endanger their customers or actors. They spend more time worrying about safety than any other subject.

    Final Notes: Be there when you say you will, have fun, be professional, be safe, and act. Thats is really all there is to it.

    Thanks for reading,

    "To be matter-of-fact about the world is to blunder into fantasy - and dull fantasy at that, as the real world is strange and wonderful." Robert A. Heinlein

  2. Default  
    Join Date
    Jul 2005

    Sounds very good!
    (Scarlett, I have it copied so we can print it out if I ever get my printer back online)
    Personal MySpace

    My Mottos:
    When in doubt, get the hell out - Jason Hawes

    Of all the things I have taught you, remember this:
    If you see me running, KEEP UP! - Joe Dog

  3. Default  
    Join Date
    May 2005
    My printer works!

    Your MySpace works also. Assuming that someone doesn't mind if we copy and paste. :lol:
    The child is grown, the dream is gone.
    I have become comfortably numb.

  4. Default  
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Colorado Springs, CO
    Very valuable info, Smacky! Those of you who are new to haunting, take note.

  5. Default  
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    No, as I said, you are free to use this in any way you choose. My only request is that you include my name and a link.
    "To be matter-of-fact about the world is to blunder into fantasy - and dull fantasy at that, as the real world is strange and wonderful." Robert A. Heinlein

  6. Default Well 
    I have sent my actor wrangler to view the list you made......

    You have taken everything I have yelled...screamed...preached....and even used a baseball bat to get people to understand and printed here for me to print and hand to actors.....THANKS

  7. Default  
    Join Date
    Aug 2003
    Ravens Grin Inn, 411 carroll st.mount carroll ill.
    Ken, You forgot Electro-shock therapy, one of my favorite threatened methods!
    "Now stand still while I wrap this copper wire around your...."

  8. Default  
    Join Date
    Nov 2005
    Newnan Georgia
    Wow now that was some inspirational stuff there. Great job.
    Intending to burn, pretending to fight and everyone learns faster on fire....

  9. Default  
    Join Date
    Jan 2005

    very good info you've put down there! THANKS!

  10. Default  
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Connellsville, Pennsylvania, United States
    this will definitely come in handy for me! thanks!

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