ScareLA 2014 – From the Inside Out

IMG_0569ScareLA 2014 brought thousands of guests to The Reef in downtown Los Angeles to check out its massive show floor, world-class panels and presentations, unique workshops and classes, and amazing entertainment celebrating everything related to Halloween!

More than 100 members of the media came to ScareLA as well from national to international representatives, shooting scores of photos and hours of video – much of which is available online already with a quick Google search. While this is something that usually would be a must-cover event for Theme Park Adventure, we’re in the rare position of not being able to shoot the event or partake as media. This is because TPA makes up 1/2 of the ScareLA core production team, which consists of David Markland, Lora Ivanova, Johanna Atilano, and myself. As producers of the event, there is no way possible for us to spend the weekend tweeting images, stopping to take many photos, or even pausing to shop at any one of our 125+ vendor booths on the show floor; we’re simply too busy ensuring that the convention is running smoothly to stop and really soak it all in – a really ironic twist for us, since Halloween and haunted attractions are our favorite thing to cover as Theme Park Adventure each year!

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The team from Evil Twin Studios setting up the 7th floor themed entryway

Last year, when ScareLA debuted, we were so busy making sure the event went off without a hitch that we barely had the chance to take any pictures, let alone think about writing a story afterward about the convention. In retrospect, that’s a shame, and I knew going into ScareLA 2014 that once the dust settled, I would write about the experience from the inside-out this time around, offering a different point of view than what is out there in the general media. While I could go on for days about the back end operations of ScareLA, I’ve boiled it down to a manageable story, to give our readers an insight that they normally wouldn’t get, and hopefully, entertain you along the way.

As I said, last year, we barely took any photos during ScareLA. We learned that we had a serious shortcoming of images on our hands after all was said and done. As a team going into production this year, we all agreed to bring in a handful of full-time staff photographers to help capture all aspects of the event through their lenses, with their own photography styles. A very special thanks to Norm Gidney, Michael Wada, Scott Sytten, and Alexander George for hanging with the ScareLA crew all weekend long, from load-in to load-out; we finally have the arsenal of imagery we have wanted since the inception of ScareLA!

As a Creative Programming Producer of ScareLA, it’s my task to come up with strong content for the show, in the way of panels and presentations, as well as entertainment and experiences on the show floor itself. Besides the usual suspects like Knott’s Scary Farm and Universal Studios Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights, we knew that our second year of ScareLA had to go bigger and better than we did in 2013. And so, our work was cut out for us.

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David Markland prior to the Haunted Mansion presentation

Once we settled on the dates for this year’s show, we acknowledged immediately that it fell on what would be the 45th Anniversary of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion attraction. Truth be told, our Executive Producer, David Markland was insistent from the get-go that we make a huge part of ScareLA 2014 very Haunted Mansion-centric. And I honestly gave David a lot of resistance about that at first. My reasoning was multifaceted. The Haunted Mansion is not your typical “haunted attraction”, nor is it at all a Halloween-based experience. The argument that I did agree with, is that the Mansion is arguably, the most famous “haunted house” in the world, which is how I justified it in my mind as being eligible to become a cornerstone of this year’s convention. I was also extremely worried at first that once we had individuals lined up for the presentation, Disneyland would contact them in the 11th hour and say, “Hey – we need you to do this gig at the park for the Mansion’s anniversary…”, leaving ScareLA high and dry in crisis mode. David convinced me that we couldn’t worry about it, and that we needed to move swiftly and definitively so as to secure a strong Haunted Mansion presentation. Eventually, and with great reluctance at first, I agreed and proceeded.

I knew that I wanted Disney Legend Bob Gurr to be part of the presentation – he is a force of nature, and is as sharp as a tack. He’s a fan favorite, and because of his involvement with the creation of the Omnimover system (the ride vehicles), I knew instantly that he would be a perfect fit. Thankfully, Bob’s schedule was clear for ScareLA weekend, and we nabbed him and locked him in.

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Alice Davis, Bob Gurr, and Jeff Baham

The next challenge would be to bring others on that would represent the attraction well, and resonate strongly with the Disney fans we’d no doubt draw to the show. Since the mid-’90s, I have had a very good relationship with Disney Legends Marc and Alice Davis; Marc is unfortunately no longer with us, but Alice certainly is. While she had no direct involvement in the design of the Mansion, I felt it would be really wonderful to have Alice on hand, representing her late husband, who absolutely breathed life into the Haunted Mansion with humorous characters and iconic imagery. Alice agreed, and I felt that we had a great duo to represent the attraction and handle a few questions from our audience members. Initially, I was set to host the Haunted Mansion panel; I worked the attraction as a Cast Member in the late ’80s, and am very familiar with it. I felt confident that I’d be able to bring out the best in Bob and Alice and proceeded to begin planning the content of the presentation. That’s when David Markland suggested adding another dimension to the presentation – asking Jeff Baham to be the host. Without hesitation, I agreed that it was a brilliant choice and idea. Jeff is the owner of Doombuggies.com, and is the leading authority on all things Haunted Mansion. I felt immediately that he was the only person that could host this presentation and bring out amazing photos to share with our guests, and really hold a fantastic conversation with Bob and Alice along the way. And he did. Our presentation, titled When Hinges Creak: Celebrating 45 Years of The Haunted Mansion went off without a snag (except that the 500-seat theater filled up so fast that some ScareLA guests couldn’t get in – which is a good problem to have, I suppose). Bob Gurr and Alice Davis were received by standing ovation, and along with Jeff, proceeded to captivate the audience of fans for more than an hour!

Saturday morning was the most stressful point of ScareLA weekend for me personally. As our guests were pouring into the lobby of The Reef to buy tickets and line up for entry to the show floor, I was with Jeff Baham outside the venue, greeting Bob Gurr and waiting for Alice Davis’ arrival. I was beyond distracted and spread fairly thin, worrying about the convention starting as well as getting our two Disney Legends into the building quickly so as to not be mobbed by fans! We opted to take one of the building’s freight elevators, and as the four of us rode up, it groaned and shuttered; we all laughed and started joking about the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror!

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Alice Davis joins the Season Pass Podcast at ScareLA

Following the Mansion presentation, Bob Gurr led a procession of Disney fans that wanted to meet him out onto the show floor – and that was the last I saw of him! I’m sure he delighted the masses and enjoyed exploring the show floor for a while! I took Alice Davis upstairs to the 7th floor, where The Season Pass Podcast was set up to do interviews. It was the first time Alice had been on their show, so it was a big deal. She charmed them and told wild tales only the way Alice can – I am sure you’ll all have a chance to hear much of the conversation soon on an up-coming episode of the podcast!

One of the things that makes our core production team so interesting and well-rounded when we come together and discuss content at ScareLA are our unique backgrounds. Johanna grew up in the Los Angeles area and has been attending many attractions from stand-alone haunts to the major theme park events her whole life. Lora grew up in Bulgaria, so her entire take on Halloween and what’s spooky or festive is in some ways much different from the rest of the team’s, which I think offers tremendous depth and value to our collective sense of programming. David grew up in Ohio and Connecticut, and so until he was an adult and moved to Los Angeles, his Halloween experience was Mid-American and in some ways, very romantic and Norman Rockwell-like, which I don’t believe we have much of here in Southern California by way of life and our sprawling cities and condo units by the mile. My Halloween experience is deeply-rooted in Southern California starting in the early ’70s, and has been amplified by Theme Park Adventure’s coverage of everything haunt-related since 1994. Together, I think we bring a fantastic mix to the table when we start planning the content of ScareLA and what constitutes something’s “eligibility” in how it relates to this industry and to Halloween, specifically.

Another aspect of ScareLA that I was intimately involved with this year was our slider team, which named themselves the Decayed Brigade. Lora had been very interested in ScareLA featuring sliders in some way since the convention’s inception in 2012, and very early on, reached out to many haunt monsters and folks that are involved in that form of scaring/exhibition. While our convention had a slider show in 2013, and it was originated by Lora and the core team, it was fairly self-organized and executed, which is something we wanted to invest more focus and energy on this time around when we discussed whether or not to bring sliders back for ScareLA 2014. Ultimately, I told the team I wanted to have more involvement in that aspect of the show this time, and with their blessing, ran with it.

The runway that they demo on is an 80′ x 12′ section of thin vinyl affixed to the floor to protect it as well as give the sliders a slick surface to perform some pretty incredible feats on. It goes down fairly easily; pulling it up – that’s another deal entirely; the stuff legend springs from. One of the agreements I made with the slider team this year was that none of them would have to stay and help remove the runway from the show floor after they were done. For the record, it took a small army of our volunteers and us about 90 minutes to remove; during the process, I sent images to the Decayed Brigade – in turn, they were very grateful – no… gleeful – that they’d been spared that particular Hell this time around! It honestly wasn’t that bad; however, had it not been for our fantastic volunteers… the four of us would likely still be at The Reef pulling up vinyl!

Upon assuming responsibility for overseeing the production of this year’s slider show, I reached out to several of the greatest sliders in the business and charged them with forming a team of men and women that represented the best of the best. Ultimately, they entire team was from Knott’s Scary Farm – although it was not billed that way, as it was not a Knott’s-sanctioned production as part of their ScareLA sponsorship. In retrospect, it was fitting that the entire team consisted of current and ex-Knott’s Haunt sliders, considering the Scary Farm was the birthplace of this specialized form of scaring/showmanship in the ’90s.

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The Decayed Brigade’s final rehearsal on August 8th

For weeks, these guys and gals practiced their butts off in Orange County, whipping their bodies into shape and dedicating several days each week on top of their normal daily routines simply to put on a tremendous show at ScareLA. In our initial meeting, I told the group that one of my fondest memories of what I consider the “Golden Age of Haunt” were the slider “shows” in Calico Square prior to The Hanging each night. The demonstrations were funny, loose, and really let these guys show off their incredible talents. I told the team it was their show – to have a wild, fun time and not to be afraid to mix it up; create several versions of the show that would entertain and educate our guests on just how physically-demanding the art of sliding truly is. Under the direction of Haunt vet Paul Frechette, the Decayed Brigade came together and really delivered, entertaining hundreds of guests three times a day as they slid and jumped their way into ScareLA history! Each and every member of the Brigade is amazing, and I was honored that they all wanted to participate. A long-time friend of mine – Todd Stubbler – came out of “retirement” to put the gear on again and perform; what made that so freakin’ geeky cool to me (and the rest of the team) is that Todd is Slider #1; the guy credited with originating sliding at Knott’s Scary Farm. As a team, the Decayed Brigade brought the house down and made me so very proud – and absolutely satisfied that we brought sliders back to ScareLA for 2014.

Will sliders return to ScareLA in 2015? It’s a legitimate question, and one without an answer at the moment; that is something that we will have to look at when we begin planning in a few months. This year’s team was so epic in many regards that I don’t know that we’d be able to replicate such an amazing array of slider talent again. So for now, that remains the $64 question! As we come down from ScareLA 2014, I couldn’t be more satisfied and proud of each and every member of our Decayed Brigade!

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Zombie Joe’s in the house!

Sliders weren’t the only live entertainment component at ScareLA this year. One of our favorite performance groups here in Los Angeles is Zombie Joe’s Underground Theatre Group. They’re a super-creative bunch with a penchant for really bizarre, avant-garde productions that are extremely lo-fi in nature, often with a supernatural or frightening twist. Zombie Joe’s group landed on the Theme Park Adventure radar big-time in 2013 when they combined their production of “Urban Death” with a haunted house overlay; it was totally unique as far as haunted attraction experiences go, and we knew right away we had to have them at ScareLA 2014. Thankfully, the team agreed, and they held several performances each day throughout the weekend. Sometimes, the crowd didn’t know what the hell to make of it – and most of the time, people loved it; that’s what art is all about anyway, and I am extremely pleased that they were part of the lineup this year.

ScareLA is a large operation. There’s no way it could all come together without a great volunteer team. This year, we had over 70 volunteers that helped with everything; ticketing, crowd control, theater staff, load-in and tear-down, and everything else in between. For months, ScareLA’s core team leans on other volunteers quite heavily to make sure that various aspects of the convention come together smoothly. They are the backbone of our operation and make the rest of us look good.

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Stephanie (left) enjoying ScareLA 2014 with friends

Last year, we were devastated by the sudden death of one of our dear friends and volunteers, Mark “Sumo” Sagato. Mark was a ScareLA volunteer and a long-time Knott’s Scary Farm monster. Everyone adored him, and he was so excited to be part of ScareLA. Losing Mark shook us to the core, and during the Knott’s presentation in 2013, I sat in the parking lot, openly sobbing from the news. My thoughts were heavy with memories of Mark this year, as I know he would have been right there with us again. I have no doubt that he was. His counterpart and soul mate, Stephanie Hayslip was at ScareLA all weekend, which all of us loved. Her presence there was very important not just for her healing process, but for ours collectively as well. She covered the event for FangirlNation.com, and produced a series of great articles about the show for her readers to enjoy. David and Lora decided immediately following Mark’s death last year that we’d honor him during ScareLA 2014. That came in the form of a personal shout-out on the back of the convention program; it was a really nice touch to remind everyone that Sumo is very much, always a part of ScareLA.

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Johanna with Sid Haig at the Girls and Corpses booth

One of the things that I realized after last year’s show, was that I was so busy running around for two days along with the other producers to make sure everything was going as planned, I literally didn’t take the time to shop at even one booth for myself during ScareLA! When all was said and done, I was shocked and then bummed that I’d not been able to just spend time looking at everything. I swore right then and there that it would not happen that way again this year. And of course, it did. With over 125 vendors this year on the show floor and a multitude of other things happening at all times, the production team was busier than last year, simply because the sheer magnitude and scope of the convention grew so much. I made rounds on the show floor many times over the weekend – but always in fast-forward mode and always on a mission. Yet again, the relaxed ScareLA shopping spree eluded me. Perhaps next year, I will find the time; then again… probably not! I will say that we had an amazing mix of vendors on the show floor this year, from all over the country. Last year, many folks took a chance on us, which is risky business with a first-year convention; no one knew what to expect, and no one (even us) knew how successful it would be. At the conclusion of ScareLA 2013, we had vendors offering us cash to hold their spot already for this year – and that was tremendously gratifying to the team. Vendors returned to ScareLA this year and everyone I spoke with said that they were having an amazing show – including our friends from Girls and Corpses Magazine, who brought along Sid Haig for the second year in a row! Sid’s a big fan of ScareLA and has had a blast meeting our guests and just hanging out each year – he’s awesome, and we love having him along for the ride! As I thanked vendors as they packed up at the end of the show, I was asked how spaces could be secured already for 2015. I love that, and know that I speak for the rest of the core team when I say we are blessed with the best vendors and exhibitors in the business; they’re fantastic and really bring energy and excitement to our show floor that is unmatched anywhere else.

Something that David and Lora wanted and discussed at length with us last year was the inclusion of a haunted house/attraction of some type somewhere at ScareLA. It was something we looked at quite hard, but in the end, we really didn’t have the bandwidth or all of the logistical answers we needed to really see that come to fruition, and so we placed that thought on our collective back burner. Last year, while most of our vendors’ booths looked fantastic, only two really took the opportunity to make their spots somewhat interactive – the team from Boot Hill home haunt in Irvine, and our friends from Haunt S.B., who created a one-room experience that ended up drawing a lot of interest. Fan reaction was very positive and strong, and people across the board made it very clear they wanted to see more of that at ScareLA 2014. The feedback from our guests only re-affirmed what we had wanted to incorporate into the show all along, so this year, we stepped up as a team and really focused collectively on that aspect of ScareLA.

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Inside the Haunted Hollywood Sports mini attraction at ScareLA

Logistically, creating a mini haunt for ScareLA is fairly tricky. Most teams we reached out to jumped at the opportunity – and then the reality of “how the hell do we do this?” sank in. Everything these folks did had to be prefabricated for the most part off-site, then disassembled and brought in to ScareLA to be put together in a matter of hours during load-in on Friday before the show. Watching the mini attractions go up on the section of the floor we referred to as “the Midway” was stunning, and the variety of experiences was really awesome as well. Because of the participation of these talented haunters, ScareLA guests got everything from a cursed bayou to a live zombie shooting arcade! Major thanks going out to Fear Station, BLKMGC Creative Arts, Perdition Home, The Field of Screams Haunted Stadium, Haunted Hollywood Sports, and The Curse of Devil Swamp for a challenging task ridiculously well done! Alone also created a very well-received experience hidden somewhere within The Reef, which fans loved! I didn’t personally do it, but Johanna did – she emerged all grins (and grease paint), with a big thumbs-up. The fans requested, we and these crazy talented teams delivered, and it was personally satisfying to walk the show floor one last time at about 5:30 P.M. Sunday afternoon to find guests still queued up to check out these attractions. There’s no doubt in my mind that we’ll see these types of experiences return to ScareLA 2015, bigger and more elaborate than this year’s offerings.

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At our Ghostly Gala with Lora Ivanova and Jeff Schiefelbein, owner of Sinister Pointe Productions

Another project that the ScareLA team focused on more intensely this year was the Saturday night party. Last year, the intent was to have a party where everyone could come together as a community and relax, have some drinks and network/socialize. Any industry podcast you listen to, or every review of any haunt-type of convention (or any convention, really) you read, you always hear the same thing – the party was fantastic and everyone does their best networking there. That’s something we wanted to bring to ScareLA last year. Ultimately, we felt that we wanted a more hands-on approach this time around, and made some definite groundwork decisions moving forward that reflected the core values of ScareLA – social networking, interactive play, and a tremendous sense of community between fans and haunters alike.

That’s where Jeff Schiefelbein and his team from Sinister Pointe Productions came in. I have a long-standing relationship with Sinister Pointe, and we are huge supporters of everything they do; have been for years. Early this year, at one of our monthly TPA mixers, Lora threw out the idea of Jeff and Sinister Pointe helping with this year’s party, especially seeing Jeff’s own plans for a horror-themed bar concept that they’ve been working on. Lora felt that Jeff and his crew would be a perfect fit for our needs, and luckily, Jeff agreed.

Questions flew about the theme of the party, and how everything would play out. I felt that it should perhaps tie directly into The Haunted Mansion’s anniversary, and that we should encourage everyone to dress up in their Mansion best. Jeff is a huge fan of the attraction, so that was a very definite possibility for a while. Eventually, it evolved into a more general spooky type of party – but with very definite Haunted Mansion elements, including some truly great themed parlor games. Most importantly to me, our Ghostly Gala was open to guests 18 and over; not 21 and over. That was a small detail perhaps, but a big deal to me personally, because so many of our friends and fans are young adults in this industry.

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Rick Galiher, the official “host” of ScareLA’s Ghostly Gala

All in all, I think the ScareLA party was really well done, and a vast improvement over last year’s effort. And I think there is definitely some more analyzing and tweaking to be done on the production-end of things as we look toward 2015. By the time we left the party at about 11:30 P.M., we were so exhausted we could barely see straight; we had to get home and get some rest. Reflecting back, I am really pleased with the job that Jeff and his team did with the Gala; it’s definitely on the right track, and will only get bigger and better each year as we all move forward.

A key component of ScareLA are the major panels and presentations. Fans line up well in advance for Knott’s Scary Farm and Universal Studios’ productions each year. These large-scale presentations are both exciting and a bit stressful on the back end, as each team brings a large entourage from their companies, and their “secret reveals” are worked on as videos or media presentations up until the last minute. Just prior to these presentations, our green room is filled with representatives and management from each of these companies to the point of standing room only. All eyes and ears are on their announcements, and so having them participate at ScareLA is a big deal on both sides – we want to make a huge splash with our convention guests, and the theme park and attraction companies want to make an even bigger splash by doing it right and really giving fans something to be wowed by.

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John Murdy, John Landis, and Chris Williams at ScareLA to announce An American Werewolf in London during the HHN presentation

The biggest surprise moment of ScareLA came from Universal Studios Hollywood, as John Murdy and Chris Williams announced An American Werewolf in London for Halloween Horror Nights, and then invited John Landis to the stage. The crowd went nuts, and Landis did his thing, completely uncensored and just the way his fans love him. It was really great, although perhaps not terribly family-friendly! We knew well in advance that Landis was coming to the event. One of our biggest discussions was how to sneak him into the building without setting off a premature firestorm of social media posts, which would ruin Universal’s surprise announcement. We discussed everything from having him wear a mask, to perhaps just a baseball cap and sunglasses. Hell, I even suggested going the other route and having Universal make a grand entrance to the convention with a “CAUTION: WILD ANIMAL” crate being brought in (which Landis would be inside of, comfortably, a la Howard Hughes back in his Vegas days). That idea was met with a “you’re beyond crazy” stare from Johanna one evening, and so, never made it far past my lips! What we all agreed on, was that Landis would have to be brought up to the show floor and green room by way of “secret entrance”, and that he’d have to come alone or at the very least, nowhere near John Murdy or Chris Williams.

Naturally, our plans fell apart as it all went down, and while Landis did come up to the show floor undetected, he wore nothing but his trademark suit and tie, and came right onto the show floor flanked by John Murdy and a small group of people, passing just feet away from where the most hard core Halloween Horror Nights fans were already waiting in line! I held my breath – and we went into the green room to watch Twitter blow up. Miraculously, no one said a thing; I was amazed! We’d not just dodged a bullet – we side-stepped a cannon ball!

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Johanna and John Landis stopping at the Sinister Pointe booth on the show floor at ScareLA

For quite some time, John Landis, Chris Williams, John Murdy and I stood in a close circle in the green room discussing just about everything but American Werewolf. Every inch of me ached to tell Landis how much the movie had meant to me as a kid; I wanted to thank him so much for it, and I wanted to take a picture with him. However, as one of the ScareLA producers, I also didn’t want to be that guy or blow the sanctuary of our green room by being anything but professional with him. It was a bummer, but it just didn’t seem appropriate to fanboy at him over the film, so I kept my mouth shut and my phone put away. That said, Landis was very personable with people on the show floor after the presentation, and there are tons of pictures floating around out there of people posing with him – including Johanna, who was one of his escorts onto the floor after the HHN announcement. Landis was really excited by what he saw at ScareLA and had a blast checking things out and supporting our vendors with a little shopping spree; a win-win for everyone! He was a really fantastic guest, and we were honored to have him as part of the ScareLA experience. As usual, John and Chris killed it and the fans went away completely satisfied.

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Dark Harbor’s Ringmaster at ScareLA 2014

Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor joined the ScareLA mix this year, and hosted an incredible presentation to a full house. We’re huge fans of their event, and going into the planning of this year’s convention, we all agreed that Dark Harbor had to have a major presence. The team came through with flying colors, and dazzled our guests – especially with an appearance by their iconic Ringmaster character; she is terrifying, witty and absolutely badass – the fans love her, and so it was a no-brainer to include her with the Dark Harbor presentation; we made that clear to the team very early on, and they agreed completely. For us personally, seeing Queen Mary do so well at ScareLA was really satisfying. They are a major part of the SoCal haunt industry, and we adore what they do each season. I hope they will continue to participate in ScareLA for many years to come!

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Making Monsters: Larry Bones, Tim Barham, Rick West, Scott Ramp, and Christina Cofran

People have asked me what my favorite part of ScareLA 2014 was. Hands-down, it was seeing the Making Monsters presentation come together. Making Monsters was an important milestone for us – and for the industry in general. The idea was to have Universal, Knott’s, Magic Mountain, and Queen Mary come together at the same time on one stage to discuss the logistics of their events. This was a presentation that I came up with and pushed really hard on the production team; they were behind me, but all of us were not certain that each of these companies would agree to it. Getting companies to come promote their events is one thing; getting competitive corporate entities to share a spotlight – that’s something entirely different. Since ScareLA’s inception, Lora and David have always pushed for as many multifaceted panels and presentations as possible, often wanting to mix it up more than we originally discuss/pitch to one another; it goes back to the core value of community we share with regard to the convention and industry, and they are very proactive in pushing those boundaries and limits with our participants to create an exciting, unique experience for our guests.

I felt the best representation for the Making Monsters panel would be the makeup professionals that create the hundreds of undead each night with their teams for these large-scale haunted attractions. Makeup and wardrobe teams are often unspoken for or brushed over when it comes to these events; without them, there’d be no monsters to populate the streets and mazes of the theme parks. I wanted to give credit where it is sorely due, and so we began reaching out – testing the water – to see what the reaction from these groups would be. Lora, David and Johanna were immediately 100% behind this effort, and were really excited to see it come together.

Larry Bones, who does the makeup design for Universal Hollywood’s Halloween Horror Nights was the first one to say he was all in, without hesitation. Larry has been a huge supporter of ScareLA all along, and we love him. He’s talented, he’s very down-to-earth, and he’s just fun to be around. Getting him to say yes right away, along with the support and enthusiasm from Universal Studios Hollywood, was instrumental in getting the other companies on board, I am sure.

Six Flags Magic Mountain was also very enthusiastic about being part of the Making Monsters presentation. Their key makeup designer, Scott Ramp, was very excited about being part of the panel and so Magic Mountain was also very easy to bring into the fold. Knott’s Scary Farm followed suit with Tim Barham as their representative, and Dark Harbor rounded it out with Christina Cofran joining the group. Seeing these individuals meet (in some cases, for the first time) in the green room totally geeked me out; taking the idea of this community panel from a wild idea to the point where we were about to go on stage – amazing. A totally amazing sense of pride and accomplishment.

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Larry Bones, one of ScareLA’s biggest supporters

We had a modest turn-out for Making Monsters, when I thought for sure the theater would be packed. After all, having all of these attractions come together on the stage at once – that was a huge deal. The fact of the matter is, our presentation was at the end of the day – which is a really challenging slot to fill and very difficult attendance-wise. I was a bit surprised by the theater not being full, and was worried that the participants would feel underwhelmed. However, we went out onto the stage and proceeded to spend the next hour totally engaged in what one another had to say. These artists clicked and really enjoyed talking with one another and genuinely had fun discussing their trade among themselves and with the audience. I will say, we gained people as the presentation went on, and had just about 100% retention for the entire hour; no one left the auditorium and the fans were completely into what was being discussed.

Making Monsters was as good as it got for me personally this year at ScareLA. The magnitude of what we accomplished as a group – from the producers to the panelists – is really important. Not only did we break through traditional corporate barriers to come together as a team, we kicked open the door for what I hope will be future panels and presentations at ScareLA featuring mixtures of professionals from multiple attractions participating together on a wide range of topics. I’m still glowing from Making Monsters, and I am forever indebted to Larry, Scott, Tim, and Christina for jumping in feet-first with me on this endeavor and making history together.

ScareLA 2014 wrapped up as quickly as it began, at least physically-speaking. In a matter of hours, most of the vendor spaces were clear, the huge show floor stood empty and all of our guests were gone. The team and a few core volunteers remained, sitting and laughing together, completely exhausted and completely satisfied. The aftermath of ScareLA is always a downer – we plan for the better part of a year, and when it comes, it’s all a blur. Yet, we have memories – so many, that I could have written many lengthy behind-the-scenes stories like this on every aspect of putting the show on.

producers

Johanna Atilano, Lora Ivanova, David Markland, and Rick West

I couldn’t be more proud of David, Lora, and Johanna as my fellow team mates. ScareLA is a massive effort, and they are the engine that makes it happen. David’s involvement in just about everything on the back end from sponsors, vendors and classes, to the layout of the show speak as a testament to his professional know-how and expertise; he did a great job this year, and I know we’re all thrilled by how it came together. Lora’s involvement with sponsors, speakers, volunteers and the overall marketing of ScareLA was brilliant – I honestly don’t know where she gets the energy and drive, but it is nothing short of impressive on all levels. Johanna is a force of nature when it comes to securing and working with vendors, panelists, classroom and workshop programming, and our key volunteers; she does so much for ScareLA and then turns around and handles many aspects of Theme Park Adventure at the same time. I am so very proud of all of them, and honestly, am constantly blown away by the effort this team puts into creating ScareLA.

I’m also grateful to all of the fans, vendors and participants for believing in what we do. This truly is an amazing community here in Southern California, and I am honored to be a part of it. Yes, we have already started preliminary discussion about ScareLA 2015. It’s coming, and the four of us as producers are all in. For now though, we’re going to rest a bit and enjoy the 2014 Halloween season that we helped kick off and promote. It’s almost our favorite time of year, and we’re ready for it!

Soon enough, we’ll gather once again at our traditional Thai place in Burbank and officially set ScareLA 2015 in motion with a smile and a handshake. When that happens, you all will be the first to know!

Happy Halloween, and thank you, everyone!

– Rick West

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5 Responses to ScareLA 2014 – From the Inside Out

  1. Abel Horwitz says:

    Always a big “Thank You” for your support and love, Rick. Thanks for the post. Outstanding!

  2. Rick West Rick West says:

    Our pleasure completely, brother! Thank YOU guys!

  3. Anthony Call says:

    Such an honor working alongside people who are so passionate about what they’re doing for a living. Tech went so smoothly, and the entire team trusted ours in making your panelists shine. In regards to Making Monsters, it was amongst my favorite panels as well. It should have been more crowded, but I have a feeling that not many people actually knew about it. The panel was listed on the schedule, but the average person would have had to navigate to the other half of the program to discover what the panel featured. You see Haunted Mansion? Boom, sold. Knotts? Hell yeah, I’m there. I feel that it was left to a short glance, and that sucks. Same went for Garner Holt. Not everyone knows who that is! If people bothered flipping a few pages to read a detailed synopsis of the presentation, it might have turned out differently. Great panels regardless. Only issue that I noticed this year (in regards to AV and navigating between two floors) was that it was MUCH more crowded than the last. Navigating to the lobby and beyond using elevators was a joke, and for our load-in process, the freights were a joke. Union workers in full perspective, LOL. Congrats to you and everyone involved! A job well done. We hope to see you next year :)

  4. Because of family obligations I could not be there, but, I also agree that the golden age of haunt was the tradition of the slider show in Calico. And, those guys truly are the best!

  5. Rick West Rick West says:

    Anthony,

    Thank you guys so much for all of your help! The show LOOKED and SOUNDED great – thank you so very much!

    ScareLA has definitely become more crowded – which in the big scheme of things, is a GOOD problem to have. :) I agree with you about Making Monsters and Garner Holt; both amazing presentations that were vastly under-attended, which is a shame. However, we continue to analyze how everything went and will continue to improve awareness saturation and time slotting of panels and presentations as we move forward.

    Again, thank you guys for everything!

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