“AAAGGH!” “SNARL!” “ROAR!”
These sounds and more were being voiced at the top of their lungs by more than 40 people gathered to go to school, “Scare School.”
They were making all the nasty sounds at the direction of Brooke Walters, a designer of Knott’s Scary Farm, to get them comfortable with making eerie and scary sounds during their stint as monsters, vampires and other creatures during the annual Halloween event.
“You need to be able to stay in character and make scary noises for four, six or eight hours while you’re working,” she told the assembled monsters-to-be.
The group was working on their vocal techniques under Walters’ guidance for their appearance in the “Dominion of the Damned” maze at Knott’s Scary Farm. Some would end up in makeup; some would wear masks and more, along with appropriate scary wardrobe when the annual haunting begins September 25, 2014.
“Don’t be afraid to exaggerate your movements,” said Daniel Miller, another designer for Knott’s Scary Farm, who was assisting Walters with the “Scare School.”
After trying out their vocal techniques, the group was instructed to walk “in character” while the pair examined them and coached them on proper walking technique for each person that would appear in the maze.
After an hour of “scare” lessons, Miller, one of the maze designers, took the group inside to properly place each person (aka monster or creature) at their working stations within the maze. During the next hour, each person had to demonstrate how they would be scaring people walking through the maze to Miller’s satisfaction. Then it was time for a walk-through by Walters and other Knott’s Scary Farm staff.
“Remember, don’t tell me what you’re going to do, show me,” said Walters. “I want to be scared out of my wits, so that I know our guests will be too.”
The “Scare School” has become part of the annual tradition at the oldest Halloween event, Knott’s Scary Farm. It is used by the farm’s designers to try out people auditioning for the first time, and for many of those returning, but in a new role.
Some get their parts right away, while others need a little coaching, something Walters frequently demonstrated with her hands, arms, feet, and occasional ugly faces she would make.
But none of the soon to be monsters would have to worry about the ugly face as much as they would also be getting makeup or prosthetics or masks to wear from the 37 makeup artists employed by Knott’s Scary Farm under the supervision of Bill Meier.
“Each night there will be more than 300 people in extensive makeup a night, with another 100 or more wearing a prosthetic or mask,” he said.
Knott’s Scary Farm makes more than 3,000 prosthetic devices each year for the event. Each prosthetic can only be worn for a maximum of three nights, then it is worn out from all the sweat and abuse it receives according to Meier.
After that, the prosthetic devices are destroyed, lest they appear at competing Halloween events.
Along with makeup, every monstrous character has to have an appropriately themed costume. Each night, it takes 24 people working under the supervision of Tim Barham to pass out the costumes to all the working creatures and monsters in time for their on-stage role.
Barham is also responsible for making and repairing the costumes, and tries to make them in a way that they don’t fall apart after one night.
“Many of the garments have double stitching at all the seams, but we still have to repair several costumes at the end of each night,” he said.
To get the unique fabrics used in the costumes, Barham makes frequent trips to the Los Angeles Garment District.
“I take a lot of money with me and grab a lot of fabric,” he said.
The “Scare School” takes place over several nights in order to fill all the roles in each maze, and for the monsters and scary creatures roaming the various areas of the park from the classic fogged in Ghost Town, to the scary clowns in the Boardwalk area. Each person going through “Scare School” is paid for that time as well as their time being on-stage in character.
Knott’s Scary Farm takes place beginning September 25, 2014 through November 1st. It will feature 11 mazes or interactive attractions, along with four “Scare” zones, a live show featuring Elvira – Mistress of the Dark, and of course the now annual tradition of “The Hanging” that takes place in Calico Square. For more information visit Knott’s website at www.knotts.com.