Orchestrating Universal Studios Singapore’s Halloween Horror Nights 6 (HHN6) is not an easy feat. Although the event runs for a month, the scale of the event means planning and execution takes a whole year. The mastermind behind HHN6 is Creative Director Markham Gannon who’s leading the event for the second year.
In this two-part interview, Markham shares what role the creative director plays in HHN6, how the team decides on the concepts and what are the constraints when it comes to ideas.
In a fortnight, he’ll share more information on what you can find at this year’s Halloween Horror Nights 6. Stay tuned.
What does a Creative Director do exactly for Halloween Horror Nights?
I help brainstorm concepts, consolidate ideas with the team, create houses and zones by collaborating with different departments, and consider overall theme and cohesion of the event.
Part of my job is to help ensure that our offerings are original and cater to the different demographics of our audience.
I also work a lot with the marketing ideas, social media content, writing or development of scripts and anything else which stems from creative. I oversee the rest of the show directors’ work too in case they need assistance or support of an idea.
However, HHN is a collaboration, so in the end, the entertainment team work very closely together on all fronts.
We’re curious about what goes on in the process of deciding the concepts for HHN.
Usually we’ll have a big brainstorm around November or December the year prior, literally after HHN finishes.
We pitch in a hundred or so ideas we have for houses, zones or shows. After minimising the list, we try to ensure we have both local and international content so our audience feels connected to the event.
How do you decide what goes into a house?
For a haunted house, we consider the rooms. What do we see? How does it feel? Who’s inside these rooms? Then a designer will create a layout of the house so that it makes sense and has dynamics and flow.
Once the plan is sorted, we look at technical aspects such as where we can plant scare actors to maximise the impact of the scare. Then we look at what they’re wearing, what can we hear, what’s the lighting and the feel of each room, and what are the technical WOW factors.
This process goes on for a few months and we usually have 4 approval sessions for every house and zone. It’s very detailed and extensive.
What about the shows?
For show development, we draft a concept, write the script, find the music, then seek approval for all internally, and from Universal Studios. It is a mammoth task which actually takes the entire year.
This process involves the producers, production managers, technical team–which includes audio, lighting, special effects, technical elements, riggers–show directors, scenic designers, costume designers, literally every aspect of the entertainment team.
Then it goes to our stage managers and stage managers for the event itself, to manage the operations.
What are the constraints when it comes to developing the concepts for houses and zones?
In terms of content, we need to be sensitive to different ethnicity and religion.
We also consider the cost of bringing an idea to fruition. You can have great ideas, but they have to be achievable in our spaces, with our cast numbers, in our conditions, and for our audience.
There are so many factors, but after a while, you learn to just think that way as the team gain more experience and understand what does and doesn’t work for the audience, and the event itself.
Now that you know about what goes on creating Halloween Horror Nights, continue with Part II of the interview where Markham shares what you can find at this year’s event.