I went to a few haunts around town tonight as they are starting to open, and caught up with a bunch of old friends and haunt owners. After walking through the haunts and marveling over their new creations and ideas, I began wondering...
If you could only give a new haunter a single piece of advice, what would it be? I get asked that a lot, what single core piece-of-advice should a new prop-builder NOT be without? That's a tough question!
There are so many things that come to mind, and quite a bit of overlapping into other areas of haunt infrastructure!
But, if I could only give one answer to the question of advice to a new propbuilder, it would be this:
LEARN TO WELD!!!
Obviously, this is an expensive endeavor to some degree, and not attainable to some due to their age and lack of funds, but welding is the ONE thing that I think can elevate a prop to the next level. A welded prop will last a long time, especially if it is running all season in a pro haunt! If you are a high-school aged kid, you should check out to see if a welding class is offered in your high school! If you are an adult, check and see if there are any 'continuing education' or trade classes offered in your area. Since I live in the Dallas/Fort Worth area, I was lucky enough to find a class fairly close that got me started in the right direction! That was years ago, but it has paid for itself 100 times over (the class was only $75 for a month!).
Let me ask you guys, what one piece of advice would you give to a new prop builder?
Mine would be "Audio is one half of the full experience". I can't tell you how dissapointed I am to see a great set or scene with NO SOUND! Watch any horror movie with dialog, but no music or sound fx, and it will only be half as scary as it could be. And learn to weld too
What will set your props apart is how you light them and what sound u provide to your haunt.
Quite often beginning propsters focus solely on the prop -- then they set it up and well, kinda blah. A bunch of props thrown out on the lawn.
LIGHTING, SOUND and MOVEMENT will elevate your props to the next level and provide the "Wow" factor we all hope for. It might just be a red spot, strobe and a cd player with some spooky music -- but this will help volumes in creating a total scene.
I wouldn't say there is one word or one piece of advice I could give someone. I would be torn between this and that. Maybe dedication and imagination? But one of the main things is thinking outside the box.
Welding, electronics, computer knowledge, and circuitry all play a part in extreme haunting. But lets face it...we really didn't learn this overnight. So I'd go with persistence...and make your props cooler then anyone else.
You just have to find the type of prop that you have an area of talent in... crafty, artistic, mechanical, electronics. We all have something that we're sort of good at, and there is a prop category that would be a great fit for your area of expertise.
Start small - don't undertake a project that will take all your time in building. With experience, you will be able to take on larger projects later. Know your limitations, build on what you have and don't expect to have everything done in one year.
Along the lines of what Herman and Industen said...
Patience and perserverance! We make props now that we could have NEVER imagined building back when we joined this forum. They didn't come easily...lots of trial and error...and more error and then, that moment when it all comes together...no better feeling than that!
Time has a way of evaporating so start as early as possible and do it in spurts. The time away might give you some opportunity to evaluate and correct if you need to go another way. Trying to rush a prop will probably leave you feeling bad about it and the pressure to finish will make you an unhappy camper. Others around you will appreciate this bit of advice too!
Pay attention to even the smallest details, especially if you're going for a realistic look for your haunt. Look at the world around you, old run down houses, overgrown cemetery etc. a haunt (and of course this depends on your theme too) should look old and decayed, not like it just came fresh out of a box. Adding moss to a tombstone, aging a cemetery fence, adding vines and realistic webbing to a entrance way, little atmospheric things like that will bring your haunt to life. I think I spend most of my time on little things like that because in the end they add such a big impact (like what someone else said about lighting and sound).
My biggest advice:
Don't get carried away with complexity.
Even the most basic prop, if done right, can scare and startle people.
The first prop I made was very complex and I was very proud of myself but, it was out in the middle of the haunted house and didn't surprise anyone.
A simple hidden popup that jumps up unexpectedly is more effective than a very complex prop that does many things but doesn't surprise.
One thing that I learned from Netherworld in Atlanta is this. They get you looking at a cool prop then surprise you with an actor hidden in a corner.
My point is dont burn yourself out on over complex props!!!!