ScareLA Opens the Gates to Halloween
Sasha Wheatcroft with Trick or Treat Studios. ScareLA 2014 photo by Scott Feinblatt

ScareLA Opens the Gates to Halloween

Many people believe that it is tragic that every day is not Halloween. Sure, one can always pop in [or click on] a horror movie, and throughout the year there are periodic horror film festivals or the occasional Monsterpalooza for fans of make-up, monsters, and masks, but Halloween is really about much more than that. It's about candy; it's about haunted mazes; it's about carving jack-o'-lanterns; it's about dressing up; it's about celebrating dark imagery; the list goes on. This weekend, Halloween enthusiasts from near and far will congregate at the Pasadena Convention Center for the third annual ScareLA, which will once again provide them with a healthy dose of their favorite holiday months prior to All Hallows' Eve.

Like most dreams that become realities, ScareLA started small. After the Halloween season of 2012, horror industry professionals Lora Ivanova (DELUSION, HAuNTcon) and David Markland (CreepyLA) were depressed that Halloween was over and that they'd have to wait 12 months until the next one, so they started throwing ideas around, reaching out to their network of industry connections, especially Rick West and Johanna Atilano of Theme Park Adventure, who shared their vision of an off-season celebration of Halloween. Ivanova told the Weekly: "It was really the inspiration of 'Halloween doesn't come early enough for anybody that actually loves that holiday,' and we were confident that if the four of us thought that way, then so do a lot of other people in the Los Angeles area."

ScareLA Opens the Gates to Halloween
Dawn Brown of House of Monsters demonstrates one of her stop-motion creatures at ScareLA 2014. Photo by Scott Feinblatt

Unlike other horror conventions, which can center on celebrity appearances / autographs, horror films, promoting magazines, etc. Ivanova reveals that ScareLA is about ownership of the holiday for the community. She says, "We want to give the community as much opportunity to showcase themselves and really demonstrate what they're made of and what they're capable of." This extends beyond just giving artisans and vendors a space in which to showcase their goods.

ScareLA Opens the Gates to Halloween
A make-up demonstration from ScareLA 2013. Photo by Scott Feinblatt

While exhibitors attend to market their goods and services -- be they make-up supplies, masks, haunted house props, costumes, artwork, creepy culinary delights, eerie theatrical performances, haunted attractions and theme parks, make-up schools, etc. -- the programmers at ScareLA do their best to create an immersive and educational environment which fosters the building of friendships and professional collaborations between the exhibitors and the guests. Ivanova explains, "If you look at our production team, some of them are in theater, some of them are in animation, some of them do special effects, some of them have boring corporate jobs and this is kind of their outlet...but then we combine all of these things in the same place. That's where I think the magic really happens, and every year I get these e-mails after ScareLA or we hear the news about interesting collaborations or this person decided to work with that person, and now they're creating something entirely different."

ScareLA Opens the Gates to Halloween
A panel on creating music for haunted attractions from ScareLA 2013. Photo by Scott Feinblatt

Every year, the volume and variety of ScareLA's attractions, demonstrations, and panels grow. Among them, this year, attendees can expect a half dozen mini-haunted mazes; performances by Zombie Joe's Underground Theatre and Captured Aural Phantasy Theatre; the Bloody Mary Make-up War competition; Apocalypse (a live action zombie cosplay role-playing game); numerous presentations, including one about extreme haunts (featuring their creators and those who have survived the ordeals) and one on making monsters for major theme parks (featuring art directors from all the major theme parks); the secrets of L.A.'s cemeteries; a film festival; classes on designing haunts, costumes, lighting effects, props; an after hours party; and much, much more.

During the first year of ScareLA, 4,000 people attended. 6,000 attended the second year, and this year, in an effort to accommodate the expanding event, the convention is relocating from the LA Mart, in Downtown Los Angeles, to the Pasadena Convention Center. Ivanova explains that in addition to the fact that the size of the new venue will accommodate larger props, haunted facades, etc., it also has the advantage of being located within walking distance of hotels. This is key, as one of the ScareLA team's goals is to grow the event to a national scale; they are already well on their way. Ivanova says, "Even in the first two years, we've had a large number of people traveling not only from all over the US but also from Latin America, Europe, and Asia."

ScareLA Opens the Gates to Halloween
Guests bring their own piece of Halloween with them at ScareLA 2014. Photo by Scott Feinblatt

While haunter's trade shows and other types of horror-themed conventions do exist, Ivanova does not wish to brag about having the first convention wholly centered on all things Halloween; however, the fact that the community has responded so positively and that the event is growing very quickly are points of pride for her. She says, "I think it took Comic-Con something like eight years to ramp up to our number last year, so it's really one of the fastest growing conventions that we know of in the know, the ego part of myself would like to think that we've done a great job, but it's really a testament to the fact that there was a need for such an event to get that community together. It really takes a village, and if this is to really reflect everybody that's involved in the scare industry, in the West Coast, we'd like them to be a part of it in the most genuine way possible."

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