Events & Attractions

ScareLA 2017: An In-Depth Interview With Founder Lora Ivanova

Lora Ivanova

ScareLA 2017 is only a month away.  This year marks the fifth year of summer’s first Halloween Convention, and after outgrowing its previous home at the Pasadena Convention Center and moving to the Los Angeles Convention Center, the event has promised the biggest and best year yet.  But details on ScareLA 2017 have been slim to this point.  Last week we got our first glimpse of this year’s exhibits, attractions, and seminars, but I was still dying to know what they had in store for 2017.  That’s why I was excited to get the chance to chat with ScareLA founder Lora Ivanova and learn a bit more about this year’s convention.

Hi Lora! How are things?
I am doing good. Just busy, busy with production so it’s a hectic five weeks here leading up to con. [Laughs]

This year’s theme is, “Monsters Come Together,” as a way to celebrate diversity, unity, and tolerance. What inspired this year’s theme?
I think it’s been an interesting challenge producing a Halloween show because it has so many facets to it.  For some people, it is a scary event, for some people, it is kind of fun, science fiction almost.  There is so much creativity and innovation I think that happens around Halloween, so I wanted to really send a message about how diverse this tradition is and the fact that everything else aside, all of our differences aside, it really is a time for all of us to come together and be our true selves.

Not only is the monster community diverse, but Los Angeles is diverse.  We have all sorts of ethnic groups and communities in our city boundaries alone and what makes L.A. beautiful is really the differences between all of us.  That’s what I really wanted to come through in what we were creating at ScareLA this year.

Beyond being the theme of this year’s event, is there anything specific taking place during this year’s ScareLA to embrace or spread this message?
It’s a little bit of both.  This year ScareLA is a proud supporter of different causes that benefit wildlife preservation, specifically large predator preservation.  These are the real monsters of the world who have inspired humanities nightmares for centuries.  So we’re also using this as a platform to bring awareness to their existence and to the fact that many of these species are struggling for existence and they need our support.  As much as they are scary and seemingly strong it’s come to a time where strangely enough we need to take care of our monsters a little bit better so that we can make sure that our grandkids can be equally scared by them as we have in our childhood.  This is part of what I think really ties the theme to the rest of the show.

And as part of this program, we’re preparing one of our most diverse lineups to date.  Not only focusing on what are our traditional favorites, which are the theme parks and the haunted houses and attractions, but really talking about immersive theater, talking about virtual reality, augmented reality experiences, the Renn Faire’s of the world, the cosplay communities of the world, the film aspect, and really all these kinds of alternative groups that are part of the beauty that makes this community what it is and really fuels all of our imaginations.

ScareLA Monsters Come Together

For 2017 you’ve moved to a larger venue in the Los Angeles Convention Center and said this will be your biggest and best year yet, what should attendees expect in terms of overall size and scale of this year’s event compared to years past?
[Laughing] The scale itself is terrifying.  It is about 200,000 square feet of summer scares.  The L.A. Convention Center is giving us the incredible opportunity to not only expand our show floor but really offer one of the most immersive and interactive experiences we’ve had to date.

Beyond scale, is the larger venue allowing you to do anything different compared to years past?
We are literally tearing down walls, so what used to be previously a show floor spanning multiple buildings and had all these little nooks and crannies and different rooms with activations, this year we’re just doing away with the walls and putting all of the activities in the middle of the show floor for people to see, to engage and have fun with.

We are very excited to offer two very unique experiences at the convention.  One of them is called “The Day of Halloween.”  In very simple terms, this is the part of the show floor that is going to have all of the elements attendees need to prepare for Halloween.  Over 250 vendors that are curated specifically for the show, stages with panels and presentations that will discuss everything from theme park reveals, haunted houses, and theater, to filmmakers, gaming designers, even some psychologists and sociologists who study the phenomenon of fear so we can grow our awareness of this genre and phenomenon as well as all our education areas.

We are expanding education, we’ve made it available this year for all attendees and we have make-and-take areas where people can literally roll up their sleeves and make something really scary for their Halloween decorations or costumes.  They can learn how to move like a monster and dance like a monster.  We have an entire workshop area dedicated specifically to how monsters move and what people can learn to up their cosplay, or just have a little fun.  Maybe even learn how to be a professional monster in a haunted house. Demo stages where people can see makeup live as it progresses throughout the show and we will have parades of different groups that will be circling about and bringing additional atmosphere.  A lot of that is really part of what will make the show floor the first step to creating an unforgettable Halloween experience.

And last, but not least, we are doing a show floor wide interactive game, which is a zombie infection game we premiered two years ago in a much smaller format.  Attendees can wear these interactive badges and after being “bitten” by a zombie they could watch their lifeforms be depleted and eventually turn themselves into highly infectious individuals and infect everyone else around them.  It’s really going to bring attendees closer and will allow them to get their scary juices flowing leading up to Halloween.

Creepy Clown at ScareLA

The other side of the convention floor, which is over 30,000 square feet we are converting into “The Night of Halloween.”  Literally, in the beginning of August, attendees of ScareLA will be able to immerse themselves in a little town called “Scarywood.”  You can join the residents of Scarywood on Halloween evening and interact with them for the two days of the convention.  Meet the mayor of the town, meet the residents, and just roam around and explore all the nooks and crannies.  They’ll be able to trick or treat for scares, so to speak, not so much candy, but definitely scary experiences and attractions throughout the entire space, which will have its own little carnival in the town and on its outskirts a spooky forest that they can get lost in.

This will be the fifth ScareLA, which as an independent convention, must feel like a huge milestone, looking back is there anything you would have done differently?
Oh goodness. It’s hard to say. The only thing I would have done differently is, I wish I could go back and tell myself how much work this is going to be. [Laughing]  The creative process has just been incredible.  It’s had its ups and downs and really the biggest challenge for us every year is how to reinvent and continue to innovate and to create something attendees have never seen before.  It’s really easy as a show gets into its fifth year to like to start repeating things or to create a formula that works and stick to it and what we’ve done instead is every year we look at it as a blank slate and say here’s what worked, here’s what didn’t work and how do we make this like nothing people have ever seen before?  And that’s kinda where we start, so I think if anything, what I would do differently is I would do a lot more of that.

In contrast, looking ahead, what are you most looking forward to at this year’s event?
I’m really looking forward to Scarywood.  I really want to go and walk around that space.  It’s been alive in my head for many months and I just can’t wait to see it come to life and to see everybody in there enjoying it and engaging with it.  That’s really one of my biggest excitements for the convention and I think it’s going to be received extremely well from everybody else.

With the convention just over a month away, the details on this year’s event are still fairly slim, when can attendees expect to start hearing more announcements about this year’s offerings at ScareLA?
We typically reveal those in little chunks.  People have really enjoyed a little bit of suspense I think.  Our attendees come year after year to the con knowing and enjoying the fact that they’ll be surprised and there will be things that no matter how much they prepare their schedules there will be a lot of things they will discover during the show and want to be involved in.  We’re already starting to announce a lot of things like our education and some of the show floor exhibits so these things will be trickling out and being announced over the next five weeks.  I think probably by two weeks out, three weeks out we’ll definitely have the full schedule out so people can really start booking their days.  We will be rolling out everything in tiers just to make sure that all of our amazing contributors to the show get their deserved attention.  I think the biggest concern I have sometimes with throwing everything out there at once is the fact that it allows for certain things to get lost in the shuffle.  Every piece of programming for the show has been hand-picked, it’s been created with love and its brought by amazing artists from all over the L.A. area, so we want to make sure they each get a moment in the spotlight and the due attention from our attendees.

You actually segwayed nicely into my next question, which is, there are so many things to do at ScareLA that you could easily get lost in all the different opportunities the convention has to offer.  Is there something in your opinion that is a “can’t miss” element everyone should make time to experience this year?
I definitely want to make sure they are there for the Universal Horror Nights presentation.  They will be announcing something unique and extremely cool.  Even I don’t know the full details, but from what I know it is something that is really going to blow people’s socks off.

We will have a Krampus presentation and I want them to be there for that as well because we haven’t really featured a lot of the supernatural creatures of the Halloween genre and this is a really great opportunity to meet a bunch of different Krampuses who roam the streets of L.A., believe it or not, on any given day of the year.  As well as engaging with a large crew of zombies who will be walking around and other creepy characters.

There’s so much more and we have an amazing and talented group from one of the most popular horror games in the world who’ll be joining us on stage and talking about their experience as creators being part of the game process and building design, so without saying too much and ruining any surprises, there’s really a lot to look forward to no matter which side of the scare industry you are into.  There’s literally a little bit of everything for someone.

Finally, if someone is on the fence about attending or has never been before why should they attend and what sets ScareLA apart from similar conventions?  Would you say it’s the diversity of opportunities?
Scale and diversity, absolutely.  We are the first convention to bring Halloween to the summer.  We’ve created an amazing trend of activities and opportunities that have come up in our city since then.  Back when we started there was really nothing.  So if anything, people can just experience an authentic and original show that isn’t like any other comic con or any convention they could possibly go to.  We’re really talking about a 30,000 square foot experience, which contains experiences within the experience.  So whether you’re into haunted houses, or gaming, or real-life action role play gaming, again without revealing too much there will be some really amazing experiences that are great for the entire family.  Even though the die hards can find their little niche in dark corners and experience a level of fear they love, we have something for families with kids, we have something for people of all ages, so forget about the babysitter, bring the kids, kids under 12 are completely free to come to the show and just have a weekend to remember.

Lora Ivanova sitting

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