Once a year some of the finest artists and scare experts come from all around to promote and unveil their work. At ScareLA, one can expect to be in perpetual awe of fantastical exhibitions displayed across the convention center – but it’s what you don’t expect that will intrigue you.
This year might be one of the most popular yet for the con – taking place Aug. 25-26 at the Los Angeles Convention Center – as it is taking things up a notch with a dark convention and pop-up theme park. We got an inside look at the terror and spooks this year from founder Lora Ivanova.
Ivanova was one of the people involved with helping to bring the theatrical experiences of cons to California. With events mostly surrounding the month of October, she became a little down with the “Halloween blues” once Nov. 1 hit. After trying to get cons to stop in Southern California with less success than she’d hoped, she ended up starting from scratch. Through the power of a small team of dedicated colleagues and independent artists, ScareLA opened in 2013.
HEN: Has it taken some time to get settled in the LA area or have you easily developed a larger following? What are you doing to add to that in the coming years?
Lora Ivanova: It wasn’t easy but we did manage to garner some great momentum starting out. In three years we quickly became the largest scare genre event for fans in LA. It’s been really exciting to see how the scary community has embraced us as we’ve seen an uptick in Halloween events around us since we started. They may be independent from us but what we’ve done now is show to others that there is a strong fan base for these events. Halloween is something that people want to celebrate year round. As [for] going out and adding to ourselves, it took time and it took effort. Risks had to be taken and losses… Most haunters can relate to the fears of losing out on work because we’re doing something that not a lot of people can do and there are stakes to it. As someone that creates, we have a need to create new experiences that have never been done before and that’s what we strive for.
HEN: What separates you from other horror conventions and gives you an edge?
LI: The first thing is the quality of the con that makes the experience. We are available and interactive with the fans. Not only can the fans talk and converse with designers but ScareLA is becoming a hotspot for job searches simply because there are so many artists in one spot. Then, this immersive nature of the con allows for us to incorporate new elements. Fans are educated on certain shows and tech, displaying trends in Halloween. That formula has brought ScareLA a huge success. But this year we are bringing out a whole new formula, a dark convention and pop-up theme park to give to the fans. Walking through a sales floor is like walking through a Walmart. Halloween happens in the dark and is less about consumerism and more about meeting fellow fans and artists that are giving themselves to the holiday.
HEN: Does ScareLA also participate in events during October?
LI: Halloween has always been a favorite holiday of mine. Anything from cosplay to haunts to shows, all in the weird and unusual. I grew up in Europe and we would always carve jack o’lanterns, because of that it’s been more of a lifestyle than just a holiday. Thus we make sure to celebrate year round. Summer is the bigger feature for ScareLA as everyone can come together outside of the busy October month.
HEN: How do you come up with the content of your films and interactive VR sets? Are they mainly from independent artists, and if so, what can audiences expect from them?
LI: Panels and presentations have always been a part of ScareLA. We meant to include all the factors and new trends of haunt into our con, bringing together all the factors of fear. It started out with independent designers showcasing their work to the rest of the community. Since then ScareLA is moving in the direction of creating experiences, rather than just featuring artists. This year will feature 10 different mini haunt rooms, VR escape rooms, performances, as we are revealing them little by little each day. From the moment you are inside you are invested into the scare experience.
HEN: How has ScareLA given back to you?
LI: Working on ScareLA isn’t always hunky-dory, there’s always been a lot of challenges. I think what really it has really done is given me the opportunity to grow to the next level. [It has] challenged me creatively and made me take bigger risks, even to overcome personal fears and trepidations. No matter how difficult, I see that every challenge is an opportunity. ScareLA connects to a passion inside our fans that provides energy to move on and overcome cruelty and the negativity in life. I’m extremely grateful for what it’s given me, a strong set of friends and connections that will stick with me all my life. It’s amazing that doing a show all about fears has forced me to face my own.