Behind the Scenes Q&A: HHN 27



Behind the Scenes Q&A: HHN 27


     Meet the man behind the mask, Charles Gray. Who is also one of the show directors for entertainment at Universal Studios Orlando. He has been one of the show directors for Halloween Horror Nights for about five years now, including HHN 27 and its 9 horrifying houses. You can thank Gray for giving you all those nightmares along with the help of Eric Garcia who is a makeup artist, designer and prostatic applicator at HHN Orlando. Her Campus at USFSP got the chance to interview these influential men and see what really goes on behind the scenes.


Q&A with Eric Garcia - HHN Makeup Artist.


What is your job here at HHN?

“I am one of the makeup artists for Halloween Horror Nights, I’m also prostatic applicator and this year I had a hand in some of the design work. The directors will come up and tell us a character and elaborate on certain ideas that they have for these characters and we will draw them up and see if they like it. We have four makeup designers and it’s kind of a collaboration where we will each draw up a design for a character and then say “Oh, I like the eyes on this one and the nose on this one.”

How long have you been doing makeup?

“Almost 15 years and my first job was here at HHN as a makeup artist.”

How did you specifically get into special effects makeup?

“I was always an artist as a kid and would draw comics and my dad could always tell I was into monsters so he would buy me the model kits of all the plastic monsters and during Halloween he would always have to make his own costumes because his father wouldn't want to waste money on buying them, and so he would tell me about this kind of stuff and every Halloween he would be doing fun stuff with us or scaring kids. So it was just a hobby and then it kind of turned into a career.”

On average, how much time goes into planning and figuring out the different makeup looks?

“We started the makeup design back in March and it goes from designing to approvals to the costuming, such as prosthetics or masks and then go through approvals on that. It takes about 3 to 4 months of design work.”

What is the best part about working at HHN?

“Creating a character and getting to change someone into somebody else from start to finish.”

What advice would you give to someone who aspires to be a special effects makeup artist?

“Defiantly practice, research on the application process, and anatomy. Find internships and go to school for it.”

What is your favorite makeup look you have created/done for HHN?

“It would be this year just because I had a hand in designing it and it came from my head. Like the Hive house with the vampires and the bat creatures in there that I got to sculpt and design.”

How long does it take to get everyone’s makeup done?

“There are like two or three of us that come in at 12 and just do some stuff in the shop but as far as the event there are like 5 or 6 zones and in each zone, there is like at least 15 makeup artists depending on how busy we are in that zone. We start at 4:30 and go for about 4 or 5 hours.”

How many people do you transform per night?

“Like around a thousand and I have done around 400 people in a zone before.”

What is your favorite house this year?

“The one I experienced that’s really cool is Dead Waters just scenically and the characters just look like they are a part of it. Also, American Horror Story just because it’s the biggest and longest house. If you have seen the show you can go scene to scene and recognize it from the show. It’s pretty cool.”


Q&A with Charles Gray - Show Director for Entertainment.


As a show director, what are you in charge of?

“I am blessed to be able to come up with an idea and see it from start all the way to birth. Right now I’m working Monday through Friday creating next year already so it is a big process. We start off as three people in a room and it just grows and grows until now when we have thousands of people working.”

How long have you been a part of Universal?

“25 years. I came here when I was 19 and started in kid shows… but my second year here I was actually a Scareactor here in the event.”

How early do you start planning for the next year's HHN?

“Like right now. We start to talk back and forth with my boss and shoot out ideas but it’s very conversational. As we get closer to the event, we start to see what’s looking really good and what’s a challenge as we look at the event as it's ramping up and once it opens we get to see things in practice and that’s just the operational side of it, but that can kind of form the creative side of it too.”

What is the process for an original house?

“We don’t always know right off the bat but, what brands we are using (effects the original houses). I’ll give you an example, this year we have American Horror Story, The Shining, and BlumHouse. These have certain types, tropes, certain characters, genre, that we want to make sure that the originals fit in what may be lacking in what they are providing. We want to make sure that we have something for everybody. Like, we have the Nosferatu vampires in Hive because we don’t have a movie with vampires so that fits, and we want to make sure that we get a nice variety of things.”

What is your favorite house you helped create?

“I can honestly say Dollhouse of the Damned.”

Do the sets for the houses change each year?

“We completely destroy them every single year. Even some of the masks we throw away, we get rid of all that stuff. But, if we have a really cool scenic piece that would be fun for fans, we will keep it sometimes and put it in a house. Last year, in Central Park we had some really cool stone structures that are maybe about 8 feet in diameter and we kept them hoping we would be able to use them again and we did inside The Fallen house this year.”

What is your favorite part of the job?

“Coming up with the original stories, I think it’s fun.”

What is the first step in creating a house?

“Coming up with the scenes and how they flow. We kind of blue sky it but at the same time, we realize we only have 9 scenes and so many actors. We can’t have some crazy thing that happens in every single room so it’s all about strategizing and still being able to tell the story, like can you tell the story in a snapshot? Because you’re only going to be in (the scene) for 15 seconds… It’s kind of a disadvantage with an original because it’s not like The Shining where you see the bathroom and know exactly what’s going on in the movie. So, I need you to be able to walk into a room and look around and immediately go “I know what’s happening here.”

What advice would you give to someone who aspired to be a show director like you?

“My job is so unique and different than anything else in the worlds really, so I would just say yes to opportunities and always be a success in where you’re at. So many people I know always say “When I get there, I’m really going to show people what I can do.” (But for me) It’s like show people what you can do where you’re at because that actually opens up more doors. I worked at a fast food restaurant when I was younger and I made sure I was the best fast food worker when I was there because 1) for myself and my own pride 2) because I’m creating habits that will last me a lifetime and I’m not going to wait for someone to give me an opportunity. Luck will come and you got to be ready for it. You can just wait for it to come to you.”


Tickets start at $59.99

Sept. 15 through Nov. 4 at Universal Orlando Resort.



Leah Germain