The past few years have held some significant growth for JFI Productions, the company behind Creep LA, The Willows, Amazon’s Lore experience, Awake, and the recent American Horror Story activation at 2019 San Diego Comic Con. Beloved among fans of immersive theater for their hauntingly beautiful and evocative experiences, the company has been expanding into the arena of large scale attractions while preserving and maintaining the intimacy of a small show. On August 3, 2019, JFI Productions were welcomed on a panel at Midsummer Scream to discuss their artistic process, their growth, and the future of the company.
“Duct tape and plastic tarp. That’s how it started”. An urge to make a haunted house formed the foundation of JFI Productions. Creator, Justin Fix, explains how learning about his father’s bucket list gave him the desire to make a haunted house: “We wanted to create a more theatrical haunt”. With a group of friends in a warehouse, the first Creep LA experience, Creep, was born. From humble beginnings, with monsters literally made out of garbage bags the theater company has expanded to what it now is today, a staple in the LA immersive scene.
Every year since, JFI Productions have pushed themselves to make more theatrical, narrative heavy and movement centered shows that provide exceptional experiences for audience members. Executive Producer J.T. Swierczek explains, “We don’t think of our company as just entertainment, but a hospitality company as well”. The creators at JFI Productions discuss how they place the guest experience at the center of their business model. With every new project they consider how they can improve audience experience. In year 2, the creators listened to audience feedback to create a longer experience that was more narrative heavy. Lessons from previous years was the inspiration to create a lounge before the experience to avoid guests waiting in long lines. The creators laughed reminiscing how the lounge was so popular guests wanted to return to hang out after the show.
Another key motivator for the team at JFI Productions is how to take elements of big shows, like Sleep No More, and make them more intimate and personal. Artistic Director Daniel Montgomery explains how creating a multi-track experience can pose a huge challenge. In the creation of their hit show, The Willows, the creators utilized an excel spreadsheet to map out the location and timeline of each character. The creators viewed the members of the Willows family and the house itself as a character in the narrative. Rehearsals consisted of frequent check-ins of asking “where are you?” at 30 minutes in, at 45 minutes in, etc. to make sure all guests timelines would coalesce for the finale. Approximately 80% of the show was scripted and 20% relied on improvisation of the actors to make all scenes take a similar amount of time. Over the three seasons the show was in production, it evolved every night by taking into account the individual audience member participation. Although there are no plans to resurrect The Willows, the creators remark “never say never”.
In the future, Creep LA Season 5 will be back with their new show Haus of Creep debuting this Fall in Downtown Los Angeles. The creators hint that the experience will be “open world” and will be sexy and provocative. Guests will be able to guide their own experiences and activate spaces by walking into them. This 75-minute adult playground experience will be multi-sensory with a lounge incorporated. Shows times are scheduled for September, Friday the 13th through November. You can pick up tickets for Haus of Creep August 15, 2019 at Creepla.com.