Career Path

House of horrors

by Wendy Shair

Ocean Park - Career development of performers in theme park
(from left to right)
Bill Cheung, event designer;
Wong Man-shing, performer;
Winston Li, area manager,
rides and attraction operation;
Wong Man-kit, performer;
Chan Lik Sang, talent director;
Ocean Park Hong Kong
Photo: Johnson Poon
Ocean Park's Halloween Bash has become a regular highlight for party lovers looking for a fun but scary celebration of performing talent. This year, the homegrown theme park will be recruiting around 450 artists and entertainers for its 12th annual horror fest.

The park's talent director, Chan Lik Sang (also known as "Big John"), started working for the park after working as a freelance educator and performer for a year following his graduation from The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. His first role was as a puppet at the first Halloween Bash in 2000.

After becoming a trainer in 2008, he continued working his way up and now is involved in training performers for the Halloween event. "My job is to ensure that the entertainers at the annual Bash are of the highest standard," says Mr Chan.

"Good performers should present their roles in a lively and entertaining way. I get a lot of satisfaction from training people from scratch to become professionals," he says. "Artists in live performances must express the emotions of different characters to engage people and interact with them. Our ultimate goal is to make our audiences happy."

Sound experience

Candidates wanting to become performers at the event should have outgoing personalities and have a good sense of drama, as well as a passion for acting. "They should be highly adaptable to take on the roles of the characters they're assigned," Mr Chan stresses. Ocean Park offers training in diverse areas of acting to make sure the artists grow and expand their skills. The Halloween event requires at least 20 hours of rehearsing.

Performers can embark on various career paths, depending on their potential and development, says Mr Chan. "Managing one of the biggest Halloween events in the world is helping me gain solid experience in the industry. This will equip me better to train other students with acting potential."

Winston Li recently joined Ocean Park as a full-time staff member in the role of area manager for rides and attraction operations, after working as a human resources intern since 2007 during his university studies. In his previous capacity, he was responsible for rostering, escorting and payroll arrangements, as well as other HR work-related work. He also worked as a part-time talent coordinator, working in the back office for the Halloween event.

It was a natural progression for him to launch his career at Ocean Park after graduating, Mr Li notes. He now works on the frontline. "I'm in charge of daily operations to ensure things work properly and smoothly. In my supervising role, I act as a bridge between staff and management. The challenge is to assign employees in such a way that it creates a harmonious working environment."

Terrifying atmosphere

Bill Cheung is another graduate that worked as a part-time design assistant on the Halloween event from 2008 until 2010 while studying at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. After graduating with a bachelor's degree (honours) in fine art (theatre design), he was hired as a full-time event designer on various seasonal events, including the Halloween Bash, where he is responsible for haunted houses design. His duties include designing decorations and attractions.

"I have to create a scary atmosphere, taking into account safety issues and working closely with staff from the lighting and audio departments. I find it really satisfying to get the audience's feedback and to see that we've really created a terrifying atmosphere," he says, adding that he finds it fulfilling to see the task through from the first design stage to the final four-dimensional design, in cooperation with producers and technical staff.

"I'd like to add more detail to the haunted houses in future," Mr Cheung notes. "Ocean Park is still in the process of expanding, involving many new projects, and I expect more challenges in the future."

Wong Man-shing performed as ghostly characters, including a chainsaw-wielding killer, at the Halloween Bash for about 10 years before he recently joined Ocean Park as a permanent staff member. "I can never be bored in this job and truly love it. It makes me happy to see visitors return again and again. As a veteran performer, one gets an immediate reaction from the audience," says Mr Wong.

His brother, Wong Man-kit, who also joined the theme park in a scary role in 2004, says, "Performing at the Halloween party was a new challenge for me and I'm always striving to improve. I find it extremely rewarding and continuously challenging. I enjoy the face-to-face interaction with the audience, as one gets an immediate response. Good performers must be able to react fast."

People leave Ocean Park with good memories, he concludes. "I love this job, as I can make people laugh. Also, my brother and I treasure the opportunity to work together at this year's Halloween Bash."

Taken from Career Times 3 August 2012, B12

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