Nightmare come true

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

When he started Scare Factory as a subsidiary of concert-promotions company PromoWest Productions in 1993, David Fachman didn't realize it would balloon into the world's largest creator of animatronic creatures for haunted houses, theme parks and extravagant house parties. But by 1997, Scare Factory became its own entity, and these days the company's products haunt events the world over.

Fachman's staff of artists and engineers usually build otherworldly creatures, but last winter they took on the challenge of recreating history's very real weapons and torture devices for the History Channel series Surviving History.

A day after he returned from outfitting the Playboy mansion's Halloween party, Fachman sat down to talk about where Scare Factory has been, where it's going and how it got into the TV business.

How did you get into this unusual business?

We [at PromoWest] were doing a lot of outdoor events, and in the Midwest -- Labor Day, you're done. We had venues, but we didn't have touring acts coming through. So it was out of necessity. We have the lights, the sound, all the people and the venues, we just need an event that works in October. That's kind of what it grew out of.

The problem was I couldn't find the things I wanted to pull this event off. I wasn't going to go to a costume shop and buy a bunch of rubber masks and put a bunch of teenagers in them and have them running around. I wanted something bigger, larger, grander. So I went to CCAD and talked to some folks there and hired some kids and said, "If we can't buy it, we'll make it."

You help to put on the Halloween party at the Playboy mansion. What's that like?

We literally turn the entire six-and-a-half acres into a film set. There are haunted houses on the tennis courts. The front lawn has animated characters and creatures and graveyards. There are three events in the house.

It's a huge party with all of Hollywood, if you think about it -- all these special effects guys, all these producers, all these directors. How do you impress those people that spend their days and nights on a special-effects film set? [Hugh Hefner], who is an enormous purist film historian, loves horror. Loves the genre. So it's got to be the real deal.

I imagine it's pretty outrageous.

I have 14 guys that spend 14 days. There's a local crew of 20. There's 100 actors. We spend two weeks setting up for five hours of entertainment for people to walk through, and all at somebody's house. So it is literally like putting together a movie and then we tear it all down and put it back in the truck.

How did you get involved with Surviving History?

I got a call from the producing entity, which is a company called Brainbox Entertainment They pitched the whole idea and said they wanted to make it about the guys -- because that's inevitably what these shows are about. Yeah, you're making this, and yeah, you're in this location, but really it's about the dynamic of the people that do this. So I saw that as an opportunity to not only showcase who we are and what we do, but also the talents of all these guys that are here.

Is this going to continue in the future?

We honestly don't know. We had a blast doing it. It was a tremendous experience. I learned more about history than in grade school, college, high school rolled into one Unfortunately, there was a tremendous amount of time, talent and treasure devoted to things that would torture, or influence, or kind of keep people in line. It's like our defense budget today. How much time, energy and science goes toward defense and national security? Well, same thing back then, only in a different way.

What's on your plate coming up?

This is the fun time of year. This is when we sculpt. This is when we create. This is when we get to build stuff and see if it will blow up or not.