2023 Competition

Writing Judges

Ted Dougherty

Writer, Producer, Director 🕸️ Plague Productions

Ted Dougherty is a writer, producer, and director having worked in key creative capacities with Universal Studios Hollywood Halloween Horror Nights, Knott’s Scary Farm, Queen Mary’s Dark Harbor, Los Angeles Haunted Hayride, Cedar Fair LLC, FX Networks, and several others. Through the years, Ted has not only worked closely on the creative for some of the largest Halloween attractions in the theme park industry, but he has also written and directed innovative theatrically driven escape rooms, live action 4D virtual reality horror experiences and cutting-edge experiential marketing events. Prior to authoring the award-winning book, Knott’s Halloween Haunt: A Picture History, the first comprehensive history of Knott’s Scary Farm, Ted scared thousands as a “slider” monster in Knott’s famous Ghost Town Scare Zone. A crazed aficionado of the macabre, Ted uncovers innovative ways to terrorize through themed entertainment!

Jeff Tucker

Writer 🕸️ Knott's Scary Farm

Jeff Tucker is a 25 year veteran of the theme park industry.  In that time he has written and produced countless theme park shows and experiences.  Working with Knott’s Scary Farm. Jeff has helped created “Trapped” – an interactive haunt maze, “Possessed” – a thrilling ghost experience and many more.  In his free time (ha!) he has written and published numerous books, including “The Sixth Key”, “The Infinite Backward” and “The Ice Temple”, among others.  He is also the host of the popular pop culture podcast, “91 Reasons”.

David Ruzicka

Creative Writer & Director 🕸️ Gryffon Creations LLC

David Ruzicka is a creative thinker with a weird last name and even weirder dreams. During the day, he helps themed entertainment companies (mostly for bright, shiny, family-friendly theme park rides and shows). In the dark and dreadful night, he consults with immersive theater companies and haunted attractions. He has served as a freelance Creative Director, Show Director, and Writer for Mycotoo, Walt Disney Imagineering, Weta Workshop, Universal Creative, Giant Spoon, Magnopus, Marvel, Lionsgate, Paramount, and more. Some of his key collaborations include brand activations for The Black Phone and House of the Dragon, a mind-bending Westworld dinner at CES 2019, animated media production with Eli Russell Linnetz, and CREEP: LORE, an immersive theatrical horror walkthrough in association with Amazon Prime.

Visual Development Judges

Jamie Bartkowicz

The Essential Art Department

Physical Assets 🕸️ Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Jamie Bartkowicz has worked within the art department across various entertainment mediums including: film, TV, live events, and theme parks. From 2015-2021, Jamie had the privilege of being a part of the Halloween Horror Nights production team at Universal Studios Hollywood. During her career there, she held a variety of roles, such as: Design Coordinator, Set Decorator, and Associate Production Designer. Now, Jamie has switched gears back to her original roots of film production and works at Walt Disney Studios managing all physical assets for live action films.

Brandi Creason

The Essential Art Department

Production Designer 🕸️ Halloween Horror Nights (Universal Studios Hollywood)

For over 27 years, Brandi Creason has solidified herself as a valued member of the art department team, striving to put her passion and her work ethic at the forefront of her career, she has had the privilege of working on some of the most amazing and experiential projects in the industry. She has held varied positions throughout her tenure within art departments in all genres of the entertainment industry: film, TV, commercials, theatre, theme parks, restaurant design, live exhibits and even more. Most of those years, Brandi has worked freelance and more permanently, by the side of Universal’s HHN Production Designer, Chris Williams. She has become an integral part of the HHN Design Team, helping to lead and guide the process that takes Chris’ designs, from the initial pen-to-paper, all the way through on-site and installations.

Layout & Schematic Judges

Jon Asperin

Scenic Designer 🕸️ Knott's Scary Farm

Jon Asperin is a multi-talented “behind-the-scenes” force of the  Knott’s Berry Farm Entertainment Design team. From Special Ops: Infected to the all-new GORE-ing 20’s scare-zone, Jon’s raw energy and creative ideas have helped shape a new era of creative design at Knott’s Scary Farm.  From creating and designing unique and immersive experiences year around to creating and directing the monsters of the fog, Jon’s passion for design and his willingness to experiment with fresh and new innovative scares has helped Knott’s Scary Farm take their rich tradition to a new level.

Briana Choynowski

Scenic Artist 🕸️ TAIT

Briana Choynowski is an artist, creative thinker and creative tinkerer who has been working in the entertainment industry for over a decade. Working in a variety of creative roles in theming, design, fabrication and production. She has always been extremely drawn to projects and productions that have a story to tell. With a whimsical taste for the spooky leading that creative execution in haunted design has always been something that she has regarded with great passion.

Paul Marshman

Technical Director 🕸️ Knott's Scary Farm

Paul's career with Knott's Berry Farm has spanned over two decades.  From haunting the streets of Ghost Town to constructing the world famous Hanging to Technical Director, his adventure has been nothing short of amazing.  His passion for for all things haunted and spooky drive his contributions to Knott's Scary Farm through innovation and a deep understanding of what makes you scream.

Sandra Schoenfelder

Experience Designer 🕸️ Universal Studios Japan

As a multi-disciplinary designer Sandra has created immersive experiences for countless clients, including some of the most widely recognized brands and properties around the world. Starting out as a site supervisor for HHN Hollywood, she quickly advanced as technical and show set designer for Universal (incl. USH, USO, USJ). One of her fondest memories in the industry includes the time spent living in Japan to open Super Nintendo Land and experiencing the fun, yet vastly different approach to HHN oversees. When not designing or fabricating she is likely babying her pit bull rescue or volunteering with Los Angeles Responsible Pit Bull Owners to contribute to a better life for all dogs.

Stunt Judges

Mike Troise

Mechanical Design Engineer 🕸️ TAIT

Mike Troise is a Mechanical Design Engineer for TAIT, a market leader in delivering world class live event experiences from concert tours to theme park installations and more. His passion for roller coasters and theme parks led him to pursue a career in themed entertainment. Prior to TAIT, Mike held internships with Universal Creative, Great Coasters International, and Carowinds Amusement Park. He is a member of ASTM F24 and loves having a part in keeping our industry safe for all to enjoy. Mike loves giving back to the industry and jumps at any opportunity to serve as a mentor, judge, or any other available role regarding competitions like this one!

Presentation Judges

Note that some of the other judges may also join for presentation judging!

Bonnie Hallman

Director of Creative 🕸️ Mycotoo

Bonnie has worked worldwide as a Creative Director, Show Director, Writer and Producer for companies including Mycotoo, Riva Creative USA, Opak Creative, Universal, D23, Discovery, Nickelodeon, WB, HBO, Lifetime, Hallmark, Bethesda, Newline, and National Geographic.  

Recent credits include: Lead Writer: Stranger Things The Experience International Tour, Creative Director: Universal Studios Hollywood Lunar New Year, Creative/Show Director: Jurassic World Walk-Around Dinosaurs, Show Director: WB’s Horror Made Here, Director: Queen Mary’s “Dark Harbor” Assistant Director: SXSW Westworld Activation, Writer/Assistant Director: E3 Fallout 76 Activation, Writer/Assistant Director: Comic Con BladeRunner 2049 Activation, Creative Director: MotionGate Theme Park, Show Director: Queen Mary’s “Chill” 

Bonnie also writes and directs for theater and film including credits with Hallmark, Lifetime, LMN, OWN, Launchpad Theater NYC, Actor’s Temple Theater NYC, and Inkwell Theater Company.

Danny Kahn

Vice President and General Manager 🕸️ Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood

Danny Kahn is a veteran of the entertainment and tourism industry with over 30 years of studio experience.  As Vice President & General Manager of Warner Bros. Studios Hollywood, Kahn oversees the development, business operations, partnerships and marketing efforts the popular Los Angeles attraction.  Through Kahn’s design, guests of the renowned Warner Bros. Studio Tour Hollywood, are literally immersed in the inner workings of a thriving motion picture and television studio with a rare glimpse of the exceptional skills, technology, and talent behind Hollywood blockbusters.

Danny is a board member of Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board (LATCB) and takes an active role in the development of tourism and culture with the local community as the board chair of The Burbank Hospitality Association (dba Visit Burbank).

David Markland

Executive Director 🕸️ Midsummer Scream

David Markland, executive director and co-founder of Midsummer Scream is a life-long Halloween fan. He has over 25 years experience working in live events in roles ranging from production manager to programming manager to sports planning director, for events including the ESPN Espys, the Special Olympics World Games, and Politicon. In 2013 he co-founded and produced ScareLA, and in 2016 co-founded Midsummer Scream. In 2021 he started his first Halloween attraction, Cemetery Lane, a trick-r-treat experience.

Eric Nix

Sr. Manager of Production Design 🕸️ Universal Studios Hollywood

Eric Nix has worked in the themed entertainment industry for almost 25 years. He has recently joined the Universal Studios Hollywood team, as Sr. Manager of Production Design with Live Entertainment Creative Development. Eric is an active member of the Themed Entertainment community and part of the Western North American Board of Directors for TEA (Themed Entertainment Association). Eric enjoys ALL things 'themed entertainment' but he especially loves Halloween and creating immersive, horrific worlds for Guests to dive into - breathing life into their darkest nightmares.

Guest Speakers

John Murdy

Creative Director 🕸️ Universal Studios Hollywood

Creative Director/Executive Producer of Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood since 2006. Prior to that I had a long career with Universal Creative as a Show Writer and Creative Director, working on projects like The Revenge of the Mummy Ride and the re-invention of the world famous Universal Studio Tour. Thirty years of experience in producing and creating attractions in the Themed Entertainment Industry and as a on-camera spokesperson for Universal Studios in hundreds of television, documentary, social media and print interviews.