In season 2, episode 8, we chat with Jon Braver, creator of Delusion. Delusion is an interactive horror theatre experience where monsters might crawl on the ceiling, creatures could be flying through the air, and at any moment you could be pulled aside for your own personal storyline. Jon describes Delusion as a cinematic moving play with a rich, linear storyline, where the audience gets to be the main character in a horror movie.
Jon started creating immersive horror experiences as a teen in his parents’ house. When he began doing stunt work for movies, he naturally incorporated stunts and special effects into his productions. While Delusion is well known for its stunts and effects, Jon has always emphasized his dedication to the story.
It was so interesting to dig into Jon’s multi-faceted background to see how all his different skill sets culminated in the incredible experience of Delusion. After chatting with him, it was clear how committed he was to cinematic, immersive storytelling with an adrenaline-laden plot. He had so many amazing stories. We loved getting a glimpse into the cinematic delusions of Jon Braver. It’s a climactic finale to season 2.
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Topics Discussed in this Episode
- David mentions that Delusion actually made its first appearance on REPOD in Neil Patrick Harris’ episode, where he gushes about how much he loved Delusion. [1:03]
- Jon talks about how he fought the moniker of “haunted house” for years and prefers the word “cinematic” to describe his experience. [1:30]
- Jon describes Delusion as a moving play with a rich, linear storyline with some branching moments – an immersive horror play where you’re a character in the story. [1:50]
- Jon tells us that Delusion moves about 220 people through a night, about 11 people every 15 minutes, and that it’s an hour long story. [3:04]
- Every year the production changes. This year’s event is called Reaper’s Remorse. [3:34]
- Peih-Gee says that one of the reasons they started the podcast is because they wanted escape rooms to become more of a cinematic, immersive experience. [5:05]
- Jon talks about how in the beginning, in 2011 when he started, there wasn’t much immersive theatre or any escape rooms available. [5:42]
- Jon talks about how playing games like Balder’s Gate, Space Quest and Grim Fandango as a teen has inspired him. [7:02]
- Jon mentions creating elaborate scavenger hunts with many quests when he was a camp counselor in Wisconsin. [7:32]
- Jon tells us about how he first got started creating a Halloween experience in his parents’ house as a teen. [8:53]
- Jon talks about how he was inspired by Jackie Chan movies to incorporate stunts into his Halloween events, and how it eventually inspired him to become a stuntman [10:35]
- Jon talks about balancing stunt work in his events with the plot and storyline. [15:48]
- Jon talks about worldbuilding in his events, starting with what kind of characters the audience should be and what kind of powers they should have. [20:03]
- Jon gives an example of a show in 2012 where the audience had superpowers and at a certain point in the experience, you reached out your hand and a creature would go flying backwards. [20:34]
- Jon talks about the storyline of Reaper’s Remorse (this year’s production) and how it’s an easy storyline that doesn’t need a lot of exposition to explain the backstory, which is ideal for a fast-paced show. [21:26]
- Jon talks about how the locations of his shows are different every year, and he talks about some of the difficulties in finding the right location when the venue plays such a large part in shaping the experience. [22:23]
- Jon talks about bringing fear and horror back to the Delusion experience. [24:58]
- Jon tells us that his drug of choice was adrenaline, from trespassing and getting chased by security guards as a kid to working as a stuntman. [26:13]
- Jon tells us a story about a very close call he had while working as a stuntman on the movie Kingdom. [27:01]
- Jon tells us another story about working on Ironman and how the giant Mark 1 suit almost toppled over. [28:34]
- Jon tells us about working with Harrison Ford on Indiana Jones, and how he wanted a cool scar from Indiana Jones’ whip. [30:20]
- Jon says that one of his goals with the experiences he creates is to push people out of their comfort zones. [33:09]
- Jon talks about the importance of good actors who know how to engage the audience and feel the energy of a group. [34:23]
- Jon mentions that one of the best ways to get reticent audience members to participate is by giving them a prop and a task. [35:57]
- Jon talks to us about balancing art and commerce. [39:55]
- Jon talks about joining Thirteenth Floor Entertainment as the Director of Immersive Entertainment. [40:41]
- Peih-Gee talks about pricing in escape rooms, and how she thinks they should be charging much more for premium experiences. [42:47]
- Jon mentions that every year he raises ticket prices and every year the audience seems to become more respectful of the art form. [43:37]
- Jon talks about the “battle of throughput” and having to balance pricing with the number of people you can run through an experience. [44:20]
- Jon talks about upcoming projects now that he’s joined with Thirteenth Floor Entertainment, including a Delusion-related show, and a permanent venue that would house rotating immersive theatre acts, mini dinner theatre shows, etc. [44:59]
Resources Mentioned in this Episode
Jon’s personal and professional lives are eclectic and exciting, to say the least. A film, VR, and theatre writer/ director, action coordinator, stuntman, creative consultant for Disney Imagineering, and musician, Jon’s unusual range of talent gives him a keen ability to deliver his original, creative vision.
His work with some of the top directors in the business on titles such as Tenet, The Dark Knight Rises, Ironman, Star Trek, and Indiana Jones 4 has played its part in helping to bring his passion project to life: DELUSION, the first-ever interactive horror theatre experience.
Hailed as LA’s most successful interactive theatre experience for 7 consecutive years, Delusion engages with audiences to play their parts in fantastical and otherworldly stories. This moving play set the industry standard for interactive theatre nationally, placing Jon/ Delusion as vanguards in this emerging space.
Most recently, Jon has been swallowed into the world’s largest haunted house company, Thirteenth Floor Entertainment Group (TFEG). Tasked with creating an all-new division, Jon will help expand the company’s reach into the otherworld of immersive with the first interactive horror play under the TFEG banner; Delusion: Reaper’s Remorse, opening Fall 2021 in Los Angeles.
- IG & Twitter @enterdelusion
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