interview by Martin Palicki
A project leader with over 25 years in the global design and production of attractions and live experiences, Laura Marakowits balances creative vision, technical insight and operational efficiency. In addition to heading up TEAM, Laura works independently and she recently added Europa-Park to her diverse roster of clients.
Tell us about Themed Entertainment & Attractions Mavericks and what you do?
Themed Entertainment & Attractions Mavericks, or TEAM as we like to call it, evolved out of the joy of working with a diverse group of production professionals who all share the same holistic approach to projects, old school work ethic, integrity and outstanding sense of humor! These colleagues are The Mavericks.
We encourage ride vendors, fabrication shops, media specialists and others to expand the services they offer their clients. TEAM can easily fold into any company, offering only those services and roles required for a given project, while utilizing our client’s systems for maximum transparency. A great example is a ride vendor who has a client that has asked that they deliver a full attraction – ride, theming, lighting, AV etc. Engaging TEAM will allow the ride vendor to answer this request with confidence.
You recently started working with Europa-Park. What are you doing there?
Yes, I am very excited! I get to work with the Mack Solutions Design team to realize Europa-Park’s new waterpark – Rulantica! I’m show producing – supporting design with a priority focused structure, while interpreting the creative for better integration with construction.
I met Chris Lange (Creative Director, Europa-Park) several years ago through mutual friends. As the Rulantica project evolved, he felt it could benefit from my skills.
What other notable projects have you worked on?
I’ve had the good fortune to be involved in a variety of fun projects throughout my career – from different perspectives. Some highlights for me would include: Developed and produced the NFL’s International Series Tailgate Party (London, first 3 yrs), recruited and managed the Workforce Volunteers (1,500 for production support) for the London 2012 Olympic & Paralympic Ceremonies, partnered with Daniel Hirsch to deliver the detailed design for Hub Zero (City Walk, Dubai), project directed four attractions at the 20th Century Fox World (Malaysia) and now Rulantica for Europa-Park.
How do you see the European and Middle East markets performing and evolving in the next few years?
We’re seeing a lot of investment toward attractions development in mainland Europe right now. Parks are expanding, updating and diversifying their offerings – it’s awesome! I feel more than ever that best practices are being shared and incorporated, resulting in improved guest opportunities and experiences.
For the Middle East, I have my concerns and will be curious to see how things evolve. Working globally always brings unique challenges. As business owners, or even independents, it is important that we each determine the terms by which we are willing to work, with progress milestones and payments spelled out as clearly as possible.
Much of your work has been in both sports and themed entertainment. How do you see those worlds working together or informing one another?
Actually, my work has really evolved across live entertainment, corporate events, sports marketing and themed attractions, which is why I am in such a unique position with TEAM. Regarding project management and staffing structures, there is a great deal of best practice that can be shared between live event and attractions that will result in greater efficiency and reduced costs, but it’s the experience of both that informs the hows and whens, given each individual circumstance.
Concerning themed entertainment, it’s my opinion that anything that can be experienced can be considered
themed entertainment. The theme may not be immediately obvious and may not be the result of an elaborate story, but it’s always there.
We spend a lot of time discussing ‘story’ and how integral it is to the development of theme. For me, the key issue is depth of the ‘story.’ For an attraction that people will experience for a few minutes, we know we should develop a proper story arc to be followed throughout design development. Ideally, the audience will pick up on it and have a richer experience, but even if they don’t, they should still have a good time. •