“Creativity and imagination are key to many aspects of life, people want to be entertained and that’s where my job comes in”
Karl O’Connor is an Irish Creative Director and event producer known for imaginative and interactive shows, notably in the horror genre but also large Christmas productions, seasonal events, animation works, media activations and many different avenues of design.
“I like to create events that put people to the heart of the show, making them apart of something greater, something interactive, something memorable. Growing up in rural Ireland I loved hearing the ghost stories that our elders would tell us . I would remember hearing how Halloween started in Ireland (Oíche Shamhna), with tales of the “Banshee” who if you heard her someone had died and the evil “Fairies” who would play tricks on people ending in death. These stories were so believable because they were told by people who I believed didn’t lie and were adults who had first hand experience with these creatures . This would fuel my imagination into believing these things were real, and the more you believed, the more real they became. This was undoubtedly where my love for scaring people came from. In a way theses storytellers were Ireland’s first scare entertainers, and I wanted to be one, just on a larger scale!”.
Karl has graduated with a Degree in Production design and a Diploma in Animation at IADT Dublin, Ireland. This unique combination of imaginative art and working production has given Karl the skills to become one of Ireland’s go-to people in the event and design industry.
Uniquely I studied animation before getting a degree in Production design. This training along with my own talent helped me bring my designs and illustrations to reality. Whether it was an AutoCAD drawing for a CNC technician to produce or a simple idea drawn with blue pencil on paper to help other people see what I could see. Illustration and my animation background has given me key skills in developing my creativity.
Blue Box Displays
Karl set up his first business Blue Box Displays in 2006. The business started making small props but has since graduated to making large scale sets for themed events as well as Marketing activations creating large scale 3D billboards and scenes for major international brands.
The Nightmare Realm Scare Attraction
In 2009 Karl setup The Nightmare Realm,
This was Karl’s first venture into creating and running his own event. It was a huge success was Ireland’s first professional scare attraction. Karl is proud to have countless award nominations, winning both Best European Independent Attraction in 2020 and Number One Halloween Attraction in the World 2018, The Nightmare Realm is being recognised world-wide for its reputation as a high quality, entertaining halloween attraction. Currently the Nightmare Realm opens year on year in the heart of Dublin The creative marketing for the event also has Karl’s stamp all over it. Not merely happy to buy advertising, it is his belief that marketing is an extension of the creativity and imagination of the event and must spark peoples interest in seeing his shows.
“The event has allowed me to be as creative and imaginative as I can be over the past number of years, the more creativity I’ve used the more I’ve gained”.
The event is now stronger than ever with approx 120K followers on Facebook as well as growing accounts across all social platforms with a main focus on Tiktok and Instagram, as well as Twitter, Youtube and Snapchat. Media attention before and during the event has now grown exponentially as The Nightmare Realm has become the biggest Halloween Attraction in Ireland with critical acclaim and international notoriety.
Over the years The Nightmare Realm welcomes an array of national and international stars, Irish film actor Jack Reynor and Irish Model Madeline Mulqueen, Ray Darcy , Brooklyn Beckham and Chloe Moretz. Canadian Wrestler and Actor ‘The Edge’ Adam Joseph Copeland, International girl band Little Mix, as well as yearly visits from the Irish international rugby players.
In 2018 The Nightmare Realm was voted the top Halloween attraction in the world by Unilad Adventures.
In 2020 The Nightmare Realm received the title Best European Independent Event from Scare Tour for our 2019 show ‘The Devils Crossroad’.
Event Design, Event production, Marketing strategies, Character development, Actor training, Set building, Social media management, Story telling.
I have an mass knowledge of materials as well as illustration skills, I understand color and light and the reasons why they are so important in setting any scene. I love art history and why why artists have been compelled to create over the centuries. I understand sculpture from poly carving to CNC work, from the architecture side my knowledge of AutoCAD has been crucial to all projects I’ve been involved in. As a production designer and animator I understand perspective and my theatrical techniques have been learned from years work working on my own shows.
Over my years working at Blue Box Displays and The Nightmare Realm, designing and sketching would have been key to projects we were working on. Sometimes I would be sketching a scene in a Christmas or Halloween show, other times I would be sketching an internal frame to aid prop or set construction.
One thing I love is being able to trigger ideas in people, tweak their thinking in directions that maybe they couldn’t see, developing ideas and problem solving designs to make them one step closer to reality
Overseeing the construction is critical in that everyone needs to understand that something is designed a certain way for a reason. The lighting is a certain color or a prop is placed in an exact location or the front facade of a building needs to look exactly as planned. Of course sometimes you have to think on your feet and problem solve as you go but ultimately my job is to make sure all the design and hard work is fulfilling its purpose.
Acting as a vision keeper for shows over the years, the style set out by the design team needs to be maintained and must continually flow through all projects, I take great pride in this.
Karl has over 12 years experience in the event industry, from management and creative/art direction as well as extensive knowledge in set and prop construction (17 years in the prop and set construction industry), social media marketing and team management. Karl is certainly well aware of what hard work is, having worked at every level from the ground up.
Working with others is essential in any role to produce the best outcome. I believe whether you have the top job or you are starting on the base of that ladder, someone always knows something you don’t! It’s critically important to listen to other people’s ideas, sometimes the smallest thing can lead to greatness.
I understand how business works, how to market to people and how to entertain people. I set up my first business in 2004 www.blueboxdisplays.ie and www.thenightmarerealm.ie in 2008, both businesses are still going strong. I understand sales and throughput as well as the ever changing face of marketing.
Guest expectation is always something is see as a fantastic challenge to creativity. People always want to be entertained in more elaborate and sophisticated ways, in the shows I have produced to date, the challenge is always to be better than before and exceed all expectations with a combination of wow factors, as well as the small simple ideas that make the experience of our guests special to them.
Creative/managing Director at “The Nightmare Realm Ltd”. 14 shows between 2009 – 2019. 2022 shows are currently in production.
Award winning show ‘The Devils Crossroad’ The Nightmare Realm RDS Dublin Ireland 2019
Award winning show ‘The Witches Children’ The Nightmare Realm RDS Dublin Ireland 2018
Tedx Talk, Beyond your fear, “All Monsters are Human” Griffith College 2017
Director at “Blue Box Displays” set and prop construction. 2004 – current
Creative Director and Production at ” Santa Town” Christmas show 2016
Creative director and Production “Jingle Town” Christmas show 2013
“St. Brendan” a short sand Animation during my college years. The short film went on to tour with a European animation festival around Europe
Award winning children’s stop motion short film “Northern Capers” completed during my time at IADT. The film won best Animation at the Kerry Film Festival 2007
With any show i produce, part of my job is to identify key talent for the roles needed to bring my show to life. 10 years ago we would have done 1 on 1 auditions, I quickly changed this into a workshop based auditions where people could interact under certain criteria. One needs to be able to evaluate strengths and weaknesses, profile people quickly, and understand the key roles that would be suitable for each individual.
I love to travel the world trying out theme parks and haunted attractions. It always amazes me what scares people in one country and wont in another. From American haunts in Florida, Pittsburgh, St. Louis to the UK, Europe and as far as Bangkok and Tokyo, one can learn from every attraction they go to.