Shay Willard

Themed Video Design and Writing

Brain Dead

Brain Dead was an immersive, interactive “Story Room” installation that combined physical elements with projections, lights, and music to tell the story of an experiment gone wrong, and the relationships destroyed as a result.


The Beta

After 6 months of story development, Shay and the team gathered over a two week period to test the puzzle order and story methods.  What we found was a proof of concept – all puzzles could be networked together into one giant show system, and a story could be told through recorded voice over, live performance of the functional room docent, and snippets of written narrative.


The Show

Five months of construction and fabrication lead to the production – coming together as one working unit, Shay and the team produced a fully integrated, projection-mapped, motion-tracked escape room with no walls.  Brain Dead would go further than challenging the audience – it would integrate live and recorded performance to tell the story of why guests were trapped, and why their escape was necessary.

Before the timer began, guests met their docent, a character within the story. They were also given a firm warning – do not wander outside the lit areas. Doing so would result in time loss. If your time runs out, you lose the game.

Part 1

The experience was divided into three memories.  The first was a lab where the main characters discovered the secrets to traveling within the minds of their patients.  Here, guests would have to recreate the first successful experiment before passing into the next memory.

In the first puzzle, guests would find the correct number combination using their sense of smell, and enter it into a video pad nearby – unlocking the cabinet and revealing cables needed to solve a later challenge.


The second puzzle challenged you to sift through research and layer transparent pages on top of one another, discovering another code with the assistance of a cipher.  This revealed another set of cables.


The third puzzle could only be solved with both sets of cables, and the deciphering of another set of notes, in addition to some tricky pieces of seemingly innocuous metal.  Solving this puzzle revealed the next memory, progressing the story.


Part 2

The second memory took place mere moments before guests commenced their challenge.  Something terrible happened in this library, and it seems the room docent knows a little too much.

Proving to be one of the more challenging puzzles, the combination to the keypad was actually scratched into the wood above it – solving this would turn on black-lights inside the bookcase.


A set of codes were written on the wood behind the books.  A clever guest would discover the codes corresponded to the volumes removed from the shelves – and the code would have to be entered onto that same keypad.


Guests would have to solve a deceptively simple arrangement puzzle to find the combination, which would give them the final book needed to complete a very important collection.


Putting the books in order would unlock the final memory.


Part 3

The last memory happened a few weeks ago.  The docent isn’t sure just why this memory could be important.  She only remembers it as a normal night.

Solving a crossword puzzle would reveal the location of a physical key.


Within that drawer, a set of glasses that would allow guests to read a document.


Culminating in an unusual chess puzzle, that required not only the placement of a missing piece, but also the piece be then moved to a safe position.


After nearly an hour of exploration, the final puzzle was revealed.  These notes sound familiar, almost as though guests have been hearing it all along.


The final piece of story is revealed in a conversation between a memory and the live docent, showing that the docent has been terribly betrayed.  Guests have a solemn victory, escaping the world of memories, but… where has the docent gone?




Shay Willard – Creative Director, System Designer, Media Design

Bri Pattillo – Creative Director, Lighting Designer, Producer

Jackson Campbell – Technical Director, System Designer, Fabricator

Rob Chicou – Production Manager, Fabricator

Owen Reese – Fabricator, Puzzle Designer

Emmanuel Bradshaw – Fabricator, Production Assistant

Kelly Glaubig – Puzzle Master, Writing

Jack Fossett – Writing, Puzzle Design

Cameron Creath – Scenic Designer

Garret Cebollero – Fabrication, Marquee Design

Ally Munson – Writing, Lead Actor

CC Butcher, Harlow Price, Scott Goldfarb – Sound

Sam Dubois – Construction



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© 2024 Shay Willard