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Wingman Wednesday

Elle Callahan

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Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re chatting with Elle Callahan, writer and director of the new film “Head Count,” which is currently touring the festival circuit.

We recently sat down with Callahan to discuss screening her film alongside an audience, how her love for the genre came from telling scary stories around campfires, and why she likes playing in a cinematic sandbox that has no rules.

TrunkSpace: You recently had your world premiere. Do you enjoying being a part of the audience and observing other people watch your film?
Callahan: It’s pretty surreal. It’s also very scary, but it’s a very rewarding experience. You learn a lot as a director watching an audience view your work. It was great. I’m really happy that our world premiere was here in LA, mostly because we shot the film out in Joshua Tree, so it’s kind of a foreign landscape to LA audiences. I have a love/hate relationship with viewing my films with an audience, because I learn something new every time, good and bad, so I usually sit in the back of the theater, and I just watch for reactions and take notes for next time. I like the scenes when they start squirming, if they’re hiding, if they’re scared or when they laugh. I think it’s very useful to be there and experience it with them.

TrunkSpace: It has to be especially valuable when it comes to the horror and thriller genres because you’re able to see in real time if the scares work the way you wanted them to?
Callahan: Yeah, exactly. And it’s so satisfying as a horror director when you hear that collective gasp in the audience and you’re just like, “Yes, it worked! They’re uncomfortable!”

TrunkSpace: What has been the journey like for you in terms of bringing “Head Count” together? Had it been percolating in your head for some time?
Callahan: Yeah, I always loved scary stories growing up, and I went to film school at USC. In school, I wasn’t really sure what my first feature film would be about. I was young and still growing, and when I felt like it was the right time, I just went back to those scary stories. That’s what got me into film in the first place, verbally telling stories to my friends around campfires. I’m from New England, so we would go camping a lot.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned learning as a filmmaker by screening it alongside an audience, but throughout the process, what did you discover about yourself as a director in making this particular movie?
Callahan: I went into the process thinking that I was gonna have everything locked down and totally under control, because as a director, we’re very controlling people. That’s our job. And I found that there’s a lot of improvising that happened. And I was surprised, because you think with horror, you really plan out these scares, and then we got on set, and I found that I started directing to get reactions out of my crew. It was a lot of me trying to play tricks on my own crew to get reactions out of them because they were like my audience as we were making the film. And that was really fun, and I didn’t expect that at all. There’s a lot of improv in comedy, and I have a lot of friends that have chosen that path for their film, and I was not expecting it in horror. It was a pleasant surprise.

TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, directors are controlling by their nature and necessity. So, do directors become controlling people, or do controlling people become directors?
Callahan: (Laughter) Oh my gosh, that’s a great question. I guess growing up, I liked to have everything organized, and I liked to be in charged. I also loved to collaborate, and that’s why I went into film because it’s really the art of collaboration. But you do need someone where everyone is stemming off from, and that comes from the mind of the director. And I think the best types of films are just a positive collaborative experience where everyone feels that they’re in a safe space to voice their creative opinion and have it all mesh together to make one final piece of art. It’s weird, because I don’t like to talk about my first film possessively as my film, because so many people put their own creative lives and minds into it that I really find that it’s a big group project.

TrunkSpace: You also executive produced the film. Did Producer Elle ever have to tell Director Elle that, “You can’t do this,” “Let’s not go that far,” because of whatever time or budget constraints that popped up?
Callahan: Yes, that was very difficult. Being a producer and a director is so hard, because as a director, you have to fight for, and push for, the creative good of the film, and as a producer, you have to fight and push for just physically getting the film made and not running out of money and time… and peoples’ patience.

There is a pivotal scene in our film involving a character and a cliff.

TrunkSpace: In a horror film, what could go wrong?!?!
Callahan: (Laughter) I know.

We shot it and it went all right in terms of visually how it looked, the trick of the eye that I was trying to create. And Producer Elle was like, “We need to move on.” But director Elle was like, “I want to do this again. I want to shoot this again. It could be better. This is not going to live up to the visual shock that the scene really deserves.” We took a day and rearranged the schedule, and I got a lot of push back from my producers on it, but in the end, my director hat really needed to take priority there.

I think with my next film I’m gonna focus more on directing, because I need to push more for those creative moments. I look back and sometimes I think that the producer in me was a little too heavy handed, and I really want to push to do more next time.

In a way, you became your own hand cuffs. I learned a lot, and I have so much respect for people that wear multiple hats, because it’s really hard. It’s really hard to do both.

TrunkSpace: Horror as a genre seems to have a built-in audience. As a filmmaker, is it appealing to jump into a film knowing that, in a way, you’re going to have eyes on it based on the interest in the genre as a whole?
Callahan: Yeah, it’s really freeing, because I think horror is a very… there’s a wide range of horror films. You can get slashers and more atmospheric creepy films, which I think this one is definitely more of a slow, tense build. It’s not littered with jump scares. And it’s very freeing to also be in this world where anything can happen. You have monsters, and you could have magic if you want, or you could set it in a world that’s different from ours. You really have no rules. You can do whatever you want, and your object is just to scare people and entertain them. And it’s fun. It’s very reminiscent of telling stories when you were younger, because you can pretty much make up anything, and there’s really no laws.

Head Count” is currently touring the festival circuit. For more information, click here.

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Trunktober

Trunktober: The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell

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This October we’re focused on one thing and one thing only… watching as much horror-related programming as possible to prime the pop culture pump in celebration of Halloween. Our consuming will be taking place nightly, and while there’s no rhyme or reason to how we’re going about choosing our scary screenings, we’ll do our best to tell you how we did it so that you can watch them as well.

Title: The Curious Creations of Christine McConnell

Directed By: Not Listed

Starring: Christine McConnell, Colleen Smith, Michael Oosterom, Mick Ignis, Drew Massey, Adam Mayfield, Dita Von Teese

We Watched On: Netflix

Trunktober Approved Because: Part Food Network and part twisted “Fraggle Rock,” this is a series so quirky and unusual, it’s hard to imagine such a thing could even get greenlit, but we’re thankful it did. Imagine it this way… If Lydia Deetz from “Beetlejuice” created a show based on the writings of “The Handbook for the Recently Deceased,” and in doing so, became the Martha Stewart of the afterlife, this is what the show would look like.

Biggest Scare: This isn’t a scary show, but the elaborate curious creations that Christine cooks up in the kitchen are terrifying, mostly because we know our versions could never come close to looking as amazing.

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Musical Mondaze

Lonnie Holley

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Artist. Musician. Philosopher. Lonnie Holley is all of those things, and with his latest album “MITH,” the lyrical craftsman has created a visceral album that he had to make, not because the world demanded it but because the world inspired it. It is a free-flowing record reflective of the times filled with a haunting voice that has something very important to say, and we are listening.

We recently sat down with Holley to discuss seeking answers as an artist, finding them as a human, and why he has a PhD in material.

TrunkSpace: Could you have conceived “MITH” 10 or 20 years ago or is it uniquely influenced by the current social and political climate we’re living in?
Holley: I think it is definitely influenced by the times we are living in and I’ve changed so much as a musician in the last 10 to 20 years, but the ideas on “MITH” are not new to me and things haven’t just gotten bad for many people in America. We see more struggle now, but it’s not a new problem.

TrunkSpace: We read that the song “I Woke Up in a Fucked-Up America” sort of served as the springboard for the album as a whole. Since that concept first came to you, do you feel like you’re waking up with more clarity on the state of things or more confusion?
Holley: I feel like both. Sometimes I think I’ve started to understand things and think that it’s as bad as it can get and then I hear about my country locking up babies. I travel a lot and meet so many good people. The country and the neighborhood I wake up in is a good place, filled with good people. I was just at AfroPunk in Atlanta and I met some wonderful people. We have to live where we live and try to make those places better for all of us.

As an artist I’m always seeking answers but as a human I don’t always find them. So sometimes I have to create them for myself.

TrunkSpace: We live in very divided times. Does music – art – help bridge those divides?
Holley: Art and music have always been the salve for the times we’ve lived in. I’ve said it before, but my mother and father, and grandparents and their grandparents woke up in a fucked up America. Our idea has always been that we have a great idea about a country, but we haven’t always been able to achieve what we set out to build. Art helps us understand the whys and why nots. Sometimes it’s all we got.

TrunkSpace: Was “MITH” an album that you had to make? Was there a sense of personal contemplation and possibly even emotional healing in seeing it brought to life?
Holley: Yes, but I think that’s true for every piece of art and every piece of music I make. I had to make it. And it heals and soothes and comforts, but soon it’s time to get back to work. “MITH” has been a long time coming. It takes a long time to put out a record. And it lasts forever so you want to get it right. It may sound weird but I listen to it a lot. I wasn’t making something just for other people. Mostly that stuff is for myself first. And I listen and listen and even I learn things I didn’t hear at first.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, you never do the same thing twice when it comes to a song. With that said, how do you view what we, the audience, hears on “MITH?” Is it a blueprint for a bigger Lonnie Holley journey that we can discover by digging deeper into the art and man himself?
Holley: My art and music is like a continuing story. A lot of the ideas on “MITH” are ideas that I return to. My friend Matt Arnett (who I’ve known since he was just about a boy, because his father collected my work and was really the first person to understand my art and what I was trying to say) has helped me share my music with the world. He encouraged me to share it. He produced the record with me. When I have an idea and we wrote it down, he always says, “Is that a big idea?” Which forces me to think about what I want to say. When I feel like the idea is big enough, it makes me want to keep exploring it.

And I’ve got a great band I play with a lot and we sometimes come back to some of the songs, but they’d never be the same. I don’t want them to be the same because I’m not the same man who sang that song last year or last month or even yesterday.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the album?
Holley: All of it. I’m most proud that Jagjaguwar really made the outside and the inside and all of the package look exactly like what’s on the record. It feels like it sounds. It was a lot of music. It took two albums to fit it all, and even then there were songs that didn’t fit. But they made it so beautiful that sometimes I just want to sit and hold it and I forget to actually listen. It takes a team to make something like “MITH” happen, and my name is on the side of it, but there are a lot of names inside of it. I’m most proud that I got to work with all those great people.

TrunkSpace: You’re 68. Is it a bit of a trip to think that the next generation of voices are listening to yours, absorbing what you’re saying and applying it to what they’ll be voicing 10 or 20 years from now?
Holley: I made a record that I needed to make. I hope those songs help people to better understand things. They helped me. I’m always surprised when people tell me they’ve heard my music. I never thought they would or even expected they would. I put my words into physical things like my art. My friend Thornton Dial said once that, “Art ain’t about paint. It ain’t about canvas. It’s about ideas. And I got ten thousand left.” I understand what he meant. And I ain’t ready to stop.

And if my words can help someone else find their words, then I’m pretty contented with that.

Holley’s art.

TrunkSpace: Is one of the benefits of difficult times – periods of national/international contemplation – that artists have more to say? That they become the voice for those who don’t have a platform?
Holley: In a word, yes. No one is born to be an artist. Our times make us that. I didn’t know what art was. I don’t remember ever hearing that word. So if you’d have told me when I was 10 that art would save my life, I’d have wanted to meet this Art guy.

TrunkSpace: Where do you feel most at home creating? Is it in a visual capacity? A musical capacity? Do the two intersect?
Holley: I think of my music and my art as being Siamese Twins. I go back and forth and do both together. I’m always making art and singing. If I sing and it isn’t recorded, there is no record of it. But if I make something, it exists and I can see it. And touch it. But I sing about the things I make art about and I make art about the things I sing about.

TrunkSpace: You make art out of things that others discard. People themselves often feel that way – pushed out from society. Outcasts. Do you have a connection to those things that you use in your work that goes beyond what your artistic eye sees in them?
Holley: I think all humans are like butterflies, in a way. I sang a song about the lifespan of a butterfly and I asked how much we could do in the lifespan of a butterfly? But I think I’m also like a bird making a nest. I pick up materials that other people think have lived their cycle and are finished. I then use that material to make something beautiful or ugly or whatever. Art isn’t always beautiful to look at. Sometimes it best not be beautiful if the message it needs to tell isn’t beautiful. My art is like a nest or a cocoon. It comforts and soothes me. And hopefully makes someone else think. The materials I use in my art have been great teachers throughout my life. When I didn’t always have a parent there or someone to teach me about the world, the material did that. I earned a PhD in material.

MITH” is available now on Jagjaguwar.

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Wingman Wednesday

Giles Panton

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Photo By: Liz Rosa

Giles Panton is perched higher than a stone tower after joining up with Season 3 of “The Man in the High Castle,” which premiered on Amazon Prime earlier this month. Portraying Billy Turner, the newly-appointed minister of Propaganda for the American Reich, the Vancouver native reveled in the multi-layered role and is prepared for Billy’s journey to turn heads.

Well, our heads are turned.

We recently sat down with Panton to discuss his “Supernatural” roots, Bronies, and the totally “freaking” awesome things he has tucked away in his closet.

TrunkSpace: First we have to clear the air. We’re big “Supernatural” fans around here, and being a Vancouver native, naturally you have appeared on the long-running series. Is it a bit of a rite of passage for Vancouver-based actors to make a stop in the “Supernatural” universe?
Panton: Absolutely. It’s like “The X-Files” of this generation. It totally felt like a stamp of approval.

TrunkSpace: “Supernatural” has a massive fan base, one that has kept it chugging for well over a decade. Another brand you’ve worked on that has a big fan base, one that still surprises us to this day, is “My Little Pony.” Having worked on the series as a voice actor, do you have any inside insight into the world of the Bronies? What has made that world and its characters build a fan base that no one anticipated?
Panton: It truly is such a unique phenomenon. I don’t know if anyone predicted that “My Little Pony” would pop like that – anyone who could make those predictions would have the golden ticket in this industry! It was a bit surprising that so many adults connected with the show, but at the same time it makes sense. Everyone is looking for a community, and the world can be a pretty mean place – just look at how people interact online sometimes. At its core, “My Little Pony” is just a wholesome and fun show with a message about acceptance and friendship that is surely needed in today’s age. I think a lot of people resonated with that and came together. My not-so-secret goal is to get myself into a “My Little Pony” convention as a guest so that I can see it all firsthand. I think the whole thing is pretty amazing!

TrunkSpace: We mentioned your voiceover work, but “My Little Pony” only scratches the surface. Was voice acting always part of the plan or has it become a pleasant surprise of your performance career?
Panton: It was 100 percent a pleasant surprise. But looking back it’s a perfect fit. I’ve always been quite hyper in general and have been making crazy voices for years. So now instead of intentionally annoying my friends or making them laugh… I get to do the same thing to a group of strangers and call it a job!

TrunkSpace: As an actor, when inhabiting a character, do you approach the process the same in animation as you do with on-screen work? If not, where do the differences lie?
Panton: There are a lot of similarities, and I’m realizing that more and more as I continue to grow as an actor. Both on-screen and animation work require the same ability to accept an imagined world as being real. I tend to use a lot more body work in animation as I’m discovering a character, but that is mainly because playing animals or monsters can be so wildly different than playing a person! But on the same note, there are similarities. I mean, the movements of people can tell you a lot about their character or personality, and this is just the same as an animal or cartoon character. Overall I’d say that doing voice acting and film acting complement each other and have helped me improve in both fields.

TrunkSpace: Joining this newest season of “The Man in the High Castle,” your role is certain to turn some heads. Is it hard not to view this particular job as a possible career game changer?
Panton: I am very excited about High Castle. It is such an amazing project to be a part of. It is definitely impacting my career positively, and the feedback I’ve received so far has been fantastic. When it comes to the idea of being a ‘game changer’… I have a very good feeling about it but this industry is unpredictable, so it’s hard to say anything definitively. At the end of the day a person’s drive, determination and attitude is what plays the biggest part in their career path, and every new role is a step forward. But this job will absolutely turn heads, and I’m grateful for that.

TrunkSpace: In the series you’re playing Billy Turner, the newly-appointed minister of Propaganda for the American Reich. Just in description alone it sounds like a meaty, multi-layered part to play. What were you most excited about when you first learned you were cast as Billy, and what did you go on to love about him the further into his development that you traveled?
Panton: I was excited about being on High Castle. I was creating so many waves and it meant so much to be a part of a project that is tackling such heavy subjects. And Billy was a great surprise. He is very multi-layered and complex, but simple at the same time. He’s a career-focused guy who wants to climb as high as he can while still keeping his head on his shoulders… literally. High Castle is a very cut-throat world. I guess, in a weird way, what I loved most about him was how much of a mirror he is to how complacent we can be as a society… his character has highlighted how easy it is for people to turn a blind eye to things so long as they don’t feel they’re directly affected. In a lot of ways, Billy represents one of the worst tendencies that people have… out of sight, out of mind.

TrunkSpace: What sort of emotions were you juggling in the weeks prior to the premiere of this new season of “The Man in the High Castle?”
Panton: I was nervous and excited. Mainly excited. I knew the show was something special, and I was hoping to add to that. You never know how things will turn out but now that it’s premiered I’m really proud of what we made.

TrunkSpace: As you look back over your career, what job do you think you learned the most from – the one you’ve applied continuously to your career moving forward?
Panton: “Flash Gordon” was my first big job. It was a Syfy show. I learned so much on that set by studying the leads, producers… everyone really. What really stuck with me was how much work this takes – the dedication, the insane hours. At the end of the day everyone is working together to build the best project they can. I was so honored by that and grateful for the opportunity to be a part of it.

TrunkSpace: You’ve played a LEGO character, a character who has been forever preserved in plastic glory as a toy. Be honest with us… is there anything greater than holding a plastic poseable version of yourself?
Panton: I have a closet filled with my different LEGO characters’ toys. And I will admit… nothing has felt quite like being immortalized in plastic toy form. It’s freaking awesome.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. Here goes. If you had a chance to jump ahead 20 years and see exactly how your career played out, would you take that opportunity, and if not, why?
Panton: Nope. That would take the fun out of it. I think life is more exciting when you don’t know what is going to happen next.

The Man in the High Castle” is available on Amazon Prime.

Tarzan and Jane” is available on Netflix.

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Wingman Wednesday

Troy Doherty

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PHOTOGRAPHY: Brett Erickson/GROOMING: Helen Robertson

Landing a role on a television series is a major achievement, even when you join the cast in its fifth and final season. For Troy Doherty, who boarded TNT’s “The Last Ship” as the scrappy Clayton Swain, a cadet in the U.S. Naval Academy, he’s savoring every second of his voyage, even while casually suggesting “spin-off” to the universe. (So what say you, Universe?)

We recently sat down with Doherty to discuss the last days of “The Last Ship,” talking trains, and why music and acting go hand in hand.

TrunkSpace: You’ve joined the fifth and final season of “The Last Ship” as Clayton Swain. Do you think there was less pressure coming into a project in its fifth year knowing that it was also taking its final bow? Was there something kind of freeing about not having to worry if it will or won’t continue forward?
Doherty: Whether it’s the first season or the fifth season, I feel like there is always pressure when it comes to filming a worldwide show like “The Last Ship.” With that said, I wish it could’ve lived on past five seasons. It’s such a great show and I’m just so happy to have been a part of it.

TrunkSpace: Is there a level of what “could have been” had Clayton’s story continued beyond Season 5?
Doherty: With such an incredible writing staff, we can only imagine the possibilities. I know the fans and I would love to see where his adventure could have taken him. Spin-off?

TrunkSpace: There’s only a handful of episodes left, but what emotions do you juggle as you gear up for a new project to be released, particularly when it comes to something like “The Last Ship,” a series with a very loyal fan base?
Doherty: I’m beyond excited. We finished filming “The Last Ship” just about a year ago, so I’ve been looking forward to this for a while! My emotions at the moment are a giant amalgamation of excitement, gratefulness, honor, confidence, and happiness.

TrunkSpace: As far as his personality, what elements of Clayton were you the most interested to tap into? What is it about him as a character that made the job itself so interesting?
Doherty: Clayton isn’t your run-of-the-mill Naval Cadet. When both of his parents died from the plague, he needed to fend for himself. He isn’t afraid of the fight, whether it’s physically or mentally. He isn’t afraid to stand up and ask the hard questions. I really liked that about Clayton. He isn’t doing this for personal gain – he is doing it for the greater good. Clayton to his core is a good person and really cares. As an actor, that really resonated with me.

TrunkSpace: In terms of on-screen work, 10 episodes is the longest you have ever spent with a character on the episodic side of things, which is what you will be doing as Clayton. What was that experience like for you, getting to spend an extended period of time with one character?
Doherty: I really loved being able to dive into a character. It’s not every day as actors we get to really develop a character over time. Being able to play Clayton for four months was a great experience for me. Being able to see the character grow into something new over time was fascinating. I think the fans are really going to love how Clayton develops.

TrunkSpace: In the world of voice acting, you’ve quadrupled that amount of work, appearing as Emery in over 50 episodes of “Chuggington,” a series that those of us here with young children know all too well. From what we could tell, that was something like eight years of your life. What is that like, committing yourself to something for such a large period of time, and at the same time, getting to do so with a level of anonymity?
Doherty: “Chuggington” was so much fun. It was originally a British kids’ show that was brought over to the United States. All of the animation had already been completed. When it came to recording my character of Emery, I needed to match the mouth movement of the British voice actor. It was such a different experience than just being able to record it on my own. Timing and inflection of each word needed to be precise. At the time, I never really thought about the anonymity of it. I was just having fun!

TrunkSpace: Was voice over work always part of the plan or did it become a pleasant surprise of your career trajectory?
Doherty: It was always part of the plan. I love performing. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a worldwide show like “The Last Ship” or if I’m in my sweatpants behind a microphone. I love it. Being able to walk into a booth and do all of the crazy voices I do at home really makes me happy about what I do.

PHOTOGRAPHY: Brett Erickson/GROOMING: Helen Robertson

TrunkSpace: Do you approach inhabiting a character in animation the same way that you do with on-screen work? Where are the similarities and where are the differences?
Doherty: I think so. If my character is chasing after someone, I need to be able to sell it with just my voice. So, what easier way to sell it than running in place? To be the character isn’t just in the voice, it’s in your posture, the way you move your hands, everything. It’s the same as if I was doing it on set. Except on set, you actually get to see me.

TrunkSpace: “The Last Ship” takes place in a post-apocalyptic world. If you knew things were coming to an end for our big ball of blue known as Earth, how would you spend your time? What would be on your end of days bucket list?
Doherty: Well, I’d love to spend it with my family. I came into this world with them, so I guess it would be poetic to go out with them. Plus, my family knows how to have a good time, so I know we would go out with a bang! As for my bucket list? I’ve always wanted to go skydiving. To be falling through the air having a catch with a tennis ball would be pretty great.

TrunkSpace: You’re also a musician with an EP, “Citizen’s Arrest,” out now. Do you view your musical career separate from your acting career or do they all fall under one creative umbrella?
Doherty: I think they go hand in hand. I’m an artist, whether it’s singing, acting, or cooking. From a practical sense, there have been numerous times I’ve had to sing or play an instrument for an audition. So yes, they fall under a creative umbrella! I consciously choose to follow my creativity, wherever it takes me.

The Last Ship” airs Sundays on TNT.

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Musical Mondaze

Like Pacific

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Toronto-based Like Pacific crashed into the punk rock shores with their 2016 debut “Distant Like You Asked,” only to roll back in two years later with the impressive follow up, “In Spite Of Me,” available now on Pure Noise Records.

We recently sat down with guitarist Greg Hall to discuss the recording process, how inside influences continue to inspire them, and why they’re always surprised by what songs their fans gravitate towards.

TrunkSpace: “In Spite Of Me” is your second album. What did you guys take from bringing together your debut, “Distant Like You Asked,” that you applied to this one in hopes of improving the creative or the process itself?
Hall: The overall process between DLYA & ISOM were almost opposites. We really did “In Spite Of Me” the way we wanted to. We got to take our time and work with amazing individuals we have always wanted to work with, where DLYA was a rather rushed process.

TrunkSpace: “Distant Like You Asked” was released in 2016. No one is closer to the music than you guys, so we’re curious, where do you hear the biggest differences or growth between your first album and this most recent offering?
Hall: I feel like the overall maturity of ISOM is the biggest growth for us personally. We really weren’t trying to go for any specific style or sound. It’s a very accurate and honest representation of us as musicians.

TrunkSpace: As a band are you constantly writing or was there some creative time off between “Distant Like You Asked” and “In Spite Of Me?”
Hall: I feel like there is always a little sigh of relief when a record is finished. There’s definitely a little off time once we finish a record as most of our time is spent rehearsing the new material.

TrunkSpace: Like your first album, this one feels very personal, as if you’re putting all of yourselves and then some into the lyrics. Are you band that has to write from that very personal space in order to feel connected to the music you’re creating?
Hall: I’ll have to answer this one for Jordan the best I can. Jordan always writes from a very personal space, and opens himself up in order to put the most genuine content forward. You could say it’s a cathartic process.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with “In Spite Of Me?”
Hall: The entire thing.

TrunkSpace: Do you feel like you were influenced from any outside sources or other artists/bands that you can hear reflected in the songwriting on “In Spite Of Me” that may not have existed in your brain at the time of “Distant Like You Asked?”
Hall: Not necessarily! However, as I mentioned previously, we had new individuals (Alan Day/Derek Hoffman) involved in the creative process of “In Spite Of Me.” So you could say that would be the biggest influence from an outside source, even though at the time they were technically inside sources.

TrunkSpace: Many people say that music is a form of therapy. Is it that way for you?
Hall: 100 percent.

TrunkSpace: Is there something creatively inspiring about working within a band atmosphere? Does creativity inspire creativity and put you all in a position to be better in the room?
Hall: Absolutely! We all get hyped on each other when we figure out something sick and/or work something out that we were having trouble with. We isolated ourselves in a cabin-in-the-woods type setting to finish writing ISOM, so creativity was just flowing the entire time.

TrunkSpace: There’s so much music out there – most of which is accessible in just a few clicks. Can that be an overwhelming thought when you consider your music is being released into a crowded landscape?
Hall: I feel like that would be an overwhelming feeling only if you let it worry you. You’re right, there’s so much music out there and the scene we’re in is constantly evolving, so all you can do is your best and what’s most genuine to you. That alone settles any worry for me.

TrunkSpace: We saw you ask fans on your socials what their favorite songs off of “In Spite Of Me” are. Are you constantly surprised what people connect to and what they don’t?
Hall: Definitely! Especially since we see the songs change drastically from start to finish. You always have a preconceived idea of what your fans will like the most, but we are always surprised by what they want to hear.

TrunkSpace: Finally, we’re on the back nine of 2018 now, but what’s on tap for the rest of year and what should fans be on the lookout for heading into 2019
Hall: We’re gonna be up to some fun stuff for everyone when we get home from The Hopeless Noise Tour. Keep your eyes peeled!

In Spite Of Me” is available now on Pure Noise Records.

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Trunk Stubs

Trunktober: Beyond The Sky

BeyondTheSkyFeatured

This October we’re focused on one thing and one thing only… watching as much horror-related programming as possible to prime the pop culture pump in celebration of Halloween. Our consuming will be taking place nightly, and while there’s no rhyme or reason to how we’re going about choosing our scary screenings, we’ll do our best to tell you how we did it so that you can watch them as well.

Title: Beyond The Sky

Directed By: Fulvio Sestito

Starring: Ryan Carnes, Jordan Hinson, Peter Stormare, Don Stark, Martin Sensmeier

We Watched On: VOD

Trunktober Approved Because: It is refreshing to discover a film about such fantastical subject matter still grounded in a very human reality. That’s what makes this UFO thriller so interesting, the fact that it’s not about a grand scale doomsday, but the doom and gloom that surrounds those individuals who believe they have been abducted by beings from another world.

Biggest Scare: When the reality of what is happening becomes apparent in the final half of the film, the action and special effects open the door to what feels like a different kind of movie than the one you’re already invested in, which works because of the tension that Sestito has built. For some the pace in the early going may seem slow moving, but it feels necessary for the overly-stretched elastic to snap free and bring you to an enjoyable cinematic climax.

Bonus: Check out our interview with Jordan Hinson here!

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Wingman Wednesday

Jordan Hinson

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We were familiar with Jordan Hinson’s earlier work from her time on the series “Eureka,” but we had not seen a recent performance until about two weeks ago when we stumbled into an unexpected double feature of “Beyond The Sky” and “Breaking & Exiting,” which she also wrote and produced. The concept for “Beyond The Sky” intrigued us, especially with our Halloween antennae at full alert, so we gave it a watch.

While the film entertained us, it was Hinson’s performance and her way of commanding a scene that drew us in, so much so that we instantly tracked down “Breaking & Exiting.” She has since skyrocketed to the top of our “Favorite Actresses” list and with her fresh creative point of view working tirelessly behind the scenes as well, we are eagerly awaiting her next multi-hyphenated project.

We recently sat down with Hinson to discuss the current state of independent film, why this was such an important year in her journey as an artist, and how she’d go about spending a really big cardboard check.

TrunkSpace: One of the things that drew us to “Beyond The Sky” was that it was original, which seems to becoming increasingly more rare these days.
Hinson: I agree.

TrunkSpace: Is that part of the appeal for you, as a performer as well as a writer/producer, with going the more independent route? Is it exciting given that everything we’re seeing in theaters seems to be based on something, a remake of something, or a superhero something?
Hinson: Yeah, it definitely excited me more. I think that we’re so used to seeing alien-based films or science fiction movies where you’re waiting for this ultimate demise, like the ship comes down, but we see it through this girls’ eyes. She’s been abducted multiple times and it’s something she’s already experienced. That alone to me was really interesting. I also love that they brought in these Native American aspects to it, too – these ancient people who have this deal with others. They’ve been here before. I thought that was really intriguing, to me at least.

TrunkSpace: So many alien/UFO movies are about the aliens, but really, this is about the humans and human emotions like empathy.
Hinson: Yeah, I’ve been saying from the beginning, to me, this movie has always been about empathy and sympathizing with someone who is going through something that maybe you cannot understand. I think it is about humans and what they’re dealing with here because ultimately, it’s such a big topic that isn’t really talked about and I thought that it was really interesting that people will replace these terrible memories with something as out there as being abducted by aliens.

I like the whole movie. You don’t really know where it’s going to go and you don’t know if she’s suffering from false memory syndrome, if the people around her are, but they have this support group and it’s really interesting.

TrunkSpace: I read that you actually attended an alien abduction convention. How important was that to understanding Emily?
Hinson: It was really interesting for me. You want to go into these things being as open minded as you possibly can, even something with such strange subject matter, so we went in and it was this alien convention in New Mexico and there were a lot of people that had claimed they’d been abducted over the years. I talked to a lot of people and I know all of us – most of the cast did – and it’s easy to just put these people off like they’re crazy or that they want attention, but who am I to say what’s happened in someone else’s life? For me, it was a big lesson in empathy and understanding others, that’s for sure.

TrunkSpace: The material seemed like it could have been emotionally draining for you. Was Emily a difficult character to inhabit in terms of that heaviness?
Hinson: Yes and no. I think what I was feeling in the moment I put into her and I think that she was someone from the beginning who I just immediately understood and I wanted to understand on a deeper level. When I read her, she reads as this really strong, independent woman. She’s not this damsel in distress. She’s not looking for help. She’s looking for support from her friends and the people around her, but she’s not looking for someone to save her… like a man. I thought that that was just a really interesting approach.

Hinson with Ryan Carnes in “Beyond The Sky.”

TrunkSpace: In terms of your career as a whole, was this an important year for you with “Breaking & Exiting” and getting involved more on the producing and writing side?
Hinson: Yeah, it was. It’s strange, because I’ve been so busy doing all of these things and trying to have all my irons in the fire that once everything came out, I was just overwhelmed. I executive produced another movie that’s coming out this year as well and so that one was being edited for so long and then reedited and then when I wrote “Breaking & Exiting.” I wanted to make it – just shoot it, almost gorilla style, almost for nothing and just get a bunch of people together, and there was all this interest in it. We made this real movie, with real distribution, and then all of a sudden, “Beyond The Sky” is coming out and another film I did, “Higher Power.” It’s been a whirlwind of a year. It started off, like in January, as, “What do I do with myself?” Two months later, it’s like, “I just wish I didn’t ask that.” It’s been an awesome experience. You never know what the end product is going to be and you never know how long these things are going to take to come out. With independent film it’s just so difficult to get a movie made. It really is.

TrunkSpace: Is it a bit of a leap of faith to work on an independent film not knowing when or if a project will see the light of day?
Hinson: It is. I think it’s even more nerve wracking to have written something and be producing it and have everything be riding on you and you’re there from the inception to the moment that it’s done in the editing room and to distributing. You never think about those things as an actor because you show up and do your job and you do it the best you possibly can and you leave with these little pieces of every character that you’ve played, but you try to move on to the next one. But when you’re producing and you’re such a part of it, it takes a while to get it out of your system and you just hope that people respond well to it. Either way, it’s a different experience. I think at least so far.

TrunkSpace: It’s got to be one of those things where you’re in the moment and you’re going, “Oh my God. I can’t sleep. This is so crazy.” And then you call wrap and you’re like, “I want to do that again!”
Hinson: Yeah. I’m exhausted, but I don’t want to just sit still. I’m just always writing. I’m constantly trying to find different facets for myself. I want to direct one day and push myself to wherever I possibly can with this crazy industry.

TrunkSpace: Is there a bit more of being able to control your own destiny when you’re also serving on the creative side and have the power to shape what you want to do next?
Hinson: Absolutely. I think that I’m such a specific type to play and I always have been. When I was 11, I was auditioning and people were telling me I was too old for things that were for a 13 year old. I have this old soul and a deep, raspy voice and now, I’m in my 20s and I have tattoos and my hair is purple. It’s a hard market to find something that specific, but I think that writing, for me, has always been a way to create my own content and when I’m auditioning, it seems like this endless pool of characters I’m never going to book. It’s a way for me to escape. What do I want to play? What’s something I’m good at? What’s my strong suit? What can I offer? I think that writing really helps you create something that you never would be able to find just in your day-to-day auditioning routine.

TrunkSpace: In that process, do your various brains ever come to blows? Does Producer Jordan ever butt heads with Writer Jordan about what is and isn’t possible to pull off?
Hinson: Well, you go through these things in your head before you make a movie. “I’ve seen someone do that, so I’m never going to do that,” and then you start realizing that you do have to save money sometimes or you do have to offer the role to someone who has a name that people recognize and then you realize that it’s not as easy as you thought it was. There is a game that has to be played in order to market a movie. With that said, I always try and stay incredibly true to myself and the film, especially, because to me, it always comes down to the script and the story of the character and if you have enough people who believe in it, you can probably take that paper and turn it to something on screen that is at least similar to what you wanted people to leave the theater with, or watch on iTunes, and leave them feeling a certain way.

TrunkSpace: Do you think the current climate, because there are so many different distribution platforms available, is a good moment for an artist like yourself who wants to be creating original content?
Hinson: I think so. I don’t think 10 years ago I could have made “Breaking & Exiting,” but I think that independent films are so important to so many people throughout the world and it’s just becoming that a lot more people want to make movies and they want to make TV shows and they’re finding other ways to do it. They go to a film studio who says, “I don’t want to make this,” and they’re like, “Great, I’m going to make it and put it out online.” I think it’s a great platform for people like me or anyone who wants to get into it because there’s people who are filming movies on their iPhones and putting them out there and they’re winning awards. I think it should always happen like this. I think that art is whatever you want to make it.

TrunkSpace: So if somebody came to you tomorrow and said, “Jordan, here’s a blank check. Go develop whatever project you want for yourself,” what type of project would you greenlight? Would you wear all of the hats – producing, writing, acting, etc.?
Hinson: I have a script right now that I wrote that I’m really excited about. It’s a dark comedy. It’s a higher budget then “Breaking & Exiting.” I’m in the process of getting it off the ground right now. It’s a character that I wrote for myself once again, but it’s something that I’m really excited to play. It would be really different for me and I would pursue the hell out of that. And I would love to eventually act in something where I could have a co-director and work with someone in that way, so when I’m working, I could have someone helping to direct my acting as well. I think first and foremost, I would go and find a lead actor that I want, a director that I want, and… if you have a blank check, the possibilities are limitless. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: And it’s one of those giant Publisher’s Clearing House-style checks too!
Hinson: (Laughter) Yeah, that’s the one I want, the cardboard one.

Breaking & Exiting” is available on Digital HD, including iTunes.

Beyond The Sky” is available on Digital HD, including iTunes.

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Trunk Stubs

Trunktober: The Nightmare Before Christmas

NightmareBeforeChristmasFeatured

This October we’re focused on one thing and one thing only… watching as much horror-related programming as possible to prime the pop culture pump in celebration of Halloween. Our consuming will be taking place nightly, and while there’s no rhyme or reason to how we’re going about choosing our scary screenings, we’ll do our best to tell you how we did it so that you can watch them as well.

Title: The Nightmare Before Christmas

Directed By: Henry Selick

Starring: Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey, Glenn Shadix, Paul Reubens, Ken Page

We Watched On: Amazon Prime

Trunktober Approved Because: It doesn’t get more Tim Burtony than this modern day classic, which defies traditional character development and storytelling to give us a truly unique cinematic masterpiece. What’s this? What’s this? We’ll tell you what it is, Jack Skellington! It’s Halloween gold! (With just a touch of macabre Christmas thrown in for good measure!)

Biggest Scare: Those mischievous Lock, Shock, and Barrel are the annoying kids in your neighborhood that kind of creep you out, only these ones have sharp instruments and a ghoulish curiosity that a curmudgeonly “GET OFF MY LAWN!” has no impact on.

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Wingman Wednesday

Sheaun McKinney

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Photo By: Gerard Sandoval

There’s no denying that we live in divided times. Regardless of the subject – politics, social injustices, judicial appointments – we all could use a moment away from the noise, a reprieve from the back-and-forth to smile and escape. That’s where a show like “The Neighborhood” comes into play according to series star Sheaun McKinney. The CBS sitcom, which also features Cedric the Entertainer, Max Greenfield, Beth Behrs and Tichina Arnold, is tackling hot button talking points, but doing so in a disarming way.

There’s a sickness in this country that we’re all sharing in, and perhaps in the end, laughter will prove to be the best medicine. (Take a dose of “The Neighborhood” tonight and feel better in the morning!)

We recently sat down with McKinney to discuss the Miami Dolphins, the silver lining we should look to, and the reason those things that make us laugh are the steps we need to take to enter a bigger conversation.

TrunkSpace: We know you’re a Miami Dolphins fan, so for full disclosure, we thought it would be a good idea to let you know we’re a stones throw away from Gillette Stadium and Tom Brady.
McKinney: This is no longer off to a good start. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: The Dolphins haven’t had a terrible start this year.
McKinney: It’s fool’s gold with the Dolphins, because this is what we do. I’m going to play out the rest of the Dolphins season, ’cause this happened for the last 35 years that I’ve been on the earth. This is what’s going to happen. We are going to lose four of the next five games. Then, they’re gonna make a valiant effort to possibly make the playoffs so we can get a middle-of-the-round draft pick that won’t pan out, à la DeVante Parker, and we’ll be stuck in this scenario until the curse of Dan Marino beats us.

TrunkSpace: So wash and repeat?
McKinney: Yes. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Well, like in the NFL, this industry has no guarantees and yet something like “The Neighborhood” seemed like it was put on a path to find success. Did the popularity of the premiere take you by surprise at all or did you see it coming?
McKinney: That’s a good question. I’m a person who tries to stay out of what the ratings are, what reviews are, what people say. I try to treat every project just like it’s theater… I go and do a play and I leave it. I think what we all felt was that we were sitting on something really cool because everybody really gets along so well, and every script that we’ve had, we’ve all come together. The way that we communicate with each other… it doesn’t happen like that all the time. The things that we discover about each other on and off set have been really cool and enlightening. The show is naturally topical with everything that’s going on in our country and certain topics naturally come up. I think we all just thought, like, “Man, there’s something really cool happening here,” and I think we’re lucky because our show is able to deal with these things through humor, and humor is very disarming. So we’re able to approach certain topics without being in your face and also without being too over-the-edge… without trying to be forceful. I think a lot of things that are out right now… we push the bar so far, and I think our show sits in this very unique pocket where we’re able to deal with these things in a funny and a somewhat non-aggressive way.

I heard that the show did great, obviously, and I think that’s just people responding to needing something to go and watch when they don’t have to either think so much or when we can let our guards down a little bit and laugh.

TrunkSpace: We live in such divisive times, but especially with comedy, it’s a way to bridge the gap, to tear down those figurative walls and bring people together without them even realizing it.
McKinney: Absolutely, and if you approach somebody with humor, you can get into a conversation about anything before you know it, and our walls come down. Everybody has an opinion today. Nobody can tell you what anybody else’s opinion really is because you’re just worried about getting your own out or defending whatever your own is, and rightfully so – whatever it is you’re passionate about or whatever it is you may be defending. We’re only gonna get somewhere if we start listening. I think that’s the key point of our show… it’s communication.

TrunkSpace: Is it a scary time for somebody like yourself who is in the public spotlight to put yourself and your opinions out there, especially in social media where things can turn so quickly?
McKinney: I think it’s a double-edged sword in that I’ve had to realize that the one thing with, whatever celebrity truly is, is that you don’t really get a chance to make a mistake in the moment, if that makes sense. What you say, people are gonna take that, harp on it, pounce on it, and, in our country, people will forget three years later or whenever they feel like you’ve suffered your penance. Depending on what you’ve done, people will forgive you. The silver lining, I think, about the climate that’s going on right now is that nobody should be silent. Nobody should be afraid to speak. The fact that a lot of people who are speaking out against people that are speaking out… those points are played, because all the bullshit they’ve gotten away with for years is coming to light.

I’m 6’1 and I’m dark. I’m African American, so I deal with a lot of stuff on a daily basis, and I’ve had to deal with racism in this climate. That’s gone on for years. Even I had to take a step back with the issues that are going on with women in this country. I have to take a step back and be like, “Holy shit.” I was enlightened. Of course I was aware of gender equality, but when you really looked at it and started listening to women and what they had to go through, it boggled my mind. As it pertains to that, I can only listen before I have any type of opinion on that. I think the silver lining about this climate… it’s recognizing that we need to speak up. We need to address these issues, but we also have to be cognizant of the fact that we’re speaking up to find the solution. We’re not speaking up to create walls and divisiveness, and I think that’s where we are in the country right now. It’s like, “What do we do now? What do we do with all these issues?” We have to find that solution.

TrunkSpace: That silver lining makes a lot of sense and it’s one that musicians – artists – seem to be jumping on. There’s a sense that people are saying something, not just saying anything.
McKinney: Exactly. Yeah and, as African Americans, most of our exemplars are people who were prominent in the arts and sports because that’s all we had. So just getting back to that mindset, when you look at Kaepernick and you look at LeBron, and you look at all these people who are using their platforms to effect change, it’s the one thing about this whole time that’s going on… we should all pay attention to the people who have spoken up on certain sides of the arguments. There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about how you feel, but whatever your stance is on anything, if that, in any way, has an infringement upon the mass populace, that’s wrong. We need to find a way, I think, to have some type of solution. Obviously, you can’t please everybody, but what can we do that’s gonna please most of the people or get equality started for now?

Photo By: Gerard Sandoval

TrunkSpace: And that’s the beauty of something like, “The Neighborhood,” which is streaming into all of these different homes, and there are all of these people from different walks of life, different points of view, watching it, finding common ground in it and not even realizing it.
McKinney: Absolutely. 100 percent! And I’ve had people, already, that have texted me about just little cultural differences that have… like in the second episode where they’re discussing white people not using washcloths and black people using washcloths. We laugh at little things like that, but those little things are the steps into a bigger conversation. That, to me, is what’s important.

TrunkSpace: We spoke about the divisiveness in the country right now, but sometimes comedy can be divisive, too. One person’s trash is another person’s treasure in terms of comedic tone. You come from “Vice Principals,” and that’s, obviously, a much different type of humor than “The Neighborhood.” As an actor, how do you adjust performance and delivery in comedy for tone?
McKinney: I was telling somebody the other day, when I came off “Vice Principals,” obviously, being on cable, being on HBO, I was able to improv and you’re able to curse and you’re able to use different language. Actors, we love cursing. We love to do it. But I remembered when I left “Vice Principals,” and I came back to LA, I had an audition, like a network show, and I went in and I was like, “Oh, I’m a pro now. I got this.” I started improving and ad-libbing and cursing, and they looked at me like I had choked someone. I was like, “Oh, okay. Lesson learned. I can’t do that.” (Laughter) I had to realize with network, I have to trust the writers a little more and the overall point of what they’re trying to articulate.

I have young family members, young cousins and nephews, that can’t watch “Vice Principals” because of the language, but I can sit them down in front of “The Neighborhood,” and they can watch it and it can resonate with them. I think, as the actor, that the learning curve is trusting a little more the words that are coming from the writers, trusting your scene partners more, and trusting the overall point of what you’re trying to say within a sitcom.

TrunkSpace: Well, from a career standpoint, too, it must be so nice not to get pigeon-holed into one particular type of comedy because it certainly has happened to people in the past. To be to able to branch out and try all of these different avenues opens up the career in ways you can’t plan for.
McKinney: Absolutely. It’s funny because when I first came here… I’m a part of a theater company back home in Miami, and all we do is intense, dramatic work. I had an improv background, doing improv and guerrilla theater, and just whatever, so I was used to comedy, but my intent was always to come to LA and be, like, this serious actor first. Then comedy took off first and, for a second, I would tell my reps, “I don’t know, man. I don’t know if I wanna go through a sitcom. I don’t know if I wanna do this because I want to get into Art House, indie films.” I had to realize, it’s much easier for an actor to segue from comedy to drama because when people identify you with dramatic work, and they see you do comedy, it’s like, “Oh wait. I don’t know…” Whereas, they may see you be funny and then be dramatic, and they’re impressed by it.

TrunkSpace: Your career as a whole is a great example about how people can never really plan for things in this business, because from what we understand, you were heading back to Florida to pursue an entirely different career when “Vice Principals” happened, correct?
McKinney: That’s life in general, and me being a person of faith, I have to trust my faith. Yeah, I had moved back to Miami for about a year and half. I was gonna be a police officer, and I had taken all the preliminary tests so that you can get into an academy and I was just working at some law office and waiting to see if I could get into an academy. I came back to LA for what I thought was gonna be a weekend and things, sort of, unfolded. Within two months “Vice Principals” happened and I’m still here.

TrunkSpace: Which is a great lesson for people, to never turn your back on an opportunity or find an excuse not to do something that has the potential to change your life.
McKinney: 100 percent, brother. I would not be sitting here right now. I wouldn’t, and I’m glad I did. I’m glad I just trusted my faith and sometimes, you gotta get out of your own way and let these things unfold, and really just dive into ’em. I was listening to a pastor the other day, and he kept saying, “Just do something. Just do something. Just dive in and don’t give up. Just dive into it and you might be able to just figure it out as you go.”

I actually would’ve been content back in Miami, but I definitely wouldn’t have been as happy as I am now and as excited as I am now about the future.

The Neighborhood” airs Mondays on CBS.

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