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April 2017

Chilling Out

Cortney Palm

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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 talking with Cortney Palm, an actress who has appeared in films like “Zombeavers,” “Death House,” and “Sushi Girl.” And although she enjoys the genre just as much as the rest of us, it is a different type of film, those that have something meaningful to say about humanity and our world, that she is most drawn to these days.

We sat down with Palm to talk about her particular set of (police) skills, how she got her start in horror, and what type of movie she would make today if she were given a cool 20 million to spend.

TrunkSpace: We read that there was a time when you actually stepped away from acting for awhile, but it ultimately pulled you back?
Palm: Kind of. It’s sort of a long story. I started when I was younger and I was doing things in Colorado… beauty pageants and shit like that. And then I went to California to get my undergrad, so I started acting then, but I never really fully went away from it. I got my master’s while I was filming “Zombeavers.” It was an online school, so I never really stepped away. I just sort of fell off the map a little bit. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Your focus in school wasn’t entirely acting though, correct?
Palm: My undergrad was in theater and then I decided, “Well, I need something more substantial than that. This business is kind of difficult financially and I’m going to be a cop.” So, I was like, “Okay, as a cop, what can I do?” So I got my master’s in forensic psychology so that I could actually help implement change in the police departments because I felt like there were a lot of ways that could be fixed in terms of the academy and how the officers are trained and internally how they could work with criminal offenders in the justice system. So that’s what I was going to start doing and instead I booked like seven films the following year and I just got swamped.

I actually applied for Santa Monica PD and I went all the way through backgrounds. I was one of the top candidates in the agility course. I made it all the way to backgrounds and was about to have my Chief’s interview and they were like, “Sooooo… you were naked in movies. How is that going to affect you when you’re in court?” And I was just like, “It’s not.” But, basically I think that’s the reason why I got denied. I was like, you know what, fuck it. I’m done. I don’t care about the police department anymore and I’m moving on.

TrunkSpace: Having that police-based skill set must also be beneficial when navigating the Hollywood landscape, particularly on the psychology side of things.
Palm: Oh yeah. Definitely. It’s an asset for sure. Not only for dealing with people and being more comfortable in front of people, but also for stunts. I remember we were filming “Death House” and my costar Cody Longo and I were just clueless how to hold a gun and our flashlight at the same time. We were like, “What are we doing?” (Laughter) The following day we actually had some training.

TrunkSpace: You’ve appeared in a number of horror and genre movies. Was that always the intention in terms of the types of projects you wanted to be involved in?
Palm: I’ve always loved horror. Not necessarily the gritty kind of grindhouse kind of horror. I really liked “Mirrors” and “The Descent” and “Child’s Play,” even though that is kind of genre. “Gremlins” and things like that.

TrunkSpace: “The Descent” is a great horror movie in that the fears exist on multiple layers. Not only are there creatures involved, but there’s this claustrophobic feeling to the film that rubs off on the viewers.
Palm: Oh, it’s so well done. Their fear feels so real. Yeah, the fact that they can’t get out of the space because they’re stuck in it… it definitely freaks you out. I’ve just always loved horror films like that.

I was actually in college and my friend’s bed kept getting wet and nobody knew what was going on. So then we went to the movies and we watched “The Exorcism of Emily Rose” and then we came back and her bed was wet again. We’re like, “What the hell is going on!?!?” So then I got on her bed and I started acting possessed, like I was Emily Rose. I was really into it. And so they called the school pastor and the RAs and called the cops. I was like, “What the fuck you guys? I’m just kidding around! I’m just acting!” Needless to say, I no longer roomed with them after that.

So yeah, I’ve always been drawn into that, but I think that when you’re new to Hollywood you don’t really have a lot of direction. I didn’t have a lot of direction. I didn’t have a manager or a publicist to sort of help me head in the right direction. I just answered a lot of Craigslist ads and that’s how I got into the horror industry. Those are the ones that are like, “Willing to get naked or topless and covered in blood and prosthetics.” Things like that. I was like, “Sure, I’ll do it.” That’s, I think, where I got sort of pigeonholed in that regard.

TrunkSpace: It is a genre that seems to not always be willing to let people out once they’re in. Do you take that into consideration now when you’re choosing projects to work on?
Palm: Yeah, you do get pigeonholed and everyone sort of recognizes you as, “Oh, she’s a genre actor.” I think that really sort of stunted me in terms of growing in the television world. I don’t think that casting has an imagination that can see past that. No ill offense to anybody in casting, but it’s sort of true. They don’t have that ability to see that you can do TV and it’s unfortunate because you can be a solid indie actress or actor and you can be carrying a whole move. And what they don’t see is that in indie films, you’re also your own stunt double, your own stand-in, and you’re sort of wearing multiple hats when you’re doing these films. You’re more than capable at that point to carry a TV show. It’s just a matter of fan base and when you don’t have the fan base that’s more mainstream, you’re unfortunately going to miss out on those other opportunities.

TrunkSpace: We actually spoke with someone recently who was told that someone got a part over them because that other actor had more Twitter followers. While the industry has never been about talent alone, that does seem like a big leap to now no longer get parts based on your social media presence.
Palm: Right. To be honest, and this is sort of… whatever, I don’t care that I’m giving this away. I remember one of my costars from “Zombeavers.” We were like, “Why the fuck did this person get cast? We don’t understand.” And they were like, “It’s obvious, isn’t it?” It was only because of what they brought to the table beforehand with followers and previous awards. It had nothing to do with film and they had no idea what they were doing in the movie. It was sort of frustrating for all of us, veterans sort of, who had been there for awhile. It was just like, “Okay, that’s what this has come down to.” It’s frustrating and it’s annoying and you can whine and bitch and say that it’s not fair, but in the end, everyone deserves a chance, so you’ve just got to allow that to happen for them.

TrunkSpace: It does seem like Hollywood is hedging their bets now more than ever, and that’s nowhere more apparent than in movie theaters where everything is based on some sort of preexisting material these days. There’s not a lot of original ideas in the current climate of things.
Palm: The original ideas don’t get picked up and there’s some great movies that I’ve been a part of that no one will ever hear of. They’ve been inventive and new. And my character has been fully-clothed! And they’re really thought-provoking. No one wants to buy that because it’s not selling right now. What’s selling is horror and children stories/animation and of course romance always does, but it’s these superhero movies that are getting people wanting to feel like there is something more to their lives. You can either be a superhero or rely on superheroes to save the world and change the world.

TrunkSpace: It does feel like escapism due to the current state of things. You can watch the news, be totally turned off by the world around you, and then put on a superhero movie and just escape in that and feel a sort of hope for a better tomorrow.
Palm: I agree. There’s a lot of times that I’m sitting down in front of the TV and looking for a movie. “Oh, that’s too much. That’s too sensitive for me right now. I don’t want to cry. I don’t want to laugh. I just want to see Tom Cruise hanging off the side of an airplane. Cool. Let me just lose some IQ points and pretend I’m going to save the world.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Being in indie films must also be a bit frustrating because a lot of times they sort of linger after the shoot and don’t see the light of a day for a long time. We’re sure a lot of that is financial, but it must be hard after you put all of yourself into something and then don’t see the final result for years or sometimes not at all.
Palm: Oh, definitely. There’s this independent film I did called “Tourbillon” and it took a while for it to get anywhere. It does come down to finances and even now, if you try to submit to festivals, they’re very picky about what kind of theme or genre they’re going to accept for that year. And not only that, the money just really isn’t falling into your lap. A lot of these festivals say that they’re independent films, but these films really still have four million dollar budgets! Some of these movies that I’m doing are passion projects that I think are beautiful stories and there’s no budget. There’s nothing there and it’s sad because these people are really talented and you really want to see it go somewhere.

You just get to really bond with everybody and it’s nice because it’s small, comfortable, and everyone is really there to make art. It’s not a job or a paycheck. I mean, especially in indie film, it’s NOT a paycheck. It’s just a good experience.

TrunkSpace: So if someone came along and gave you 20 million dollars tomorrow to produce your own starring vehicle, what type of project would you develop for yourself?
Palm: A few years ago myself would say something like “Underworld” or “Resident Evil” or “Tomb Raider.” Something like that. And I would use practical effects and stages. I have a theater background so I would prefer to use a soundstage. I don’t want to waste materials though, so if we had the opportunity to go out on location, that’s great, but I don’t want any green screens or a lot of CGI. I’d like to do mostly everything with practical effects. And with that kind of a budget, you’re allowed that opportunity to play more with the practical effects and your props and things like that, which I really like. So, that’s my old self. I mean, I still kind of want that. I really like that superhero… the femme fatale, the woman who is in charge and on top and can do all of her own stunts and really cool scenes like that.

But, myself right now? I’m vibing more towards something that would be more profound in a way that’s more enlightening for humanity. I would like to make something very beautiful… something along the lines of “Moonlight” where it touches on a subject that people are sort of closed off too. I would really like to do something that represents unity and compassion for all earthlings, in a way that’s sort of on an indie scale.

TrunkSpace: And going back to what we were talking about, those are the films that are unfortunately not made enough these days. Or if they are, they don’t get the attention.
Palm: They don’t get the attention. Definitely not. But they will touch those few people that actually watch it and that’s what I want. My “Female Fight Club” costar and I, Amy Johnston, we made a video that represents unity and how we are literally all made of the same elements. The same five major elements that our bodies are made up of, is what the earth is made up of. It’s the elements that are in the universe and it’s such a beautiful thing to know that we’re all connected. It doesn’t just stem to humans. It’s plants and animals as well. I feel like we’ve all lost that. We can see it in the animated films like Disney movies and things like that, but I think we’ve just lost that sense, you know? It’s all about instant gratification and “me” and “how can I get on top” and “who can I step on to get there.” I just really want to make a movie that can inspire people to better understand a collective conscious thinking and an enlightened way of life.

TrunkSpace: You are someone who is not afraid to speak her views and opinions on things, whether it’s here with us or on social media. That being said, it seems like a rough time to do that because of how divided everybody is and how willing people are to jump on others for speaking their mind. Is it scarier to express yourself these days with that in mind?
Palm: It’s an interesting thought process that you have because I totally see where you’re coming from, but from my perspective, I’ve been that way since I was young. I’ve always been outspoken. I’ve always stood up for the underdog. I’ve always tried to promote unity. I’ve always been that way since I was a kid.

Palm’s latest movie, “The Dark Tapes” is available now on video on demand.

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Opening Act

Colton Kayser

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Artist/Band: Colton Kayser

Website: www.coltonkayser.com

Hometown: Monmouth Beach, NJ

Latest Album/Release: Place to Settle (Full length LP, July 2016)

Influences: Dylan, Wilco, My Morning Jacket, Fionn Regan, John Prine, Weezer

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Kayser: My music is a mixture of Americana and pop. I try to say something with my songs, and they’re usually pretty short and to the point.

TrunkSpace: What did you hope to accomplish in the songwriting on “Place to Settle” that was different from what was heard on your debut?
Kayser: The first record was more about tracking the songs I had at the time. This time around, there was more of a developed game plan. I think “Place to Settle” is more cohesive in the sense that we had an overall sound, and theme, in mind. We also tracked the basic tracks live, which helped the songs breathe. I’m proud of both of my records and I think “Place to Settle” is an honest representation of where I was at in my life at the time I wrote it.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to the inspiration of your songwriting, do you write from experience or as more of a storyteller?
Kayser: Usually from experience. But I do flip story elements if I think it will make the song stronger. There’s always a little wiggle room to tell a better story.

TrunkSpace: Has the songwriting process itself changed for you since you first started writing songs?
Kayser: It’s eerily different, yet oddly the same. As a kid, I would just come home from school and write. Now, there’s a lot more factors, and I have to get in the right headspace to finish a song. However, ideas still pop into my head all the time, and I still write the majority of my songs late at night. The process is still there, I’ve just refined it a bit.

I’m writing less about girls, and more about life these days, and I think the next record will have a more serious tone to it. I’m really looking forward to developing my perspective in that sense.

TrunkSpace: Are you someone who is continuously tweaking songs even after they’ve been recorded or do you make peace with songs after you come out of the studio?
Kayser: Make peace with them. The band and I play them just like the records. By the time the record’s out, I’m thinking about the next one.

TrunkSpace: For many people, listening to music is a sort of cathartic therapy. Is songwriting the same thing for you? Does it help you get through the ups and downs of life?
Kayser: I think it lets me process events in life, both good and bad. I just like listening to what someone has to say, and I think that’s why I write songs. It’s easier for me to tell the whole story in three and half minutes than it is for me to express myself using other art forms.

TrunkSpace: When you look over your catalog of music, what song are you the most proud of and why?
Kayser: “I Better Leave” is definitely up there for me. It’s just very honest, and structurally sound from a writing standpoint. The song “Lift” hits me for the same reasons.

There’s a couple of tunes I’m working on now that I think I’m going to be very happy with when they’re done.

TrunkSpace: What is the most difficult aspect of marketing music and spreading the word in the digital age? It seems like it’s easier to get the word out, but at the same time, it seems more difficult to cut through the noise of everything else in order to have people pay attention.
Kayser: I was reading an article about the day to day life of touring musicians in The Fader the other day, and there was a line talking about how the Internet has made everything (musically speaking) popular, but nothing profitable.

I’ve definitely reached more people because of my web presence, and it’s cool to see that my songs have reached people all over the world. There’s a community of content sharers that have really helped my music reach others, and I tip my hat to them.

I’m still trying to figure out what 100,000 Spotify plays mean. Is it that you’re on a popular playlist or that people really like the song? And what am I marketing if the vast majority of music lovers don’t have to buy my work to enjoy it?

I think those are the real hard questions. Putting your songs out there is easy, and I think people will always listen to music if it’s good. That’s a prerequisite. The larger question is what does all this info generated by my music mean?

TrunkSpace: We’ve heard a lot about the rising music scene of Asbury Park. What is it about the area that has been having people talk about a resurgence and can it sustain itself?
Kayser: The arts have been thriving since the start of the redevelopment of the city about 10 years ago. The arts have always been there, but the influx of clubs, galleries, and music related businesses in recent years has really given artists/performers a platform to grow.

There’s a lot of good music coming out of the city, and I couldn’t wish for a better music community to grow up in. We’re more linked by location than genre, which allows for a lot of cross pollination of ideas.

There’s a lot of serious, career minded bands/music professionals, which allows for some great networking/job opportunities. It’s also small enough to give someone starting out a chance to be noticed if the music is good, and to survive from any early mistakes they happen to make.

Asbury Park can definitely sustain itself. The money has moved in. If you had told me as a kid that I would be hanging on Cookman Ave. at night, I would have laughed at you. I think artists may be priced out of living there at some point, but there’ll always be places to play, record, and grow.

TrunkSpace: If your phone rang tomorrow and a particular artist was on the other end of the line asking you to open for them… who would you want that particular artist to be and why?
Kayser: That’s tough to answer with just one artist. I’d love to open for Dawes because I love their music. I love their songs, and I love their arrangements. You could switch them out with Wilco for the same reasons too.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Colton Kayser for the rest of 2017?
Kayser: Well, I’m writing this from a car on my way out of Boston to Providence, RI for a gig tonight. So the immediate future is more touring.

I’m writing a lot right now, and I’ll definitely be working on releasing new music. I really want to get back in the studio, and grow as an artist. I love the process of recording and I’m exited to get back at it.

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Wingman Wednesday

Patricia Summersett

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Photo: Tristan Brand

So much can be done with a voice. It has the power to affect people almost instantly, whether through song, prose, or the emotionally-tinged delivery of a well-written line or a verbalized thought, genuine or otherwise. The eyes may be the gateway to the soul, but the voice is its narrator.

One actress who knows the power of voice better than most is Patricia Summersett. The Michigan native can currently be heard as Princess Zelda in Nintendo’s immensely popular “The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.” Her credits also include voice acting in the games of the “Assassin’s Creed” franchise and “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege” as well as onscreen roles in “Helix” and the upcoming film “Maz.”

We recently sat down with Summersett to discuss the process of working in video games, how she felt about taking on such an iconic character, and how ice dancing compares to a career in acting.

TrunkSpace: Video games take years to complete. At what point are voice actors brought into the process?
Summersett: Great question! In my experience it’s been a little bit different every time, depending on the style of the game and what kind of character work you’re doing. If it’s just voice. If it’s grunts. Or if it’s motion capture. For Zelda in particular, I was brought in about a year ago after some of the cinematic and all that stuff had been completed, or at least enough to be able to track what was needed narrative-wise. So, yeah, about a year for this one. Other games it’s been… sometimes I’ve been on a project for two years before the game is even close to coming out. Sometimes probably more and sometimes a bit less. You rarely do things the month before a release. You usually do things four to five months before something is released, minimally, because there’s so much tech-heaviness at the end of it.

TrunkSpace: Because the voice aspects of video games serve as plot points for moving the game forward, are there less opportunities for working off script than in film or television?
Summersett: Ooh. That again would probably depend, sometimes, on the process of the game itself… on the style of the game. I would definitely say for games like “Breath of the Wild,” for sure, much less opportunities. It’s quite precise work that’s already very technically planned out, down to the minute millisecond of what you’ll be doing. With that said, every once in awhile improvisation is needed and within the structure of a sentence or certainly the color of what you’re putting into a phrase, that’s all very malleable and that’s why they hire you, so that you can give an interpretation.

TrunkSpace: So when you’re physically doing the work, are you working with a director in the same way that you would in film or television?
Summersett: I think there are definitely similarities for sure. For “Breath of the Wild,” for example, I worked with Jamie Mortallaro and there were usually several people in the room or behind the computer and often one, two, or three people weighing in on what’s being done at any given time. Certainly the relationship with the director is a very important one and when it goes well and it’s a very supportive thing, it can definitely make a project.

TrunkSpace: Zelda as a property is so iconic, particularly to those of us who grew up in the 80s. When you’re working on something that is so established and has left such a mark on pop culture, does it feel like more than just a job when you get in there and start the process?
Summersett: Yeah. I did feel a bit like that. There was definitely an extra added layer of what felt a bit like magical pressure. (Laughter) I do find every game that I do and every project that I do… I love the work always and it’s always special, but it was definitely tinged with an extra layer of… it was a really special room to be in.

TrunkSpace: Actors always say that they can get that special feeling when they’re working on a film or television show, as if the quality of the final product is written in the cards. Are games that same way?
Summersett: Definitely!

TrunkSpace: Gamers can be very fanatical, particularly when it comes to their beloved franchises and the characters within those franchises. How have Zelda fans reacted to your take on Princess Zelda?
Summersett: Well, I’ve received a heck of a lot of support. Obviously not everybody is totally on board with it because people have such a longstanding idea of what she should sound like with the 30 years of the franchise as it is, but I get approached every day with really beautiful words from people. It’s really spectacular. I’ve received a lot of support and it’s been very nice. I’m very happy when people enjoy it because, obviously I did my best. (Laughter) I put my whole heart into it.

TrunkSpace: Do you take a different approach in preparing for voiceover work than you do with onscreen work? And by that we mean, is readying a character different?
Summersett: It depends on the process because some video games, and some TV/film, you don’t get a lot of airtime in it or it’s entirely based on barks or grunts or something extraordinarily technical. With any sort of character development that I ever get a chance to sink my teeth into, I usually go with my theater training. My background is theater so I consider it a full body experience and I work with a narrative and intention and the things that I learned through my 10 years of acting. To me it’s all the same. They’re all characters and it’s all a narrative. If you’re lucky enough to get something to be fleshed out, that’s fantastic.

TrunkSpace: In theater it’s about projection and a lot of times onscreen it’s about taking a more subtle approach. Does video game voiceover work fall somewhere in the middle?
Summersett: Yeah, I think it does. I love that about voiceover work because you can go from… for example, another character that I do is a character in a game called “Rainbow 6: Siege” for Ubisoft. It’s this character called Ash and a lot of what was required for that particular job was full on belting, screaming, shouting for a couple of hours at a time. You need a lot of voice stamina for that. And then something like Zelda, on the completely other side, was really, really fine-tuned, pitching your voice a particular way and going with a very soft delivery. So, much like theater, TV, and film… there’s a lot of variation within the form.

TrunkSpace: Do you have to take special care of your voice when not working to ensure that you can keep working?
Summersett: Yeah. In general, I think with any kind of work that I do, if I know that there’s stamina involved or if you have to keep your voice pitched at a certain place, it definitely requires warming up into the work in the morning. I’ve done a lot of years of voice training… I also sing… so they all kind of apply in the same way to voice work. Sometimes I avoid eating too much milky foods, for example, before I go in and sit in front of a microphone. One thing that I do is I sometimes might eat an apple if I’m getting a lot of crackles. Stuff like that.

TrunkSpace: It’s a fascinating aspect of the job because you hear all of the time about athletes taking care of their bodies or carpenters taking care of their tools, but really, the voice is your tool in your particular trade. Even talking in a loud room could be a strain and put your work at risk.
Summersett: For sure. I tend to avoid loud situations where I have to speak at a peak volume for a long period of time with loud music. I find that quite overwhelming and I always feel it the next day. I go into those situations less and less. My sister is an opera singer so we’re often exchanging notes and that sort of thing. She’s got a whole regime as well with the Mccloskey technique and avoiding certain foods that are too acidic… all that stuff.

TrunkSpace: Has the industry changed at all for you in terms of the freedom of it, especially with technology continuing to advance?
Summersett: I am finding that I am more portable than I used to be, for sure. There’s a lot more self-takes. There’s a lot more recording from my Yeti mic in a room and bringing that Yeti mic with me when I go. The interesting thing though is that while that is definitely true, on the flip side because I’m often back and forth between Canada and the US as a citizen of both countries, everything has accelerated in the speed at which jobs get pushed through and you need to be in the place where you will be working too. There’s a certain degree that can be quite mobile and then another thing is that you have to actually be in the town where you want to work in because so much of it is turned around the next day.

TrunkSpace: In the age of the internet, confidentiality agreements are par for the course in the world of entertainment. We’d imagine they’re particularly strict when it comes to games?
Summersett: Yeah. It’s amazing how much of it is about secrets and leaks. It’s quite fascinating around the mystery of what’s going to get released next… more so than the other industries.

TrunkSpace: It’s like politics.
Summersett: (Laughter) Yeah.

TrunkSpace: We read that you were a competitive ice dancer prior to pursuing acting. That is a sport that requires so much training and focus. Did you apply that same work ethic to your acting career when you made the transition?
Summersett: I certainly did and do. Obviously it’s not necessary to be a competitive athlete to get into acting, but I do find that for me it has helped, I think, with confidence and endurance over the many years. And maybe even just when I do things like motion capture and things that are highly technical… I do rely on my athletic training and my training for spatial awareness and that sort of thing.

TrunkSpace: So much of both worlds, ice dancing and acting, seem to be about commitment and just putting in the work in order to continue to improve.
Summersett: Definitely. When I was a competitive ice dancer, I lived to be a competitive ice dancer. My entire existence was around that. It was obsessive. And I do think acting projects can be like that as well, which is one of the reasons why I love the career. They are similar in a certain way. When I moved from ice dancing to acting, ironically I found acting a more sustainable lifelong thing. (Laughter) It’s such a crazy career, but you can obsess about it your whole live, which is fantastic. (Laughter)

Photo: Andrea Hausmann
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Next Up

Dean Sharpe

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Name: Dean Sharpe

Hometown: Lanett, Alabama

Current Location: Los Angeles, CA

TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
Sharpe: As a kid I dreamed of being an actor, but it was a distant reality. When I moved to California and began to pursue acting is when I caught the “bug” and decided that acting is what I want to do.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Sharpe: Not a particular performance, but I would get sucked into the world of any movie and get so close to the characters. I remember not being able to watch dramas as a kid because I would cry my eyeballs out and mourn over characters. That’s when I was only allowed to watch comedy.

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career as an actor? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Sharpe: At the beginning, I knew that gathering information was important. I would gather information then check it out online. Even though some people would tell me negative things about a certain agency, company, or class, I would still check them out to make my own assessment. Performing as much as possible on any platform not only to get better, but to get comfortable in front of people as well.

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
Sharpe: At the age of 25 I decided to pack up my car and move to California. I had recently gave up football and dreams of playing for the NFL and began working an office job. That’s when I started to make my five year plan and was not happy with where my life was going.

TrunkSpace: Was that move an easy transition for you initially? How long did it take you to feel at home and find a good support group of friends and peers?
Sharpe: Moving to LA five years ago was an easy transition because I was happy and excited about the unknown. The only thing I knew about going to California is that I would meet people. I’ve met a lot of people, but not all productive to my career path. Within the last two years through improv I’ve found a good support group. It takes time, but well worth the wait.

TrunkSpace: What has been been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
Sharpe: Last year I was cast in a very popular national Samsung commercial that had over 20 million views on YouTube. Personally I’m looking forward to a role that I played in a few episodes of the highly anticipated return of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.”

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific type of role you’d like to take on or a specific genre that you feel more at home in?
Sharpe: I’m still young in the industry but I’m always looking for new challenges so I can actually learn what I do like or don’t like. Naturally I joke around and like to make people laugh, so it seems that the timing of comedy comes more naturally.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
Sharpe: Being a great person. Sometimes it boils down to who would you like to spend three to six months or a few seasons of a series with.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
Sharpe: I would like to work on a successful TV series for four to five years, establishing experience and a fanbase and then convert to films and establish my place in that industry while creating content that can be displayed on both platforms.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
Sharpe: Don’t be afraid to make sacrifices, moving away from your family is a big one but there will be many more to come and we have to decide what sacrifices we are willing to make.

TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
Sharpe: You can find my work and bio on:
about.me/deansharpe
backstage.com/deansharpe
imdb.com/name/nm6032530/

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Musical Mondaze

Daddy Issues

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You don’t have to be in a funk just because it’s (feeling like) Monday. Instead, get funky.

TrunkSpace brings you another edition of Musical Mondaze. This time out we’re sitting down with the Nashville-based punk trio Daddy Issues. Their new album “Deep Dream” is due to hit May 19 on Infinity Cat Recordings.

We recently chatted with Jenna Moynihan (guitars/vocals), Emily Maxwell (drums), and Jenna Mitchell (bass) to discuss being a rock band in a country-focused city, their favorite track off the upcoming album, and using the power of message in music to impact listeners.

TrunkSpace: The band is from Nashville. The mainstream view of the city is one of country and singer/songwriter scenes. Is it it safe to say that other genres are able to thrive there?
Moynihan: Yeah, definitely. Since we all moved there about five years ago or so, I think we immediately found out that there was a really great DIY punk scene and a lot of rock music in Nashville.
Mitchell: When I started to go to school there, there were a few months were I would sit in my dorm room and then I figured out that there were basement shows going on around town and that’s where I met a ton of my friends and figured out about music in Nashville.

TrunkSpace: Is it harder to get noticed within the city itself just because all of the focus is on country and singer/songwriters?
Maxwell: I guess so. I think people, like tourists and stuff… the general idea of Nashville is still the country thing. Within the city, if you’re living there, people are more cognizant of the rock section of it, but people coming through town, they don’t necessarily know that that exists there.

TrunkSpace: And a lot of the rock clubs are set off away from where most of the tourists hang out, correct?
Mitchell: More or less. A lot of the tourists will hang out in downtown on Broadway and go to the honky-tonks and that’s the kind of bubble that they get trapped in. A lot of people will talk to me and be like, “Oh my gosh, country music, right?” And I’m like, “No, it’s rock.” It’s definitely both, but I think there are two bubbles that you can definitely get trapped in.
Moynihan: I think we could all agree that the Americana singer/songwriter scene has gotten bigger.
Mitchell: I’ll agree with that. And it’s gotten more accepted.
Moynihan: Before we wouldn’t end up at a singer/songwriter kind of show. Now we find ourselves at those kind of shows a lot more and they’re happening at a lot of the venues that a lot of rock music happens at. It’s always going to be changing.

TrunkSpace: And the city itself has been changing dramatically. It just seems to be spreading out and growing at an incredible rate.
Moynihan: Yeah. Definitely.
Mitchell: It feels very full right now. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: When it comes to booking the band, do you find club owners putting Daddy Issues on bills with other female-fronted bands who may not necessarily fit with you guys sound-wise, as opposed to bands with sounds you’d be better suited to share a stage with?
Maxwell: Sometimes. I think it used to be more that way and now there’s a more conscious view of that kind of situation. We’ve been playing with a lot of really incredible bands, disregarding their gender.

TrunkSpace: It just always seems unfortunate that a band of women becomes a “girl band” as opposed to just a band.
Moynihan: Yeah. That happens all the time. We’re proud to be girls, but I think… with the people we’ve been working with, especially lately…
Maxwell: They’re fantastic.
Moynihan: Yeah. It’s cool actually. Maybe we’ll be booked with a certain type of band, but it’s because they’re also just socially aware.
Mitchell: They’re inspiring people and making a positive social impact, so it’s cool to be able to be a part of that as well.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to social impact and having something to say, it seems like bands and artists aren’t as afraid to speak up recently. Have you noticed that as well?
Moynihan: Definitely. And just from being a smaller scale band… and then learning that one person was inspired by something that you said… it’s important. We all realize that it’s important to say stuff and a lot of bands are realizing that too. No matter how big your fan base is, just impacting one person’s life is so important. You can’t really stay quiet.
Mitchell: Yeah. You’ve got to say whatever you can because you just never know who’s listening.
Moynihan: Yeah. Even though, sometimes we don’t think the world’s listening.
Maxwell: Everybody’s kind of had a dark day and it’s nice to know that you could be there for that person, for another person, on that dark day.

TrunkSpace: And that’s the beauty of music. It can affect people in ways you never think possible.
Maxwell: Yeah.
Moynihan: Exactly. It’s cool to be a part of that once we realized that.
Maxwell: Yeah. To be able to contribute to that kind of thing.

TrunkSpace: And with the social media landscape that we’re all operating in, you must know pretty quickly how a song can affect someone.
Maxwell: Yeah. We just put out a single the other day called “I’m Not.” That was about… inspired by, some difficult things that I’ve dealt with in my life and we’ve got a lot of Tweets and Tumblr messages and Facebook stuff very quickly of people saying that they really liked it and thanking us for writing it because they felt alone and finally it felt like someone understood them. It was really nice to be able to have that connection with them where people felt like they could contact us. Just to know that we had actually done something to help people…
Mitchell: Yeah. I think keeping an open dialogue between us and our fan base is hugely important because it allows us to all learn about each other more.

TrunkSpace: On the reverse side of that, do you ever hesitate to put too much of yourself into a song?
Moynihan: I think with the last song that we put out… we were just talking about this not too long ago… we didn’t second guess it at all. We did, but it was in the sense of that you’re afraid, which Emily will definitely touch on. But I think for us, it was so honest and true, why wouldn’t you say something like that? Whereas there are so many things that people talk about and bands talk about that it’s almost like, maybe you’re saying it because someone else said it or that the world is doing that, but specifically with a song like we just released, it was something that we were like, “No one’s really talking about this. Of course we believe in this and this is how we feel, so why wouldn’t we put it out?”
Maxwell: Yeah. I mean, I was nervous to do it because I’ve never talked about that topic really before, except with my bandmates and two of my best friends and my brother. But, I thought it was important because I lived a long time with no one talking about that kind of thing, and once I realized that there are probably other people sitting around wishing someone would talk about it… or just try to de-stigmatize it in some way… I felt like if I had the opportunity to do it, I should do it. It was really scary because coming out and saying you’ve experienced something that everybody that you know then reads that and then knows that about you, I wasn’t sure how that was going to play out overall. But, it doesn’t really matter anyway because the important thing is just putting the message out and connecting to other people. It ended up being fine. It was just scary to kind of make that statement for the first time and now it’s done and it’s okay.

TrunkSpace: Was there also a part of you that felt relieved to make the statement and sort of get it off your chest?
Maxwell: Totally. I just told my mom the other day… I feel so peaceful now. I feel really free. I’m so glad that we did that and I’m so glad that we’ve been able to help people with it. It’s had a really positive impact on people’s lives and my life. I didn’t realize how much time I was spending just sitting and thinking about, like, “What would happen if I said something about this? Was the world going to end?” And I guess I was thinking about it all the time. I had no idea that it was worrying me that much, but it was. Once I finally actually said it and it’s out now and it’s done, I don’t have to worry about that anymore. It’s not on my mind because it’s over. So, I feel very calm now and free and good. I feel much better. Better than I have in like 10 years and it’s really nice to feel that way.

TrunkSpace: Often time we always talk about how music affects the listener, but a lot of times we miss the mark on how it can affect those who are writing it, which is absolutely the case with you.
Maxwell: Yeah. It’s so true.

TrunkSpace: So when you look at the album as a whole, what were you guys trying to accomplish with it that you didn’t achieve with your previous release? Was there something that you wanted to try or do that you had yet to take on?
Moynihan: I think we wanted it to sound really good. (Laughter) We kind of rushed a lot of our old recordings, I think.
Mitchell: I’ll agree with that.
Moynihan: So we wanted to take our time and we wanted to make a good-sounding record.
Mitchell: With our previous album, we were still kind of figuring out a lot of things and with this record, it felt really good to be able to translate what we were hearing in our heads into a recording with the help of our producer and the help of our recording engineers. It was a really amazing experience. It just felt very accomplished.

Photo: Kelsey Hall

TrunkSpace: When you go into the studio, are you confident that the songs are locked and loaded and ready to lay down, or are they still works in progress?
Mitchell: There was a lot of that this time. It was a very group effort, just trying to figure out what sounded best and what made the most sense and what we liked hearing the most.
Moynihan: Yeah. That’s one of my favorite parts, it’s just every time we go into the studio and once we lay it down, we’re like, “Oh, wow… that’s what it sounds like?” I think it always comes out different than what we originally planned on it sounding like.
Maxwell: Yeah. Definitely.
Moynihan: And that’s why we’ll play things different live because…
Mitchell: We’re still building and we’re still continuing on with the creation of what we want to hear.

TrunkSpace: Is there a track on the album that individually you’re all the most proud of?
Maxwell: I think we all really like “High Street.”
Mitchell: Oh. Yeah. I thought we were all going to have different ones, but that’s my favorite one.
Maxwell: Yeah. I think all of our favorite is “High Street.” We wrote it… actually, it was a very quick thing. We wrote it at a recording session and we needed a song to record and we didn’t have anything so we just kind of came up with it. I don’t know why… maybe the Jennas have something more to add… but I don’t know why we like it so much.
Mitchell: Personally, for the bass, I feel like it was my personal best work. You’ve got to flex the creative bone and it feels really good to flex the creative bone and I told myself when we were doing “High Street” that, “I’m going to flex this.” I think that’s what I’m trying to say. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Was it a song where as a band you guys thought, musically, outside the box?
Moynihan: Definitely. I don’t usually play lead guitar things. I pretty much play rhythm guitar because there’s three of us and I’m not… talented on the guitar. (Laughter) But, it immediately starts off with a lead guitar line and I think that was really important and then Emily does some crazy fills.
Maxwell: Yeah. It was the most difficult thing I’ve ever done on the drums.
Moynihan: We had to laugh because when we went to record we were like, “How are we going to play this?”
Mitchell: (Laughter) “Why did we do this?”
Moynihan: (Laughter) Yeah. “Why did we do this to ourselves, we don’t even know how to play these parts?” But we’ve been playing it on this whole tour with Diet Cig that we’re on right now and it’s really fun every night. Every night it feels better and better, just like any song we ever write and play live. I think we’re just really proud of ourselves that we did something difficult. (Laughter)
Mitchell: We flexed the creative bone!

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Opening Act

C.K. Flach

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Artist/Band: C.K.Flach

Website: http://www.ckflach.com/

Hometown: Ravena, NY

Latest Album/Release: Empty Mansions

Influences: Lou Reed, Conor Oberst, Neil Young, The Band, Bob Dylan

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Flach: I would describe it as alternative folk. I’m a big fan of folk and folk-rock sounds so I like to take those ideas and mix in certain elements to diversify the sound. I really just try to experiment and have fun with non-typical instruments like djembe, electric piano, udu drum, and even soundscapes.

TrunkSpace: You started out on drums. Is it safe to say that once a drummer, always a drummer?
Flach: I think so. The drums were my first love and what the drums will do in a song is always in the forefront of my thinking while writing a new piece. I think they are a very powerful element and I like to take advantage of that.

TrunkSpace: Your debut solo album “Empty Mansions” was released in February. You’ve played in bands in the past, but was stepping out on your own a daunting task? Being a solo artist offers creative freedom, but at the same time, it must also open up a certain space for vulnerability to work its way in?
Flach: Yeah, I was nervous about doing something on my own. “Empty Mansions” is entirely me… every instrument, every lyric, every track… so you can imagine my feeling of vulnerability releasing it. Fortunately, I was able to cut my teeth with other projects in the past which helped, as well as tremendous support from some key people. Overall though, I wanted to do it and put those nervous feelings behind me. It’s been a freeing experience and I plan to employ what I’ve learned with me on the next project.

TrunkSpace: You write a lot about the current state of things in the world. Is part of that a way for you to sort of absorb and find a self-understanding in the things that you see and hear?
Flach: It became apparent to me as I was forming these songs that are sort of a social commentary that I had to sort out the way I felt about some of them. Views and opinions I had changed over the course of writing and research, which I was a little surprised by. I’m happy to say I’ve grown from it and I’m perfectly willing to change. I try to be pretty open and honest. So yeah, I would say it had become a good way for me to process things.

TrunkSpace: When you look at the album now with a bit of separation, what is the most personal song that you included and do you ever second guess saying certain things in your songs over fear of saying too much about yourself in a public platform?
Flach: I really can’t say that any of these songs are biographical, but they are personal in the creative sense. I was a bit worried about a few lines throughout the album as far as content. I can get a little dark in my writing, but the world we inhabit can be a dark place and I don’t see the point of watering it down. The songs are honest and I think that’s important. My hope for my work is that people can identify with it, which means that I have to go beyond just my personal experience while maintaining a humanity to the lyrics. I do second guess myself sometimes, but I find myself just saying “go for it, what’s the worst that can happen?”

TrunkSpace: We’ve heard many artists say that releasing an album is like having a kid. With that in mind, do you see more kids in your future, particularly as a solo artist?
Flach: Absolutely, I’m already working out new material. I had such a good experience with “Empty Mansions” and I learned so much making it that I can’t wait to do it again.

TrunkSpace: You write poetry as well as lyrics. We’re curious, how many of your songs started out as poetry and then morphed into lyrics?
Flach: When I started writing, I kept both endeavors separate, but it has become difficult to do that. I think that as I have matured a little bit I’ve begun to develop a style that is more uniform. That is to say that my poetry and songwriting have now converged to a single style.

TrunkSpace: What is the biggest similarity between writing poetry and lyrics and what is the biggest difference?
Flach: Lyrics are more tedious because of the metrics involved; melody, rhyme scheme, length etc., whereas poetry is very free for me, but I try to approach both with an accessible language. The commonality is that I’m trying to communicate with the listener/reader and I try to do that in the most fluent and interesting way I can summon.

TrunkSpace: What is the best advice you’ve ever received in life as it pertains to your musical career?
Flach: To stick with it.

TrunkSpace: Great songwriting elicits emotions out of the listener. What do you hope people feel when they listen to your music?
Flach: Anything and everything. The spectrum of human emotion is broad and I hope to be able to create songs that encourage people to feel many things. From protest songs to ballads, songs can go so many places and I think the emotions follow.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from C.K. Flach for the rest of 2017?
Flach: A Northeast tour in June and a few one-off shows before and after that. I plan to start working on a new album as well.

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Musical Mondaze

White Reaper

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You don’t have to be in a funk just because it’s Monday. Instead, get funky!

TrunkSpace brings you another edition of Musical Mondaze. This time out we’re sitting down with Tony Esposito, guitarist and vocalist for the band White Reaper. Their latest album, “The World’s Best American Band,” is a raucous rock throwback, and if the Kentucky-natives have their way, a prophetic calling card to their future legendary status.

 


We recently sat down with Esposito to discuss White Reaper’s rising popularity, their persona, and breaking out of the boxes that other people put them in.

TrunkSpace: Other than being from America, what characteristics does a band need in order to be the world’s best American band?
Esposito: Well, you’ve got to have chops. And you’ve got to be confident. That’s pretty much it.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular approach that White Reaper takes when it comes to the business side of the band and moving it further and forward?
Esposito: We work with a great team of people that support us and help us get to where we want to be. We talk to each other on a nice group chat every day. Send a lot of emojis to each other. Just try to keep everybody happy and be nice to each other. You know, teamwork.

TrunkSpace: As the band’s profile continues to grow and you gain more fans, have you had to change the way you do things at all?
Esposito: Yeah. We’ve got to be a little more serious with the merch. We used to just kind of hand it out, but now we’ve got to be a little strict about how much we have of each item. I guess things are getting a bit more legit, so we’ve got to try a little harder to not totally fuck around on tour.

TrunkSpace: Was there a moment where that all came into focus… where you realized that you couldn’t totally fuck around anymore? What changed?
Esposito: Probably our release show last Saturday because we sold so much fucking merch. I was like, “Oh wow, that’s something we need to stay on top of!” Which we will do going forward. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Sticking with the idea of change, how much has the band’s songwriting changed from when you first got together to where you are now as the self-proclaimed world’s best American band? Has the process changed at all?
Esposito: Yeah. It’s totally different. With the last two records, I kind of demo’d them out by myself and showed the guys. But this time we wrote it together in the studio.

TrunkSpace: Did that allow for a sort of instantaneous springboard of ideas?
Esposito: Yeah. On some days it worked really well. Some days we were able to hash out some songs… some songs that we liked and some songs that we thought were cool and sounded good. And then there were other days where we’d be in the studio all day and there were definitely times when we left with nothing. It’s a cool thing to collaborate with everybody because, I think the songs get bigger and more interesting, but sometimes it’s hard to agree with everybody, which can slow you down a little bit. But, I think we did the right thing.

TrunkSpace: Do you think the collaborative approach is one you’ll continue to take moving forward?
Esposito: I’m sure.

TrunkSpace: So will these songs that you wrote together continue to be tweaked and adjusted in a live setting as you guys set out on the road?
Esposito: They’ll definitely be different. No matter what you do, it’s never going to sound exactly like the record live. That’s just kind of impossible, but we’ve got it pretty close. It’s just a little more… it’s a little faster from adrenaline. Maybe a little louder. It’s rowdier to see it at a show than to just kind of listen to it on your own. The songs are so much fun to play.

TrunkSpace: Was your release show the first place you showed off some of these songs live?
Esposito: We actually played most of these songs for the first time at SXSW this year, which was nice because it gave us a chance to get pretty good at them before we started playing our own club shows that people actually come to see us at, as opposed to people just kind of stumbling upon us in Austin.

TrunkSpace: The album is filled with this great, full rock sound that seems really absent from the mainstream these days, which is mostly dominated by pop and country. Do you think rock as a genre will ever see its day in the sun again?
Esposito: I can’t say for sure, but I do hope that it does.

TrunkSpace: Have you guys seen any change from a touring rock band’s perspective that suggests it’s finding its footing again as a genre?
Esposito: People are starting to pay a little more attention to us and we’re a rock band.

TrunkSpace: And selling more merch!
Esposito: (Laughter) Yeah.

TrunkSpace: We all have influences and those artists/bands that made us fall in love with music in the first place. Is it cool to think that there are kids out there right now who may be falling in love with music because of White Reaper?
Esposito: Yeah, that’s super, super exciting for us, especially because we started going to shows when we were real young and I think it’s really important that young kids go out to shows and get to talk to us and ask us about how we started. We got a lot of young friends in Louisville. A lot of young friends in Columbus. A lot of young friends in Nashville. And that’s one of our favorite things, is to just talk to some of the kids who think what we’re doing is cool and see what they’re up to and try to, you know, listen to those guys as much as we can.

TrunkSpace: Yeah, because there might be a kid out there right now who’s picking up a guitar for the first time and the first thing he might learn how to play is a White Reaper song.
Esposito: That’s possible. That’s definitely really cool to think about.

TrunkSpace: And a lot of times music affects people in ways that the artists don’t necessarily intend when they set out to write a song. Has the band been approached by fans with stories about how a particular song got them through a difficult life moment?
Esposito: I think for us, people just tell us that they like our music because they can dance to it and know that there are people out there who also like it. It’s kind of like a community for them. But that’s not just specific to us. That’s any band. Every band is a safe place for your head because when you put on headphones, you really don’t have to pay attention to anything else. Unless of course you’re riding a bike or driving a car, then you should probably be careful and pay attention, but otherwise, I think that’s another really cool thing… people can just plop on some headphones and maybe doze off to sleep or draw a picture or whatever the fuck they want to do. It’s just a cool place for them to be alone with themselves or to sing along with other friends, maybe in the car on the way to the movie theater or something like that. It’s a cool thing.

TrunkSpace: We read in a couple of interviews where you’ve referenced artists like Ozzy Osbourne and KISS, and both of those are artists who were just as much about persona as they were the music itself. What is the White Reaper persona and is it something that you guys ever think about or is it just what it is?
Esposito: It’s a little bit of both. I think when you try to think too much about it, then it can get a little cheap and meaningless. I think part of our persona is the new album title. It’s just kind of like that cocky, over the top attitude that was present in rock ‘n’ roll back in the 70s and kind of went missing today. But, for the most part, we don’t try to put on an act or anything or be anything that we’re not. We just want to be a rock ‘n’ roll band and it’s pretty easy to do that when you go on tour with your friends and meet a bunch of new people who are into it. Yeah, we try not to think too hard about it just to make sure that it stays real.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that cocky attitude of rock bands from back in the day, but one of the things that seems to be missing these days in the genre as well is that sort of iconic frontman aspect. There hasn’t been an Axl Rose or a Steven Tyler for ages. Is that something you aspire to be… that sort of iconic rock frontman?
Esposito: I think what I want to become is a band that people love. I don’t want it to become less about the band and more about the individual members or anything like that. Maybe sometimes I might say some things that could be a little outlandish or cocky or things like that, but I think deep down we’re a band and it’s about the music really. All that other stuff is just to get people to hear the music.

TrunkSpace: One of the things that’s so great about White Reaper is that, much like those iconic bands of the 70s that you referenced, as soon as you hear one of your songs you go, “That’s a White Reaper song!” Your music has a specific identity. Is that something that you guys strive for?
Esposito: Not necessarily, but it’s very comforting to hear you say that. It’s nice to know that we have a distinct sound, but I don’t think that we try to come up with something that’s like, “This is what White Reaper sounds like.” We don’t want to make the same music over and over again. We don’t want people to think of us as a certain kind of band. A lot of people will use a lot of sub-genre identifiers like garage punk or power pop and they try to throw as many words like that in as they can. When you keep doing stuff like that, it ends up kind of confusing people. All those words are so vague.

TrunkSpace: We get pitched on bands and artists all the time and honestly, all of those sub-genres are confusing even to us. What one person may call garage punk is not necessarily what someone else may consider it to be.
Esposito: Exactly. You get it. We don’t want people to think that White Reaper makes fast, garage punk songs with a keyboard over the top of it. Because then how much more can you become if that’s what people think that you are?

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Next Up

Jessica Velle

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Name: Jessica Velle

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Current Location: Los Angeles, CA

TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
Velle: When I watched “The Little Mermaid” for the first time when I was about four. My babysitter used to teach an after school program and I’d come along with her and always ask to perform Little Mermaid monologues for the class.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Velle: Yes, Lucille Ball. She wasn’t afraid to be silly. She’d take risks on making a complete fool of herself and didn’t care. I always wanted to be that brave, where I wasn’t afraid to embrace a character fully without worrying what it would look like on screen.

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career as an actor? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Velle: My mom was very persistent at me pursuing acting and modeling at such a young age. She would see how involved and committed I was in plays or how I would prank call people and create the most strangest characters over the phone and I’d really run with it. It got me grounded a lot, but she really saw how much I loved to perform and really believed I was meant to be on TV and in film. I was really shy as a child at first and I could make a room laugh, but the minute I’d be in front of a camera (with me knowing) I’d get really nervous and freeze up. In the beginning it made it really hard for me in the audition room. Casting directors loved me but would in the end say, “She’s not ready.” After a couple years I started getting involved in acting workshops and worked with different acting teachers and it broke me out of my shell. I learned to love the camera.

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
Velle: I’m very lucky to grow up in Los Angeles. City of Dreams. LA Native, there’s not many of us.

TrunkSpace: What has been been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
Velle: I’ve been really lucky to work with some amazing projects, but I think the one that’s been most effective for me is the role I’ve been creating for myself. This industry can be cutthroat and sometimes you find yourself chasing roles that don’t really fit and I wanted to see my career grow in a direction that would make me take leaps and bounds. So I wrote my first comedy two years ago called “It’s Not Me, It’s You” and it really got a lot of attention and people started labeling me as a comedian and wanted to see more of my writing and acting.

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific type of role you’d like to take on or a specific genre that you feel more at home in?
Velle: I’m definitely more of a method actress… I can transition into anything. Lately, I’ve been really interested in some more fun action sequences and projects.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
Velle: Having dignity and self respect. Be a good human. Do to others as you have them do to you.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
Velle: I just want to tell really great stories and work with actors, writers and directors who have inspired me along my journey and in the end inspire someone who needs inspiration.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
Velle: Know yourself. Know your worth. Know what you want. Keep your emotions in the audition room and invest in a back brace, you’ll need a strong back bone to survive.

TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
Velle: My website is www.jessicavelle.com. All Twitter and Instagram is under @jessicavelle
IMDB: www.imdb.com/Jessicavelle

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Chilling Out

The Dark Tapes’ Michael McQuown

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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 talking with Michael McQuown, writer, producer, and director of “The Dark Tapes,” a found footage horror/sci-fi mashup that has been scaring up fans on the festival circuit.

We sat down with McQuown to talk about the film’s extended shelf life, stolen furniture, and how the plot all came together in the final hour of production.

TrunkSpace: Horror seems like one of the few genres where you can still build a decent audience by word of mouth alone. From your perspective, is marketing a horror movie different than another genre?
McQuown: Well, I would say yes because the horror people seem to be quite fanatical. They watch everything they can get their hands on. That’s why there’s so much bad horror made because they might have one good gory scene in it and the horror fans will still gobble it up. So you do have a fair amount of genre content being done for a low amount of money because they just know they can make a profit on it and turn it around. Hopefully… hopefully we try to go for something better than that, but people have their own particular tastes.

TrunkSpace: Since the film’s release, what has brought it the most amount of attention and put it on people’s radars?
McQuown: The first festival we got accepted into was the Phoenix Film Festival/International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival. That was last April. A few reviews came out of that, I think six of seven, and all but one was positive, and there were some tech issues still to fix on the film. I submitted to a bunch of other festivals too and then we started winning five awards and then 10 awards and then 20 awards. I tried to make as many festivals as I could and I talked to a couple of the festival directors and they were just like, “We really, really love you film.” And I’m like, “Are you sure?” I’m it’s own biggest critic since I know it so well. And they were like, “Trust us… we got X number hundreds of submissions and yours is right there on the top.” And then actually we got into some non-genre film festivals and surprisingly the couple that I attended there, the audience members were actually even more inquisitive than the genre people. They were like, “We normally would never even see a horror film, but we really liked it.” And then the people would quiz me for a half hour or 45 minutes on stuff. So, hopefully it struck a nerve. Now we’re up to 61 awards and nominations, so there definitely seems to be an audience for it. I think that’s spread over 30 festivals and competitions… the 61 awards are. And we’re up to about 50 reviews and all but two are positive, so it seems to be striking a chord with people.

TrunkSpace: Another thing about the horror genre that doesn’t seem to apply to other genres is that it has a longer shelf life. Have you found that to be the case as you’re out supporting “The Dark Tapes?”
McQuown: Yeah. Maybe a model on this is… with a much larger budget, don’t get me wrong… but “The Taking of Deborah Logan.” I’ve checked out its IMDB rankings in the past year and you can see it just had a very long, slow fade from its initial VOD release. That definitely sort of became a word of mouth movie and then it got put on all these top movies of the year lists. So, hopefully that’s the case. We’re with Epic Pictures, just for the U.S., and they do have experience in genre stuff. But, still, we didn’t open in 30 theaters and have all of the reviewers from all those cities reviewing it, so we’re still working diligently on the marketing.

TrunkSpace: You spent many years working on the film. Was there ever a point where you thought it would never get finished?
McQuown: Well, I thought up the idea, basically… and I have said this in other forums… I saw “V/H/S.” One of the producers is a big horror fan and said, “Hey, you should check out ‘V/H/S.’” And actually a couple of weeks before that, the same producer said, “Hey, check out ‘The Pact.’” And I watched that and I thought it was a good movie. I researched it and I was like, “How come I didn’t hear about that?” It was straight to VOD. So I did some research and I found out that the VOD market was something that you could at least break even or make a profit on if you do a quality product and horror was the biggest genre in that market. And then when I saw “V/H/S,” a light went off and I went, “Hey, that’s what I’m going to shoot… a found footage anthology.” The thinking was, if we mess up the first story, we can go back and reshoot it and not have to reshoot a whole feature. (Laughter) And I knew my production costs would be lower, etc. etc. etc. And then when I saw “V/H/S,” I was like, “Yeah, that’s exactly how most found footage films should be done.” They should be done as like a mini feature because a lot of them just have the same problem where you’re sitting through the first 40 to 60 minutes with not much happening.

And so we shot “The Hunters & The Hunted,” the first full segment that you see in the film, in October 2013. And the idea was to shoot two other segments and one thing I’ve learned being an entrepreneur is that things always take three times longer and cost three times as much and delays are inevitable. And the delay that we had there… we had a great location and the idea was to rent a place at Airbnb and live at it… myself and the two producers who are also the primary crew members… and we would shoot there as well. So we rented a place and when we showed up, the furniture was gone. And we’re like, “What?!?!” The guy who presented himself as the owner was actually sub-leasing it/renting it on Airbnb and he just decided to steal all of the furniture. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Yikes. You can’t plan for something like that!
McQuown: Yeah. It took me about 10 days to find another location that we could live and shoot at. It was in LA so a lot of the owners were like, “Oh yeah, you can do it for $6,000.” I was like, “Well, we might only spend that much on the whole thing.” (Laughter) So, we were only able to do one segment and the two producers, who are British friends and flew out from London, went back. I then went back to Miami and then came out to LA and delayed everything for a year because I had some opportunities to make some more money. So in 2014 nothing was done. And then in 2015 we shot the four stories, one of which is not in the film, but it will be in the DVD as an extra bonus. And it’s not because of the quality or anything like that. I just realized as I was editing that it would push it towards two hours and I felt it would be a stronger film if it was under 100 minutes.

TrunkSpace: That also makes it interesting for people who have already seen the film to give it a second look.
McQuown: Exactly. Right now for people who pre-order and send us a screenshot of their iTunes pre-order, we’ll send them a screener link to the extra story in the summer when I finish editing it.

TrunkSpace: You wore pretty much every conceivable hat in the production of the film. What for you was the most difficult to manage while juggling all of the other duties you had at the same time?
McQuown: I can say the one that is the most time consuming and cumbersome and least creative would be casting. We used a casting director and now I can see the value of a casting director… just in the amount of time you’ll save. The casting director did cast four of the roles. Vincent Guastini, who did the practical effects and directed “To Catch A Demon”… he brought in Cortney Palm. But the rest of the roles, which was like over a dozen, we cast ourselves. We put ads in the right websites and trades in LA and we had probably 3,000 to 4,000 submit. So, that means I got to look through 3,000 to 4,000 headshots online, organize them into the right character, tag them as not good if it’s based on appearance, and now you’re down to 1,000 or 2,000, which I gave to the two producers. They then watched the tapes on the people… 1,000 to 2,000 people. (Laughter) And that got us down to a few hundred people that we scheduled for auditions. And then you’ve got to schedule them, which is a whole cumbersome process because you don’t want people all showing up at once. And then we had to actually book the audition space and go there and set up. It ends up being… that was probably 100 to 200 hours of work between three people to do all of that. So now I certainly see the advantage of the casting director. He already knows who is going to work for that rate that’s up and coming. The people that he brought in all had serious independent film credits. Some had supporting roles for studio stuff. Brittany Underwood was the lead in a Nickelodeon series and she was a well known soap actress for some years. He already knows those people, so for him, it’s probably two hours of work per role. (Laughter) Whereas if you’re going to do it from scratch, it’s 20 hours of work per role.

But I’m perfectly content and happy with the cast. They did a great job. And we got Emilia Ares Zoryan, who is the lead in the wraparound story from “V/H/S Viral,” through our own auditions, so we ended up getting people who had significant credits even through the open casting that we were doing.

I did have something that did help. I did mention that I was the original writer of “The Perfect Man,” which was a romantic comedy that Universal Studios made starring Hilary Duff, which is exactly the type of move that I would never make. (Laughter) I happened to know the person the true story was based on and I thought it would be an easy script sale. And it was. So, I would mention that in the casting listings, so I’m sure that helped us bump up interest a little bit.

But again, the cast was great. We gave them instructions to act very naturalistic because of the found footage nature of the film. And a little interesting note is, in “The Hunters & The Hunted”… because we had the delay with finding the location… that script was really only half done. About half of that was improv. Anytime that the ghost hunters are doing their research, that was all improv. I just told them to watch “Ghost Adventures” and other ghost hunting shows and then we bought actual ghost hunting equipment and the crew and I just hid in a room downstairs. There was one room that never got seen and we’d all just hide there. And it was just like, “Okay… do your thing for an hour.” They had the camera, we had them mic’d up with lavaliers and they just did a bunch of improv.

TrunkSpace: It sounds like the horror version of “Curb your Enthusiasm.”
McQuown: There you go! Exactly. But, it came out really well. And in the DVD we’ll be making an extended version of these scenes we cut out for running time purpose.

TrunkSpace: Some of the best cinematic moments come out of a those moments where an idea or an effect isn’t working and it forces filmmakers to think on their toes and outside the box. Did “The Dark Tapes” have one of those moments?
McQuown: Oh yeah. Absolutely. The demon in “To Catch A Demon” was originally supposed to be on wires and crawling up the wall and crawling on the ceiling and stuff like that. And myself as a first time producer, we had a stunt coordinator bring his whole wire set gear… someone who Vincent Guastini knew… and my fault, I did not have him come to the location to confirm that he could set up all of his wires, which he wasn’t able to because it wasn’t strong enough… the things for him to connect to. So, when we had the whole battle scene at the end with the demon and in other times where you see the demon, he wasn’t supposed to be standing like a person. If he was going to stand like a person, we would have had a different type of practical effect. So, I had to edit around that and the fight scene at the end just wasn’t quite working from what we had shot. He looked too much like a person in a practical effects outfit, which again, he wasn’t supposed to be standing. My fault for not consulting with the stunt coordinator. So we had an extra day of reshooting where we were going to reshoot some of the fight scene and literally with about an hour left to shoot… it just all of a sudden occurred to me that we should have the professor and Cortney Palm’s character Nicole be in multiple, we called it, time dilations, as if they were multiple universes simultaneously with multiple outcomes. I told Vincent, the director, I said, “Yeah… let’s just shoot some scenes of him saying that because then I can go more normal narrative crazy jump cut editing. I can edit anything and anywhere and I’ll make the fight work.” We had bits and pieces of the fight that worked fine, but because of the found nature of the film, you have no cutaways. So, you’re editing choices are very limited. And so literally, it was a very important plot point where he says, “Oh, we’re in multiple time dalations,” and then I realized that “To Catch A Demon” was actually going to be a standalone story. And as I was editing, I was like, “To Catch A Demon” should be the wraparound story, but, “How do I tie it in to the other stories?” At that point I had a way to tie it into “The Hunters & The Hunted” and I had a way to tie it into “Cam Girls,” but I didn’t have a way a way to tie it into “Amanda’s Revenge.” So, again this was all done in the last hour of shooting on one day of reshoots… I pulled David Rountree the actor aside and said, “You’re stuck in multiple time dilations and you’re going to say something worse is coming because you turned on the machine.” And the something worse that are coming are the aliens/demons, whatever you want to think they are, in “Amanda’s Revenge.” And then if you notice the time dates of the stories, that’s why I made “To Catch A Demon” a few years earlier, so then that way the “whatever” that’s coming… it took them time to get here through space because they got the signal from the machine. So, that entire very important plot turn… plot twist… was literally thought up in the last hour of the reshoot to fix the fight scene.

TrunkSpace: So having learned a lot of these first time producer lessons on the fly, what advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?
McQuown: If I was advising any other filmmakers or people who want to become filmmakers, if you’re going to do it for zero budget… or as I like to say, this film is a negative budget movie because it comes out of my pocket… you’re going to have things come up. If you have skill sets as a good entrepreneur in crisis management… you’ve got to think on your feet and make lemon out of lemonade when it happens. And that’s what happened. We had a fight scene that needed improvement and it led to a critical plot change. We didn’t have time to shoot the wraparound story and instead it became the bookend story, which lead to the “To Catch A Demon” becoming the wraparound story, which ended up tying all of the stuff together better.

Learn more about “The Dark Tapes” here.

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Opening Act

The Vox Hunters

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Artist/Band: The Vox Hunters

Members: Armand Aromin & Benedict Gagliardi

Website: https://thevoxhunters.com/

Hometown: Providence, Rhode Island

Latest Album/Release: debut album to be released in May/June

Influences: (There’s a lot!)
Jeff Davis & Jeff Warner, John Roberts & Tony Barrand, Will Duke & Dan Quinn, Almeda Riddle, Jeanne Ritchie, David Jones, Jerry Epstein, Bob Walser, The Watersons, The Copper Family, The Young Tradition, Doc Watson, Swan Arcade, Folly Bridge, Keith Kendrick & Sylvia Needham, David Webber & Anni Fentiman, Louisa Jo Killen

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Gagliardi: The majority of what we do is traditional folk music… old songs and tunes usually without known composers that have been passed down through the oral tradition. We come from an Irish music background where instrumental dance tunes (jigs, reels, etc.) reign supreme, but as a duo we primarily sing English and American songs. People often get confused and expect only Irish music out of us, but aside from the odd tune that I play for Armand to dance to, our repertoire as a duo is not heavy on the Irish music.

We also write some songs ourselves and sing other songs written by folk musicians, but they all share a certain humble aesthetic and fit comfortably in the folk music idiom. That being said, we recognize a good song when we hear one and we welcome a bit of musical varia that strays outside the folk music realm. We’re not averse to singing the odd Muppets song now and again.

TrunkSpace: The Vox Hunters have a unique sound. How did you come to discover your musical identity together?
Gagliardi: As I’ve said, we both spent many years playing Irish music, but at the same time we both love to sing. The Irish music communities in New England are close-knit and welcoming and bound together by a love of tunes (‘tunes’ meaning instrumental dance music… no words), but there is not a similar reverence for songs (i.e. with words) in these circles. In our experiences, singing at Irish music sessions is a rare solo occurrence that usually gives contrast to the upbeat medleys of dance tunes.

Aromin: Prior to meeting Ben, which was about 4 ½ years ago, I only really knew Irish music. Singing was very much a ‘hobby’ among my musical endeavors, but when we met, he introduced me to a whole facet of folk music that I never really knew existed. I’m a big fan of harmony, and singing has allowed me to explore that. You won’t find much of that in Irish music; however, it’s fairly common in other styles of folk music like English, Swedish, and bluegrass.

Basically, our musical identity is a happy cornucopia of many different influences. Our main drive is singing… singing together, singing with others, singing socially, and building community around singing rather than tunes.

TrunkSpace: Armand makes and repairs violins. Does understanding the inner workings of an instrument make you approach the play aspect differently than say, someone who doesn’t have an understanding of that side of the instrument?
Aromin: I can’t speak for others, but being a luthier has certainly changed the way I approach playing an instrument. Prior to enrolling in the Violin Making and Repair program at the North Bennet Street School in Boston, I was always under the impression that an instrument only sounds and plays the one way. If it doesn’t suit you, then it’s time to find a different instrument. I’ve since learned that is false as hell. There are a multitude of ways you can change how an instrument feels, and it all lies in the set-up. More often than not, this becomes a distraction for me, especially when an instrument I’m playing isn’t behaving the way it should. I’ll sometimes get lost in my head thinking of what needs to change, how I can go about doing it, and when’s the next time I have a free day. On the other hand, it’s nice to be able to work on my own instruments and save money.

TrunkSpace: Your music seems suited for small, intimate settings, but at the same time, capable of filling the air (and ears) of a large venue as well. Do you approach a live performance differently based on the setting you’re performing in?
Aromin: As far as stage presence is concerned, we try to be consistent regardless of the venue. Repertoire is another story, but we like to maintain the laid-back, silly atmosphere wherever we perform. Not only does it make it easier for us as performers, but it also makes it more fun, and helps to get that exchange of energy going between us and the audience. We love participation, so we often sing songs with choruses that are easy for people to latch onto. It can be tough performing for a crowd that isn’t used to something like that, especially if we’re on a bigger stage and the audience is further back, and even more awkward when we’re being our usual selves and there’s zero response from them. That’s why our favorite venues are house concerts. It pays better, you get to hang out and chat with everyone, there’s usually food, and you can count on an enthusiastic audience to keep you going.

Gagliardi: Like Armand said, no matter the venue, we are consistent in our informality. Feedback from listeners has taught us that people enjoy hearing a good bit of banter between songs, some background stories, and observing our laughable/affable (laffable?) chemistry on stage.

When we perform at larger venues we usually have a better prepared set list than a house concert or smaller, casual gig. Part of the thrill of playing more intimate concerts is that the mood of the space might dictate the set list and we’d be more inclined to ‘wing it’. For instance, if people are singing along from the start, we keep the choruses coming.

TrunkSpace: Benedict has performed in a number of folk bands throughout the years. What did you learn in terms of the inner workings of managing a musical act during your time with those other projects that you have since applied to The Vox Hunters?
Gagliardi: One band I was part of (Old Hannah) was wildly creative and drifted off into musical territory I had no firm grounding in. That was always a fun exercise and helped to encourage an adventurous approach to arranging and interpreting folk songs. Playing with Old Hannah, as well as Shinbone Alley, in my college days opened my eyes to the thriving network of house shows and homegrown venues in New England that welcome creative and entertaining performers. These experiences taught me the joy of performing for small, music-loving audiences. It was with Shinbone Alley that I first played a house show in Providence and fell in love with the supportive and genuinely appreciative music scene that I would eventually become a part of.

Another group I was part of (Full Gael) was immensely adept at learning particular arrangements of tunes and songs and performing them consistently and professionally. Any bit of professionalism I demonstrate as a musician was shaped by my involvement with Full Gael. Likewise, my bandmates (Gary Palmer and Will O’Hare) taught me the business aspects of music and helped to strengthen my harmony singing.

TrunkSpace: You’re currently recording your first album. Can you tell us what fans can expect?
Gagliardi: If I may say so in a modest, non-bragging way, we know LOADS of songs in a variety of different styles (i.e. sea songs, ballads, drinking songs, love songs, gospel, etc.). Some we only ever sing a cappella and in the right setting, some we like to arrange with instrumental backing, some we’ve modified the melodies and lyrics of and harmonized in unique ways. What’s fun about singing traditional folk music is the variety of songs and styles and the ways you can reinterpret it. It’s hard to pinpoint a specific style that is most representative of our music, but I think the variety of songs we chose to include on the album does a decent job of describing what The Vox Hunters do. You can expect old American folk songs, a ballad or two, maritime songs, a bluesy number, some ditties from the British Isles, two originals, a couple of unusual dance tunes, and even an Irish song.

TrunkSpace: The Vox Hunters seem to really embrace the wonders of unique sounds and instrumentation. Are you working with any uncommon instruments on this album that we’ll need to Google just to see what they are, and if so, can you tell us what the sounds are that you’re creating with them?
Gagliardi: We’re hoping the novelty of playing uncommon free-reed instruments wears off soon after listeners hear what they’re capable of. We each play different types of “squeezeboxes” (Benedict plays the Anglo-German concertina and 1-row melodeon, and Armand plays English concertina). Other than that, Armand will be heard on tin whistle, jaw harp, and a fiddle of his own make (while sometimes singing simultaneously!). Benedict plays harmonica and tenor guitar (he can’t play ‘normal’ guitar) on a few tracks.

The strangest instrument on the album is probably wielded by our guest percussionist, our good friend Kyle Forsthoff. In the studio, he dumped out a whole bag of shakers, and within the pile was an instrument called the chajchas.

Aromin: I don’t even know how to pronounce it. It’s an instrument made of goat or sheep hooves and they’re generally worn in pairs around the arms or ankles. Kyle just clapped two of them together and it makes a satisfyingly wholesome sound. There’s also going to be Cajun triangle and Snare drum on the album. You won’t find much of that in Maritime music!

TrunkSpace: You’re based in Rhode Island, a state with a rich history of folk music and home to the Newport Folk Festival. What is the folk scene like currently and is it welcoming to new acts looking to make their mark?
Gagliardi: Rhode Island does indeed have a strong history of folk and especially traditional (trad) music. The Newport Folk Festival started as one of the foremost annual presentations of trad folk music highlighting national treasures like Almeda Riddle, Jean Ritchie and Pete Seeger to name a few. From a traditional musician’s standpoint, the festival no longer functions the same way. Although there is still a stage dedicated to traditional folk music, the festival’s focus has since shifted towards the more popular music of today.

Today Providence is rich with a variety of music, and more importantly, musicians who respect and support the art of others and are willing to collaborate. Wikipedia will tell you that Providence’s main musical export is noise rock, but I can tell from experience that the city is teeming with good singers, songwriters, and instrumentalists. What’s truly wonderful about the music scene here is how different styles intermingle. You might go to a show at a local venue like AS220 or Aurora or The Parlour and listen to something as staunchly traditional as a solo oud player, followed by a local singer-songwriter duo, and then an acoustic metal doom band.

We are very interested in the old songs and traditional music from our state and we’re currently researching, collecting, and reviving Rhode Island’s hidden bounty of old folk music. There are plentiful contemporary folk songs written about the Ocean State’s historical figures, places, and happenings but we are most interested in old songs from the state’s past, such as the many broadside ballads printed in Providence in the 1800s, and the traditional songs collected from RI residents and immigrants in the 1940s for the Helen Hartness Flanders Ballad Collection. You can expect to hear an increasingly Rhode Island-centric repertoire from us as we delve deeper into this research.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from The Vox Hunters in 2017?
Gagliardi: First and foremost, fans can expect something more than a business card to be available at our gigs! Our debut album will be released in the next few months! Yahoo!

Additionally, after the recording is done and the album is out we will be focusing much more on our Rhode Island music research. You can expect to hear more local songs in our repertoire in the hopes that others will learn and sing them as well.

This summer you can catch us at a number of New England folk festivals, camps and concerts:

  • Mystic Sea Music Festival (Mystic Seaport, Mystic, CT) June 8-11
  • Swing into Summer (Pinewoods Camp, Plymouth, MA) June 16-18
  • Warren Summer Concert Series w/ Atwater-Donnelly (Warren, RI) July 23
  • TradMAD (Pinewoods Camp, Plymouth, MA) Aug 26-Sep 1
  • Portsmouth Maritime Folk Festival (Portsmouth, NH) Sept 22-24

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