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May 2017

Between The Sheets

Abby Stern

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In our new feature, Between the Sheets, TrunkSpace picks the imaginative brains of authors to break down what it takes to create the various worlds and characters they breathe life into via the tools of their trade… sheets of paper. While technology continues to advance and change the pop culture landscape, the written word has remained one of the most consistent and imaginative art forms.

This time out we’re chatting with “According to a Source” author Abby Stern to discuss how she got the ball rolling with the book, how she needs to block out large chunks of time to write, and why she hates her coffee table so much.

TrunkSpace: Debut novels in particular can be a big undertaking because a lot of times it’s about just getting the process underway. What did that process look like for you?
Stern: I actually started the process, believe it or not, by next week it will be 10 years. Those were not 10 consecutive years by any means. I would start the process and I would put the book down, for even two years at a time, and then I would pick it up and do some more and get some feedback and get some notes. And then once I felt that I had a draft that I was really happy with, when you’re querying for agents, that’s a whole other part of the process. So I would query a group and then you kind of have to take a mental break. (Laughter)

It was never on my bucket list to write a book. I’d always written. I’d always done creative writing since I was a child. I wanted to actually write screenplays and television and stuff like that, but when I started writing this, the narrative just really took the form of a novel. I figured, “Why not give it a shot and we’ll see how this goes.” Then you’re 80,000 words in and you’re like, “Well, I guess I better finish this.” (Laughter) “That would be a horrible waste of time if I didn’t really pursue it.”

So yeah, that’s really how the process started and you’re right, it’s a huge undertaking. It’s kind of like yoga in the way they say, “Getting to your mat is the most important part.” Sitting down and forcing yourself when there is no deadline and nothing necessarily to be gained from doing it… it’s a lot of mental prowess and prep that you have to be responsible for because there’s no deadline and there’s no one asking you where pages are.

TrunkSpace: So when you were writing, did it take you time to get into a rhythm as far as a regular page output?
Stern: You know what, I really didn’t have one. I have to be honest. I was very inconsistent with my process, but that actually really worked for me. I’m also the type of writer where I need six hours of time. If I have an hour and a half, I can’t sit down and do anything. I’ve tried. I stare at the screen. I start thinking about how I have to get my laundry out of the dryer in 20 minutes and I just can’t focus as well. I kind of just have to block out these huge days and chunks of time. That was my biggest consistency, I would say.

TrunkSpace: So what are the ideal conditions for you in terms of writing for those chunks of time?
Stern: Well, my ultimate place, I think, would be an island in the Caribbean, but that’s not where I wrote. (Laughter) I write from home. I can’t do a coffee shop. I can’t be in public. I can’t have noise. I don’t write with music or the television on. I really need to be able to hone in on whatever I’m working on, whether it’s the dialogue or the character development or if I’m trying to go back and edit. I really need that focus. So, I’m super isolated, which is a lot of fun for your social life. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) It’s true. Writing is a very solitary act, but then you’re done and suddenly you’re working with editors and agents and it goes from solitary to this little community.
Stern: I was lucky. I actually had a very editorial agent and he was great. I loved it because he got me into such a place where I felt so confident with the work that we were presenting to publishers. And I also got really lucky in terms of my editor where she would give me notes and there wasn’t ever a time where I got a note and sighed and was like, “Ugh, that’s not what this is… you don’t get it.” It was more like, “That’s going to be a lot of work, but it will actually make it better!” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Back to the Caribbean island! (Laughter)
Stern: Yeah. Maybe with book two if this one does well. (Laughter)

But yeah, I love to collaborate. I do television writing and I have a writing partner for that. He’s wonderful and he was actually very helpful throughout this process too in terms of being able to see what I couldn’t when I was doing revisions or adding things. He was helping me before I even ever got my agent. So I’m used to being collaborative.

That part wasn’t difficult for me. It was just the, “You’re going to be writing for six to eight hours and be stuck in your apartment and you will learn to hate every piece of furniture you own.” You’re like, “Why would I ever buy this coffee table? It’s the ugliest coffee table I’ve ever seen! I don’t know how I can live another day with this coffee table in my life!”

TrunkSpace: BUT, that coffee table probably looks pretty great right now with your new book sitting on its surface!
Stern: Yeah, but it would still look better if it were a different coffee table. I haven’t recovered! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that you’re also a television writer/screenwriter, which is a world that has a lot of rules in terms of formatting and story structure. Did you sort of have to retrain yourself and step away from that way of thinking?
Stern: I would definitely say that the biggest thing was nuance for the novel as opposed to writing a pilot. I’m used to kind of trimming the fat in terms of the descriptions. I remember on one pilot, a half hour, it was like 54 pages because I got super descriptive and people were like, “You’ve got to cut this!” But, you need to do all of that in a novel to make it good and well-rounded and to really be able to engage the reader. So that was definitely a retraining for me.

TrunkSpace: What about with dialogue? In TV and film it’s something that is relied on. Did you have to pull back on that at all?
Stern: Not really. Dialogue and the pacing and putting it in conjunction with the rest of the narrative has always been an easy part for me, luckily.

TrunkSpace: So what was the biggest lesson you learned as it relates to putting the book together and getting it out there that you’ll apply to your career moving forward?
Stern: Oh goodness! Well, the biggest lesson I learned was from a writing mentor of mine who is a YA author named Rebecca Maizel and she was actually so instrumental, especially years and years before it ever came to a point where there was a draft that I could even submit. And the biggest piece of advice that she gave me was, “Show don’t tell,” which I had not ever learned. (Laughter) I learned very quickly. That’s a big thing.

And then in terms of getting it out there? I mean, it’s kind of the same thing in Hollywood. It’s just the persistence and believing in yourself and not taking no for an answer, but always pushing and always going. It really is perseverance and you do end up finding the people who connect with your material. People will give you all kinds of BS excuses about why they’re saying no and you shouldn’t even listen to them. You just hear the no and you move on and you keep going. The excuses that they give you will get in your head.

TrunkSpace: So with the book set to release today, will you focus on how it is doing from a sales standpoint or do you need to remove yourself from that aspect and just focus on the creative moving forward?
Stern: Well, yes and no. You always have to be hustling. It’s time to get it into places, to set up signings, and letting people know about it and getting on social media and podcasts and doing things like this. So, in a way, no, because I’m always thinking, “Oh, would this outlet fit?” But, I have removed myself from the numbers side of it because at this point I’ve done the best that I can do and now the cards fall where they fall. I hope it does well, obviously. I hope it’s the beach read of the summer and everyone enjoys it. I care more about people enjoying it because there are so many options for content these days. To spend however many hours reading a novel is a big commitment, so I hope that people think that their time was well spent and that they got some enjoyment out of it.

According to a Source” is available today via Thomas Dunne Books. You can purchase a copy here.

Featured Photo By: Martina Tolot

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Musical Mondaze

Gallows Bound

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Roaring out of the Appalachian Mountains like a moonshiner with a fresh batch of distilled goodness, the bluegrass-meets-punk (bluepunk?) sextet Gallows Bound is a band on a mission. With most of that mission (and the last few years) spent on the road, the Winchester, Virginia natives have been perfecting their craft, churning out spirited performances with acoustic instrumentation all over the country. They somehow managed to bottle that musical stamina in the form of their latest EP, “Appalachian Witch,” six delectable songs that serve as an appetizer to the meal that is their energetic live set.

We recently sat down with the band to discuss the miles under their collective belts, where they’re currently at creatively, and how being such good friends makes their band stronger.

Gallows Bound is:
Jordan Joyes – Vocals/Guitar
Jesse Markle – Vocals/Guitar
Justin Carver – Banjo
Aaron Blow – Bass
Forrest Veatch – Mandolin
Rob Shultz – Drums

TrunkSpace: Some of us here at TrunkSpace saw you guys open for The Tossers a few months back and from what we can tell, you’ve been pretty much on the road nonstop since then, right?
Markle: Yeah. Last year, we pretty much toured the entire year, only having a couple of months off here and there. It’s been pretty balls to the wall since then.

TrunkSpace: Is there a rhyme or reason to where Gallows Bound has been booking its shows?
Markle: We try to hit the big cities just because you can get more bang for your buck that way. But, really, the small towns is where we make the most of our money. We’ll hit these small towns… one that comes to mind is Pawlet, Vermont… and there’s nothing around there and a band goes to play and people come from miles and miles around because it’s something going on. They’re really appreciative and it’s just a really nice experience for a band.

TrunkSpace: So with a small town like that, how often will you hit it up so as not to oversaturate the market?
Markle: Maybe like once or twice a year. It kind of depends.

TrunkSpace: Are you guys doing all of the booking and business-related stuff yourselves?
Markle: We do a little bit of the booking ourselves, but we also have a booking agency called Atomic Music Group that we work with. Our booking agent Ramona is an awesome person.

TrunkSpace: While spending so much time out on the road, have you guys been able to write and hash out new music?
Blow: We don’t actually get much time to write new music since we are touring so heavily right now. Right now we’re kind of in the middle of a little break. We’re just kind of doing local/regional runs and really taking some time to focus on the writing and rehearsing new material and stuff for the stage.

TrunkSpace: Where is the band at creatively in relation to where you were on your previous recordings? How far removed are you from those songs to where you are now?
Blow: Creatively we’re miles away from that…. the first two records, I think. From where we are now versus where we were on the record before the EP… I think we’re just miles ahead.
Carver: You can kind of map the trajectory of it through the direction we’re going if you line up all of the albums.

TrunkSpace: Is there something that you tried to achieve with “Appalachian Witch” that you didn’t set out to do or were unable to accomplish with your previous studio work?
Carver: I don’t know if there was a specific goal other than to just get out what we’re getting from our experiences. What we’re leaning, what we’re rehearsing on the road, and what we’re experiencing.
Joyes: We put out a CD before “Appalachian Witch” with like a two year gap between writing because we were on the road so much. So, the EP is, in our opinion, a really good representation of us with our progress musically as a band. We’re super, super excited about it. It was our first professional recording studio session and it really gave us an opportunity to focus more on just the actual music and not just being on the road. It was kind of nice.

TrunkSpace: Something all of us here noticed in seeing you perform a few months back is just the incredible amount of energy you bring to your live shows and it makes us wonder how you bottle that up and translate it to the studio?
Joyes: That was actually one of the my biggest goals on this new EP. Before our last self-titled album… we put that out before we really started hitting the road and a lot of people would comment that our live show was different than the CD. It just had a different feeling and even though we all have acoustic instruments, it’s very much like a punk rock, high energy… and you were at the show so you know…

TriunkSpace: Absolutely. And the energy wasn’t in just the music either. It was in the way you performed it.
Joyes: The guy who produced our CD, his name is Mark Reiter and he’s a drummer in a punk rock band that we all like called the Daycare Swindlers, so he kind of got the whole fast and furious vibe of the live show and I think that really helped to have him engineer the whole thing in more of that direction.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to the music itself, the band has a sound that can’t really be defined and it sounds so different in a day and age where so much sounds the same. Do you wear that as a badge of honor?
Veatch: Yeah. We really like that about our music. It’s really hard to peg us, but once you hear it and the energy is there, it really doesn’t matter what you think it is. It’s just a whole lot of fun.

TrunkSpace: Does having such a unique sound make it difficult when touring to find clubs that will put you on bills with other bands that have the same kind of energy or sound?
Blow: I kind of like it like that. With not having a specific genre that we fit in, we kind of can fit in anywhere. We just play the honest and true music that we write. We’re not really trying to fit in anywhere. We just like hanging out with anybody.
Markle: I like the fact that we can play with punk bands. We can play with bluegrass bands. We can play with Irish bands. And no matter where we are put in the mix, we’re going to stick out. We’re going to be different. To me that’s good because even if you think we suck, you’ll remember us.

TrunkSpace: You guys have known each other for a long time. As you set out on these long trips on the road, does it make it easier spending so much time together knowing that you’ve all been such good friends for so long?
Shultz: Yeah. It’s definitely beneficial to be friends in a band. We never argue and if we do it’s something that we kind of brush off in five seconds.
Veatch: It’s easier to communicate with each other because we just know each other so well.
Shultz: Yeah. We can be honest with each other and at the same time… it’s just that the environment is so much nicer when you actually like each other. We can sleep in the same rooms. We give each other hugs. It’s great. (Laughter)
Markle: I couldn’t imagine doing this with people I didn’t know. I know some bands have hired musicians who come on and everybody isn’t really tight-knit, but, I couldn’t really imagine doing that. It seems so strange to me.
Shultz: Even when we’re home we hang out with each other pretty much all the time. We’re with each other more than we’re with our families.

TrunkSpace: Even from a creative standpoint it makes sense that those with shared interests can come together to create a singular, cohesive piece of art.
Carver: And that really showed on this new record. We are all really just kind of together on it. Jesse and Jordan write most of everything and then they bring it to us and we all just kind of make it our own. We all make it OURS.

TrunkSpace: As the band looks forward, what are the goals? If there was a group bucket list, what would be on it?
Joyes: Well, we’re trying to get to Europe right now. That’s kind of a big goal for us. We’re really hoping that next year we can tour overseas and get up to Canada as well. We just want to keep expanding. We want to keep touring. We want to put out another full-length album that’s in the same vein as the EP. We just want to keep rolling.

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Opening Act

June Star

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Artist/Band: June Star

Members: Andrew Grimm, Kurt Celtnieks, Andy Bopp, Cody Harrod

Website:
www.junestar.com
www.junestar.bandcamp.com

Hometown: Baltimore, MD

Latest Album/Release: Sleeping with the Lights On

Influences: Lou Reed/Velvet Underground, Buck Owens, Miracle Legion, The Jam, Cowboy Junkies

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Grimm: It’s rock ‘n’ roll, I suppose. We started off doing a fairly straight alt country type of thing, but over the past eight years we’ve been drifting away from that sound. There’s still a country aspect to it, but I think I’ve been writing more rock songs. Then again, some of the songs on the new record sound like country. Maybe I should say that the music is authentic.

TrunkSpace: From an outside perspective, the Americana scene has grown leaps and bounds in recent years. Have you seen the same thing having been a part of the scene itself since first forming in 1998?
Grimm: Yeah, it’s funny to see that word “perspective.” In many, many, many ways the Americana scene or artists have really maintained their dignity or truth in purpose… some of it can get kind of hokey… but people like Steve Earle have really kept the quality up. Jason Isbell as well. And that’s where a bigger shift is about to happen in the mainstream with folks like Isbell and Sturgill Simpson cracking through all of the commercial junk.

As far as June Star… we’ve made some progress over the years, but it’s hard to get attention from folks. It’s harder and harder to get people out to shows. When I started writing the new bio for the SWTLO one-sheet, I started with the line, “June Star is a band that just keeps showing up.” So, from the perspective of attrition, we’re doing great!

TrunkSpace: As already stated, June Star has been writing and performing for nearly two decades. How has the band changed most in that time?
Grimm: Oh, the lineups change a lot. When the original members came and went I was kind of forced to figure out what I needed and what I wanted… since then it’s been a rotating cast. If a song is well written, it doesn’t matter if it’s two guitars, bass, and drums or one guy playing spoons.

TrunkSpace: Two decades of life is a lot of experience to play out in song. Has the subject matter of June Star songs changed since you wrote your first song to where you are now given that you yourselves have no doubt changed over time?
Grimm: As Mark Mulcahy of Miracle Legion said about songwriting, and I’m paraphrasing, “When I started writing songs I wanted to save the world. I found out pretty quickly that I couldn’t, so I decided to save myself and prove to others that it can be done.”

A lot of the early material from “Songs from an Engineer’s Daughter” (2000) and “Telegraph” (2001) was really playing off of Americana aesthetics… trains, swamps, weddings. They’re great songs, but they also tend to function as fiction and they are really disconnected from me. They weren’t my voice or a voice that sounded real, to me. That’s why, for the most part, we revisited some of those songs from previous records on our new one.

The goal in songwriting is to shape a voice to communicate an idea or an emotion, and the music is the delivery device. The music, of course, can be more than that… it adds colors, shadows, saturation…

My songwriting has really shifted to a kind of observational, everyman type of thing… or every human. Love and loss. Each song certainly has a piece of my experience.

Also, I’ve ruined a lot relationships, so I tend to write about that a lot.

TrunkSpace: What is the most universal theme that resonates most with listeners? Is it love? Is it loss? Is it something else entirely?
Grimm: Many times on stage I introduce every song, “This is a song about love.” Usually loss… weird, huh? I don’t think we all just commiserate over the loss, but it’s kind of nice to know that someone else has been there too.

TrunkSpace: You sell June Star sunglasses. Who is the mastermind behind that genius merch concept and have you booked more outdoor shows to inspire sales?
Grimm: The sunglasses are my idea. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to get people to listen to the records… more and more I hear, “CDs? I don’t even have a CD player anymore!” And I thought, “What would be a dual purpose item, cheaper than a t-shirt, that we can stick a download card on and people might buy?”

Cheap. Sunglasses.

We’re still paying those off.

TrunkSpace: Sticking with the merch idea, what is the best (and most outside-the-box) way to get your name and music out there in a day and age that is dominated by social media?
Grimm: You know, I have no idea.

The more I work on this stuff the more it seems that social media is one large swirling whirlpool of digital voices that are yelling at the same time. So, I’ve been reaching out to people in a more analog manner through a letter writing campaign. I have become so fatigued with social media that I tune out. The online world was a great place when we all got connected, but now with that “On Demand” ideology commanding everything, we’ve sort of morphed into a place where we say, “Yeah, I’ll listen or watch it later because I don’t have to right now.” And with live streaming and concert windows and all that stuff, it’s becoming easier to never go out or never look away from a screen. That concept or execution of experiencing music is unsatisfying and loses the point.

I’ve been working on a subscription service through Bandcamp. Junestar.bandcamp.com/subscribe will get you there. The deal is that someone subscribes and they get my entire back catalog… 14 – 15 records… and I write, record, and publish an exclusive song just for subscribers. I haven’t had huge success so far, but with anything, it will be a slow build.

TrunkSpace: Having been performing for nearly two decades, you must have quite a few stories to tell about your time in clubs and on stages. That being said, what is the craziest experience that comes to mind?
Grimm: One of the funnier things that happened was on a tour in 2004. We were playing a show at Nancy Raygun with Mike Roy and J Roddy Walston and Business (a few years before they got big), and J Roddy and Mike Roy accidentally locked their keys in their van. After some intense negotiations, we agreed that June Star should open the show and hopefully the Pop-n-Lock guys would get there soon.

Attendance was pretty sparse, it was a Tuesday I think, and to make things a little more hopeless it was raining torrentially.

About five songs in, this older woman, maybe borderline elderly, maybe elderly before her time… okay, let’s say that she had done a lot of living… she comes swaying up to the front, dragging so hard on a cigarette that the lit end seemed to burn more yellow than orange. She swirls around, making no eye contact and throws all this money at us and then lurches away.

We all look at each other and laugh, just having a good time. During the rest of the set, while playing, I started looking at the money on the stage, and I start counting it up in my head, and I start to get a little excited. I know the door is not going to make much money, and if we’re lucky, we’ll sell a CD; eventually, the set winds down, we pack up the gear, I gather the cash and count it. $100.

That pays for our gas to Alabama! Awesome. Jay Filippone, a guitarist with us at the time, and Tom Scanlan, who played mandolin with us up until the end of that year, they corner me and say, “Hey man, that woman doesn’t know what she’s doing… we should give the money back to her, it’s the right thing to do.”

I disagreed.

Both of them felt bad for her and said that they were at least going to thank her for the tip and offer her a CD. I shrugged, “Sure!”

So, they approach her at the bar and Tom says, “Excuse me, thank you so much for the tip. We really appreciate it.”

She turns to him, squints and yells with a burst of cigarette smoke and a voice that makes you clear your own throat, “FUCK YOUR ASS!”

There was this other time we were opening for John Doe of X and he forgot something on stage. We were sound checking and he came up to me and introduced himself. As I turned to say hello I couldn’t help but be completely stunned by his absolute luminous cerulean ice gray blue eyes. I think I introduced myself as Blue Eyes.

TrunkSpace: Looking beyond your accomplishments, what do you hope to still accomplish? What’s on your creative bucket list?
Grimm: Make another record, book another show.

TrunkSpace: Are you someone who needs music in your life? Is it an extension of who you are, and if it was taken away, would you be able to find happiness?
Grimm: I do need music. It’s a great connector between ourselves and our world. We work out most of our problems or emotional needs through a song or a record. To be without it would be devastation.

I guess I would try my hand at writing fiction… or poetry. Maybe film. That might be fun. Or landscaping.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from June Star for the rest of 2017?
Grimm: Oh… we’re going to be touring… solo, duo, trio, quartet. October will find us back in the studio to record the next record, which will come out in the Spring of 2018. There may be some podcasting stuff too…

All I know is that June Star will be showing up, somewhere.

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Next Up

Michelle Halterman

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Name: Michelle Halterman

Hometown: Ocean Twp, NJ

Current Location: Los Angeles, CA

TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
Halterman: Growing up I was always drawn to the performing arts. I took dance classes from age seven all the way through being on the dance team in college. I was in the band, the chorus and school plays. I studied music industry in college, and thought about going into TV production for a while. But when I moved to NYC the job market was tough and I decided to finally pursue acting as a career.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Halterman: I was definitely drawn to sketch comedy and characters. I loved “SNL,” “MADtv” and even shows like “All That” inspired me as a kid. I especially loved Julia Louis-Dreyfus on “Seinfeld.” I still think a little Elaine comes out of me here and there (both in real life and acting).

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?
Halterman: Hopefully I’m not the only one who is still trying to figure out this path on a daily basis! (Laughter) But when I lived in New York I did some Off-Broadway shows and was involved in my first sketch troupe. I made the move to Los Angeles in 2010 to pursue more work in the TV and film industry. Since then I have taken classes at UCB, The Groundlings and Scott Sedita’s Acting Studio. I am still in love with comedy and have been trying to work and perform in whatever way I can. I even tried stand up for a while. My plan is to keep making contacts, keep making people laugh and keep having fun while being creative.

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
Halterman: I guess living in New York for two years I was still close enough to my hometown in New Jersey. So at the end of 2010 I moved to LA with a friend to give it a shot out here. I was 25.

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?|
Halterman: I was lucky enough to find an apartment, a car and a job in the first week of moving to Los Angeles. I only knew my roommate and two friends from college. But eventually between my part time jobs (and I’ve had a lot), acting projects and classes, I have met lots of other great people who have been really supportive. I still miss NYC and might move back someday (or be bi-coastal), but for now I am taking every opportunity I can in this market. There is so much work available out here, it’s just hard to find your path and keep it going.

TrunkSpace: What has been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
Halterman: I was in my first national commercial right before I moved to LA which was very exciting. Since living in Los Angeles, I was one of the leads in an indie feature film which was a wonderful learning experience. But mostly, my biggest role is yet to come!

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?
Halterman: Well, of course I definitely feel more comfortable in a comedic role. I would love to be one of those actors who is always making guest appearances on shows like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “Drunk History,” “Children’s Hospital,” or any sitcoms like that. But I would also love to stretch my muscles and comfort zone by acting in more dramatic roles. Hopefully characters that represent strong females and who help tell an amazing story.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
Halterman: Confidence and patience. It may take years to make people believe in you and see your talent. So be prepared for rejection and never stop trying.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
Halterman: I would love to be a series regular in a sitcom. And of course a movie career on the side wouldn’t be so bad either. I just want to play interesting characters and entertain people.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
Halterman: Having money saved up is very important to get started. Don’t be ashamed if you have some part-time jobs for many years. I still do. Take classes that interest you and make friends. Create your own work. This whole thing is a marathon, not a sprint.

TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
Halterman: I’m on LA Casting, Actor’s Access, Casting Frontier and IMDB. My personal website is www.michellehalterman.com
My IG @michellehalterman
My Twitter @michelledeanne

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Opening Act

David Earl

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Photo By: Dathon Brannon

Artist/Band: David Earl

Members: The new record “Catch A Thrill” includes David Earl Tomlinson on Vocals and Guitar, Silas Durocher (the Get Right Band) on Lead Guitar and Xylophone, Lenny Petinelli (The Empire Strikes Brass) on Piano, Hammond Organ and BG Vocals, Matt Lane (Black Robin Hero) on Bass, Guitar and BG Vocals, and Chris Pyle on Drums, Percussion and you guessed it, BG Vocals. Very special guest on the new record is Chris’ dad Artimus Pyle, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame drummer for Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Website: www.DavidEarlMusic.com. Work in Progress.

 

Hometown: I have lived in Asheville NC for about 22 years.

Latest Album/Release: “Catch A Thrill”

Influences: The Band, Ryan Adams, the Boss, and even Lucinda Williams. Jeff Buckley and Chris Cornell. Influences in general are far and wide, but the new record “Catch A Thrill” is most informed by or akin to rock ‘n’ roll singer/songwriters like the ones mentioned above.

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Tomlinson: The music is original classic rock and country and definitely lots of in-between the two. Lots of potent harmonies and a focus on the song in particular with a high energy delivery.

TrunkSpace: You released “Catch A Thrill” back in March. The songs themselves were written well before that. How close are you now (creatively) to where your head was at when you wrote the songs that make up the album?
Tomlinson: Great question! I paid for the record out of pocket so it took a damn long time to get it done and done right! I feel fairly similar as far as where I am creatively now versus then. Honestly, the songs just keep coming to me. And from a much wider variety of genres than the “Catch A Thrill” record reveals, but I felt like this was a strong set and the songs had a common sort of rock/americana feel with a couple exceptions for surprise and variety.

TrunkSpace: Where are you finding your songwriting inspiration these days? What topics do you find yourself drawn to?
Tomlinson: Well, perhaps contrary to the previous answer, I feel a bit darker at the moment. I am really enjoying indulging in some minor keys and heavier lyrics particularly about the renewal that comes when a person has fallen as far as they can or is at least at a very low point. Although the “Catch A Thrill” album is nothing like this, currently I am mining that feeling I’ve had where everything has gone to shit but somehow being at the bottom of it all provides a certain kind of enlightenment and even a sort of hope born by the experience of having lived through the worst life or oneself has to offer. So besides the songs I’m writing, I’ve learned a couple Alice In Chains songs, except mine aren’t quite THAT hopeless. Mine have a silver lining. Because that’s why I’m using those inspirations, I’m mining for silver linings.

TrunkSpace: “Catch A Thrill” is your third studio album. What did you hope to bring to it that you hadn’t attempted or achieved with your previous two releases?
Tomlinson: Honestly, just a more solid and rounded effort and result. “Local Anesthesia” was recorded in my friend’s living room and “Worth the Trouble” was recorded in mine. So this was my first foray into a studio. The other two records are guitar and voice and guitar and voice and Mardis Gras parade drum. “Catch A Thrill” is obviously a full band. It’s also twice as many songs than the other two, which are EPs. So really I wanted to capture the songs somewhere nearer a realized version. And they just came out fantastic. To have my songs manifested by the cats that worked on the record is pretty damn lucky. I mean, Chris Pyle has practically been playing drums since he was in the womb and toured the universe with Royal Trux. It used to scare the shit out of me playing with that guy, wondering if I was good enough. Well, I got over that and we (the band) got together and made a kick ass record.

This is a good question and it makes me wonder, what will I do to make the next record better than “Catch A Thrill?”

TrunkSpace: Is a song ever truly complete or are you the type of songwriter who is always tinkering, even with those songs you’ve recorded?
Tomlinson: Man, I get obsessed with songs and I work out the details until in my mind they’re perfect. Then I move on to the next one(s).

TrunkSpace: We’re all our own worst critics. Where are you the hardest on yourself when it comes to your music?
Tomlinson: Lyrics. I’m not a great guitar player and I often joke that everyone in my band is a better guitar player than I. Even the drummer! I can’t say I’ve never cut corners on lyrics because I had a dry spell where I couldn’t finish anything, so I let a couple sore spots go just to get out of the funk. But generally I love to challenge myself to work on the lyrics until I am satisfied, which ain’t easy, but is therefore extremely fulfilling when it is feeling good.

TrunkSpace: What gives you the most thrill when it comes to your career in music? What aspect of it never gets old no matter how many times you do it?
Tomlinson: For now, completing a song. When the lyrics are golden and I’m just working out the final nuances and I’m feeling, “Oh, a bridge has to go here” or something like that. Just finishing songs is such a great feeling. And my songs can definitely get better, so I’ve got plenty more work to enjoy.

TrunkSpace: When did you discover your songwriter’s voice?
Tomlinson: I don’t know exactly, but I know that I’ve had a couple epiphanies that have been landmarks. Such as not trying to be cool, and instead just writing whatever my subconscious is bubbling up at the time, even if I think it sounds ridiculous. And like I said before, never giving up on a lyric until it’s right. Not using something, a progression or a melody or a lyric, unless the intuition says it’s gold.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Tomlinson: Being interviewed by TrunkSpace! Duh!

Photo By: Bob Forte

A close second is probably having transcendental moments on stage, drug free mind you, totally inspired by the music. Having a (small) room full of people all riding the vibe and the band just in the zone and the music the master and everything just effortless you know? So when I look back on it I feel like I and everyone was a channel and the moment was just alive and the music was moving through us and we were compelled further than we realized we even could be. Awards and accolades would be cool, but to have had that feeling is priceless.

TrunkSpace: Looking beyond your accomplishments, what do you hope to still accomplish? What’s on your creative bucket list?
Tomlinson: Well, I want to make more records. I want to sing with my heroes. I want to connect with people in a genuine way and make their lives and my life better through the magic of music. I want a lifetime of music.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from David Earl for the rest of 2017?
Tomlinson: Do I have fans!?! Kick ass!

More great songs and shows. Harmonies. And hopefully crowds singing along. There might even be time for another record or EP.

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Musical Mondaze

Lowercase Noises

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Andy Othling is Lowercase Noises. The musician and composer has been igniting imaginations through music since 2009, crafting fanciful journeys in sound that, while structured in their delivery, enable the end user to establish their own sonic POV upon listening. Othling’s latest album, “The Swiss Illness,” is due out on Friday and he is set to embark on a living room tour with the band Hotel Neon this summer.

We recently sat down with the New Mexico native to discuss his stripped down approach to the album, vague inspirations for songs, and why he is Lowercase Noises.

TrunkSpace: “The Swiss Illness” is due out in a few days. Do you get butterflies releasing new music to the world.
Othling: Not so much. I’ve been so bogged down in just all the little things that have to happen to get it out there. This has been such a strange process because this has been the longest time between completing the album and releasing it. Normally for me it’s like a month, at the most maybe, but I finished this and got the masters back in December or something. I feel like it’s in the past already in a weird way. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Are you in a different creative space now than when you put this album together?
Othling: Yes. I’ve had some other projects. I haven’t really gotten back to writing this style of music, but I’ve had a friend of mine who needed a soundtrack for a movie, so I did that and then I’ve got some contract work that I’m going to be doing. It’s been other different stuff, which is good.

TrunkSpace: What were the creative goals with the album? Were you looking to accomplish something specific?
Othling: The only thing I think I really had in my head was that I really wanted this to be just basically more minimal, if that makes sense. I have a tendency, and I think everyone in any creative field sometimes has a tendency, to want to over-complicate things or over-fill things with ideas and parts and textures and stuff and I just really wanted to focus and say, “I want to focus on getting cool stuff in there but not overloading it so everything kind of stands by itself.”

Overall simplicity is what I was going for. There’s no drums. There isn’t any in the entire thing. It’s all pretty consistently on the same dynamic level and that was a goal of mine too because I think, not that this is bad or anything, but previously I’ve had albums that are just very up and down in terms of that dynamic level. Some songs have a big drum part or something. With other songs it will be real minimal. I just wanted to be more concise, I guess. That’s a good way to say it I think.

TrunkSpace: You spoke about working on other things creatively since finishing the album up. Was it important for you to step away from this style and put some creative distance between what you were creating on the album?
Othling: Yes. That’s always very important for me especially with me being the only person in this project. I get so into it. I’m dealing with all the ins and outs of a certain thing. Like this movie soundtrack I did for instance was 70s/80s disco rock. It was just like a 100 percent different style and felt really good. Also it makes me excited to get back to doing this kind of stuff. The project I’m about to start now is a contract I have for a licensing agency where I’m going to be doing similar songs like the album, but it’s nice to be able to flush it out for a minute and then come back to it with a fresh mind.

TrunkSpace: Is it difficult to go from a project where you are in charge of every aspect to a contract project where you’re working within a particular set of margins?
Othling: Yes. That’s actually a place where I’ve struggled previously. I’ve done projects in the past where I was basically hired to write songs for another agency and they were like, “We want one like this, one like this, and one that’s like this.” And I was like, “Yes, okay. That’s fine.” I didn’t realize until I got into it how hard it was to dictate where my creativity wanted to go or have some external thing dictating it.

For this soundtrack particularly… there’s a friend whose doing it… well, he actually came here to my house and helped guide me vibe-wise for the thing, which was very helpful because it was just instant feedback. I would throw out an idea and be like, “Okay, how about this?” He’d say, “No, not that. Let’s go this way.” And I’d be like, “Okay, cool.” So I can immediately throw out ideas and immediately know when I’m on the right path. Even though he wasn’t really doing anything musically, there was no hands-on parts or anything he was doing, I was able to have some creative pressure off and that was very helpful to me, which I really appreciated that for sure.

TrunkSpace: It must be nice to not go too far down a creative rabbit hole and enjoy what you’re doing and then have somebody step in and say, “That’s not working.”
Othling: Exactly. That’s what happened before. That’s like pulling teeth when you have to go back into a song and change it, when you thought it was the way it should be and someone is telling you to make it something else. That’s not a good feeling. I try to avoid that as much as possible. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: While you’re writing Lowercase Noises songs, are you trying to elicit a particular emotion or feeling?
Othling: Yes, I mean that’s typically where it comes from personally is… the whole thing is very vague. It’s like I have some vague feeling inside of me that I don’t even know if I could articulate it with words and so the music is a vessel for that I suppose. But then the fun thing is, it’s like I create it that way where I’m trying to… I feel a certain way and I’m trying to infuse that into this piece of music, but the most fun thing is hearing how people perceive it because it’ll be a lot of times a hundred percent different than what I felt going into it. And I don’t see that as like I failed or something. I want to leave it as open as possible for people to take whatever they want from it. There’s noone telling you what to feel about with this song. There’s no lyrics saying, “Hey this is what this song is about and this is how you should feel.” It’s just wide open for somebody. That’s one of my favorite things about this style of music for sure.

TrunkSpace: Was there a reason that you chose to perform under Lowercase Noises as opposed to your own name as a solo artist?
Othling: The name itself, I don’t have a great explanation for it. When I was coming up with a name it was like the name I hated least on a list of names. I couldn’t even tell you what the other ones were at the time. But the only thing I knew was I very much didn’t want it to be my name because… kind of like when I was talking about how people can take whatever they want from the song, I kind of wanted to distance it from myself as a human being a little bit.

I feel like that helps people take it in a different way. Because the music can, and I hope, is more than who I am as a person. I feel like if it was just Andy Othling with song X, that’s too closely tied with the human being that is me. Like I said, I very much want it to be as open and kind of as vague as possible so that people aren’t thinking about a human being when they’re listening to the song, they’re thinking about some sort of different entity or something else completely.

TrunkSpace: Was that part of the mindset going into doing something like the living room tour, which is like putting people in a space they are already comfortable in just to sort of sit back and listen to the music and not the person?
Othling: I think that’s definitely part of it. When talking to my friends about the tour it was like, “This sort of music doesn’t fit in a bar, doesn’t fit in a coffee shop.” I was like, “Well, I’ve been watching people like David Bazan and others do these living room tours” and I’m like, “That’s honestly the perfect environment for this music.” It’s a normal space, it’s quiet, there’s a very small amount of people.

TrunkSpace: For fans it has to be the most intimate way to see an artist… in their own living room?
Othling: Yes, totally. Then the show ends and then we’re just hanging out and we can talk. Yes, it’s great all around, I really love it.

TrunkSpace: What do you think is the best way to listen to Lowercase Noises music?
Othling: I listened to the test pressings and I was like, “Oh, this is how I wanted it to sound.” You get that warmth and… not lo-fi, but just that warm feeling. I do feel like the vinyl is the best way in terms of quality for sure. The funny thing about this music is that, for me personally, I want to either give it my 100 percent full attention and I feel like vinyl is great for that because you got to get there and flip it over and you got to put the needle down. It’s just a great experience. Either that or, I really love it as background music. The guys in Hotel Neon always use, and I’ve stolen it from them, the term “Furniture Music.” It’s there, it’s part of your room, but it’s not the focal point at all. It’s just there as like a set piece. So I also like listening to music like this that way where it’s just kind of like filling up the spot in my brain, but not really the focal point of what I’m doing.

 

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Wingman Wednesday

George Kosturos

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George Kosturos is the future of Hollywood…

And the future is now.

As the lead of the new film “American Wrestler: The Wizard,” the California native is making a powerful statement through his acting. Still only in his mid 20s, Kosturos has an entire career ahead of him, and if it continues on its current trajectory, it is a career that will rival that of Matt Damon’s, his acting idol.

We recently sat down with Kosturos to discuss the attention the film has brought him, sucking weight, and how both Rocky and The Karate Kid are in his corner.

TrunkSpace: We know that “American Wrestler” is a film that you actually shot some time ago and it’s had this long and slow burning shelf life. Is it strange to be talking about it like it’s a new film even though it’s not new to you?
Kosturos: Yes. It is definitely strange. It was shot about two years ago at this point. And then we did the festival circuit last year and it gained momentum and finally got the attention of people this year and that changed things real quick because they were really excited to get it out.

I think I saw it for the first time a year and a half ago and now people can see it for the first time in the theater. It’s wild and it’s cool to see how the movie was so inspiring then, it’s inspiring now and how it’s even more timely now. It’s almost like the movie has a mind of its own and it was just waiting. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: You mentioned that you shot this film two years ago, a very early point in your career. Just from an acting standpoint, you must feel like you’ve come a long way since then in your abilities?
Kosturos: Yeah, definitely. It’s been a wild ride. It’s had such a great reception from all the festivals and we won like ten awards. I myself have won like five acting awards, and so, it’s been cool. It’s been cool to watch this one movie continue and continue to give me more recognition and attention.

TrunkSpace: Hollywood has such a rich history of powerful storytelling through sports biopics and “American Wrestler” carries that torch forward.
Kosturos: Yes, it’s an underdog story. I think that everyone, no matter what sports you play, you can relate to that in some way. “The Karate Kid” is one of my favorite movies. I never did karate, but I love that movie. “Rocky” is one of my favorite movies. I never boxed, but I love that movie. It has that underdog mentality and story.

And funny story, I was able to get a copy of the film to Ralph Macchio and Sylvester Stallone who both emailed me personally to tell me that they loved it and thought that it was going to be a huge underdog sports movie hit. So that was cool.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned not boxing and not having done karate as a kid, but did you wrestle?
Kosturos: No, never. This movie was my first experience with wrestling. I trained with the real guys that the movie is based off of, up in Petaluma where we shot, for maybe less than a month. We were training and I had to learn real quick. They threw me into practices with local high school kids. The local coach there Jimmy Pera was this Green Beret, tough coach. Everyone was treating me like another one of the kids and then slowly but surely I was keeping up. They were kicking my butt for a while, but I was keeping up by the end. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Did you have to do the scourge of wrestlers everywhere and suck weight?
Kosturos: Yeah. Yeah. A hundred percent. Well, I had to start it before I even got the role. I went to the first audition and they said that I was a little too big. I was like 160 at the time. I talked to my manager about losing some weight for the callback. He’s like, “That’s kind of crazy. Don’t. Wait until you book it.” I read the script and I loved it. I was like, “I want to lose it right now.” So I lost 15 pounds in like 12 days.

TrunkSpace: Oh man! You really were living the life of a wrestler. (Laughter)
Kosturos: Yeah. I came back and I’m all skinny and the producers were like, “What happened to to you?” Seven auditions later it finally worked.

TrunkSpace:
Did training with Ali, the real life person that you’re portraying in the film, help you inhabit who he was as a person?
Kosturos: Yeah, definitely. It was cool seeing his mentality. Even to this day, he still has that kid-like determination that’s just… he was jumping in with the high school wrestlers, and he’s a little older now… he’s 44 or 45. But he’s like, “Let me show you!” And then he tries hard to take them down. Just seeing how determined and how scrappy he was… it was cool to see. Spending a lot of time with him just helped me build the character that I was going to play for the film.

TrunkSpace: When you’re taking on a character who is based on somebody who not only walks this earth, but does so now, is there an extra layer of pressure playing him as opposed to just creating a character off of the page?
Kosturos: Totally. Not only did he teach me to wrestle and not only was he producing the film and on set everyday, but he’s the guy playing the uncle in the movie. So, he’s not only on set but he was in the film across from me. A lot of times it was overwhelming, but he was really cool to work with and I think just even spending more time with him allowed me to get closer and closer to the character to make it as true as possible.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned having seven auditions before you landed the role, but now you’re actually working with the director on other projects as well, so it was the seven auditions that keep on giving!
Kosturos: Yeah. We all stayed so close after the film and shooting this movie… we shot it in 18 days up in Petaluma, so it was real quick, but we all became so close that we were like family. And that producer and that director, Ali and Alex, they work together a lot still and if they’re doing a movie together they’ll always call me and bring me in anytime they can to do other films and things like that. It’s a really cool relationship that we’ve made.

TrunkSpace: We read that when you were younger you used to keep your acting aspirations to yourself. What was it that kept you from wanting to share that passion with the people in your life?
Kosturos: To be honest, I truly thought it was not realistic. I grew up in a small town near Sacramento originally and then moved to Palm Springs/Palm Desert area for high school. I didn’t know anyone in the business. I’ve never known an actor. I’ve never known a producer. I didn‘t know anyone who did that, so I just thought that kids on TV were just like some superheroes who had some connection that I would never get. And then, I don’t know, as I began to get closer to graduation in high school… when you graduate high school everyone tells you, “You can do anything you want. You could be anything.” I started to hear that and listen to that and a small part of me wanted to test it. So I was like, “Really? I can be anything I want? Well then, Mom, I want to be an actor.” She was like like, “Noooooo!(Laughter)

It’s a few years later now and now they’re very supportive and they’re all excited.

TrunkSpace: When did it seem real to you? When was the moment that you went, “Oh, this could be my career?”
Kosturos: I think when I finally got to USC. I went to college at USC and I graduated in 2014. I started hinting towards that I wanted to act and pursuing that path and when I got to USC, that’s where I felt like, “Wow, there are other people here that are trying to do what I’m trying to do. There’s opportunities here. There’s connections here.” It seemed like I found this little gateway to Hollywood in a way. That’s even the reason I chose USC, just because of its well-known entertainment connections. I think when I got there it kind of opened the door for me.

TrunkSpace: Your career is in a full sprint right now, so in sticking with sports analogies, how do you hope to maintain that pace and make your career more of a marathon than a sprint?
Kosturos: I think through smart choices with what I do next. I think that’s going to be real important and not rushing into something that maybe is enticing for other reasons. Just trying to find another story. So far I’ve worked on some that I’ve been so proud of because of the story and I think if I stick with that, I’ll be able to have that sort of marathon career.

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Chilling Out

Tracey Birdsall

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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 Tracey Birdsall whose latest film “Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter” is taking the science fiction world by post apocalyptic storm.

We sat down with Birdsall to talk about the art of problem solving, pouring ice into her costume, and how the science fiction genre is one that is extremely near and dear to her heart.

TrunkSpace: You didn’t just star in “Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter,” you also produced it. We’re curious if you enjoy the process of wearing multiple hats on a single project?
Birdsall: Well, you know, I was one of two producers and I can’t do both and be the only producer because as soon as I get on set, I have to be able to kind of switch my brain off and just be the talent because there’s so much that is involved in that. But I love putting a project together and I love seeing it come to fruition. I kind of like all of the problems and missteps along the way too. (Laughter) So, basically yes, I love also being a producer, but I do have to put that hat down when we’re shooting.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned loving the problem solving aspect of producing. We would imagine that shooting this film in the desert and working opposite so many special effects forced you to have to work a lot of things through that you didn’t anticipate. Lots of zigging when you expected to zag.
Birdsall: Exactly, but that’s one of the fun things about science fiction. Director Neil Johnson really likes to make things as practical as possible. He did a couple of films that were mostly green screens many years ago and so he really tries to do as much “real” as he can. Any time that you’re doing something real, you’re going out and you’re shooting and you have your days, but as you said, the weather and the elements… and even what you’re dealing with… that sand is really deep when you’re shooting in those sand dunes. And then you get wind storms. And then you get heat waves out in the middle of the desert that you weren’t planning on so you have to go get bags of ice and shove it in your costuming. (Laughter) Because you have to do the shot.

But it’s amazing… some of the things that happened. We’re shooting “The Time War” now and we were shooting out in England for awhile, but the costuming was determined in California. So, those are the things that you run into along the way and it’s just that when that camera rolls, you just have to not think about anything except for who you are.

TrunkSpace: That’s so true… where a costume is designed is not necessarily going to fall in line with where it is worn.
Birdsall: Exactly. There’s a lot of too hot and too cold going on in any science fiction film when you’re out in the elements.

TrunkSpace: “Rogue Warrior” is a film that has taken a lot of people, especially fans of the genre, by surprise. Why do you think that is?
Birdsall: Because when you go in to see “Rogue Warrior” it… even the rest of the cast was kind of dumbfounded when they went to the premiere… because with the film you’re expecting great effects and you’re expecting a great storyline but what you’re not expecting is the huge character journey. There’s a lot of drama in “Rogue Warrior” that I think didn’t really occur to people to expect in a science fiction film.

TrunkSpace: Which is often an element that is left out of science fiction films… that fulfilling character arc.
Birdsall: It really is. And as an actress, I like to really delve into characters. Some scenes that were written on the page, they didn’t have as much of a journey, but as they came out… it was funny, there would be scenes where she was supposed to be brought to tears and stuff like that, but we had already done that in other scenes and not expected it. So, it’s just one of those things where the journey kind of took on a life of its own. And then so much of the film was shot in post production. Neil would be like, “This needs to be more epic and now we need to tie this in.” So we probably shot 80 days all together on it.

TrunkSpace: Wow! So, hearing what you put into the film, was it something that you envisioned to be a franchise out of the gates or was it meant to be just a standalone movie?
Birdsall: It was actually just going to be one of Neil’s quick, knock ‘em out the door films. (Laughter) It was just going to be a small film. And then, we’re both workaholics, so we both just really focused on making it better and better and better. I’ve spent hundreds of hours on my character and then the casting all had to be perfect. We probably interviewed 3,000 people before we hired Tony Gibbons on as the voice of the robot, Hoagland, because it’s such an integral part of the movie.

I guess we just don’t know how to do it small when we’re working together. (Laughter) It just got bigger and bigger and bigger and then the press took off with it and we were like, “Oh shoot, now we have to make it even bigger!” (Laughter) But, it’s been a fantastic journey.

TrunkSpace: What was it that brought the film so much attention and made it feel like the fuse was lit?
Birdsall: You know, it was while we were still in production. Now, when I say production I mean post production, which is when Neil Johnson goes all Peter Jackson on us and just keeps reshooting things. (Laughter) That was when it occurred to us that the press was… everything we put out there was going to larger and larger outlets and people were getting really excited about it. And that was when we just really started pouring on the heat and just making it better and better and better.

TrunkSpace: The film really is a testament to the fact that you don’t need a blank check to make a great science fiction movie.
Birdsall: What it takes besides money if you’re going to make a great sci-fi though is blood, sweat, and tears… and basically the lives of two people. (Laughter) I don’t know that most people would be willing to sacrifice what we put into this film. The only other place to replace it is to get more people and more money. So yes, it can be done. Would most people want to put in that kind of effort? I don’t think so. And I don’t know many directors who could do what he did with this. I really don’t.

TrunkSpace: So with having such a personal connection to the project and given the nature of the shoot, did it make it feel like going into the next film you shot was a bit of a breeze by comparison?
Birdsall: Not at all. (Laughter) Actually, “The Time War” principal photography was done before “Rogue Warrior” and we’ve shot three times as much on that since as when we shot in principal photography. So what it did was, we had this larger budget film that we knocked out the door first, and then “Rogue Warrior” was going to be the smaller one just to put out there and make some profit for him. And then “Rogue Warrior” got to be so big, that we had to rework “The Time War” and make it bigger. So, these things have years into them. Both of them. It’s just kind of funny how you raise the bar and then you’re like, “Oh shoot, now we have to make the last one even bigger.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: And what’s interesting about the science fiction genre is that it seems to have an extended shelf life in comparison to other genres.
Birdsall: It does. As a matter of fact, I rewatch sci-fi movies that are two and three decades old. We’ve been going through “Dr. Who” from the very beginning. You’re almost kind of immortalized in sci-fi, which is really, really cool because if people haven’t seen it, they want to see it because they’re sci-fi fans. They don’t just want to see it because it’s the next movie coming out. They do get watched by all sci-fi fans eventually, so they kind of have legs over and over and over again. You get into a conversation with somebody about a film like “Logan’s Run” and they’re like, “Oh shoot, I haven’t watched that in a few years. I have to go watch that again.” That’s what’s so cool about sci-fi.

TrunkSpace: And the key to transcending beyond JUST that sci-fi fanbase is giving it layers and making it just as much a character journey as a piece of special effects eye candy.
Birdsall: Yes. And that’s what this one hit on. Until the audience saw it, and I was sitting in the room with the audience for the first time, you kind of see people… we even saw a couple of press who had little tears in their eyes. People definitely go on the journey and that’s what’s so cool about it because they really aren’t expecting it. Of course, now people have heard to expect it so that will change, but it was really enjoyable to see as the performer, to see that people really got it and went along on the journey. Very rewarding.

TrunkSpace: So as you look over your career, where does “Rogue Warrior” fit in for you in terms of being a career/life changing experience?
Birdsall: Well, I’m a sci-fi geek. I grew up on sci-fi, so doing sci-fi for me is the pinnacle in itself. I still love doing comedy just because that’s like a dance, but science fiction, if I could just engulf myself in it forever I would just because it’s what I like to watch and it’s what I grew up with. My dad was really big into sci-fi and we’d sit there and eat rocky road ice cream and watch “Star Trek” when I was a kid. (Laughter) So, yeah, for me, “Rogue Warrior” is the most fun I’ve ever had, but it’s also the hardest thing I’ve ever done because there’s so many other stages to doing a huge sci-fi film and being a lead in it than there is to just knowing your lines and creating a character. There’s reacting to things that aren’t even there. There’s having relationships with robots. It’s very, very trying.

“Rogue Warrior: Robot Fighter” is due in theaters June 2nd.

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Next Up

Lindsay Rathert

LindsayRathert_NextUp

Name: Lindsay Rathert

Hometown: Prior Lake, MN

Current Location: Los Angeles

TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
Rathert: I grew up doing theater and local commercials as a kid, but always considered it a hobby. It wasn’t until I was applying to colleges (as an International Relations major!) that I realized I actually wanted to pursue acting as a career.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Rathert: My mom really loves old classic movies, so growing up we watched a lot of Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Katharine Hepburn. Seeing how there could be nuanced, intelligent roles for women definitely made an impression then, and continues to inform how I try to choose my roles now as a professional.

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?
Rathert: Education is a major value in my family, so getting great training was a no-brainer since I was a kid. I got a theater degree from Northwestern University, and have lucked out with some fantastic teachers and coaches since then. I also worked in Chicago for several years, and cutting my teeth in a smaller market really helped me feel ready to transition to Los Angeles.

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
Rathert: I left home at 18 for college, then, as I mentioned, worked in Chicago after that. I moved to Los Angeles two years ago this week!

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?
Rathert: All things considered, it was pretty seamless. There were definitely a couple of sleepless nights during the first few months (finding side jobs, managing existential dread), but I also already had a community of friends and artists here, so there was a support system in place when things got hard. LA started to feel like home much sooner than I expected it to.

TrunkSpace: What has been been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
Rathert: There have been some indie features and pilots that I really hope pop, but the role I’m proudest of is from a small film called “You or Your Memory.” We had an amazing writer/director who worked with us on the characters for months prior to shooting, and the end product is so heartbreaking and beautiful. The film is almost out of post-production now, and I think it is going to get a lot of traction.

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?
Rathert: I’m so inspired by Gena Rowlands’ work with John Cassavetes, especially “A Woman Under the Influence.” Lately, I find myself gravitating towards roles that explore a tenuous relationship with reality, and I’d love to tackle something like that. More recently, Amy Adams’ performance in “Arrival” blew me away; the challenge of being emotionally present in such an intellectually complicated character fascinates me.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
Rathert: Empathy. We deal with such a wide range of personalities in this job, and it’s such a uniquely collaborative art form, so the ability to foster meaningful connections… or even just see where someone else is coming from… is invaluable. And it helps with resilience (AKA dealing with rejection). When I let myself feel like a disappointing situation is all about me, it’s easy to get discouraged or upset. But a sense of empathy helps me keep the bigger picture in mind. For me, surviving as an actor is about playing chess, not checkers, and empathy helps me keep the perspective necessary to push forward.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
Rathert: I’d like to be at a place in my career where I have total freedom of choice. It may sound idealistic, but being able to choose projects solely based on quality sounds like a dream. I love both film and television, so I think there are a lot of different roads that could lead there.

Ultimately, I’d also like to have my own small production company, so that if I fall in love with a particular script, I can make sure it gets produced with integrity.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
Rathert: I mean, do it. But pursuing your dream can be brutally hard sometimes, so save a little room to do things that just make you happy. For example, things like taking my dog to the beach, gardening, visiting my nieces, or riding my horse all keep me sane and are 100 percent joy. It can feel hard to prioritize things that don’t seem directly connected to your dream, but ultimately staying grounded in yourself and in real life does make you a better artist.

TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
Rathert: Definitely check out my website, it has my reel, gallery, and all my info, as well as links to IMDb and social media!
Website: lindsayrathert.com
IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2418599/

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Between The Sheets

Gian Sardar

GianSardar_BetweenTheSheets

In our new feature, Between the Sheets, TrunkSpace picks the imaginative brains of authors to break down what it takes to create the various worlds and characters they breathe life into via the tools of their trade… sheets of paper. While technology continues to advance and change the pop culture landscape, the written word has remained one of the most consistent and imaginative art forms.

This time out we’re chatting with “You Were Here” author Gian Sardar to discuss the panic upon hitting send, when she found her voice as a writer, and what an ideal work day would look like if she had a magic wand.

TrunkSpace: “You Were Here” is a much different book than your debut “Psychic Junkie.” With that being said, did you approach the way you wrote the book differently?
Sardar: Absolutely. “Psychic Junkie” was a true story, the life of Sarah Lassez, and though I lived most of it with her as her roommate and close friend, I still had to defer to her when it came to choices – so my writing was not only hitched to truth, but to another’s opinion. As I was writing “You Were Here,” I only answered to myself, and that freedom was both exciting and at times frightening.

TrunSpace: “You Were Here” gets down and dirty with some pretty heavy subject matter. Words can really paint a picture of terror for a reader and place them in the shoes of the characters within a story. Do you think about that… giving goosebumps to your readers… when you’re working on a book or a particular scene?
Sardar: Yes! For those certain scenes I can only hope I give goosebumps to my readers, because if I did, the scene was successful. I know that while writing it I spooked myself on a few occasions, as I have the unfortunate tendency to do a lot of writing around 2 or 3 AM, and let me tell you, it’s very dark then, and the house is very quiet…not always the best time to write scary scenes.

TrunkSpace: Cover art has become so eye catching and often times very complex. “You Were Here” takes a more with less approach. What was the thought process behind the design?
Sardar: I was lucky enough to have the Putnam design team on my side, and so I must credit them fully for the beautiful cover. What I love is the sense of mystery, the hazy lettering, the hints of so much more. It does such an amazing job of capturing the essence of the book – and both the time periods – in such a simple way.

TrunkSpace: Writers put so much time and energy into a book. What is the first thing you did when completing the final draft of “You Were Here” and how long was it before you started writing again?
Sardar: Honestly, the first thing I did after hitting “Send” was freak out and start reading it again. I had to force myself to walk away and not look at it, because I knew if I did I would see a dozen things on every page that needed changing. So it took physical willpower to walk away. And though I’d been excited to get back to a project I’d started while waiting for notes and edits, I definitely needed a buffer zone, so to speak, after finishing this one before diving into anything else. What helped was reading, dipping into other worlds. A book every other a day for a couple weeks was just what the doctor ordered.

TrunkSpace: With that same idea in mind, is it hard to let go of a manuscript and call it “complete” when you put so much of yourself into it?
Sardar: Yes! If you let me sneak into the printers’, I’d make changes even now. The only reason I finally considered it done was because they had to cut me off and tell me no more changes. And I don’t just mean on the sentence level, but when you’re that immersed into a world the characters stay with you and might just whisper in your ear that they’d like another scene or two. It’s definitely hard to consider it complete when it still lives within you.

TrunkSpace: What did you learn about yourself as a writer in the process of writing your first two books and how do you hope to apply that to your career moving forward?
Sardar: Trust. I learned that the answers come to me, they always do, so I just need to trust. With my fiction, not everything is figured out when I start – I have a loose outline and a lot of questions and often I know where I want to go but not how I’m getting there. I discover a lot in the writing process. But when you’ve got a blank page, it’s hard to remember that it will all, somehow, miraculously, come together. I need to keep that in mind and spend less time worrying and more time trusting.

TrunkSpace: How long did it take for you to discover your voice as a writer?
Sardar: That’s a good question. I think it’s been there since college, but it’s certainly evolved based on my own changing view and interest in the world.

TrunkSpace: Regarding the process, is writing a labor of love for you or does it feel more like labor? Do you enjoy the process?
Sardar: I love writing. Nothing makes me feel more elated than when I had a good writing day. Of course sometimes questions arise about plot or character, something I need to figure or make
sure is working, and that’s when there’s anxiety involved. But even then, if I just sit down to write, whether it’s something I keep or not, I’m transported. And that’s when I need to remember to trust, that if I give myself time it will come together. I never worry about “wasted pages” that never see the light of day, because it’s the writing process I love and sometimes I just need to write to work through whatever’s got me caught, just so I can feel inspired.

TrunkSpace: And what does that process look like? What are the ideal conditions for putting in a good day of writing?
Sardar: If I had a magic wand, I’d create a rainy day that starts at 4 AM and involves me writing on the couch under a blanket until about 10 AM. Of course that would involve someone else making my son breakfast and taking him to school, and since my husband is at work at 6:30 AM it’s obvious this is all fantasy. In reality I’d take just waking very, very early in the morning (3 or 4 AM), getting in a few hours of writing and then taking my son to school. Then I’d come home and read a bit, then write some more and hopefully take a short nap before picking my son back up.

TrunkSpace: Do you self-edit as you write?
Sardar: Yes. Every day, when I start writing, I back up and re-read and edit what I wrote the day prior, and once I’ve done that I start with the new material. Then, periodically, I’ll read from the beginning as well, to see how things are working. I find so much in the editing process that it helps to go back and re-examine and tweak constantly. Editing is my favorite part of writing.

TrunkSpace: Where are you the hardest on yourself as a writer?
Sardar: Can I say “everything”? It all depends on the day – some days are just off from the start and on those days I can do nothing right. In general though, I tend to be very critical of my dialogue, so that’s something I’m constantly examining.

TrunkSpace: What are you working on now and what will people be able to read next?
Sardar: I’m about mid-way through writing another novel, but am keeping it quiet so I don’t jinx anything. (Laughter)

You Were Here, published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, is available May 16.

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