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May 2017

Musical Mondaze

Madeline Lauer

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Singer/songwriter Madeline Lauer is extremely happy with her place in life, both creatively and personally. In fact, it’s a self-acceptance that has had a powerful impact on her career and her music. With two new albums in the works, one that is set to highlight the flip side to discovering love, Lauer is looking forward to a future that she is writing for herself.

We recently sat down with Lauer to discuss her creative confidence, the place where she is most productive as a writer, and the best advice she’s ever received.

TrunkSpace: We saw that you recently posted on social media how you were 27 and finally comfortable in your own body. We’re curious how that self-acceptance has affected your music? Has it made you more confident in what you’re creating?
Lauer: Yeah. Absolutely. I always say that if I had gotten success at a younger age, I definitely feel like I would have been one of those kids who just fell off the wagon. Everything happens for a reason and sometimes I’m like, “Oh my gosh, I’m much older than I thought I would be before I actually made my real first album.” But, I wouldn’t have wanted it to be any other way because I am so comfortable in who I am now. That’s just part of what happens when you get older. So yeah, I think that has definitely translated into my music because I think it’s unique and different and I’m super confident in it.

TrunkSpace: With that being said, if success had come 10 years ago, do you think you would have made decisions based on what someone else had suggested as opposed to what you really felt?
Lauer: Absolutely! This whole album… everything I’m doing right now is directed by me. It’s not anyone else’s influence or opinion, and over the years, I’ve tried pretty much everything that came my way since I moved out to LA and doing that really helps you figure out what is you and what is not.

TrunkSpace: Can you talk to us about your new album?
Lauer: Yeah. We’re actually starting two projects. The first one we’re doing is a Barrington Levy cover EP. So it’s going to be like four Barrington Levy remixes. He does reggae, so we’re going to kind of keep the same tempo, but make it a little more R&B and a little more modern. So we’re going to put that out and then I’ve started my second album, which I had already pretty much started when I made “Open Book,” but we just kind of separated some of the tracks from the others just because these tracks sounded like a certain album… a certain sound… and then the other ones sounded a little different. Also, when I started “Open Book” I was falling in love and so there’s a lot of happiness in “Open Book,” but in the new album, it’s going to be called “Non-Fiction,” it kind of just talks more about some… darker things. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: So they each have their own theme?
Lauer: Yeah. Totally. It kind of just happened that way. We just made a bunch of songs and then I was just going through them and listening and I was like, “You know what, this sounds like a collective album and this one sounds like a phase one.”

TrunkSpace: Where are you the hardest on yourself as an artist?
Lauer: I think lyrically. My producer has definitely helped me lyrically. I think melodies are not something I have a hard time with just because I listen to a lot of pop music. I listen to a lot of catchy things and I know how to write that way. I think my struggle… I know what I’m talking about and I have something to say in the songs, but I think that lyrically I could always be better. But I do have a good little balance in my team where I can be like, “Well this is what I’m trying to say, but what’s a better way of saying it?”

TrunkSpace: Sometimes less is definitely more when it comes to song lyrics and you can actually say more for the listener by saying less.
Lauer: Oh my gosh, completely! I’ll have whole sentences for a line and then I’m like, “What is a way simpler way to say that?” Yeah.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned how “Open Book” was about falling in love and how “Non-Fiction” has a darker tone. Was the process of recording those songs different given the different mindsets you were in?
Lauer: Yeah. It’s weird. I just thought about this the other day. A lot of the songs for “Non-Fiction” I recorded at night… and I had some wine and had written them in a more emotional state. So, yeah, the recording process actually was slightly different. I don’t really like to record at night. I just feel like I’ve been talking all day and I’m tired, but there is definitely a certain side of you that comes out when the sun goes down. I felt like I would be singing them more authentically at night. So it’s really kind of like a night and day thing.

TrunkSpace: So what aspect of music is the most enjoyable for you?
Lauer: Just the whole recording process for me. Making a song top to bottom and adding all of the ad libs and harmonies. That’s why I do it. It’s the best feeling in the world. All of my friends come through, if I have a session at a big studio, and we get to just listen to music really loud. It’s a totally unique experience for me, every time. I just love being in the studio. I work at a recording studio just because I love being there. Once the song is done, you feel so proud, whether it’s the most amazing song or not.

TrunkSpace: So let’s say you’re still working on a track but maybe the studio isn’t sparking your creativity. Do you have a special creative place to work through those creative speed bumps?
Lauer: That’s a good question. I tend to write by myself first, so I’ll sit on my bed with all of my notebooks and all of my notes and journals and all the words and things I’ve been inspired by. I think if something isn’t clicking, I kind of just go back to my bedroom. I have to listen to it over and over again and all of a sudden something else will pop out or something different. If something sounds too repetitive or just not good… you know when it’s not good. I love to just write on my bed. I think it’s the most comfortable place and it’s just my little area. I just feel like myself. I don’t know… I feel like I’m like a kid again where I can just speak from my heart. Yeah, that’s my favorite place to write.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned trying out all sorts of different things when you arrived in LA. What’s the biggest lesson you learned during that time period and those life experiences?
Lauer: The best advice I ever got, and it’s always something that I remind myself of, I have a really good friend of mine who I met when I first moved out here. He was much older than me… about 10 years my senior. And he just always gave me the best advice, but one of the greatest things that resonated with me that I still think about is that he said, “Your life is a train and the destination is your dream and passion and this person you want to be and people are going to get on and off of your train all of the time and you just got to keep moving. You should never hop on someone else’s train or forget about yours. You just keep moving.” That was just a really good reminder because when I moved out here by myself, I just wanted friends. I’m extremely social and what you get to learn is that everybody is kind of out for themselves here. It’s very hard to make friends. Luckily, over 10 years of being here, I’ve met some really awesome people and we’ve stayed very, very close, but I don’t have a ton of friends. You get kind of lonely and hoping that these relationships will last, but it’s like, “That’s not why I moved out here.” I don’t live this far from my family to not keep focusing on it.

TrunkSpace: Well, life has a tendency to zig when you expect it to zag. The only thing you can control is your own train.
Lauer: That’s exactly it. It has helped me stay focused and remember why I came here.

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Opening Act

DoublePlusGood

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Artist/Band: DoublePlusGood

Members: Erik Carlson, occasionally others

Website: www.doubleplusgoodmusic.com

Hometown: Portland, Or

Latest Album/Release: Like A Fire, 7” EP

Influences: Roy Orbison, New Order, The Smiths

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Carlson: I kinda strive to make something that sounds classic and hard to place. I’ve always been told it sounds kinda like country standards with 80s production. Kinda like Roy Orbison fronting The Smiths.

TrunkSpace: You recently announced your first European tour. While the mission is to spread your music to other parts of the world, what else do you hope to accomplish, even on a personal level, while on that very long road?
Carlson: I’m excited to get to see so many countries. It’s 17 shows and by the time I’ve finished I think about 10 countries, plus some travel time for myself after all the shows. I’m just looking to be open to any new experience that comes out of traveling so much.

TrunkSpace: Life experiences are often the spark for songwriters. A European tour has the possibility to drop a lot of life experiences on you. Are you anticipating discovering songwriting inspiration while embarking on this journey?
Carlson: For sure, I mean, I don’t think you can do something like travel for this long and not be influenced. You’d have to go out of your way to avoid any impact. I’m hoping on my nights off to go see more music. Europe just has such a rich history of music, I’m hoping to take in anything I can.

TrunkSpace: How do you approach songwriting? Do you write from those life experiences we mentioned above or do you take more of a storyteller’s approach?
Carlson: I don’t think any two songs happen the same way. I’ve had songs which feel like they sorta just fall out of my mouth and I can’t explain where they come from, and others where I set out to describe something or tell a story. My main approach when I’m songwriting is to just give myself a lot of time and space to try anything and see what comes out from it. My most successful songwriting periods come when I give myself two to three hours in the morning to just create and see what comes out. Sometimes it’s a vocal melody, sometimes I start with a beat, sometimes it’s some mix. I think it’s just about regimenting a bit of time to let yourself wander.

TrunkSpace: You perform under the name DoublePlusGood. What inspired you to take that name as opposed to performing under your own name?
Carlson: I think when I first started writing and recording I wasn’t playing out as much, it was more of a production project, beats and the like, and it made more sense to use a name other than my own. Over time though it’s kinda grown into more of a songwriting project, but I like having a moniker.

TrunkSpace: You’re based in Portland, a city filled with creative people. Does that creative environment feed your own creativity?
Carlson: Most definitely. There’s no way it can’t. Most of my peers make art or music in some capacity.

TrunkSpace: What is your earliest memory of writing in a creative format and how long did it take for that skill set to find music as an outlet?
Carlson: I’ve been writing music since I was in high school. Started with sorta open sourced electronic software and morphing into something less abstract into something more writing-oriented. I think I remember writing for years, but finally finding a voice in college that I felt comfortable performing out with.

TrunkSpace: So that’s when you discovered your songwriter’s voice?
Carlson: College was when I think I was more of a songwriter at heart. I had been studying electronic composition at the University of Oregon, and while I found the process really exciting and groundbreaking, I started feeling like I was more of a pop singer at heart. It was kind of like defining yourself by differences, saying, “This is really amazing, but not what I want to be doing.”

TrunkSpace: What is your favorite part of DoublePlusGood beyond the songwriting and performing? Is it making videos? Is it marketing your music? What is it that excites you beyond the main focus itself?
Carlson: I think it’s towards the end of a writing cycle when you kinda look back and see the work for what it is, and get a little perspective, and you’re able to actually see the common thread between all the writing and production. From there it’s fun to then conceptualize the whole package, the videos that’ll accompany the music, the album artwork, etc. That’s when magic starts to happen. I had one record where I worked with a few artists on graphic design, videos, etc., and for some reason everyone used skeletons in the imagery, without any direction from me to do so. It was kinda magical to just see that so many people picked up some common imagery independent of one another from the album. I loved it!

TrunkSpace: Where are you the hardest on yourself when it comes to your music?
Carlson: I think often while songwriting I hit a wall when I’ve worked on one idea so hard and nothing is coming of it. Sometimes I forget to walk when an idea is taking too long and revisit it with fresh eyes/ears. Sometimes I’m able to flesh out something or just tell myself it’s not worth stressing and start something new. Sometimes that process can just give me a ton of anxiety and self doubt if I don’t remember to step away, that’s probably when I’m most self-critical.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from DoublePlusGood for the rest of 2017?
Carlson: I’m working on a special collaboration with my friends in Small Million, who are an amazing band. When I’m back from tour, I’m going to start recording a few demos to try and put out the follow-up EP to “Like A Fire” sometime in 2018, and then I just want to keep playing a bunch. Lots of fun stuff in the future!

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Wingman Wednesday

Aleks Paunovic

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Just so we’re clear, TrunkSpace is not monkeying around with this interview.

And yes, while that was a terrible pun to lead into our chat with Aleks Paunovic of the upcoming “War for the Planet of the Apes,” we’re not going to apologize, and here’s why. As unfunny as it was, it actually applies. Paunovic is deadly serious about his craft, and even more so, he’s passionate about the work, right down to his memorable guest spot on the series “Supernatural.” The excitement he absorbs from playing his various roles, including that of Julius the vampire in Syfy’s “Van Helsing,” is apparent in every aspect of his delivery. This is a man who genuinely loves his job and is grateful for every opportunity he receives, which is a breath of fresh air in a world where it seems so many take so much for granted.

We recently sat down with Paunovic to discuss season 2 of “Van Helsing,” how he’d like to share even more, and how playing a primate means playing human.

TrunkSpace: We have to start with something that is a big guilty pleasure of ours here, which is “Supernatural.”
Paunovic: That’s awesome!

TrunkSpace: You guested as Gunner Lawless in “Beyond the Mat,” one of the more memorable episodes from last season and we’re curious if getting a small taste of that universe has opened you up to the very passionate fanbase?
Paunovic: Well, I was in two more episodes before that as two completely different characters.

TrunkSpace: That’s right. You actually played one of the skinwalkers in one episode, right?
Paunovic: Yeah! And it opened me up in that realm because the fans are so on point that it was surprising to me because I started getting people noticing me or contacting me and doing that whole thing because I was a part of the show. But then, Gunner Lawless and that wrestling episode, to me, was just a gift for a role. And everybody that’s a part of that show just embraced me with taking on such a great role. I got to learn the wrestling aspect of it and it was just a blast, man.

TrunkSpace: What’s so great about that series is that it’s sort of a hybrid of comedy and drama. When they do the comedy it’s gold and when they do the drama it’s heartfelt and that “Beyond the Mat” episode is a perfect example of that.
Paunovic: Yeah. I totally agree. I just love what they do with that show. There’s a reason why it’s going 12 years. I just love how they mix the drama and the emotionality with the humor of it. I just love how they make that work and not a lot of shows do that. So again, I was really blessed to be a part of that.

TrunkSpace: Going from a series that is often about vampires in “Supernatural” to a series where you play one in “Van Helsing,” from an actors perspective, we have to imagine that playing in that science fiction/genre sandbox must be a load of fun because you really get to step out of reality for a little bit.
Paunovic: That’s right on point. That’s exactly it. You nailed it. For me, it’s such a blast because you literally get to… when you’re a kid you play Cowboys and Indians or you play whatever your imagination can take you to. I’m kind of still doing it, so it’s kind of fun that I can jump into a show like “Van Helsing” and really kind of explore the “what ifs” and really drop it down into a reality based type of thing, even though it’s fantastical.

TrunkSpace: You’ll be returning as Julius in season 2 of “Van Helsing,” but do you have any idea where his arc will take you?
Paunovic: We’re in the middle of shooting it right now and all I can say is that I’m over the moon with the arc that has happened with my character. And even the show… the first year you kind of hope that fans connect to it, but as a well oiled machine, especially with Neil LaBute at the helm, we’re really gearing into season 2 and it’s feeling amazing. I cannot wait for people to see where Julius has gone.

TrunkSpace: In a time of leaks and spoilers, we understand why NDAs exist, but at the same time, it must be difficult to not be able to discuss something like that when you’re so excited about the work.
Paunovic: Dude, I’m busting at the seams. I’m rocking my mind about how much I want to talk about it or Tweet about it or Instagram about it because, no joke, when you see this season and what my character is going through, you’ll go, “How did he keep that in?” But for me, I get the surprise aspect of it and I’m really looking forward to the surprise and for people to kind of get blown away with a lot of the things that are happening with Julius. Yeah… I’m busting at the seams, man. I cannot wait for people to see this season.

TrunkSpace: Something else we’d imagine you’re pretty excited for people to see is “War for the Planet of the Apes.” When you landed that role, what was your initial thought with getting a part in such a storied franchise?
Paunovic: Well, it was a little trippy because, like you said, it’s such a storied franchise. I saved my audition side because I thought that was it. I was just celebrating the fact that I got an audition for it. I never thought that it would go anywhere further. To me, it was just like, “I got an audition for ‘Planet of the Apes.’ That’s awesome!” And end of story. That was it for me. And then it grew into about five auditions until I finally got the role and I was still shaking my head at it. And then going to work and… it’s next level.

Matt Reeves who directed it and Andy Serkis, who was phenomenal… Andy was an extension of Matt Reeves and them working on this project together was just a joy to be around. Being a part of it, again, is next level.

TrunkSpace: The last film in the franchise is, although fantastical, so grounded in reality. And the trailer for “War for the Planet of the Apes” seems to carry that torch forward while also playing off as very intense. It seems like a crazy ride.
Paunovic: It is. Honestly, the mood on set was never like the fantastical aspect of playing primates and playing apes. It was literally like, we’re telling a story and this is the story we’re telling in the most real sense. So there was no feeling of it being not in reality. That was the cool thing, especially with Andy. Andy took it all very seriously and helped everyone along with it. So, the new characters that were introduced… we got to basically be guided by Andy/Caesar, but the last thing we ever thought was that it wasn’t reality. That was the cool thing.

TrunkSpace: So in playing Winter, did a lot of it rely on the physicality aspect of playing a gorilla?
Paunovic: It’s interesting. You would think, and even when I was going to the auditions you would think, but the bottom line was the acting. It was the emotionality of the character and the story that these characters were telling. Each character has their own story and you cannot get away with… like, for instance… it’s emotionality and telling the story first, primate second. That’s just how it came down. When we first started, it was all about sitting and being vulnerable and open with the story that we were going to tell before we actually got up and did any physicality as a primate. Matt Reeves and Terry Notary were big believers in that it’s about story first and then everything else falls into it afterward.

TrunkSpace: Well, the key is that as an audience you stop seeing them as primates and start seeing them as characters, which was more than successful with “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes.”
Paunovic: Yeah. And that’s all Matt Reeves. Matt, Terry, and Andy… those three really helped everyone dive in. The last thing that we did was wanted to be apes. Everything first was story, so we got really lucky.

TrunkSpace: So it sounds like it’s more of a drama than an action tentpole?
Paunovic: Totally. Absolutely. Absolutely!

TrunkSpace: So with a movie of this size there’s obviously a lot of marketing materials and merchandising. Are we going to see Winter represented in any sort of cool merchandise and does it kind of blow your mind to see that kind of stuff?
Paunovic: You know what? You’re the first person to actually mention it to me and I just went, “Oh my God that’s right. I could actually be an action figure.” That just kind of blows me away. That would be cool.

TrunkSpace: I addition to your acting career, you have also been producing, particularly with one film that caught our attention called “Puppet Killer.” What is it that drew you to the producing side of the business?
Paunovic: One of the reasons why I love the producing aspect of the business, and I really got serious about it with a film called “Numb” that I was a part of, it’s the connection and relationships and troubleshooting on set that I really took pride in. Taking charge and jamming with the other producers and director and figuring out ways that we can make this work and make that work and help the story. I absolutely loved it. So when I had the opportunity to do that with “Puppet Killer,” which is a film coming out that happened to just be super fun… and Richard Harmon who is in “The 100” is a part of it also. We just had a blast shooting it and the producer role was basically one of those things where I just wanted to take on a little bit more responsibility and help the film along. I can’t wait for it to come out.

TrunkSpace: So is producing something you want to continue to pursue in your career?
Paunovic: Absolutely. I do love being a part of something more than just getting hired as an actor, do my thing, say bye to everyone, and then I’m out. I love the aspect of the long haul and being a part of it and building those relationships. Going through those trials and tribulations of making a film or a series and kind of everyone standing tall and believing what they put down. For the film “Numb” that I did, that was like four years before we actually went to camera. Almost five years before we went to camera. So that journey when we actually did go to camera and then we wrapped the last day… that was just way more emotional and rewarding than anything else where I just jumped in as an actor, so yeah, I’d like to do more.

War for the Planet of the Apes” arrives in theaters July 14, 2017.

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Wingman Wednesday

Mateus Ward

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Mateus Ward is an old soul. Although only 18, the California native speaks like someone who has spent a lifetime working in every facet of the film and television industry. Even more impressive, as an actor, he delivers a performance that reaches well beyond his biological age. For proof, look no further than his latest film “The Meanest Man in Texas,” where as the title character Clyde Thompson, Ward plays both a young man and then that same man at age 43. It’s an opportunity that most teenage actors could never imagine.

We recently sat down with Ward to discuss his interest in darker characters, finding humanity in the meanest man, and how he hopes the film will change the way people look at casting actors.

TrunkSpace: A lot of times when actors are starting out, particularly at a young age, they’re doing lighter material, but you seem to be pulled towards heavy, dramatic projects. As an actor, is that the kind of material that you’re drawn to?
Ward: Yeah, I would say that’s definitely something that, me personally, I’m very interested in. It’s usually the darker characters that are the more interesting and fun to play. I’m always down for a challenge and I think that’s what I’ve tried to do with my career so far, is take roles that just scare the heck out of me.

TrunkSpace: Well, and speaking of that, your character in “The Meanest Man in Texas” has so many layers and would scare the heck out of a lot of actors, particularly at your age. What was the process like in terms of inhabiting Clyde and just the idea of carrying the film as he is in fact the title character?
Ward: I had the greatest cast surrounding me, so… on one hand I was nervous about it, but when you’ve got a group that fantastic, it’s kind of hard to be nervous about it. I think character wise, one of the things that I had to do was that I had to find out who this guy really was aside from what society had branded him as. It’s based on a true story so I had the ability to talk to Clyde’s daughter, which was incredible because I just, you know, asked her to talk about her dad. It’s kind of beautiful to find out who your character is by what they leave behind in the planet.

TrunkSpace: And that must instantly put a human spin on the character in talking with his daughter because very few people know a person like a child will, especially the tender side of that person.
Ward: Right. It was absolutely surreal and she was so helpful with everything.

When it comes to the work that I did for the character, I’d say a lot of the character work was easy to find in the script. I think it was Anthony Hopkins who said, “A good character looks at the script and everything he needs will be in there.” So, for me, I realized that he wasn’t actually the meanest man in Texas. What I wanted to portray was a character who was dealt this horrible hand and basically became what society viewed him as. So, when it comes down to it, Clyde is actually a really nice guy considering. So, I think that was some of my work… staying away from the stereotypical portrayal of a badass or a Clint Eastwood type and getting away from those mean faces and finding a charming side of Clyde to where the audience can root for him, because he was a charming guy.

TrunkSpace: From an outside perspective this seems like the type of movie and the type of performance that could very well be a career changer for an actor. Did it have that feeling going in and now that it’s circulating, have you seen it have an effect on your career?
Ward: When I looked at this role and the span age wise… well, like I said, I like to take a challenge. You never go into something, at least if you’re in this for the right reasons, you never go into something looking specifically for that praise and a sort of “where’s it going to take me next.” But there was always that little hint of something fun with Clyde that was just something no actor my age should really been given the opportunity to tackle.

TrunkSpace: And that’s one of the first things that pops into your head… that Clyde seems like the kind of role that most producers would put in the hands of a more experienced actor, if for no other reason, to hedge their bets on the financial aspects of the film.
Ward: It was definitely an opportunity and I’m glad that the producers believed in me enough to take it there because it’s not something you see every day, so it’s a big risk to take to cast, at the time, a 17 year old to play all the way to 43. I saw that as probably the biggest challenge. I’d definitely say that it was the biggest challenge that I ever faced physically. With every stage of his life he has a different physicality and posture and that was something that I had to explore and it was something that I loved to explore. I’ve always looked older and I’ve been lucky to get the parts that I have, but recently it’s been difficult because of my age, so to play this part where age was not an issue… where I was playing a character for who he was and I have a naturally deep voice and I can play that… I was just absolutely grateful that I got the opportunity at this point in my career to already to do something like that. I was in love with it and I was absolutely grateful.

TrunkSpace: What’s interesting is that this one film ends up being a great reel for you as well because it shows so many different sides of your acting chops.
Ward: It definitely has so many elements. There’s a point where he’s in this morgue and he’s basically reduced to this animal state where he’s thrown into solitary confinement and he grows his beard out and his hair and he’s just relying on instincts of survival. There’s also that innocent young kid. There’s the older man with years and years of experience behind him. There’s that young, strapping sort of Clint Eastwood or Indiana Jones type where he’s this troublemaker. I saw that and I was like, “This is every actor’s dream.” It sort of stumbled upon me and I was absolutely floored.

TrunkSpace: Was there a moment during the shoot, playing all of these various stages in Clyde’s life, where you were surprised that you were able to tap into a particular emotion or delivery as an actor? Were you able to get to a place that you didn’t expect?
Ward: I definitely feel like I surprised myself with this. I would say that the most surprising aspect was the aging process. Because it was a low budget, we didn’t have much makeup. We had an amazing makeup artist who did the best with what we were dealt. As an actor, I wasn’t as worried about it. I was honestly more worried about playing the younger versions of him. (Laughter) Because I naturally gravitate towards those older souls. But, the physicality was something that surprised me. That was something that I saw and it convinced people, which was something that I was nervous about. I knew this was an amazing script and I knew that I could pull off most of the stuff in the script and we had a phenomenal cast, but when it gets to the point where I’ve got grey hairs, are people going to believe it? So that was something that surprised me. And it sort of surprised me about the actors as well because the woman who played Julia, Alexandra Bard, is this gorgeous actress and she plays this cast out and in the beginning is very homely and grows into her beauty, but it was just something that the whole cast and crew were surprised by the fact that once all of the actors were out of makeup, they were not the same people. It’s sort of something, from an industry point of view, I hope it has an impact on the idea of casting and not so much casting on looks and casting on the age per say, but casting the best actors for the role. I think that’s something, because this was a low budget, it was all kind of… us taking risks and chances. We got the ability to do that and from the reactions of people who have seen the film, it seems like it worked. I’m curious to see if this will change a lot of people’s minds on what actors can do.

TrunkSpace: You speak like someone who knows the industry inside and out. You seem destined for a career as a producer. Is that something that you’re interested in?
Ward: (Laughter) Well, when I was little, I remember I went to career days where everyone dressed up as what they wanted to be. In a room of astronauts and ballerinas, I had a pretend Hollywood slate and a hat that said director. So, I think that’s something that I always wanted to do. Acting is for sure my passion. Right now it’s where I see the world, but I’ve always seen the world through the lens of a camera. It’s always been where the world sort of made sense. So yeah, producing and directing has always been a dream of mine.

I always like to say, if you’re not getting work, make your own work! (Laughter)

 

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Death Bugs

Death Bugs #1

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Death Bugs
Issue 1
A “pest” of a series by Dustin Evans.

A chef, fresh out of prison, is a small town’s only hope for survival when a swarm of Death Bugs begins infesting humans, animals, and even the dead!

Come back soon for more from Dustin Evans’ Death Bugs!

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Wingman Wednesday

David Haydn-Jones

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There are thousands of working actors. Many of them are good. Some of them are great. A few of them can steal a scene in a way that elevates a project and increases the interest factor for an existing fanbase of a particular series or film.

David Haydn-Jones is that rare actor. When he was introduced as the mysterious Arthur Ketch of the British Men of Letters in season 12 of “Supernatural,” many fans of the show were left wondering (and hoping) if the character would be sticking around beyond a short guest stint. Thankfully, not only did Mr. Ketch play a strong role in the season’s throughline story, but his character, in large part to Haydn-Jones’ portrayal, has become more and more dynamic as the season has gone on.

While the fate of Arthur Ketch beyond season 12 has yet to be revealed, one thing is certain. David Haydn-Jones is an actor worthy of keeping a very close eye on.

Supernatural –“There’s Something About Mary” Pictured (L-R): Samantha Smith as Mary Winchester and David Haydn-Jones as Mr. Ketch Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

We recently sat down with Haydn-Jones to discuss how he tapped into the character, the most electrifying day on set, and his surprising discovery of the extremely loyal “Supernatural” fandom.

TrunkSpace: We just have to say that your career has touched on two of our favorite guilty pleasures… “Supernatural” and holiday movies, so we thank you for that.
Haydn-Jones: (Laughter) Yeah. There’s a big Venn diagram crossover there.

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) From an acting standpoint, it seems like your character Mr. Ketch in “Supernatural” would be pure fun to inhabit and we’re curious what brought you to discovering him from a performance standpoint?
Haydn-Jones: Yeah. Totally. As you say, having lived in Hallmark land, nice guy world… it was really fun to transition into such an interesting character. I can only speak for myself, but I think a lot of actors like to move between eclectic roles, so to just inhabit a guy that was so pimp on the page and just hit all of the trappings of James Bond with the “Supernatural” monster twist, it was just delicious.

And also, I’ll just tell you for a little “Inside Sports,” it was a big mystery to me because they don’t really reveal to you… because they’re so worried about spoilers and they also don’t fully know where the guy is going yet… I was only booked for like three episode originally, so I was kind of unraveling the guy as I went. But what was nice was that some of my early choices really tracked. It was really fun.

TrunkSpace: It’s got to be a crazy ride when you’re playing a character whose full personality isn’t being revealed to you at the time of you diving into him.
Haydn-Jones: Oh yeah. Exactly. I would get a new script and then they would, what’s called “pinning” me for another episode or two in a row. I’d be like, “Oh, good!” And I’d always race to the back of the script and be like, “Is he dead yet?” (Laughter) I would literally jump to like page 62 and be like… Ketch, Ketch, Ketch. And what was nice was that on my PDF viewer… because I would get my first scripts digitally… I would just put “Ketch” in the search field and just go to the last page. I’d be like, “Ketch it winking and sneering and driving off into the distance. Yes! There’s maybe another job coming my way!”

TrunkSpace: Well, the interesting thing about “Supernatural” is that nobody really ever stays dead, so even if Ketch died, you’re never fully out! (Laughter)
Haydn-Jones: Well, fingers crossed. Who knows!

But yeah, I tried to make him with a big mask at the beginning. I called him the butler assassin, this sort of posh, British guy who was trying to be charming and jovial and all that stuff. Because I knew just from story arc and story theory that there was probably going to be unraveling that happened. I didn’t know what it was going to be, but I knew if I sort of played him as that soldier… that trained guy… that would play out well and now we found out that he and Mick were conditioned and brainwashed and probably, one could argue, abused. So, that all tracks nicely as the mask and the poshness sort of starts to get stripped away.

There’s definitely a stripping away of the English gentlemen for sure. Beast mode is beginning.

TrunkSpace: So did the writers give any indication that they always envisioned Ketch playing this larger role in the season from the start?
Haydn-Jones: Honestly, the writers don’t tell us anything until you get the script. There’s a lot of mystery involved and I know why they do it. There’s too many leaks, especially digitally now. Also though, I will say that the actors job is always to do detective work. The actors job is always to fill in the blanks from the cues on the pages. And the writing was all there and if you know story arc and story theory, you can sort of do your detective work. But then also, your job as the actor is to fill in nuance, backstory, and just kind of the choices that you’re making about the history of this guy. That may not necessarily be literally true for the headcanon, but will still play on the day because you’re just going scene to scene. That’s the only way you can really work as an actor, from an improv background anyway. You can’t know too much. You can’t play too much. All you can do is play the information in the scene, so in a way you’ve got to keep it simple and trust that the writers and the producers are taking you on the journey.

Supernatural –“There’s Something About Mary” Pictured: Samantha Smith as Mary Winchester and David Haydn-Jones as Mr. Ketch Photo: Jack Rowand/The CW © 2017 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved

TrunkSpace: During the course of this season, was there a particular scene that you worked within that allowed you to flex the acting muscle and go to places that you didn’t expect with the character?
Haydn-Jones: Yeah. I would say, and this is not a spoiler now because it’s out, the fight scene with Mary (Samantha Smith) was incredibly challenging, very technical, and it was really fun, just as I say, to strip off the English gentleman and get into the beast mode with the guy. Show them that this guy has a really dark, physical underbelly to him. And just the technical things… the planning of a fight like that with throwing people over desks and taking punches and all that sort of stuff… you have to hose it down with all of this coverage. I think the fight lasts maybe a minute or two, the whole scene, but to shoot it was almost seven and a half hours. And you’re physically putting yourself in that position and throwing punches and falling on the ground and snapping your head and all that stuff, so physically it was really taxing. I’ve never done a full, hardcore fight scene in that way. And there’s a part of you that’s like, “Well, I’m fighting with a woman, but she’s supposed to be a badass hunter.” And Sam could not have been more generous and more trusting. We just gave each other hugs and were like, “We’re here for each other.” It was just one of those great days when you’re like, “I have the best dance partner in the world, we have total trust, and we are bringing it physically.” We were being safe but we were also pushing the envelope a little bit with each other. It was just electric. And Richard Speight Jr., he’s such an actor’s director, and he was just there for us and pushing us and yelling at us. That was an electrifying day as an actor.

TrunkSpace: And having Richard involved as a director, somebody who is so familiar with the series and the world itself, it must be very helpful considering how invested he is in “Supernatural” and the characters?
Haydn-Jones: Totally. And also, I would add to that too, he just knows the audience so well being such a cons guy and just knowing the fandom and what the audience loves and wants to see. And by all accounts, the fight really landed with the audience.

TrunkSpace: When you came into “Supernatural” you were stepping into a show that has spent over a decade establishing itself and the tone on set. Yes, it’s an ensemble show and actors come and go, but many of them have been there since the beginning or close to it. Was it intimidating coming into it as essentially the new guy on campus?
Haydn-Jones: So here’s where a little bit of research is good news and where a little bit of ignorance is really good news. (Laughter) I had no idea how worldwide or rabid this fandom was. I knew the show. I respected the show. I had auditioned for the show six times prior in the last 10 years. I knew it was popular and I knew it had carved out this space, but when you’re an actor in Hollywood and you’re just going from job to job to job, you can only do so much research on any given show. You’ve got to get a taste of everything and you sort of move on. So I had no idea about the whole convention thing or the SPN Family. So that was good that I didn’t know that because it’s been a really fun, wonderful discovery for me to enter this universe and sociology, so to speak. It’s been amazing. The other side of it is that Jared and Jensen, no joke, and the whole culture there, is an extremely welcoming family. They gave me hugs, big handshakes, and just, “Where you from, Dave? Who are you? Welcome.” Day one! Like, minute one! And when you have leadership like that, from the top… all the directors and Phil Sgriccia, the executive producer who was my first director. That guy is so in love with his show still, 13 years later, it’s just infectious. And it’s so rare to come to a set like that where 12 or 13 years in, people are still having a blast, still having a laugh, and welcoming their guests into their home with such grace. I think it’s that Texas, southern hospitality. They were just like, “Welcome to the show!” There’s a lot of gratitude on that set.

Photo: David Haydn-Jones, Danica McKellar Credit: Copyright 2016 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Ryan Plummer

TrunkSpace: And you just touched on it, but the way that this show has resonated with its fanbase, to the point that it doesn’t only hit the convention scene but has it’s OWN conventions, it’s just amazing.
Haydn-Jones: Don’t I know it! And I’m booked for two already. The show has allotted me… I already did Fantasy Basel, my first one ever, in Switzerland. And I’m going to one in London and I’m going to Rome next week. So it’s just like, Holy Hannah! It’s exploding in a way that I never could have imagined last summer when I auditioned for the role.

TrunkSpace: As a series it also sort of defies the life cycle of popularity. Shows get big and then the audience fades, but “Supernatural” has and remains this slow burn with an unwavering fanbase.
Haydn-Jones: It’s incredible. It’s really record breaking TV in all metrics. Phil said, other than like “Law & Order,” it’s the only show in this genre that has done this many episodes and this many seasons, so I think it’s in record breaking territory now. And it will continue to be, especially now that it’s gotten renewed for 13 and maybe beyond.

TrunkSpace: Do you hope that playing a character like Mr. Ketch will open the eyes of casting directors and producers in the industry in terms of seeing you in a different light as an actor?
Haydn-Jones: Yeah, I really hope so. I’m definitely going to try to take as many clips from the show as possible and edit something tight together to showcase because it stretched me in so many ways. I’m totally grateful for the wheelhouse that I have, which is sort of the everyman, widowed dad Christmas guy… and those are all great jobs and I love them and that audience too… but when you get something like this, which is rich and meaty and mysterious and you get to wear suits and use grenade launchers and drive Bentleys… the little boy that wants to play James Bond is just like, “Oh yeah! Let me live here for awhile!”

“Supernarual” airs Thursdays at 8 p.m. on The CW.

Featured Photo Credit: Theo and Juliette Los Angeles

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Next Up

Vanessa Calderon

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Name: Vanessa Calderon

Hometown: Madrid, Spain

Current Location: NYC

TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
Calderon: I knew I wanted to act when dancing wasn’t enough for me as an artist. I needed my mind to tell a story, to have a reason, full of emotions and lines to define a character.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Calderon: I remember loving TV shows. I was so inspired by those actors, full of love and making the audience happy by watching them. My lunchtimes, after school, were full of “Roseanne,” “Full House,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel Air.” Will Smith was and is now one of the most amazing actors in comedy and drama.

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?
Calderon: I have followed a plan, especially since I moved here. There is no time to waste, and time is money. I have worked a lot in Spain, I guess it was kind of organic there and I always had jobs. But here I’m auditioning a lot, for great projects now thanks to my manager in LA, so I’m very happy. It’s happening.

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
Calderon: I moved away from home to study as a dancer and actress when I was 17. And since that moment I’ve been away working and training so I could be the best.

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?
Calderon: Moving away from home, it’s always been something related to my job. Artists start an early career and they never stop. That was my case… I’ve always been traveling and I love my life. I have friends everywhere I go, supportive and loving people who make my life easier. And a very supportive family.

TrunkSpace: What has been been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
Calderon: I starred in a film that took me to the Malaga Film Festival and its red carpet. It’s a very important film festival in Spain and I got interviews everywhere; magazines, newspapers, red carpet… it was a magical day. Here I have now a few projects that obviously I can’t talk about them, but I’m sure one of them will help me with the next big step.

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?
Calderon: I feel at home in drama… deep, intense characters. I do love comedy and I have a great time when I also work in comedy, but drama is my biggest interest.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
Calderon: The greatest strength in an actor/actress is their self esteem. A strong, loving personality. An actor who knows the industry and feels comfortable with the rejections, and keeps going to the next opportunity full of energy, confidence and having fun. That’s the one who gets the job.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
Calderon: My ultimate dream in my career path as an actress is to achieve a Golden Palm in Cannes because of my work in a great indie… a raw and intense movie. My future is to direct my own projects about women. And I know I will.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
Calderon: To pursue their dream, and always, follow your gut. And be prepared when the opportunity comes.

TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
Calderon: At my website where I have all my work as an actress.
www.vanessa-calderon.com
And the production company that has produced some of the films I’ve worked on in the past, as well as those I will work on in the future. Follow their upcoming projects!
www.nomada-films.com

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Musical Mondaze

Chelsea Shag

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She’s got a unique sound, a badass rock name, and she can shred on a guitar in ways that will leave many professional string strummers jealous. Atlanta’s Chelsea Shag is quickly building a name for herself, and with her recent single “One Kiss” serving as a preview of her 2017 album to come, you’re going to hope that there’s more kisses like that on the horizon.

We recently sat down with Shag to discuss her upcoming album, her personal brand, and her dream to rock out in front of large crowds.

TrunkSpace: The new album is due out this fall. Are you currently still laying down tracks?
Shag: Yeah. We’re about to get the studio ready for me to come in and kind of knock it all out at once. Right now we’ve got four songs about 90 percent done and we’re planning around a 13 song album. That’s what I’m hoping for.

TrunkSpace: You recently released the first single, “One Kiss” off of the album. Will you continue to release material leading up to the album dropping?
Shag: Yeah. Definitely. We’re planning on a few singles coming out during the year and videos with those singles.

TrunkSpace: It does seem like the industry has sort of turned back to the dawn of commercial music with the way artists release single these days.
Shag: Yeah. It’s really cool. You can really build up some anticipation and tension that way.

TrunkSpace: So what were your creative goals when you sat down to put this album together? Was there a theme in mind?
Shag: Not necessarily a theme. My overall theme is usually about love or kind of discovering who you are, but a lot of these songs are actually… some of them… the first songs I ever wrote but I never recorded, but that I really connect with and that I loved. They’re pretty bluesy and jazzy in a sense. I always wanted to get them out and I feel like it’s a perfect time to bring them out. I hadn’t revisited them for years.

TrunkSpace: Knowing that they were some of the first songs you had ever written, did you go in and do any tweaking or updating?
Shag: Actually, no. They’re very simplistic blues songs and I also imagine them just being me and my guitar when recording. Actually, “One Kiss” was one of those songs that I brought back and we definitely repolished it and brought it back to life. So, they needed a little repolishing, but overall I think they just needed to stay simple.

TrunkSpace: From a lyric/subject matter standpoint, do you find yourself writing differently now than you did in those early stages of songwriting? Has your inspiration changed?
Shag: Yeah. Definitely. I actually just wrote a song the other day and it was the most different way I’ve done it. It was more of a story than an experiences, so yeah, it’s definitely changed over time and I’m excited to keep writing to see where it takes me.

TrunkSpace: Does your songwriting process start out on the guitar?
Shag: Actually it always changes. Sometimes it’s on guitar. Most of the times it starts on the guitar, but usually I’ll just be driving and I get a melody in my head and I’ll start singing gibberish and record it and go back to it and see what inspires me to write. And then I’ll pick up my guitar. Or it will start with a beat in my head or a rhythm and then melodies will come out and guitars will be last.

TrunkSpace: That’s got to be the blessing and the curse of a songwriter is that you can come up with concepts for songs anywhere and everywhere, but you also must forget them because you’re coming up with them anywhere and everywhere. Do you lose a lot of initial concepts that way?
Shag: Actually, I usually don’t because I always jump up and go to my phone and hit record. But, I found lately that when I’m going to bed, a melody will pop into my head and I’ll be like, “I’ve got to remember that tomorrow.” And then I never remember it and I’m like, “Crap, I should have recorded that.” (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: That does have to be an added bonus of the cell phone age in that you can record stuff easily now.
Shag: Yeah. It’s nice.

TrunkSpace: Stepping away from the creative focus of the album, what are your business goals?
Shag: Nowadays it seems that the way to grow fast is with a video going viral or songs going viral and then your album kind of hits with people. That would be amazing to have one of my songs go viral and then people kind of catch on to my name. I really just want to play big shows. I want to tour the world. I would love that and I would love great record sales, but it’s just kind of hard nowadays to know what’s going to happen because the music industry is so saturated.

This whole business side is very confusing for me. I kind of leave it up to my business-minded people to do it for me. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: It does seem like it changes constantly as well. The way you market yourself, especially with social media, is like a living thing because new platforms come out and then it’s important to be on those platforms as well.
Shag: Yeah. Social media stuff… I’m like, “Ugh!” If I had my way, I wish people could just see me and hear me through my records and my music videos and stuff. But, you know how it bees! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: It’s always fascinating when a guitarist has a specific sound. You hear one chord and you’re like, “That’s so and so!” We feel like you have that, which is a rarity. It also seems like that it’s a guitar play that will translate to the big amphitheaters, which is something you just mentioned… wanting to play big shows.
Shag: Aww! Thanks, man! Yeah. That’s the goal. Eventually. Every show that I’ve been playing recently has been more fun and I can’t wait to play for more people and for people who sing my songs back at me. That’s the goal.

TrunkSpace: You talked about leaving the business side of things to your team, but when it comes to your branding, is that something that you spend time with?
Shag: Absolutely. I’m always kind of creating and always changing… the things I like to wear, the style of music I’m listening to… it’s all very much evolving. I have a lot of freedom with my art with my label and everything, so they kind of let me be myself. It just kind of comes to me as I go along. Each photo shoot that happens or each song that comes out, I’m like, “Ooh, I wonder what kind of sounds going to come out next.” It’s always fun for me because it’s always changing.

TrunkSpace: We love that you have the Shag Swag button on your site. That’s some killer branding right there!
Shag: (Laughter) Thanks!

TrunkSpace: You’re located in Atlanta, GA. As you look forward in life, do you think you can stay based there and still accomplish all of the various career goals you have for yourself?
Shag: Yeah, I think it’s possible. As long as I’m traveling and getting my shows in, I think having a steady home here is very much doable. There’s a lot of great music professionals here. If I had my way… I always have this dream of, “Oh, New York City would be great” or, “Oh, California.” I just don’t know though because I’ve never lived there. We’ll see where this journey takes me, but if I can have a home here… I have my family here… I’d be happy to stay here for awhile.

TrunkSpace: Well, and there’s something to be said about establishing yourself in a smaller city and then branching out. New York and LA… they’re both crazy competitive scenes simply because there’s so many more people trying to achieve the same thing.
Shag: Exactly. And that’s what my team has been saying… grow a name here in Atlanta and kind of just buckle down here. That way it will be easier when I have my name out more to go to other cities and to grow from there. I won’t be so small in the other cities then. That’s the goal!

TrunkSpace: We mentioned that we thought you had a unique guitar play sound that was your own. At what point in your journey did you discover your musical voice?
Shag: Well, I remember at age 10 or 11 I was like, “I want to be a rock star.” (Laughter) I don’t know what that means, but I wanted to play guitar and I wanted to rock. So over time I’d go to music camp, I’d take lessons, and I’d listen to my favorite artists and just try to hone in on their sound. I knew I always wanted to do music. I don’t know exactly when I found my sound. I’m still discovering my sound. I feel like that’s a lifelong journey.

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Opening Act

The Gloomies

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Artist/Band: The Gloomies

Members: Andy Craig and Chris Trombley

Website: thegloomiesband.com,

Hometown: Southern California

Latest Album/Release: Blackout EP

Influences: Chet Baker

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your music?
Craig: Dirt jazz. Kidding. I have no idea.

TrunkSpace: “Blackout” came out a little over a year ago. What does the band have cooking as far as new material and how does the sound differ from what we heard on that previous EP?
Craig: We just finished up recording new music for an LP coming out later this year. I would say the sound of it is less garage. That EP was recorded in a live setting, a lot different from how our first single was recorded. We were just trying to get something out quick, so I think it came out sounding a lot different than I had originally imagined.

TrunkSpace: In your opinion, does the town, city, or region a band is from have a big influence on the music and if so, how have your roots played a part in The Gloomies sound?
Craig: I am sure it has some influence on the music, however, I think the head space you are in while making the songs probably has the most significant impact.

TrunkSpace: When a band is setting out to establish a fanbase, is it important to cast the net wide or to focus locally first and build out from there?
Craig: I think building up a fanbase locally can be beneficial, but it’s more just about getting the music out to as many people as possible, whether that be through the internet or playing shows.

TrunkSpace: How important is creating music in your life? Could you remove it from your life entirely and still be happy?
Craig: Creating music is the drive that keeps us motivated to move forward. I am sure I could be happy without music, but if that was what I wanted I would have done it a long time ago.

TrunkSpace: Music has the power to jump start emotions. What emotion do you think best represents The Gloomies music and why?
Craig: Summer in the rain. (Laughter) If that could be an emotion. To be honest, I don’t really know. I think it’s hard to describe an emotion because it varies depending on what is going on in your life at the time.

TrunkSpace: Music also has the power to bring us back to a particular time in our lives. It attaches itself to memories. What is the most powerful memory you have in creating and writing The Gloomies music?
Craig: I think the most powerful memory just brings me back to living in New York. Both Chris and I had been living their before moving back out to California. New York was where I had started working on some of the earliest Gloomies’ songs, and it still feels like home to me.

TrunkSpace: How important is branding and marketing music in a day and age where everyone is at least semi-knowledgeable with how to do it on the internet and with social media?
Craig: Very important. Branding and marketing your band is the only way to try and get people to pay attention. There are so many talented bands, and there are far more factors involved in musical success than just making good music. I think it is important to find the right place for your band or music to fit into that equation. Wish I was better at it.

TrunkSpace: If you had the choice to open for anybody on a massive, multi-city tour, who would it be and why?
Craig: King Krule, The Growlers, BADBADNOTGOOD.

TrunkSpace: What is the biggest life lesson you learned by pursuing a career in music?
Craig: Only do it if you really love the process of making music. There is nothing guaranteed in music.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from The Gloomies in 2017?
Craig: We are currently mixing our first LP right now. New music and lots more shows to come in 2017!

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Between The Sheets

Jeff Kinney

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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 “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” creator/author Jeff Kinney to discuss his ideal working conditions, Uncle Scrooge, and the best joke he’s ever written.

TrunkSpace: Is writing a labor of love for you or does it feel more like labor? Do you enjoy the process?
Kinney: I’m not sure I know the answer to that. Writing is always difficult for me because the amount of time I have for writing is always short… just a month to finish a 217-page manuscript. If I had more time, I might say I enjoyed it!

TrunkSpace: And what does that process look like? What are the ideal conditions for putting in a good day of writing?
Kinney: I work in an almost-empty house. I have a laptop, a small glass table, and a metal chair. I like to keep it bare bones. An ideal day is a day when the ideas flow… but I’m never sure exactly how that happens.

TrunkSpace: Do you self-edit as you write?
Kinney: I do. I read and re-read and re-read my words as I go on the early pages. But eventually, the writing catches fire, and I don’t look back.

TrunkSpace: Where are you the hardest on yourself as a writer?
Kinney: I feel like I have an obligation to my readership to write the best comedy I can, so I beat myself up quite a bit.

TrunkSpace: In a lot of ways, writing seems like a young person’s game. Or, a retired person’s game. All of those points between the two get filled with family, kids, and general life chaos. Has finding the time and proper creative head space gotten more difficult the older you get?
Kinney: I think it’s stayed pretty consistent. It’s always hard for me. I started writing these books before I was married. Now I have two kids, one of whom is taller than me. Writing has remained a challenge throughout.

TrunkSpace: Some of your favorite reading growing up involved diving into your father’s comic book collection. How do you think reading comics shaped your creative approach?
Kinney: I learned that great storytelling, and even great literature, can be done in comic form. My favorite stories to this day are the ones written by Carl Barks, who wrote Donald Duck and Uncle Scrooge comics in the 1940s-60s.

TrunkSpace: Your father was a collector. That collector gene seems to get passed down. Do you collect anything?
Kinney: I’m not much of a collector, but I do own a 500-pound Uncle Scrooge statue.

TrunkSpace: You were also a big fan of fantasy books. What was it about that particular escapism that you enjoyed escaping to?
Kinney: I first felt like I got transported to another world when I read “The Hobbit.” The last time I felt that was with the first “Harry Potter” book. Books, as they say, are magic.

TrunkSpace: Do you think adults are too nostalgic about books they read as kids? Are we emotionally tied to books that we read decades ago that perhaps, in truth, were never really that good? For example, one us here bought a book he had loved as a kid for his own kid, only to be disappointed when he read it back to him today.
Kinney: Yes, I think we have happy memories of our favorite books, but some books age better than others. I’ve had the same experience you’ve had. Wonder if it was the same book!

TrunkSpace: We read a quote from you somewhere that said, “I will sacrifice a good story for a good joke anytime.” With that in mind, what’s the best joke you’ve ever written?
Kinney: It probably involved Fregley handing Greg a piece of paper with a booger on it.

TrunkSpace: Laughter seems like a difficult reaction to bring about based on the written word alone. Is comedy the most difficult genre to pull off in book form?
Kinney: I think it would be hard for me to deliver laughs without pictures. I use them as a crutch. I like the rhythm of setting up a joke in text, then paying it off with an image.

TrunkSpace: You never set out to write “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” for kids. Is it still a surprise that it has resonated with so many of them?
Kinney: I worked on Wimpy Kid for eight years with an adult audience in mind. I thought the book would sit in the Humor section of the bookstore. I had never considered that there was a Middle Grade section. So I became a children’s author on accident. My publisher told me I hadn’t written one big fat book for adults, but a whole series for kids.

TrunkSpace: Writers get pigeonholed just like actors and musicians. Does it ever feel like the success of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” has placed you in a particular box?
Kinney: I like being in the Wimpy Kid box. Childhood is a big universe, and that’s the universe I’m playing in. So if this is the only thing I ever do, I’ll be satisfied with that.

TrunkSpace: The success of the brand has gone beyond just books themselves. As the profile of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” continued to grow, did people try to influence your writing/books? Did it feel like those on the outside were trying to have a hand in the one aspect that you had entire creative control over?
Kinney: Thankfully, I control everything in between the covers of the book. That’s what’s wonderful about being an author… you have dominion over the contents of your creation. The further you get from the book, the less control you have. But that comes with the territory.

TrunkSpace: What has been the biggest “pinch me” moment from the time “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” found a home to where you are today in your career?
Kinney: I’ve got pictures of the Pope holding the first copy of the Latin version of the book. That was a double whammy for me.

TrunkSpace: Writing can be a solitary, emotionally-draining endeavor. What’s the longest span of time that you have taken to step away from writing to refuel the creative tank?
Kinney: I got on this train about ten years ago and haven’t gotten off. Hopefully I can ride it for another ten years or so. I like having this job. Even if I didn’t get paid, it would be a privilege to do it.

TrunkSpace: What are you working on now and what will people be able to read next?
Kinney: I’m working on the 12th Wimpy Kid book. Out in November!

“Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Getaway” is due November 2017.

“The Wimpy Kid Movie Diary: The Next Chapter” is available May 9, 20017.

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