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November 2017

Trunk Bubbles

Robert Hack

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Name: Robert Hack

Website: Instagram here. Twitter here. Facebook here.

Favorite Comic Book Character Growing Up: Bat-Mite

Favorite Comic Book Character Now: Ms. Tree

Latest Work: “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” #8 came out a few months ago from Archie Comics, and my covers for “Shadow/Batman” (Dynamite), “Puppet Master” (Action Lab), “Jughead: The Hunger” (Archie Comics) and “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Season 2” (Archie Comics) have all come out in the last month-ish.


TrunkSpace
: How would you describe your art style?
Hack: Pulpy, I guess. Equally vintage and modern.

TrunkSpace: How important were comic books in your life growing up and is that where you discovered your love and inspiration for drawing?
Hack: Oh, completely. My brother, Brian, is a few years older than me and he was a massive comics fan and handed that down to me. He’s an artist (and has since gone on to be a Professor of Art History) and there were always cartooning and Artist’s Market books around the house. He taught me about the great comic artists – Kirby, Ditko, C.C. Beck, etc. – before I was ever able to read the comics myself. And our local library had a lot of comic history books like “Crawford’s Encyclopedia of Comics Books,” Jules Feiffer’s “The Great Comic Book Heroes,” and Batman from the 30s to the 70s. So, in the 1980s I had this Golden-Age Comics childhood… which might explain my art style.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular artist or title from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Hack: I loved Kirby. I had a reprint copy of “Captain America” #100 that I reread a thousand times. Likewise, my reprint copy of “Superman” #1. I discovered Alex Toth in middle school and that was a huge revelation.

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career in comics? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Hack: Oh, a plan would have been nice. I probably should have done that.

I didn’t really have a plan to follow. It’s mostly just been a driving desire to make comics and work with the characters and people I dig. Now, I had/have goals. I want to write my own stuff, I want to work with specific people, books and characters, but I have no timetable/set plan.

TrunkSpace: What was your biggest break in terms of a job that opened more doors for you?
Hack: I guess my “Doctor Who” covers for IDW were a pretty big break, and a turning point in my art. Until then, I had never really considered myself a cover artist. For whatever reason, I just never thought it was my strong suit; but that pushed me to try and now it’s a big chunk of what I do and what I’m known for.

TrunkSpace: A lot of people say that breaking into comics is the hardest part of working in comics. How long did it take you before you started to see your comic book dreams become a reality?
Hack: “Breaking in” is a continual process. I was self-publishing comics in high school, and used those as samples to work on a bunch of indie books, and those became samples for the next time I broke in, and that pattern continues for years. It was probably about 10 to 12-ish years of that cycle, of learning and honing and sucking a little bit less every day, that I reached a point where I was working at the bigger publishers.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular character or universe you always find yourself returning to when you’re sketching or doing warm-ups?
Hack: Well, Batman is the go-to doodle for most comic artists, and I’m no different. But when sketching for myself, I usually do sort of pulp/horror/sci-fi inspired stuff. No particular character, just my own thing. I’ve been posting a lot of those doodles to Instagam lately, so if you want to see more of my nonsense, you can find it here.

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific title or character that you’d like to work on in the future and why?
Hack: I’ve got a bunch. Some of my own characters that I want to explore, and some old properties. I’m currently in talks to work on a couple of my favorites, so I can’t really mention those. BUT – a Doctor Who is something I really want to return to. With all of the covers I did at IDW (30+, I think), I never did any interiors. I would love to write/draw a Who story at some point.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your career in comics? Where would you like your path to lead?
Hack: Just continuing to make good comics. I want to write/draw my own stuff, because I have stories I want to tell. But working with great collaborators is part of that goal too. Just working, making cool stuff. That’s the dream.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength as an artist?
Hack: Not quitting. That 10 to 12+ years of trying to break in, I mentioned above? It’s harrowing. It’s a long time and it wears people down.

TrunkSpace: How has technology changed your process of putting ideas/script to page? Do you sue the classic paper/pencil approach at all anymore?
Hack: I draw entirely traditionally. Sabrina and most of my covers are hand painted on illustration board. I may tweak contrast/brightness in Photoshop, but otherwise it’s all paper/pencil for me. But the technology is still invaluable. To scan/prep/letter and upload the art to publishers is the absolute best thing to ever happen to deadlines. We are spared a few shipping days and trips to the post office.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring artist who is considering a career in the comic industry?
Hack: Keep practicing, keep learning, keep going.

TrunkSpace: Making appearances at conventions: Love it, leave it, or a combination of both?
Hack: It is always great to meet fans of the stuff I do. I hate the traveling side of it, but it’s worth it to hang out with fans and friends.

TrunkSpace: What is the craziest/oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to draw as a commission?
Hack: In the early days of eBay, I did commissions by auction. Every single winning bidder wanted some sort of fetish art with their character of choice. Those ranged from topless Catwoman to Superman with a noticeable erection. But none of that is that weird by contrast to the rest of the internet.

TrunkSpace: What else can fans of your work look forward to for the rest of 2017 and into the new year?
Hack: My cover for “Betty and Veronica: Vixens” #1(Archie Comics) comes out on November 15. My cover for “Kong on the Planet of the Apes” #3(Boom!) comes out in December. “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” #9 is being worked on now and will be out early 2018. And I’ve got a bunch of cool stuff lined up for 2018. More covers (on some really unexpected books!) and some side projects that I’ll be doing interiors on. You can find out more by following me on the social media of your choice.

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Wingman Wednesday

Cyrus Arnold

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Photo By: Matt Sayles

TrunkSpace is making a slight alteration to its name for this particular feature. From this moment on until the last punctuation on the page, we will be known as…

TruckSpace.

Those with a goosebumps-inducing affinity for FOX’s “The Exorcist” will know why. As the sweet, affable foster kid David “Truck” Johnson III, Cyrus Arnold brings a shot of lightheartedness to the weekly adrenalin fest – that is, when he’s not serving as a meat suit to a malevolent demon.

We recently sat down with Arnold to discuss his horror cred, why playing Truck will make it easier to tap into future characters, and how he’s looking to branch out beyond acting.

TrunkSpace: Most people probably know you from “Zoolander 2” where you played Derek Jr., son to Ben Stiller’s Derek Zoolander. Tonally, a much different vibe than what you’re currently doing in “The Exorcist.” From a performance standpoint, is there a particular genre you prefer working in and why?
Arnold: Both genres are really fun, and they’re so different, that there really isn’t a genre I prefer over the other. Although I do love to make people laugh.

TrunkSpace: What we love about “The Exorcist” is that it has this really great, throwback feel to it. In a lot of ways, it reminds us of the horror movies we loved to watch when we were your age. Does starring in a show like “The Exorcist” give you some cred with friends just because of the cool factor?
Arnold: That’s really funny. Most of my friends are used to seeing me in a funny way, so they do find it cool that I’m in such a hardcore horror TV series. I still don’t know how much cred I’m getting though!

TrunkSpace: Within the series there’s some great creepy moments and some great scare-out-loud moments. Without spoiling what’s to come, what’s your favorite scare of the season so far?
Arnold: So far, my favorite scare of the season is probably something that happens in Episode 7. It’s pretty horrifying. I don’t want to spoil it, but that entire episode is pretty much one big scare.

TrunkSpace: For those who have yet to catch up with their DVR and the latest season, can you walk us through where your character Truck falls into things and what his journey is?
Arnold: Truck is one of the foster kids at Andy’s home. He has a heart of gold and throughout the early episodes of the season you see that Truck has funny moments with the characters. He has the role of comedy relief. When the Exorcists visit Andy’s home, that’s when the demon tries to find a target and Truck would be the perfect target for the demon because of Truck’s sensitivity. Eventually, the demon takes Truck over and terror ensues. He only wants to be loved.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, what is your favorite thing about the character? What does he allow you to do on-screen that you have yet to have the opportunity?
Arnold: My favorite thing about Truck is his pure innocence and how he means no harm to anyone. I have never played a character yet that is so sweet at heart and it is very interesting to play a character on the spectrum.

THE EXORCIST: Guest star Cyrus Arnold (C) and Li Jun Li (R) in the “Darling Nikki” episode of THE EXORCIST on FOX. ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Serguei Bashlakov/FOX

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular moment or scene from your work on “The Exorcist” that you felt you learned the most from and will apply to your career and acting moving forward?
Arnold: There is a scene in Episode 6 that is very intense. It was interesting to get into that headspace of Truck in that scenario. That was probably the most intense scene I’ve done performance-wise. I think I’ll be able to apply just getting into the right mindset for the characters I portray in the future because of that experience.

TrunkSpace: We read that you hope to one day expand your career to include screenwriting. If you could write a project for yourself today that would get greenlit, filmed, and be seen by millions of people, what kind of character would you write for yourself and why? What kind of person are you itching to play?
Arnold: I would love to play a villain in a movie. Lucky for me, one scene in Episode 5, I kind of got to play a little bit of one. So, now I want more!

TrunkSpace: You grew up in Burbank, so you’ve been surrounded by the entertainment industry your entire life. Do you think being so close to the industry helped shape and cement your interest in being a part of it?
Arnold: I do think being close to the industry helped. Because I was born and live in Burbank, I get the opportunity to audition and to be an actor.

THE EXORCIST: L-R: Alex Barima, John Cho, Cyrus Arnold, Hunter Dillon and Brianna Hildebrand in the “Help Me” episode of THE EXORCIST on FOX. ©2017 Fox Broadcasting Co. Cr: Serguei Bashlakov/FOX

TrunkSpace: If you had an entire day to do nothing but lounge around and binge-watch shows or movies you have yet to see, what would you spend the day watching? What are you looking to dive into and watch that your schedule has kept you from?
Arnold: I’m a geeky kid. I love comics, Star Wars, and all that stuff. So I was going to finish binging “Iron Fist” on Netflix. Oh, I have to watch “The Defenders” too. Dang. Mainly those two shows. I also have to finish watching “The Flash.” My favorite TV show is “The Flash” right now. So yeah, mainly “The Flash.”

TrunkSpace: Finally, Cyrus, if we talk again in 10 years… what do you hope we’ll be talking about? Do you hope it’s more acting roles, a screenwriting career, or something entirely different?
Arnold: I do want to be a screenwriter when I grow up. So, if we meet again in 10 years I hope we’ll talk about a movie or TV show I’ve written. Or maybe even a comic?

“The Exorcist” airs Fridays on FOX.

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Wingman Wednesday

Alexa and Carlos PenaVega

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Photo: Carlos PenaVega, Alexa PenaVega Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Fred Hayes

For all of those who made watching Bing Crosby’s “White Christmas” an annual tradition, the holidays and dancing go as well together as ribbon and wreaths. In the new movie “Enchanted Christmas,” premiering Sunday on Hallmark Channel, real-life couple Alexa and Carlos PenaVega tap into that nearly 65-year-old classic to once again put festive frolicking into the spotlight, and warm the holiday-loving hearts of viewers in the process.

We recently sat down with the PenaVega pairing to discuss how their comfortableness with each other enhanced their onscreen chemistry, why they’d work together on every project if they could, and what makes Hallmark Channel the best in the business.

TrunkSpace: So much of the success of Hallmark Channel holiday films relies on the chemistry of the two leads at the center of the story. Do you feel like you had a leg up on that because of the actual chemistry that exists between the two of you?
Alexa PenaVega: I have to say that Carlos and I are the goofiest, dorkiest public couple out there. (Laughter) But it’s really fun and entertaining to watch, so I think it really does help. There are little quirks that you just can’t write into a script that happen naturally when you’re married, and we were able to add that to the project.

TrunkSpace: From what we’re told, things can move pretty quickly on one of these films – you get the job and you’re shooting before you know it. Again, having the existing relationship must have allowed you to really hit the ground running.
Alexa PenaVega: 100 percent!
Carlos PenaVega: And Hallmark is amazing. Unlike most other projects, they’re really flexible with the script, which really led to Alexa and I…
Alexa PenaVega: We were able to explore.
Carlos PenaVega: It really led to, because of our relationship as a real married couple, bringing things to the screen and to life that you normally probably couldn’t get.

TrunkSpace: How did it all come together? Was one of you cast first and then the other brought in?
Alexa PenaVega: It was actually Hallmark. They knew how much we’d been wanting to shoot a film together, and we actually had a film set up last year, “Destination Wedding,” and unfortunately Carlos’ shooting schedule didn’t allow it so he had to drop out. But, when this one came up, they were like, “We think this is great, the timing is right, and you both will be able to dance.” And I love dancing!

So, they really presented it to us and were really looking for a project for us to do together. And we couldn’t be happier because our goal… if we could make it happen, every project we could do would be together for the rest of our lives.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the dancing side of “Enchanted Christmas,” which seems like a great throwback to classic holiday films like “Whit Christmas,” something we don’t see much of anymore.
Alexa PenaVega: I totally agree. And you know, we shot this in Utah and everybody was so friendly and it blows my mind how much Hallmark movies just nail that Christmas holiday spirit – they have it down. And I think the script was special. Rick Garman did such a good job with it and more than anything, we had a director, Terry Cunningham, who just wanted that chemistry to be right there, up front. He’s like, “Look we have the script, the script is already good, but what you guys can bring to it will just transform it into a very beautiful project.”

This is my favorite Hallmark project that I’ve done thus far.

TrunkSpace: Because of that extra element of dance that was layered into your performance, did you have more time to shoot this than you normally would?
Alexa PenaVega: No, we wish. (Laughter)
Carlos PenaVega: (Laughter) Not really, no. We had about a week of rehearsals in the middle of filming.
Alexa PenaVega: For about eight dances.
Carlos PenaVega: Thankfully the magic of TV…
Alexa PenaVega: Editing!
Carlos PenaVega: You can have different angles that you can edit and it all looks great. (Laughter)

Photo: Carlos PenaVega, Alexa PenaVega Credit: Copyright 2017 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Fred Hayes

TrunkSpace: So in terms of your characters, what did they offer you from a performance standpoint that you have yet to tackle with previous projects?
Carlos PenaVega: Definitely the dancing, for sure.
Alexa PenaVega: Yeah, we never had to put that into a project.
Carlos PenaVega: It was interesting. Alexa and I had never been on sets where… the call sheet is like one, two, three, four… we’d never been the one and two. So as actors, normally the one and two set the tone for the entire production. They’re the ones in every day. So as an actor, it was really interesting coming in, in that position, where it was like, “Hey, you know what, I’m setting the tone with my wife,” which was really cool. She said it to me… “It’s the best experience I ever had working on a project.”
Alexa PenaVega: Yeah. Ever, really.
Carlos PenaVega: It was cool to come in and kind of just, I don’t want to say run the set, but we set the tone from day one.
Alexa PenaVega: We both had experiences where we worked with other people who really… it takes one rotten egg in the bunch to kill the whole vibe on set. So, to be working with my husband… it did not feel like work. We had fun every day.
Carlos PenaVega: She said it in one sentence. I said it in three. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Christmas is for spending time with family and building memories. Here you two are, shooting a Christmas movie as a family and building memories in an entirely different way. It almost sounds poetic.
Carlos PenaVega: Yeah. I like Christmas. Alexa LOVES Christmas! And Hallmark is amazing about families. Ocean was on set every day and the experience of just having him…
Alexa PenaVega: That’s our little boy.
Carlos PenaVega: Just the experience of having our family there and then having a good time… I think yes, that’s gonna to stay with us forever. But what’s amazing about film is that it also lasts forever. We’re always going to be able to go back and watch this. Our kids are going to go back and watch this.
Alexa PenaVega: Yeah, and we also worked with a team that I would love to work with again and again. Terry Cunningham and our producing team, they are incredible. It was unreal. Normally when producers come on set, people are like, “Oh boy, the producer’s here! Here we go!” Ours, her name was Cindy Bond, was so kind and loving to everyone, but also got work done, worked super hard, and nobody had to yell. Nobody ever had to get angry. It was just a pleasant experience for everybody.

They genuinely care. It’s not like these productions where it’s like, “Okay, we’re gonna slap this together and we gotta go.” They genuinely care about the happiness and quality that they’re putting out there and it shows. It really does show.
Carlos PenaVega: We haven’t had the craziest careers for years and years, but we’ve worked for some really big studios and companies, and I will say, Hallmark is my favorite. It’s Alexa’s favorite. They care about their talent. They care about their movies.

Enchanted Christmas” airs Sunday on Hallmark Channel.

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Wingman Wednesday

Mekia Cox

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Once upon a time there lived a television series that brought together viewers both near and far for seven magical seasons. Many imaginative storylines were conceived with characters of whimsical origins. Laughs were had. Tears were shed. A fandom was born.

Mekia Cox joined the cast of the fantastical ABC drama series “Once Upon a Time” in its seventh season. Shifting between a cursed Hyperion Heights reality and the fairytale world, the Saint Croix native portrays both Sabine and Princess Tiana, a character first made famous in the Disney animated feature, “The Princess and the Frog.” As the sword-carrying Tiana, she’s on a mission with Cinderella (Dania Ramirez) to spearhead a resistance, one that aims to defeat Lady Tremaine (Gabrielle Anwar) and reshape the Enchanted Forest, ultimately leading to fans of the series living (hopefully) happily ever after.

We recently sat down with Cox to discuss how she approached bringing an animated character to life, her favorite aspects of Princess Tiana’s personality, and why we could all use a little dose of niceness in our lives.

TrunkSpace: You joined “Once Upon a Time” in its seventh season, but with so many new cast members stepping in at the same time, does that make joining an existing show easier?
Cox: I don’t know if I would say easier. It’s definitely different. In some ways it does feel like it’s a completely new show with a new cast because there are so many newcomers coming in. We’re all sort of in the same place, the ones who are new. However, the people that have been there, it’s nice to have them as well because they sort of know the ropes and they know how this whole thing works. If we ever have any questions about anything, whether it be what we’re doing on set or whether it be about backstory or what we have to look forward to, they’re always there, which is really kind of nice.

I really have enjoyed coming into this world and this set that has already been established, but yet there’s still this sort of renewed feeling of newness that’s happening.

TrunkSpace: It must also be a good feeling coming into a show with such a passionate, built-in fan base. They’ve been going on the journey with these characters for years, and now they’re going on the journey with you and your character Princess Tiana.
Cox: Exactly, which has been really nice. You know, the fans, I feel like as an actor they sort of help you. I’ve gotten some really sweet gifts and some really nice fan mail and it bolsters you up and helps you get through the day, so I enjoy all of that.

TrunkSpace: Because you are portraying such a well known character from the animated space, did you go back and try to bring any of those original character elements into your performance?
Cox: In speaking to Eddie (Kitsis) and Adam (Horowitz), the show creators, I discovered that they were taking small bits and pieces from the 2009 animated film, but they were also trying to create a new character as well, or a new version of this character. I think they kind of do that with all of these characters. They put their own spin on it, which makes it kind of interesting because you get to see more of their backstory, which you got to see a lot of in episode 5. You get to understand a little bit more about where this specific character came from that the “Once Upon a Time” creators have created.

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, was there something that she allowed you to do on-screen that you have yet to be able to tackle in the past with previous characters?
Cox: I get to play with a sword. That’s always fun. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: (Laughter) What about in terms of personality?
Cox: The character in the real world, the scenes are very, very close to me and my personality – probably one of the closest characters that I’ve ever played to myself. What is nice is being able to play this sort of leader in the fairytale land – this leader of the resistance. There is a bit of quiet confidence that she has that I enjoy being able to play and this leadership role is a little bit different for me. It’s been fun to get to tackle.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the fairytale land. Because you’re jumping between the two worlds within the storytelling, does it feel like you’re shooting two different projects at times just because of those jumps?
Cox: It does, actually. Even the way in which they speak in fairytale land is a little bit different. I try to keep it real as much as possible, but it is a different form of speaking when they’re in the fairytale land. You have to play the same character but in completely different environments, so there are times that it does feel like we’re shooting two different films.

TrunkSpace: To look around you and absorb that fairytale vibe that you’re entrenched in, we’d imagine it really helps you tap into the mindset of a fairytale character?
Cox: That’s exactly true, yeah. How it works is we come in, we’ll read the lines together, we’ll block it maybe and run through it once or twice before we actually shoot. Sometimes when we do that we come in and we’re just in our normal clothes and we’ll run through things before we go back and get changed and come back as our characters. All of the sudden, like you said, once we are in this world where the environment has already been created for us with our clothes and with the set pieces and with everything that’s going on, it all of the sudden becomes a little bit easier to tap into that character because you don’t have to imagine all of the things they are. It’s right there for you.

TrunkSpace: “Once Upon a Time” is a show with such a large ensemble cast. For you, what’s the best part about being part of an ensemble where there are all of these various storylines going off in different directions and intersecting?
Cox: You get to meet a lot of really cool people. That’s fun. (Laughter)

I will say this, it does make it a little bit more challenging when you’re reading the script because you’re like, “Oh wait, okay, there’s a new character here? Okay, let me go back and figure out who this character is.” You have the real world and fairytale land and they have different names in both. It makes it more challenging, but also a more fun story, I feel like. I think it gives the creators many different ways that they can go with many different stories and players telling the stories.

TrunkSpace: It’s not easy for a series to make it seven seasons these days. What do you think it is that has enabled “Once Upon a Time” to thrive for so long?
Cox: I think it’s something that a lot of different people and a lot of different types of people can connect to. It was internationally, I believe, ABC’s number one show for a long time. I’m not sure if it is now or not, but I know it has been. There is something that people just can connect to and it takes them out of their own world for a second and allows them to remember, if they’re older, what it was like to be a kid, and if they’re younger, to be able to see these characters come to life and just to have fun for an hour and imagine these fantastical things that might not happen in the real world. And there are still nuggets that they give that are things that can help you learn how to deal with what’s going on in your real world.

TrunkSpace: It’s a heightened reality, but the emotions are real.
Cox: Exactly! That’s exactly right.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been acting since you were kid. Are there any pieces of advice or things you absorbed on a set in those early years that you still apply to your career to this day?
Cox: That it’s best to be as professional as possible. Things that everyone should know but sometimes people forget, which is, don’t be late, know your lines, and be nice to everyone around you.

TrunkSpace: We’re in a bit of a hyper-divided time in this country. The advice of being nice to everyone around you could certainly be applied to every day life as well.
Cox: This is very true. It would help the world if everyone was just nice to each other. That needs to be a new campaign – “Be nice.”

Once Upon a Time” airs Fridays on ABC.

Featured image by: Benjo Arwas

 

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Wingman Wednesday

Seph Lawless

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We’ve all driven by an abandoned mall, factory, or amusement park and were struck by their hauntingly silent exteriors, wondering what secrets lay inside. For photojournalist Seph Lawless (a pseudonym), the pull to peel back those layers and reveal the reality of urban decay began over a decade ago. Now, with his latest book “Abandoned: Hauntingly Beautiful Deserted Theme Parks,” the activist with an eye for finding beauty in the blight has plucked at a nostalgic chord in all of us.

We recently sat down with Lawless to discuss the psychological association with being drawn to his work, the sadness he sometimes feels while on location, and why shooting amusement parks is a bit of departure from his other discarded subjects.

TrunkSpace: You started shooting in abandoned locations over a decade ago. Could you have had any idea at that time that your work in this space would have resonated with so many people and for so long?
Lawless: No. Really. When I first started doing this, I never in a million years thought that this could catapult into any kind of career whatsoever, let alone center around something that I thought was intimate and kind of small to me in my young eyes and mind. Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, we’re part of the Rust Belt, so you would see abandoned buildings quite a bit. Now with globalization, outsourcing of those American manufacturing jobs, you suffered a lot of population loss – not just in Cleveland, but in Akron, and Youngstown, the surrounding cities, and of course where my family comes from, Detroit – of about half the population, a little bit more in Detroit since World War II.

TrunkSpace: And those people who left, their families were there for generations.
Lawless: Yes. It’s getting up and moving where the jobs are, in hopes to find other jobs. They would just leave. It would be abandoned everything – factories, schools, neighborhoods, completely abandoned ghost towns in parts, or at least seemingly to be so. Back then, it was more so, and it still is, be honest, exciting and fun to do, and I think it’s important to do.

I always wanted to show the places I was going into to a larger audience. That was the goal even early on. I didn’t know how I was going to achieve that, and then it wasn’t until popular photo sharing apps like Instagram and social media came into fruition that I said, “Hey, this is not only a viable option, but this is going to be a great, phenomenal vehicle to use to share these images with as many people as I possibly could.”

I think from that really came other opportunities. Other journalists were writing me that the photos were striking and stunning and that they were telling an untold chapter of American history. Journalists were latching on left and right, from CNN to NBC News, ABC, global entities – and they were expanding the narrative. They were taking my images, and then expanding the narrative into social issues or economic issues, or consumer changing habits if it was like an abandoned mall.

No, I never thought it would go as far as I did to where my images are on the cover of a Shirley Jackson book and album covers. I would have in a million years never thought that. And by the way, I never tried to achieve that, either. Those things just came.

TrunkSpace: Do you think it says anything psychologically about people having a fascination with your work and seeing this almost post apocalyptic side of society?
Lawless: Yeah, that’s an interesting question. It’s not one that’s posed to me a lot, but it’s one I do think about a lot. I think there is something deeper in the psychology of people – why they’re resonating with it. I think there’s an element of fear. They don’t want to be afraid, and they don’t want these horrible things to necessarily happen to them, or their country, or their environment, but they’re comfortable watching it from a distance, like a scary movie. No one wants to be chased around with an axe and a knife, but yet, you’re honing in on that fear. You almost are controlling it. It almost becomes empowering.

I think there’s a little bit of that in a sense to whereas, “If the world ended, this is what it would look like!” We could safely look, and I think you have that with this zombie apocalypse or “Stranger Things” kind of addiction where we’re asked, “The world is ending, oh hell, what are we going to do?” What would it be like? What would those final moments be? It’s almost become sort of a fixation amongst society today, I think. Not just in my work, but I think in movies and genres and television shows and comic books – all of those things. I think now more than ever, there seems to be that element of wanting to dip their toes into fear a little bit, but not get too close.

TrunkSpace: In a way, we the viewer end up being more of a problem than the solution. There could be a mall in our hometown that we don’t want to see close, and yet, we don’t shop there. We’re sad when it’s gone, but we did very little to stop it.
Lawless: Yeah. I think so, but it’s also what we care about, right? I’m older too, I grew up with malls, I get sad too, and I get upset, like you said, about the mall closing, but you don’t go there. The thing is, we’re moved and we miss the mall – the things that were attached to the mall – but we don’t miss going to the mall, because listen, growing up, it was a communal space. We met our friends there, even when we couldn’t afford things. We played at the arcade, might have kissed your first girlfriend there. You shared emotional, joyous occasions, or sad ones, whatever the case may be. People share a very personal testimony with malls, and abandoned amusement parks. Amusement parks over the years, people would go multiple times. When you’re dealing with large spaces that deal with hundreds of thousands of people – millions that attended these places over the years – they’re going to share memories. I think that’s what people miss most with malls.

By the way, I think they miss the way we used to communicate. Malls were the chat room before there was a chat room. Before there was social media, before there were phones, before there were pagers even, you said, “Hey buddy… Billy, meet me after school at the mall,” or we got dropped off at the mall. That’s how we communicated. It was face to face. It was eye contact. Most of the time it was a physical response, and I think lacking that, I think people long for a time more than the entity itself, the structure itself.

TrunkSpace: Your work can jump start a bunch of different emotional responses, but the one we always end up at is sadness because here are these places that were once filled with laughter and joy and such life, and now all of that is gone. Do you experience that while on location? Does the sadness of being in those spaces in their current form hit you?
Lawless: Oh yeah, quite a bit. Honestly, there’s been times where I emotionally just broke down. You’ve got to put it in perspective, too. If I’m in a place where I grew up as a kid, which is quite a stark difference, it can be very depressing, especially if you’re remembering something in the same exact spot. You just get inundated with these memories that you had there. That can be very sad.

The most toxic place in America? That’s troubling on so many deep, different levels. That makes you sad and angry and upset, and livid at times. Emotions will change based on where I’m at, but yeah, of course, emotionally it can be draining.

TrunkSpace: Can it be dangerous work? After all, you’re entering these abandoned places that probably aren’t always abandoned. People must be staying in some of the places you shoot at, right?
Lawless: Yeah, there is, and it’s technically their home. Over the years, I’m very careful – usually I can tell before I go into an abandoned building. There are little tells you look for, if it’s going to be occupied or if there’s someone in it. I do my best to not violate their personal space. I treat it like that’s their home. It’s just as awkward a feeling as if you were to walk into someone’s home unannounced and try to rob it or something. You get that same uneasy feeling, or I would imagine so. You don’t necessarily belong there.

Beyond that, I’ve fallen through floors up to my waist and caught myself. I’ve had parts of ceilings fall on me. I was in a mansion, a beautiful, hauntingly beautiful mansion that I shot in Pennsylvania. I loved it. As I walked in, I went all the way upstairs and my feet were sinking. It was almost like I was walking on water. It was horrible. Then I get home, and a couple of weeks later the local newspaper said half of the mansion crumbled onto the sidewalk. They used that as a pretext to tear down the whole thing, but it very well could have come down. That was a stupid thing for me to do. After that, and that happened about a year ago, I don’t nearly take as many risks. If I was in that same situation again, I wouldn’t walk up all the way. I might not even go inside anymore. There’s some that have gotten so bad that I won’t go back in.

TrunkSpace: Your new book focuses on amusement parks. Visually, what do they offer your eye that other locations don’t?
Lawless: A lot of the projects that I’ve done have dealt with various issues, from neglect or environmental issues or a horrible changing landscape of consumer habits. With this, it was more of a fun thing to do. I always thought abandoned amusement parks were interesting visually. They’re always fun to shoot.

A lot of people don’t know this, but I try to shoot them in bad weather, believe it or not, to get those dramatic effects. There was one in particular where a tornado came through and I sped away. It was horrible weather, out in Kansas during tornado season. I would go back multiple times to get it exactly how I wanted, for most of them. There’s a few that were the exception. There was a lot of thought behind the images, how I was going to portray them, how I was going to shoot them.

To me, I always thought they were fun to shoot, mainly because they were outside. You have great a backdrop, you have clouds, you have sky, you have sun. It’s a little bit different. It’s more so landscape photography, in a sense.

“Abandoned: Hauntingly Beautiful Deserted Theme Parks” is available now.

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Just Another $@!#*? Column

Our Fun No Fun List

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Everyone’s got a TOP WHATEVER column. You know the type… a list of arbitrary best ofs, worst ofs, or does it really matter ofs. Well, TrunkSpace didn’t want to be left out, so we decided to come up with our own JUST ANOTHER $@!#*? LIST COLUMN. Whereas other lists on other sites may have a point, rest assured, ours will have none.

This time out we’re rolling the dice, spinning the wheel, and cursing ourselves through another defeat as we celebrate…

THE TOP FIVE GAMES WE LOVED TO HATE PLAYING WITH OUR LYING, CHEATING, NO GOOD SIBLINGS

Mouse Trap
Everything about this game, from the colorful packaging to the catchy jingle, was meant to be fun, but make no mistake about it, playing this game with older brothers and sisters was (and probably is) pure misery. The premise is simple enough, build a mouse trap together and then turn on each other like hungry rats in a cage as you attempt to capture your opponents’ plastic mice. The reality was a little different however, because ultimately this game is a Rube Goldberg exercise in sibling torture.

The Original (SHARP) Lawn Darts
Definitely a generational game because as soon as people realized (as if it wasn’t obvious right away) that these were essentially weapons with a smile, they pulled them from the market and made them kid-friendly. Of course, when they were available in their deadly form, the game most often played around our house was “You Run Around In That Circle As I Throw These Up Over Your Head And We See How Close They Come To Hitting You When They Land.” The answer was always too close for comfort.

Freeze Tag
An easy and fun game that anybody could play anywhere – all you needed were hands to tag with and a group of kids hopped up sugar. (Thanks Fla-vor-ice!) Only problem was, the youngest kid in the game never really had a good time because once tagged and frozen, nobody was willing to unfreeze you. There you stood, a pathetic statue, promising yourself that one day you’d get even, but unfortunately, tag becomes obsolete eventually and you remain awkwardly frozen in your memories forever.

War
An entire episode of “Seinfeld” once centered around the book “War and Peace” and how it was (mistakenly) described to have the original title, “War, What Is It Good For?” Elaine Benes may have made a literary misstep there, but had she called this horrid, time-wasting card game “War, What Is It Good For?” instead of the Tolstoy classic, we’d be running into battle alongside of her. Seriously, there’s only one “game” that can be “played” with a deck of cards that’s worse than this one and that’s 52 Pickup. No. Just no.

NBA Jam (SNES)
“He’s on fire!” is a phrase that continues to haunt us in the tortured recesses of our minds to this day. Mashing buttons and spiking the controller into the carpet did little to tip the score in our favor and yet we still always thought there was a chance for us, as if the SNES gods would be smiling down upon us JUST ONCE. But no, they apparently only wanted us getting dunked on – over and over and over and over again.

Stupid humans. So much hope when it comes to sibling rivalry. So little cause for game-based celebration.

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Opening Act

Sheers

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Photo By: Jesse Dictor

Artist/Band: Sheers

Members: Lily Breshears, Daniel Rossi, Aaron Stern

Website: www.sheers.bandcamp.com

Hometown: Portland, OR

Latest Album/Release: “All Will Be New”

Influences: Portishead, Maurice R avel, Einojuhani Rautavaara, FKA Twigs, Usher, James Blake, Mario

TrunkSpace: How do you describe your music?
Breshears: Brooding art pop.

TrunkSpace: You had a new music video for the track “All Will Be New” debut on November 7. Do you enjoy marrying visuals with your music, and if so, why?
Breshears: Definitely! So far I’ve mostly used visuals to enforce a mood that already exists in the music or to put a slight twist on it. It’s always a bit scarier of a task for me, though, as I often don’t have the sort of vocabulary needed to get my ideas across. And press photos are particularly scary… camera shyness is a real thing I haven’t gotten over yet.

TrunkSpace: What does this particular video do to build upon the song or emphasize a particular message? What is it saying that you couldn’t say with the track alone?
Breshears: Well, the lyrics I wrote for “All Will Be New” are admittedly floaty, but they feel right to me, like the mood I was trying to portray, so I was married to them immediately and still am. The video gave me the chance to make the lyrical ideas more concrete. I wanted to make a dissociation from reality happen, but retain a hunger for beauty. The connection between emotional and physical intimacy was something on my mind when writing the song, and the semi-anonymous metaphorical orgy seemed like the right image to portray an uncomfortable limbo within that intimacy.

TrunkSpace: You do some amazing things vocally throughout the course of “All Will Be New” where it feels like it almost becomes a wind instrument that blends beautifully within the music itself. Were those vocal fluctuations something you set out to do, particularly in the chorus, or was it an organic process that came out in the writing?
Breshears: Definitely an organic process. I remember writing the song in one afternoon, just a couple hours, so I made a lot of snap decisions. Like I said before, the song is dealing with dissociation and wanting more beauty and honesty, so there was this moment where I thought like, “Nah, I don’t get to sing this comfortably.” So I wrote it too high for my normal voice, and that takes me to different places every time we play it. The way my voice sounds because of that decision might turn people off, but I think it’d be much worse to give up on the original impulse. It should sound difficult and shaky.

TrunkSpace: What does your writing process look like? How does a song go from inception to completion?
Breshears: Usually it looks like me sitting at the piano or the harp playing notes at random then seeing where those notes want to go. Eventually I find something that absorbs me, and then I sit there more finding melodies with gibberish lyrics. The gibberish usually ends up telling me what the song is about. And then I make a map on a big piece of paper. And then sit on my porch finding realer words to replace gibberish. And then back at the piano with the map to see if those words need more music. And then drink beer on my porch, listen to it a thousand times, and go to bed, let my dream brain work on it if the song isn’t done yet.

Once in a while, though, a song starts with some lyrics and a melody. “All Will Be New” was one of those. Then it’s just a matter of figuring out what backing music is in your head behind the melody. I feel like those songs are usually the favorites and the easiest to write, but I also can’t will them into existence.

TrunkSpace: What is your favorite part of the songwriting process? What gives you the biggest thrill?
Breshears: You know when you’re having a particular kind of day or week and you find the song that has to be your soundtrack to it? So you listen to that song more than you’d care to share? When I finish a new song I’m really excited about, that song is the soundtrack to my day or week that I was missing, and then I get to listen to it too many times. And it’s so satisfying to have finished that song.

TrunkSpace: Many songwriters have said that the process is a bit like therapy for them. Do you find that to be the case with your own songwriting?
Breshears: Yeah, I’d say it is a bit like therapy, but by way of escapism for me. Maybe I get to be a different person for four minutes, or be more of the person I want to be than I normally am, or be one version of myself to the utmost extent. I’m generally such a logical and grounded person that going to those mindsets allows me to process things I wouldn’t otherwise.

TrunkSpace: Creative people are infamous for being extremely hard on themselves in the creative process. Does that apply to you, and if so, where are you hardest on yourself?
Breshears: I’m hardest on myself when it comes to playing live, which I do consider part of the creative process. For me, every show is like asking the audience if they feel the way I feel, so if the audience isn’t super responsive, I tend to turn inward and get discouraged. And even if the audience is receptive, I’ll find something to pick apart about my own performance.

Cover Art By: Hasan Mahmood

TrunkSpace: What is your overall musical background? When did the bug first bite you, what instrument did you first pick up and learn from, and is Sheers your first project where you’ve presented your creative thoughts in a public atmosphere?
Breshears: I started playing piano and writing songs when I was four years old, so that bug bit me fast I suppose. I took piano lessons on and off as a kid, but ended up studying harp, singing, and music history in college. Sheers is my first time being songwriter/front person! After being a backing person in a couple Portland bands, I eventually needed my own outlet to hear exactly what I wanted.

TrunkSpace: What do you want people to take from your music? What messages do you hope they uncover and decipher in a way that they can apply to their own lives?
Breshears: The biggest thing is that I think people often expect “good music” to be easy to listen to, especially coming from female fronted bands. And that just doesn’t make any sense to me. I’ve had two different ex-boyfriends ask why I can’t just write prettier songs, and I’ve had many males say I should sing quieter or with more reverb. I write the way I do because I want to create “pop” music that demands active listening, that can coax listeners into appreciating tension, restraint and ugliness.

The other thing is that many of my songs, such as “All Will Be New” and the other recent single “Quantized,” are about feeling isolated and detached. But in performing them and recording them – like I said above – I’m asking the audience if they feel the way I feel. It means the world to me when someone feels connected to a Sheers song because, in that moment, I’m not isolated. And hopefully the listener feels the same. I think music is best for bringing people together in a way that’s not dependent on talking. I’m really just trying to do that with songwriting.

TrunkSpace: In your opinion, what is the biggest hurdle artists face these days? In a time where anybody can find anything online, is it no longer about delivering your message, but delivering it in a way that makes people take notice?
Breshears: Yeah, that’s a huge hurdle. There are so many songwriters and bands, good ones too, that it sometimes seems impossible to gain audiences without a schtick or an attention-grabby quirk. Or without making benignly trendy music that everyone can agree on for a bit. There’s also the issue of quantity, like small bands need to roll out new material constantly to get anywhere. But it’s really difficult to produce all that new material when you also need to hold down a day job or three because Spotify plays and show guarantees don’t pay the bills. I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure this stuff out. Email me if you have any advice.

TrunkSpace: What can fans expect from Sheers as we creep closer to 2018? What does the new year hold?
Breshears: We have a new EP called “An Occasion” that will be released early 2018! Also we’ll be putting out live videos over the next two months, so stay tuned for that. If anyone has early 2000’s R&B cover requests for harp, email me.

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Trunk Bubbles

Marcelo Ferreira

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Name: Marcelo Ferreira

Website: https://marceloferreira-art.com/

Favorite Comic Book Character Growing Up: Batman

Favorite Comic Book Character Now: Still Batman!

Latest Work: “Back To The Future” (IDW Publishing) – November 2015 to November 2017

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your art style?
Ferreira: I have people telling me that my style is “dynamic” and “full of energy.” I think this is true, since I consciously try to bring a lot of movement into my art.

TrunkSpace: How important were comic books in your life growing up and is that where you discovered your love and inspiration for drawing?
Ferreira: Very important! In fact, the very first thing I read after I got alphabetized was an “Uncle Scrooge” comic book when I was six. And when I started collecting DC comics at the age of eight it never stopped. Around this same age I decided I was going to draw comics for a living when I grew up. Such love was developed for comic book art from reading all those books.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular artist or title from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Ferreira: Definitely John Byrne’s run on “Superman” in the mid-to-late 1980s. I remember grabbing those comics and being amazed at the art, and I sat down with every cover and tried to copy it to perfection. I also have to mention Jim Aparo’s “Batman” – also the 80’s run.

TrunkSpace: How did you decide to approach your career in comics? Did you formulate a plan of how you wanted to attack what is known for being a hard industry to crack?
Ferreira: Yeah, I definitely had a plan. Plan A was having an agent. Being from Brazil, here the most common way to break in is to get yourself an agent who will champion your portfolio inside the industry. I tried this formula, but it didn’t work out for me. Then I got to plan B, which was going to one of the biggest conventions, pace the show floor talking to absolutely every editor I could and show them my portfolio until at least one of them liked it! And one of them did at NYCC 2010.

TrunkSpace: What was your biggest break in terms of a job that opened more doors for you?
Ferreira: This is difficult for me to answer. My career so far is made of small steps – independent publisher to IDW Publishing to Dark Horse Comics to now hopefully one of the Big Two. And each step was made possible for some work done for each publisher. Let’s see what I will answer you after I get my first gig at one of the Big Two.

TrunkSpace: A lot of people say that breaking into comics is the hardest part of working in comics. How long did it take you before you started to see your comic book dreams become a reality?
Ferreira: From the time I actually started pursuing it seriously (with plans A and B in mind), it took me four years.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular character or universe you always find yourself returning to when you’re sketching or doing warm-ups?
Ferreira: Not a specific character, but they are always from either Marvel or DC, for sure.

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific title or character that you’d like to work on in the future and why?
Ferreira: This is a two-step answer. Until I do my first job for Marvel or DC, working on any superhero title from any of the two would be awesome! And after some time in the Big Two environment, the dream would be Batman.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your career in comics? Where would you like your path to lead?
Ferreira: Being established in a way that getting steady work is pretty easy and a sure thing. If that comes with the ultimate fanboy dream, which is drawing exclusively superheroes for a living, then even better!

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength as an artist?
Ferreira: I would say being able to professionally deal with editors, writers, and other fellow artists. This means meeting deadlines, willingly make changes to your work when asked to, being thoughtful to other fellow artists, etc. All the “behind the scenes” stuff that is just as important as drawing well.

TrunkSpace: How has technology changed your process of putting ideas/script to page? Do you sue the classic paper/pencil approach at all anymore?
Ferreira: Oh yes! And I don’t see myself changing anytime soon. What I did do was incorporate the digital into parts of my process, where it actually helps me speed up the whole thing, like making thumbnails (the storyboard thing), or editing work that is finished. And lately I have been experimenting with inking digitally, which has been proving a good experience and useful in a lot of cases. But the core of my process will remain paper/pencils/inks. Plus, I get to sell the originals! (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring artist who is considering a career in the comic industry?
Ferreira: If you already know you have potential to be in the industry, and if you already have put together a strong portfolio, just show it around! Go to the conventions and talk to the right people. Good and qualified work WILL find a place. And if nothing happens too soon, don’t give up. Ever!

TrunkSpace: Making appearances at conventions: Love it, leave it, or a combination of both?
Ferreira: Love it! Love being around fellow artists, the publishers and editors and, of course, the fans.

TrunkSpace: What is the craziest/oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to draw as a commission?
Ferreira: I wish I had a funny answer to that, but I have yet to be asked to draw these odd things.

TrunkSpace: What else can fans of your work look forward to for the rest of 2017 and into the new year?
Ferreira: For the rest of 2017 you can check out the wrapping up of “Back To The Future Vol.1.” I think we still have one or two more issues to go. And for 2018 I will be back to all-ages books for awhile, drawing a “Transformers” graphic novel for IDW. And there is also a new project for another publisher, but can’t talk about it. Sorry!

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Next Up

Shelly West

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Name: Shelly West

Hometown: Cottage Grove, MN

Current Location: North Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA

TrunkSpace: When did you know that you wanted to act for a living?
West: I knew I loved performing when I was young. I still have a school paper I wrote about what career will I have in 20 years. I wrote, “I will live in California as an actress or a lawyer.” I was 10 at the time. While I knew it that young, I hid it for a long time. I wasn’t in high school theater or anything – I was too scared and judgmental once I hit my teens. I hid my desire to act for a lot of my life, and didn’t even take an acting class until I was 29.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular performance or actor/actress from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
West: I loved some of the young actresses on TV – Danica McKellar as Winnie on “The Wonder Years,” Tiffani-Amber Thiessen as Kelly on “Saved By The Bell,” and Alyssa Milano as Sam on “Who’s The Boss.” I wanted to dress and act like those ladies and I had their pictures up on my wall when I was young. But it was in my early 20s when “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind” came out and Kate Winslet was so quirky and flawed in her role as Clementine that I just fell in love with her. I felt like that character represented so much of who I was… confused, but confident, but lost, but creative, but hurt, but in love, but everything. That film as a whole is a huge inspiration to me.

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?
West: By the time I decided to pursue acting full-time I had already been in the industry for years. I started out coordinating, production managing, and assistant directing for independent film and commercials. I switched over to acting because I simply couldn’t deny it anymore, and while I thought I had it figured out considering all my “experience,” navigating the acting waters is way different than any other freelance filmmaking position in many ways. It’s a process of courage and discovery every day for me. One thing I always told myself is that no matter how crazy it gets, as long as I do something towards my acting career every day, even if that means sending one email or taking notes from an article I read, I was moving forward. That has turned into so much more on a daily basis, and I have found HUGE value in goal-setting and getting real about what I want and what it will actually take to achieve it. I can’t just want it, I must take action. (Funny how as actors we struggle with that sometimes!) It’s a lot of work that isn’t on camera or in class. My general approach is in attitude, spirit, and mentality, that I must come from a place of ‘It will happen.’ When I feel intimidated about doing something, I ask the question, “Why not?” and remind myself I don’t have anything to lose. This may be an industry with a tough reputation, and rightfully so, but it’s also an industry where anything is possible.

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to move away from your home and pursue acting as a career? How old were you at the time?
West: I moved to Los Angeles when I was 27. Interestingly, at the time I was pursuing a producing career. It was after I turned 30 and realized that life is too short that I decided to take acting seriously and that yes, I love performing, and yes, I will be good at it, and yes, people will pay me enough doing it that I can make a living.

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?
West: The move itself was relatively easy because I had a network of people already living in LA from other films I had worked on while in the Midwest. But LA is a busy city, and folks are working so feverishly at their dreams that ‘hanging out’ is sometimes a lot to ask. I didn’t understand that at first. Time is a huge commodity and people are selective. It probably took me about three years before I felt like I understood the energy here and I knew enough people for it to feel like home. I find people value genuine friendships in this town, but they take a while to really bloom. Like, I’ll call someone I haven’t spoken to in four years and they’re happy to hear from me, and we reconnect and grow the friendship, but it can’t be forced. People LOVE to hire their friends, but it’s not instant.

TrunkSpace: What has been your biggest break in terms of a particular role or project thus far?
West: So far, I would say the first role I ever booked, because that’s what made it real! It was a non-union commercial and paid $500. The audition was more of an interview, totally last minute, and I was over the moon excited that I was cast. It reinforced that it’s possible.

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?
West: It changes. Lately I’ve enjoyed darker, crazier characters, like Charlize Theron in “Monster” or Amanda Plummer in “Pulp Fiction.” I’m finding a lot of value in exploring the truth within the ‘ugly’ and what it means to be human from that perspective, with the same needs and desires as everybody else but shadowed with demons. I’m definitely at home in the all-American mom type of look, but I’m itching to spice it up!

West in “Hammer Suite”

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an actor/actress can have outside of acting ability itself?
West: An awareness of what’s possible in this lifetime. A sense of self. Trust and listening with an open mind. Emotional intelligence, and an understanding of how the internal reality generates the external reality. Being kind to other humans without expecting to get anything back. Travel and accepting diversity. Contributing to other people’s stories. Implementing the art of acting into the art of life. Giving people space to be themselves. A curiosity to constantly learn. Skill-wise, learn how to write, edit and dance.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your acting career? Where would you like your path to lead?
West: Kathy Bates might have my dream career. Oscar, Emmy, and Golden Globe winner, a star on the Walk of Fame, drama, horror, comedy, feature film, TV, sitcom, theater, voiceover – she does it ALL! I want all of that! In addition (because now I must strive to top Kathy Bates), I’d love to have a production company that produces mindful narrative around the world.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring actor/actress who is considering moving away from home to pursue their dream?
West: Don’t wait because you’re making it complicated and overthinking. Just listen to yourself, and if you hear the calling, then go for it! Have no fear, you will figure it out. There will be ups and downs, but if you are serious, you gotta go for it. Get involved with networks, groups, organizations. There are so many. Meet as many people as you can, and genuinely ask how you can support them. Be brave, love yourself, and be kind.

TrunkSpace: Where can people (and casting directors) learn more about you?
West: At my website www.shellywest.com, and I will soon have a link to join my mailing list! The marketing stuff has been a challenge but I’m excited to say it’s happening! I’m looking forward to a simple way to keep in touch with everyone. And of course Facebook, Twitter and Insta!

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Wingman Wednesday

Caitlin Barlow

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That ringing bell you hear signals that a TrunkSpace class is now in session. Overseeing our lesson in funny is “Teachers” star Caitlin Barlow, one-sixth of the comedy troupe The Katydids. In addition to portraying Ms. Cannon in the TV Land sitcom, she is also co-creator, executive producer, and writer. That’s a lot of hats to wear anywhere but especially in a school, a place where wearing hats is generally frowned upon.

The second half of season 2 of “Teachers” kicks off tonight on TV Land.

We recently sat down with Barlow to discuss the wonders of craft services, why TV Land is the perfect home for the series, and removing gender labels in the world of entertainment.

TrunkSpace: Is being in a comedy ensemble anything at all like being in a band? Is the relationship similar? If The Katydids were to break up, would you go on a “farewell tour” à la KISS?
Barlow: Well, I’ve never been in a band so I can’t say for sure but I can imagine that it is pretty similar to being in a band! I’d say the relationships are pretty similar. It’s a lot of collaboration and a lot of spending time together. We are all comedically gifted in different ways, so in a sense we all have our “instruments.” If we broke up I’d like to think we’d do a “farewell” tour!

TrunkSpace: The second half of your TV Land series “Teachers” kicks off tonight. For those who aren’t familiar with your journey, how did the show ultimately come together and was it a long process from inception to your first day of shooting?
Barlow: It’s been a long journey but basically the Katydids started as an improv troupe way back in 2008 in Chicago. We started doing improv shows and then moved to sketch comedy and videos. In 2012 we made “Teachers” the webseries, which was directed by Matt Miller and produced by Cap Gun Collective. The webseries did pretty well online and in 2013 TV Land reached out to William Morris Endeavor (who we had just signed with) to ask if they had any female-driven workplace comedies in development. Our agent showed them the webseries and they ordered a pilot off of the webseries, which is pretty rare. We shot the pilot in the summer of 2014.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of that first day on set for “Teachers,” was it exhilarating, terrifying, or a combination of the two?
Barlow: A combo for sure! I had NO IDEA what I was doing. I didn’t even know about craft services. I was like “THEY PROVIDE FOOD?!” I was very, very green.

TrunkSpace: Now that you have been a part of the production machine for two seasons, do you still find any aspects of the process exhilarating, terrifying, or a combination of the two?
Barlow: I used to find acting terrifying. I had done improv comedy in Chicago, but had very little on-camera acting. I would freeze when it was my coverage because so many people were looking at me. I feel a lot better now and don’t get nervous anymore, but it took a lot of practice.

TrunkSpace: Do you think “Teachers” could exist in its current form on one of the more mainstream networks? Is TV Land the perfect home for it not only because you’re making the show that you want to make, but also because there is less pressure to pull the maximum amount of eyeballs with each episode, which seems like a recipe for ulcers for those creators looking to make their mark with new, original content on something like a FOX or ABC?
Barlow: I do think that TV Land is the perfect network for us. The show wouldn’t exist in its current form if we were on a mainstream network. TV Land gives us almost complete creative control, which is so awesome and so rare.

TrunkSpace: As a group, you’re all writing, producing, and starring in the show. Now that you’re two seasons deep, what is your favorite hat to wear in the process and why?
Barlow: My favorite hat is writing. I love the act of collaboration and I love the process of stories coming together.

TrunkSpace: In your opinion, how important is it that more women are not only spearheading content in Hollywood, but making the decisions on who those spearheaders (totally not a word but we’re running with it) should be? Do you hope that “Teachers” can help open the door for more women creators to get their projects greenlit?
Barlow: Well, I think it’s very important that women spearhead more content in Hollywood. We have a lot of stories to tell and a point of view to explore. I certainly hope that we help other female creators get projects greenlit. We’ve got to lift each other up!

TrunkSpace: One of the things we always point out when it comes to music is that (and this goes back to our first question in a way) when a band is made up of all men, nobody calls it a man band, however, when a band is made up of all women, they call it a girl band. Why isn’t a band just a band and a group of comedians/creators just comedians who create? Are we getting closer to gender not being used as a label in entertainment?
Barlow: I think that is SO annoying when a group of women is called “an all female band/comedy troupe/whatever.” We’re still referred to as an all female comedy troupe all of the time and it makes my skin crawl. I don’t know why that persists… but it should stop. It’s dumb. Are we getting closer? I don’t know. Probably not.

TrunkSpace: We know that you were actually a teacher prior to making “Teachers.” How much of your own experiences, both in story and in the character development, has seeped into the show itself?
Barlow: A ton of my real life experiences have made their way into the show. When I developed Ms. Cannon I was in grad school getting my masters in education. I was taking classes that espoused very lofty ideals about how education can change the world. I thought it would be funny to have a character who believed everything that she learned in her classes and wanted to change the world through education, but had no practical skills.

In terms of stories, in these next episodes there’s a plot about standardized tests which compares testing week to living in soviet era Russia. I hated testing week when I was a teacher, so it’s been fun to get my point of view out there.

TrunkSpace: Your story of how The Katydids first came together and how the group grew into what it is sounds very reminiscent of your executive producer Alison Brie’s Netflix series “GLOW,” only with less wrestling and more comedy. Has anyone made that comparison before, because it really does sounds similar in terms of the journey?
Barlow: (Laughter) Not that I have heard, but that’s awesome.

TrunkSpace: With that in mind, if someone with very deep pockets said, “We really want to tell The Katydids story in the form of a comedic series, BUT, you can’t play yourselves.” Terrible decision on the network’s part, BUT, you end up having say over the casting process. Who do you vote for playing you on screen?
Barlow: Vanessa Bayer and I used to get told that we look alike when we were both performing in Chicago. I’m gonna cast her.

TrunkSpace: What are you most excited for viewers to see in the second half of season 2?
Barlow: I am really excited for people to see how these characters develop. A surprising new romance blooms at school. Our finale episode takes place in the 1940’s and explores what happens when a woman gets pregnant but wants to stay at work.

To visit “Teachers” co-star Kate Lambert’s classroom, click here.

Teachers” airs Tuesdays on TV Land.

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