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February 2018

The Featured Presentation

Arjun Gupta

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There’s magic to be found all over the tube these days. Words like whimsical, bewitching and spellbinding could easily be used to describe the rich storytelling available to binge-hungry viewers, but for fans of the SYFY series “The Magicians,” that magic is far more literal. (At least in an imaginary sense.)

Currently in its third season, the must watch show is a combination of great writing and a compelling ensemble group of actors. In fact, in a fictional series about magic, the real magic lies in the cast. Arjun Gupta, who portrays Penny, is a stealer of scenes, a Harry Houdini of performance. In watching his sleight of character, you see that his talents are no illusion. Much like TV as a whole, words like whimsical, bewitching and spellbinding could easily be used to describe what he brings to “The Magicians.”

We recently sat down with Gupta to discuss how the series has changed his life, why he’s feeling good about becoming an astrological adult, and the reason he never thinks about the end result of a performance.

TrunkSpace: You have a pinned tweet on your Twitter page that talks about how everybody should travel because it allows you to expand your horizons and to stretch and grow as a person. We’re curious, how has “The Magicians” expanded your horizons and allowed you to grow in ways that you didn’t think possible?
Gupta: Yeah, that’s actually a really a great question. First of all, there’s two ways – personally and artistically. As an artist and as an actor, I’ve been fortunate to work for the last, professionally, for the last 12 years. I was on a show before, but this was the first series where I was an integral part, where I was working every day. Just working every day has been a huge opportunity to grow. It used to be that I would learn something on set, and I would have to wait a month or two months until the next job and then put it into practice. Starting from the first season, I would learn something on a Tuesday; put it in on a Wednesday, the next day, and that has been a huge opportunity for growth and it has continued through the years.

My acting teacher, who I’m very comfortable with and I coach with often now, he often says, “This is your rep experience.” In theater, you would go into a repertory theater where you would be doing four different plays, and you would do it in a day. This was kind of that experience for me. And so, just the growth I’ve been able to go through as an actor from that standpoint, it’s such a big blessing. And on top of that, on our show, we get to stretch a lot. I mean, Penny is a very different character than who I am, and is different than characters I’ve gotten to play in the past. Our writers, God bless them, are a little bit crazy and take us to these crazy places that we as actors then want to make real and have to make real because that’s what makes our show good. So that’s another beautiful challenge that’s an opportunity to really grow.

Personally, I don’t know if it’s the show as much as it’s just life. I’m now 31. The last three years have been the last few years of my 20s and then into my 30s, starting that journey. TV is such a collaborative experience and I’ve learned so much on how to let go of my own ego; how to not let that get into practice and how to be even more of a team player.

It’s just been an incredible opportunity and experience these last few years for growth.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned the life aspect, which is a big transition going from your 20s into your 30s. Sometimes you don’t even realize how big of a transition it is until you’re looking back on it years later.
Gupta: Yeah, I 100 percent agree with you. It’s interesting. I’ll be curious to be 40 and look back on it because it has been a whirlwind at times, for sure. I was really fortunate for the teachers that I’ve had around me that I continue to be in practice with. My support system and my family that help me… I’ve actually been talking about this in interviews that we’ve been doing. People who call the 20s the best times of their lives are either looking at it through rose-colored glasses or just have forgotten how stressful that time is.

TrunkSpace: It’s true. And you really don’t know who you are yet in your 20s.
Gupta: No, you really don’t. I’m not a strong practitioner of astrology, or, I’m not sure exactly how I feel about it… that’s a whole other conversation, but I did learn through a reading with someone that, astrologically speaking, you’re not an adult until you’re 30. And when that person said that to me I was like, “Yeah, that makes sense.” (Laughter) So I guess it’s feeling good to finally be close to, if not officially, an adult. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Artistically is it exciting to be a part of a show where literally anything can happen? You can show up to work one day and learn that you’re not just Penny, but literally a penny.
Gupta: Yeah, that is the huge blessing of being a part of this show. Look, we’re all so grateful to work, every actor… well, should be. Actually, I find that not everyone is, but I’m so grateful to have a job and work. So many of my friends, so many people that I know, don’t even have the opportunity to do what they love to do, let alone get paid to do what they love to do. It’s crazy. It’s just a crazy blessing. But on top of that, to then be on a show where we do what’s not a procedural where it’s formulaic or it’s the same thing day in and day out, we’re constantly surprised. It’s a dream. Sometimes I’m just like, “I get to do this, and then I get paid, and then I get be with some amazing people?” Everything that I’ve gotten from this, it’s just incredible.

It’s just really fun. It’s just fun. It’s hard to say that in any better term other than that it’s real fucking fun to come to work. (Laughter)

Gupta with Dustin Ingram in “The Magicians”

TrunkSpace: And the amazing part of that is, now that the show is in Season 3 and creatively hitting its stride, you no longer have a fan base. You have a fandom.
Gupta: Yeah, it’s interesting that we’re talking about 30, and also talking about this show, which I think has turned 30 in its third year, and what I mean by that is the writers… I noticed it from the first script that I read of Season 3. I was like, “Oh shit!” They just felt so much more comfortable. They know the voice. With the second season I felt like there was still a little bit of hesitation or a little bit of, like, “This is who we are, but can we do this?” And now it’s like, “This is who we are. Period!”

The amount of risks we’ve taken already in five episodes are risks that I would see a show take in two seasons. It’s really great to be a part of it.

Look, man, in the first season, I’ll be honest… it was my first series regular job because on “Nurse Jackie” it was just recurring. I was there all of the time, but I was just a kid. I was 22. I didn’t know what the fuck was going on to be completely honest with you. (Laughter) In that first season (of “The Magicians”) I was just like, “Oh my God! I want to do my job well and how do I do my job well?” It was just like a whole experience. But then in Season 2, and now in Season 3, it’s cool, I’m good, I know what it is and it’s just been an increased level of comfort and safety. I feel safe with myself, within the process, within my own process, within the amazing people that I can’t speak enough about that we get to work with in Vancouver. I feel freer to play. I can make more bold choices as an actor, and I’m supported. It’s just exciting.

TrunkSpace: One of the things we love so much about what you do with Penny is, you’re so expressive. Your face is doing so much in any given scene. Is that something you have tried to always bring to your work, or is it something you felt worked specifically with Penny?
Gupta: I appreciate that. That’s very kind of you to say. Look, I think performance is everything. It’s all of it; the way you deliver the line, how you look, how you… because you’re a human and you’re living in that moment and experiencing, it should be believable even without sound. The next time you’re watching something, close your eyes and just listen to the acting. Do you believe it? If you block your ears and watch the acting, do you believe it? It’s a fun exercise, for me at least.

Yeah, Penny is a different character for me. I don’t think about specifics – the results of what’s gonna show up. I surprise myself. That’s the goal. The goal is to surprise myself because I’m not thinking about the results of what this is gonna look like to the audience. I’m focusing on the process of what the character’s going through. What is this moment? What is this scene? And then in the process of being present with that, and listening and being dialed into the circumstances. What you’re referring to are byproducts of that process. So, for me, as soon as I get result oriented and start thinking about, for example, that… I’m just going to be very reductive… that I need to be upset in a scene. If I start focusing on it like, “Okay, by the middle of this scene I need to be upset,” for lack of more eloquent terms, I’m fucked.

The Magicians” airs Wednesdays on SYFY.

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The Featured Presentation

Mark Hildreth

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Photo By: Style Militia

The scope of television has changed dramatically in recent years. Nowadays every new series is more ambitious than the last. Hulu’s latest offering “The Looming Tower” is no exception.

Based on the book by Lawrence Wright, the 10-part miniseries spotlights the events that may have inadvertently lead to one of the most tragic days in the history of the United States, 9/11. Starring Jeff Daniels, Peter Sarsgaard, and Alec Baldwin, the drama zooms in on the counter-terrorism divisions of the FBI and CIA and puts a human face on those who were unable to steer the country away from disaster and how that failure directly impacted them.

We recently sat down with Mark Hildreth who plays FBI counter-terrorism agent Gordon Wright in “The Looming Tower” to discuss the flawed heroes found in the series, why there always needs to be some creative license taken when dramatizing a real life event, and how he had a hand (or voice) in one of the most underrated Saturday morning cartoons of all time.

TrunkSpace: Before we get into the meat and potatoes of why we’re chatting today, we have to mention… we were pretty excited to see that you were a part of “Camp Candy” back in the day.
Hildreth: (Laughter) You know that show? That’s so funny.

TrunkSpace: Not only do we know that show, but we’d go so far as to say it had one of the greatest opening theme songs of any cartoon of the 80s.
Hildreth: And one of the greatest actors! I never met John (Candy) when we were doing that because we weren’t recording in the same place. He was somewhere else or he was working on something.

That’s funny. Thanks for saying that. I did a lot of that stuff – a lot of cartoons, especially when I was a little bit younger. We’re going back to the 80s now. Holy shit.

TrunkSpace: We’ll flash forward to the present and your current project “The Looming Tower.” With everything that’s happening in the world of politics here in the States, it seems like a very timely project.
Hildreth: Yeah. It definitely takes a very sober look at what was going on around 9/11, and how we in the U.S. were involved and were part of that whole scenario. I think what people are going to find probably the most moving about it is that it takes a look at it in a really human way. It really centers around Jeff Daniels’ character, who is the head of the comparatively small FBI counter-terrorism unit, back where it starts around 1998. Small compared to now because now it’s massive. And Jeff played it beautifully. We worked together a bunch, and it really gets into his character. He’s a flawed hero.

It’s not like “The Looming Tower” is going to paint the Americans as some kind of, speaking of the 80s, 80s superhero who has no warts at all. It also really gets into the humanity of those guys, and what it is they were up against, what they were dealing with, which they obviously didn’t even realize in some ways.

TrunkSpace: In many ways, it’s a road map of how we got to where we are today.
Hildreth: That’s right. It gets into the history of the whole situation, which goes back obviously decades before 9/11 actually happened. It doesn’t pull punches. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a dark project because it actually has a lot of humor, and like I said, a lot of humanity, but it doesn’t pull punches about how we got ourselves there.

TrunkSpace: Is there a certain level of delicate handling with material like this even when it’s being dramatized, not only because of the nature of the story but because the people you’re spotlighting were in fact real people?
Hildreth: Of course. We had some of the guys who were there on set with us. In fact, some of the guys who were actually there worked on O’Neill’s team, Jeff’s character’s team. They were actually in some of the scenes with us. Obviously it’s a dramatization, and I think there’s always that when you’re making the “based on a true story” movie. It’s still a movie. There are certain liberties taken for the sake of telling the story.

There was a lot of reverence on that set. And I gotta say, Jeff Daniels is as much of a pro as anybody I’ve ever worked with. It’s always the guy who’s number one on the call sheet, the guy who’s the star of the show, who always sets the tone, whether they know it or not. Jeff is such a laid back guy. He’s a good ol’ boy. He’s a Michigander, he’s a blues musician, he’s just got such a deep soul that guy, and that’s the tone that was on set. It was set all the way down from the producers to the directors. And we have some of the best producers and directors working in the business making the show. These are people who are very thoughtful. This is not tabloid television. We took the subject very seriously, and I hope with a lot of compassion for all the people who were involved on every side.

TrunkSpace: Having those guys in the scenes with you must be such a great tool for ensuring that, even though dramatized, you’re getting the tone and energy of the room right?
Hildreth: I had a moment where we were working on one scene and we were all sitting around a boardroom with Jeff’s FBI team. It was my first day on set and Jeff has a team of six or seven FBI counter-terrorism officers, which I’m one. We’re shooting this scene and we go to lunch. We’re sitting around a table in there with a couple other actors, and we’re talking with this one guy who is sitting with us, and he’s like, “Oh yeah, this was like this, that was like that, can you believe this is now this way.” He was kind of, you know, shooting the breeze about the content of the scene. The guy starts talking like, “Oh yeah, of course, this was like this, that was like that…” and I was like, “Wow, he knows a lot about this.” So then he’s like, “Yeah, when John O’Neill said that to me…” and I was like, “Uh, what? What did he just say?” I didn’t even realize he was actually one of the guys who was there in that room that we were dramatizing. You stop and you go, “Wow, this is a person that actually lived through it.” It brings a level of authority and honesty to the series.

TrunkSpace: And is your character Gordon based on a real person?
Hildreth: My understanding is that my character was sort of an amalgamation. His story is basically that he is a former Top Gun pilot who has graduated into this role in the FBI, and there are a few characters like that where we created an amalgamation of different people who might have been there to be able to show the different sides – the different ways that people were dealing with this. That is the human side of how this all went down. It’s easy to see when you think of the FBI, the CIA, as like a bunch of guys – men in black who are not real people. These are people. These are people with lives, with families, with emotions, with their own personal biases. That’s what “The Looming Tower” gets into, I think, in a really moving way, is how the human beings who were doing their best to deal with the reality of the situation back then failed, and how that turned into 9/11.

TrunkSpace: We started this conversation talking about “Camp Candy.” When you first started your career, especially in television, could you have ever imagined a show like “The Looming Tower,” with a cast and creative team involved like it has, existing as a series?
Hildreth: I guess there was a Golden Age of Television, so I’m not sure what this is. The Platinum Age? I’m not sure. It’s a real good time for TV. I’m not that old, so I sound a little bit out of place putting it this way, but we used to talk back in the old days, like in the 80s, about how it was like a pipe dream. Like, “Imagine if we didn’t have to wrap everything up in a half hour or an hour? Imagine if we could have a show that went on and on, and instead of making a two-hour movie, you could make a 10-hour movie, or a 22-hour movie?” That seemed like a far-off possibility, and now not only are we making serialized dramas and series like “The Looming Tower” where you get to really delve into it, into a story, and really get into the nitty-gritty of what goes on with the characters in a way you never did before, we have some of the best actors in the world working on television.

Getting to work with Jeff Daniels, Alec Baldwin, and Peter Sarsgaard… and we have producers Danny Futterman and Lawrence Wright who wrote the book that “The Looming Tower” is based on, a wonderful writer… it’s such a privilege as an actor. It’s the type of project you were sort of dreaming about, that you were hoping one day in the distant past that you’d get to do, something not only with such good people but with something that explores something important. It’s great.

The Looming Tower” premieres February 28 on Hulu.

Hildreth can next be seen opposite Christina Ricci in the Lifetime movie “Nellie Bly,” set to premiere later this year.

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Sit and Spin

David Duchovny’s Every Third Thought

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Artist: David Duchovny

Album: “Every Third Thought”

Label: Westbound Kyd

Reason We’re Cranking It: The truth may be out there, but the groove is in here. Duchovny delivers a sophomore album packed with straight forward, old time rock ‘n’ roll, the kind that would soothe Bob Seger’s soul.

What The Album Tells Us About Them: We have to imagine that it is not an easy road to travel being an actor-turned-musician. Haters are gonna hate, and in the age of social media, everyone has a platform to spread that hate. Being in the public eye, you have a target slapped onto your back, especially when you put yourself out there in a capacity that is unfamiliar to the audience you’ve been exposed to. To his credit, Duchovny doesn’t let the noise drown out his music, and instead, focuses on crafting his songs in a way that is honest to who he is as an artist. Haters be damned.

Track Stuck On Repeat: “Stranger in the Sacred Heart” is at its heart, an upbeat slice of Americana that offers a finger-tapping-on-the-surface-of-your-desk beat, the kind of song you’d hear playing over a montage featuring a fish out of water protagonist discovering a new city – a stranger in a strange land vibe that suggests we all need to just “let it slide.”

Coming To A City Near You: David Duchovny tour dates can be found here.

And that means…

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Trunk Bubbles

Chrissie Zullo

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Name: Chrissie Zullo

Website: www.chrissiezullo.tumblr.com

Favorite Comic Book Character Growing Up: Batman

Favorite Comic Book Character Now: Wonder Woman

Latest Work: (Title/Publisher/Release Date) “Hack/Slash vs. Vampirella” Issue 5, by Dynamite Comics, Feb. 7, 2018

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your art style?
Zullo: I think my style is a mix of all the things I love – comics, American animation and Japanese animation. It’s definitely evolved over the years, and right now I want my art to be fun and expressive.

TrunkSpace: How important were comic books in your life growing up and is that where you discovered your love and inspiration for drawing?
Zullo: To be honest, I didn’t get into comic books until college. I had grown up on cartoons (Disney movies and TV shows like “Batman: The Animated Series”) and read manga in high school, but it wasn’t until college that I read graphic novels. I think the first one I read was “The Long Halloween,” by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, and then got into “Fables” shortly after.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular artist or title from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Zullo: Growing up, I always loved Glen Keane and Mary Blair, mostly because I was such a Disney kid. When I got older, I got really into comic book artists and low-brow artists; some of my favorites include James Jean, Travis Charest, Adam Hughes, Chris Bacchalo and Francisco Herrera.

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?
Zullo: I think, for me, I was in the right place at the right time situation. I had just graduated college and put a portfolio together to bring to San Diego Comic Con, where DC used to do a talent search for new art. I met with an editor, who happened to need an artist for a project at that time. Then things just sort of went from there! I definitely learned along the way, and I learned the importance of just being persistent and getting work in on time.

TrunkSpace: What was your biggest break in terms of a job that opened more doors for you?
Zullo: I feel like my first job for Cinderella of Fables really opened up the doors to everything. It was my first time working in comics, and helped me land other jobs. Since then I’ve worked for “Vampirella,” “Hack/Slash,” Archie Comics, “Josie and the Pussycats,” as well as design work for Mattel and posters for “Star Wars” through Fandango.

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?
Zullo: I still feel like I haven’t really quite “broken in.” (Laughter) I feel like the hardest part of working in comics is consistently, well, working in comics. I can go months without hearing from a publisher, and you really have to learn to be your own salesman and own job maker when you are a freelance artist. With so many outlets now, like social media sites such as Instagram, Tumblr, and Facebook, you can also find a lot of commission work online. Going to conventions is also a good way to stay relevant, because a lot of editors scope out artists in the artist alleys at shows.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular character or universe you always find yourself returning to when you’re sketching or doing warm-ups?
Zullo: It’s sort of the opposite, I think. Because I have so many commissions to draw comic book characters quite often, my sketchbook is filled with people in everyday clothes doing everyday things. I love drawing regular, everyday people in different fashions from different eras.

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific title or character that you’d like to work on in the future and why?
Zullo: For some reason I’ve always loved Zatanna from the Batman universe. I secretly want to draw a story for her, maybe about her high school days.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your career in comics? Where would you like your path to lead?
Zullo: I would be happy to make a career off of artwork for as long as I can. I’ve always told myself if I can survive off of art, I will be happy. So far, it has worked great for me. As long as I can keep working and keep drawing the things I love, I’m beyond happy. If one day I can write and create my own comic, that would be ideal too!

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength as an artist?
Zullo: I think the greatest strength as an artist is work ethic. If you can work consistently and draw every day, you are already on the right track. Talent and style are things that I believe come with drawing a lot, and I really do think anyone can do it if they keep at it.

TrunkSpace: How has technology changed your process of putting ideas/script to page? Do you use the classic paper/pencil approach at all anymore?
Zullo: I am a sucker for digital programs such as Photoshop and Procreate, but I start everything with pencil on paper. For me, I prefer traditional over digital, and I always start with a pencil sketch and usually inks, and then scan those in to color digital. Digital does make things easier and faster, but I try not to be too dependent on it. I’ve seen a lot of artists who can do amazing artwork in Photoshop, but can’t really draw with a pencil and paper. I guess it all depends on what kind of artwork you are going for, but there is something about having an original, tangible piece of artwork that really appeals to me.

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring artist who is considering a career in the comic industry?
Zullo: Put your artwork out there as much and as frequently as possible. Use social media sites to show people what you’re working on, even if it’s not finished. Get a table, if you can, at a local comic book convention and showcase your portfolio. My thought process is that you never know who might be looking, so try to showcase to as many as you can.

TrunkSpace: Making appearances at conventions: Love it, leave it, or a combination of both?
Zullo: I love it, I love meeting new people, seeing new places, and getting to draw for customers. It is a lot of hard work though, and a lot of travel, and sometimes I do wish I stayed home more. I think I travel about 15 to 18 weekends every year.

TrunkSpace: What is the craziest/oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to draw as a commission?
Zullo: (Laughter) I hate to be boring but I don’t know if I’ve ever gotten anything too crazy. I had to help with a proposal once by drawing the happy couple surrounded by their favorite video game characters. They stopped by my table, picked up the drawing, and he proposed right there and then at the comic con. That was crazy.

TrunkSpace: What else can fans of your work look forward to in 2018?
Zullo: I have two big things that I can’t wait to share publicly, but unfortunately right now I’m not allowed to talk about it! I think they will be announced this summer. So… stay tuned?

 

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Sit and Spin

Marlon Williams’ Make Way For Love

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Artist: Marlon Williams

Album: “Make Way For Love”

Label: Dead Oceans

Reason We’re Cranking It: Although there are familiar elements to Williams’ music, bits and pieces that harken back to artists who have come before, he is at the same time altogether and perfectly original. While the New Zealand songwriter may have tapped into his influences to create “Make Way For Love,” it is future generations of musicians who will tap into it for inspiration. It is the best complete album, a start to finish assemblage, we have heard in some time.

What The Album Tells Us About Them: Williams can make you feel. Each of the 11 songs off of “Make Way For Love” enters through your ears but roots themselves in your heart. This is not an album meant merely for listening. It is an album for assigning memories to, and that is the best kind there is.

Track Stuck On Repeat: Holy hell! “Love Is A Terrible Thing” is such a haunting, deeply-relatable song for anyone who has questioned the legitimacy of their own emotions, which as we can imagine, is nearly everyone on the planet. We’ve been listening to this one since we woke up this morning and will be revisiting it numerous times throughout the day.

Coming To A City Near You: Marlon Williams tour dates can be found here.

And that means…

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Trunk Stubs

Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block

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Series: Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block

Where To Watch: SYFY

Rated: TV-14

Genre: Horror, Drama, Mystery

Release Date: February 7th, 2018

Episodes: Season 3/Six Episodes

Starring: Olivia Luccardi, Holland Roden, Krisha Fairchild, Rutger Hauer

Creator: Nick Antosca

Reason We’re Watching It: Nick Antosca has taken the source material provided by Creepypasta, a group of digital urban horror stories, and given visual life to these tales and legends that will haunt your thoughts and dreams. The last two seasons of “Channel Zero” kept us up at night, wondering what the next episode will hold. “Butcher’s Block” has proven to have the same hook and is indeed the most harrowing and chilling installment of “Channel Zero” thus far.

What It’s About: “Channel Zero: Butcher’s Block” is inspired by Kerry Hammond’s Creepypasta “Search and Rescue Woods” Reddit series. The story follows Alice (Olivia Luccardi) and her sister Zoe (Holland Roden) as they move to a new town in an attempt to escape the families’ dark history with mental illness. We find out their mother is in a mental facility and that Zoe is also suffering from the same mental health issues, as well as battling with addiction. Alice is working as a social worker, hoping to help children in need. Meanwhile, there have been multiple disappearances occurring in the small town, and there are more questions than answers as to the cause. As Alice ventures further down the rabbit hole that is “Butcher’s Block,” you find out the town is much darker and sinister than you could ever imagine.

Whoah! Rewind That!: In the first episode there are a lot of moments that will have you hitting the rewind button and getting a second look at what just transpired on your screen. For us, one moment that evoked a verbal reaction from the room of viewers was the…well, we’re not sure what it was yet, but we’ll call it the “thing” in the wall. Alice makes a social worker call to check in on a mother and child. You start to hear and see this “thing” in the wall. Then, when they show the child’s room, you see a hole in the wall that would perfectly fit its face, implying that it could easily peer in on the child. The thought of this “thing” looking through the face-sized hole at the sleeping child is just horrifying to contemplate.

Watercooler-Worthy Tidbit: Season 3 of “Channel Zero” was originally going to be called “Staircases.” You’ll see why when you watch it. The creators changed the name to “Butcher’s Block,” which we have to admit, immediately sets the tone for this story.

And that’s why we’re giving it…

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Listen Up

James Dewees

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Songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and professional project juggler James Dewees has had a hand in many memorable acts throughout the years, including The Get Up Kids, New Found Glory and My Chemical Romance. The most personal of his musical outlets, and the one that has stood the test of time even as time refuses to slow down, is Reggie and the Full Effect, a solo project he began in 1998. With 20 Full Effect years under his belt, Dewees recently released his 7th studio album, “41,” one he says was inspired by a series of personal tragedies in his life and how he chose to subconsciously cope with them.


We recently sat down with Dewees to discuss how each project fuels the next, the aspect of “41” he’s most proud of, and what he won’t lie to himself about in 2018.

TrunkSpace: It’s been four years since the last Reggie and the Full Effect album. Do you ever get in a headspace where you’re not sure if you have another album in you?
Dewees: Not really. Music is just something that I’m always doing. Writing, performing or whatever, I’m always working it seems, but I love it so much it never feels like work.

TrunkSpace: A lot of people find themselves needing to refuel the tank before tackling their next creative endeavor. Is that true for you between albums?
Dewees: Not really. I’m involved in so many projects that are different from each other. Each helps inspire the other.

TrunkSpace: When you set out to put “41” together, did you want to approach the songwriting or recording process in a new way? At any point during the experience did you feel out of your comfort zone, but by way of putting yourself there on purpose?
Dewees: Well, having gone through two personal tragedies in a month, I used the sadness for creative fuel, even though I didn’t realize it when I was doing it.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with this particular album?
Dewees: Writing and recording the songs for my mom, they were very difficult to sing because of the content, but I got them done and I’m super proud of them.

TrunkSpace: The album is your 7th as Reggie and the Full Effect, which is a huge accomplishment. If we were to sit down with all seven albums and listen to them back to back, sonically and thematically where would we hear the biggest differences? Where you do you think your music has changed the most over that time?
Dewees: It would be 21-year-old James and 41-year-old James. I’d like to think I’ve grown as a writer and performer throughout the years.

TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, 2018 marks 20 years of Reggie and the Full Effect. Time flies by in life, but does it fly by when you’re making music as well? Have those 20 years felt more like a handful?
Dewees: Yeah, I’ve never stopped being super busy. From Reggie, Get Up Kids, New Found Glory, My Chemical Romance and Deathspells – I’m always a busy person.

TrunkSpace: Has your own musical point of view changed since 1998 or do you feel that your songwriter’s voice is relatively similar between then and now?
Dewees: Yeah, I am a fan and lover of music. All kinds. My songwriting reflects a lot of that. (Not just with Reggie but all the other projects or recordings I play on.)

TrunkSpace: Sticking with the idea of your songwriter’s voice, how long did it take you to find yours and be wholly confident in it?
Dewees: Have I found it yet?

TrunkSpace: As you look back on your career in music, what are some of the highlights that you’ll carry with you throughout the rest of your life?
Dewees: All of it. From playing my first show out of town to headlining Madison Square Garden with My Chemical Romance.

TrunkSpace: What has been one of the surprise side effects of your career in music? Has music changed your life in a way that you never could have imagined when you picked up your first instrument?
Dewees: It has been my dream since I was seven to be this. And I’m thankful everyday for the opportunity to be able to do this.

TrunkSpace: We’ve barely scratched the surface on 2018. Did you make any New Year’s resolutions for yourself and if so, how are you doing sticking with them thus far?
Dewees: Not really. I want to quit smoking. But I’m also not gonna lie to myself. (Laughter)

41” is available February 23 on Pure Noise Records.

Check out the TrunkSpace review of “41” here.

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Sit and Spin

Fu Manchu’s Clone of the Universe

CloneOfTheUniverseFeatured

Artist: Fu Manchu

Album: “Clone of the Universe”

Label: At the Dojo

Reason We’re Cranking It: We never really understood what “stoner rock” was because we assume that someone somewhere has gotten stoned to every influential album that has ever been released, but we understand the part that counts… this album rocks, stoner or not, and it deserves to be cranked.

What The Album Tells Us About Them: Fu Manchu has been writing, recording and performing for what seems like a lifetime, and the part that is most apparent in listening to their work, even to this day, is that they love what they do. That love is felt in each track off of “Clone of the Universe.”

Track Stuck On Repeat: There’s nothing slow moving about “Slower Than Light,” a song that snares you with a snare roll and then snakes its way into an infectious groove before exploding into a head-banging chorus. The song, and Scott Hill’s vocal delivery, is reminiscent of Henry Rollins, circa 1994.

Coming To A City Near You: Fu Manchu tour dates can be found here.

In Their Own Words: The recent TrunkSpace interview with Hill can be found here.

And that means…

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Trunk Stubs

Still/Born

StillBorn_TrunkStubs

Movie: Still/Born

Rated: R

Genre: Horror, Thriller

Release Date: February 9, 2018

Run Time: 1h 27m

Starring: Christie Burke, Jesse Moss, Rebecca Olson

Director: Brandon Christensen

Writer: Brandon Christensen, Colin Minihan

Reason We’re Watching It: We love horror films here at the TrunkSpace camp, but when the horror film covers a potential psychological nightmare… we REALLY love it! “Still/Born” is a movie that gets in your head, and you’re constantly second guessing your instincts and perhaps wondering if you were in the same situation, what would you do? Would you trust your instincts or think you’re going mad? It’s that type of scenario that had us on the edge of our seat, nervously shoveling popcorn into our mouths.

What It’s About: Mary (Burke), has both the happiest and saddest day of her life, all at once. She gives birth to twins, but only one of them is alive. While Mary cares for her only child, she begins to believe a supernatural entity is after her baby and will take him from her. Meanwhile, those around Mary are doubting her sanity and fitness as a mother.

Whoah! Rewind That!: We loved the suspense and veracity Mary brought to the scene where she is trying to bust down a door with an axe. Her performance and axe skills could easily stand up to Jack Torrance’s from “The Shining!”

Watercooler-Worthy Tidbit: Burke, who plays Mary, has also been in some of our favorite TV shows including “Supernatural,” “Falling Skies” and “Van Helsing,” to name a few.

And that’s why we’re giving it…

 

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Deep Focus

Brandon Christensen

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In our ongoing column Deep Focus, TrunkSpace is going behind the camera to talk with the directors, writers, and producers who infuse our world with that perennial pop culture goodness that we can’t get enough of.

This time out we’re chatting with Brandon Christensen, co-writer and director of “Still/Born,” about his first feature directing experience, sharing the movie with an audience days after it was complete, and why his wife’s fears make for great plot points.

TrunkSpace: With “Still/Born” hitting the masses today, this must have been a very exciting week for you?
Christensen: It’s cool. We debuted at Overlook (Film Festival) almost a year ago and when you go through that whole process of festivals and then it kind of peters out, it feels like it’s over. It’s kind of like a renewed finding of the film again, for me, as things ramp up again to release. It’s really exciting. It’s nerve-wracking, for sure, though.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, you’ve directed a few shorts, but this was your first feature. What was that experience like for you, not only creatively, but just in terms of going into the process and learning things that perhaps you didn’t know prior to doing?
Christensen: Yeah, this was my first feature film. I’d produced another one the year before with Colin Minihan, who was my partner on this one. He co-wrote it with me and was one of the producers. It definitely wouldn’t have been possible without him, just because he’s got a bunch of experience and he kind of brought me into the fold and he gave me a bunch of opportunities with this film that I don’t think I would’ve otherwise had, raising funds and things like that.

As far as first-time films go, I think I was incredibly fortunate to have someone like him, and my other producers, working with me because, when you think about that first feature film, most of the time it’s going to be filling up credit cards or pulling every favor in the book. I was really lucky that I didn’t have to deal with really any of that. I had this team close with me that was able to pull together so many great things for me. It was different. I’ve been around people that have gone through it the other way and I would definitely prefer my way because it was a much more comfortable experience for me.

It’s tough, though. I’ve got two kids of my own and a wife and when you’re making a film, when you’re doing a month of pre-production, a month of shooting, and then you’re in post for six to eight months – it’s really challenging just on that because you do have to kind of step away a little bit. You can still be there at the end of the day but your mind is so consumed with this project, that it can be challenging. My wife is really strong and she was able to fill in a lot of the gaps that I wasn’t able to during, especially, the first two months.

TrunkSpace: And there’s always so much that you can’t plan for. Long days tend to become longer days.
Christensen: Right, for sure. And we definitely had some strict rules in place. We didn’t want to do overtime. Budget-wise, we couldn’t. And one of the big things that was helpful on this was that we were shooting in one location for 15 of the 20 days, so with a lot of the set-ups and things, if we were like, “Oh, crap, we didn’t get this one scene,” we were gonna be there the next day, so we could pick it up. So, there wasn’t ever that scramble to finish at a location because we had to wrap out of it at a certain time. I think when Colin and I were writing the film, one of the concedes that we had was that we wanted to make it as achievable and as easy as possible to shoot, just because the budget was going to be low. We weren’t going to have a lot of extra time and stuff to play with.

TrunkSpace: Which always makes a lot of sense. We noticed that you also had a hand in the visual effects. Was that part of that same plan, not only minimizing where you could, but utilizing… in this case your individual skill sets?
Christensen: Yeah, definitely. I’ve kind of been learning VFX over the last 10 or so years and I’ve finally gotten to a place where I feel comfortable handling most situations. With this film, there’s so many instances where it does become a matter of, “I’ll fix it in post,” just because, otherwise you’re going to spend an hour trying to figure out a way to do it practically and it’s just not going to make sense for your schedule. So there would be a lot of moments where I was like, “Okay, yeah. Don’t worry about it. I’ll fix it in post. We can’t get that light. Move that light out of the frame. I’ll paint it out later.” It becomes part of the process, and it’s just become part of my process when I work where I’m able to at least see a frame on a screen and I can say, “Okay, I’m not going to worry about that right now because I know I can fix that.” And when you’re on hour 15 of a shot where you’re doing just one little thing, you totally regret it, but ultimately you’re saving yourself a lot of money.

I think there’s almost 200 VFX shots in this film. They’re mostly hidden stuff, but it’s kind of obscene.

TrunkSpace: Was getting the opportunity to direct “Still/Born” fulfilling a life-long dream?
Christensen: Yeah, definitely. When I was a kid, I was making dumb movies with my siblings. And growing up, I went to film school. I was kind of trying to do it that way. When Colin had read the script that he wanted do, it was a great opportunity for me to jump into a feature film and work with someone that’s done it before. I definitely have always wanted to do a feature. Before I did “Still/Born,” I was kind of leaning more towards television, like being one of those series directors who works on something like “Breaking Bad” or “Lost” or something like that, and just being with those longer stories. But during “Still/Born,” it definitely gave me a hunger to do more feature films because it’s a totally different art, just trying to encapsulate this entire story in a 90 minute period, which seems like a long time but it’s not. You get a hunger for it, so you want to do it again and fix a lot of the mistakes that you did the first time.

TrunkSpace: Film is a very communal experience, but especially horror. Did you sit in on any screenings and watch to see if the jump scares and uncomfortable beats you laced in there worked with audiences?
Christensen: Yeah, I had a chance to go to a few of the festivals. The first one though, Overlook, that was the first time I had ever done a festival before. We had just finished the film the week before we got the call that we got accepted. We were in Montreal doing the sound mix. It was a few weeks from that moment, so we had to finish the sound mix and I had to go do color in LA, and then ship off the DCP to Overlook. So we shipped it off, I think, five days before we screened. I didn’t really have a chance to watch it with a bunch of people. Going into that room was scarier for me than it was going to be for the audience, just because I’m watching for the technical imperfections and stuff. And when it started, the dialogue seemed a little low, so I marched to the back and I’m like, “Can you turn it up a little bit?” (Laughter) And they did. And again, I’m just like looking around, and I’m just like, “Can they hear this? Does this sound wrong?” And so I’d run to the back and say, “Turn it up a little bit more.” And once there’s that first jump scare with the monitor, once that hits, there were just shrieks in the audience and that made me a lot more comfortable because I realized, “Okay, everyone’s in this.”

It was a horror crowd because it’s a festival. They’re there to be entertained. Horror fans, I think, are the most gracious of fans out there. They’re so diverse, but at the same time they have a love for horror, that I don’t think fans of other genres really have, where they’re a little more picky or they have a little more of a critical eye. It was such a great experience, just to sort of feel the room move.

There’s nothing like watching it with a crowd because when those moments do work, it’s pretty amazing and it’s the reason why you get into this.

TrunkSpace: So as you look toward the future, do you see yourself staying within genre filmmaking or are you hoping to branch out and do other types of projects as well?
Christensen: I would love to get into something else eventually, but right now I’ve got a couple of scripts that we’re working on that are still horror. My wife and I are writing something right now, that we’re trying to get ready. It’s kind of an interesting experience to work with her because we’ve had kids together, we’ve been married almost 10 years now – there’s kind of a second hand language that we’re able to communicate with when we’re writing that it’s hard to duplicate. But what’s best, is that she’s just terrified of everything. so it’s great to be able to pick her brain. It’s like, “Okay, here’s the scenario. What’s the worst thing that could happen?” And typically she’s able to give that worst case scenario. I think that when you’re writing a genre script like this, it’s hugely beneficial to have these realistic, horrible scenarios play out just from the deep recesses of your wife’s mind.

Still/Born” arrives in theaters and On Demand today.

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