March 2018

Listen Up

Stoll Vaughan


With his latest album, singer/songwriter Stoll Vaughan is inspiring dialogue, or should we say… conversation.

Collaborating with filmmaker Austin Lynch and artist Case Simmons, “The Conversation” is part record and part cinematic journey, spotlighting both the people and places that Vaughan encounters throughout his base of operations, Los Angeles. The music and corresponding videos where released simultaneously on March 15.

We recently sat down with Vaughan to discuss where the conversation about “The Conversation” began, how it impacted his songwriting process, and his thoughts on the future of music.

TrunkSpace: For your latest project, “The Conversation,” you opted to bring a visual element to the music. Where did that idea originate and did it change the musical journey for you?
Vaughan: Austin Lynch, the director, who is a really good friend of mine, we were spending a lot of time together as I was writing the songs. He was hearing them in the process. It was him who saw the opportunity to bring the essence of them alive, acoustically and visually. It changed the musical journey because it allowed me to start this record with the fundamentals of my voice, and my guitar.

TrunkSpace: Was any of the music written with a particular visual purpose or did the cinematic element marry into the relationship after the fact?
Vaughan: The songs weren’t written with a visual purpose. Austin and I saw an opportunity to collaborate together again and it was my role to allow him to find the visual storytelling. He is a wonderful artist and I’ve always believed in his abilities.

TrunkSpace: How did the creative team come together on “The Conversation” and does it take a leap of faith to put your own creative offspring in the hands of another creator, albeit from another medium?
Vaughan: For this project, it was easy. Austin and I had already worked together on “The Interview Project, The Making of There Will Be Blood,” and a few others. So I knew his direction and trusted in his talents. He had started Tête-à-Tête, (a creative studio) with artist Case Simmons, so it is a really strong team. My job was to provide him with the resources and ability to get across what he wanted to get across. On something like this I don’t feel it is necessary for me to micromanage the creatives because I understand that only hinders the process and product. I see that it could be perceived as a leap of faith, and at times the emotions for your offspring come with fear. Again, I believe in trusting others. That is the foundation of this continual project. But you must believe in the people you are working with and why you want to work with them. That is hard at times, but this project is about that conversation between people.

TrunkSpace: There are some great cinematic portraits of people featured throughout “The Conversation.” Was the human element of the project – putting a face on the people you came across, so to speak – part of the original concept?
Vaughan: Yes. It is in the same style as “The Interview Project.” Austin is really a great documentarian. The words in my songs can be captured in faces and scenes.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with this particular project?
Vaughan: How real it is. I perform the songs and someone that I trust was able to tell those stories the way he could interpret them, which when I watch them, they are true in their aim and you don’t get any riff raff that gets in the way of storytelling through song and visual. I couldn’t ask for more. Los Angeles is where I live. These songs are universal. As I perform them by myself, the visuals can carry the songs deeper.

TrunkSpace: What does your songwriting process look like? Can you walk us through how a song goes from core concept to completion?
Vaughan: Every song is different. With this project in particular, it started with myself and a guitar. At first I was seeking acoustic guitar parts à la, Ry Cooder. I was playing a lot of guitar and open tunings. What transpired was I started finding lyrics and melodies that were going with the parts I was writing. So in its infancy I had “I Was All Alone” and “Forgiveness” and that was the foundation to explore further. Sometimes they would start with lyrics and sometimes with guitar, but I would just commit to writing it all the way through and not judging it until afterwards. I wrote a lot of songs for this project and the themes being about forgiveness, faith, growth, love. I wanted to strip that down with just myself and a guitar.

TrunkSpace: Lyrically are you someone who likes to write from experience or do you take a more storyteller’s approach?
Vaughan: I write from experience.

TrunkSpace: Are you somebody who can shut off the creative brain or is it always writing and processing, even when you’re in your day-to-day routine?
Vaughan: I would say that it’s always processing. But inspiration is a funny thing. When it comes, my day to day is all about capturing it. But we all have so many fears and insecurities that sometimes it’s hard to even recall how to write a song. But life is still going on, and I believe those things are stored in the sub-conscience, waiting to find a time where I can be present.

TrunkSpace: When you finish a project like “The Conversation,” do you need to step away from songwriting and refuel the creative tank, or do you find yourself immediately stepping into the next endeavor?
Vaughan: With this project, “The Conversation,” I have seen it as a multiple part endeavor. It started with me, a guitar, and the videos and now I have more work to do. I have to expend a lot of creative energy mapping it out. There is also the part of me that would rather be hiding in the mountains fly fishing for trout.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist?
Vaughan: It’s very typical for artists to never feel satisfied. I think constructive critique while I’m working on something can be positive. I believe that I was given this gift to create so I can’t beat myself up, or I start missing the point. Yet, that doesn’t stop me from missing the point sometimes. I just keep trudging and engaging the process. When I engage the process, I can find freedom in the moment.

TrunkSpace: Are you optimistic about the future of music? Being in the industry, have you gotten the sense that there is a next generation of voices ready to step up and carry the torch? If so, who are some artists that you believe could leave their mark on the future of music?
Vaughan: Yes, I’m optimistic. The next generation of artist will be digital natives. They will understand the landscape and understand where their audience can be found. My only concern is for the tradition and structure of songwriting. With so many musical choices, the song can become second fiddle. If that’s the case, then we are in a lot of trouble. But I hear amazing stuff all the time. When I hear the lyrics of Kendrick Lamar I know that songwriting is in an amazing place.

TrunkSpace: Yes, this is a bit of a vague, all-encompassing question, but… what’s next for you?
Vaughan: As I said, there are several more parts of “The Conversation.” Let’s see where that takes me…

The Conversation” is available now.

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Sit and Spin

MGT’s Gemini Nyte


Artist: MGT

Album: “Gemini Nyte”

Label: Cleopatra Records

Reason We’re Cranking It: “Gemini Nyte” is the latest collaboration between guitarist Mark Gemini Thwaite (The Mission, Peter Murphy) and vocalist Ashton Nyte (The Awakening). Together they have composed an impressive album of 13 tracks that take you through a range of goth rock. Their combined resume in music could knock even the tightest of socks off!

What The Album Tells Us About Them: Thwaite and Nyte both have their specific set of skills, skills that when enacted, work together to produce some serious guitar riffs and haunting vocals. The duo created a collection of songs that is nostalgic in sound but with a modern spin on the dark alternative style.

Track Stuck On Repeat: “Every Little Dream” has a feeling to it that conjures up our love of The Cure. While the song is entirely its own, we can’t help but get that Robert Smith-esque vibe out of our heads when the track plays… and plays again.

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

And that means…

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Trunk Gaming

Dragon Ball FighterZ


Game: Dragon Ball FighterZ

Initial Release Date: January 26, 2018

Publisher: Bandai Namco Entertainment

Genre: Fighter

Plateform: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows

Why We’re Playing It: There have been great pairings in the past… peanut butter and jelly, Batman and Robin, zombies and brains… but perhaps one of the best we have seen to date is the pairing of the best fighting game developer, Arc System Works, with THE best fighting cartoon, “Dragon Ball Z.” I mean where could you go wrong? We’ve always been big anime fans and a few of us have chibi Nendoroid figures of some of the Dragon Ball Z characters. It’s always had amazing fighting in the show so we’re excited to get a game based on it.

What It’s All About?: Whether you’re a Dragon Ball fan or not, a beginning gamer or a well-seasoned one… this game is worth checking out. It’s easy to just plug in, play and enjoy. If you’re a fan of the cartoon series, then you’re in luck, because they do the series justice and it’s literally like you’re dropped (and playing along) in the fight scenes from the show. Nothing is going to get you closer to being in the series unless you become a Super Saiyan yourself and get beamed into the TV ala Willy Wonka.

That’s Worth A Power-Up!: The game looks and sounds phenomenal. It has the traditional cel shading animation look to it, but there’s also a sense of depth and dimension. So, you’re playing 2D, but it has a third dimensional feel. The camera/screen will zoom in and out at times depending on the actions and distance between fighters, and this helps provide that next level of dimension. The sounds are crisp and land on cue along with punches or kicks to the face. The music is fast paced and keeps you in the fighting spirit and engaged. The only thing of note is that you may need a good SSD for PS4 console to store it on there, as it isn’t a small game by any means.

Bonus Level: Right out of the gate, we noticed that this a great fighting game for both beginners and veteran gamers. It’s very easy to pick up on the controls and the way that the game plays. There are no super long button combos to remember, so depending on what level of cartoon violence you find acceptable, the younger crowd can get in on this game as well and probably lay waste to the older gamers in the room.

And that’s why this game is a certified quarter muncher!

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Deep Focus

Cardillo & Keith


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 Erin Cardillo and Richard Keith, creators of the new CW series “Life Sentence.” Starring Lucy Hale, the dramedy tells the story of a young woman who, after living as if she were dying, has to navigate the extreme choices she made upon learning that her terminal cancer has been cured. We recently sat down with the pair to discuss juggling new humans with a new show, why they surrounded themselves with people more talented than themselves, and the reason their partnership works.

TrunkSpace: The series premiere of “Life Sentence” just went down. What emotions were you juggling with as you headed into the final stretch?
Cardillo/Keith: Exhaustion. Joy. Accomplishment. Pride. Fear. Did we mention exhaustion? It’s been a long road to get to the premiere of “Life Sentence”… we had this idea over two years ago and started pitching the show 18 months ago. We then wrote and produced the pilot and the first season all while having and raising newborns (who were born a week apart).
Keith: My daughter was born the day we turned in the studio draft of the pilot. And she took her first steps the day we turned in the studio draft of the finale.
Cardillo: My son followed her up by timing his milestones with the networks drafts. So it’s been a pretty hectic time in our lives, raising a new show and new humans!
Cardillo/Keith: In terms of the fear, it isn’t fear that the show is or isn’t good. That’s subjective. (We’d argue it’s good.) But no matter what you do, some people will think it’s great and others won’t. The fear is mostly… will the show find an audience that really connects with it? We both put our hearts and souls into this show, which required us to spend a lot of time away from our families. So, our hope is that our hard work comes across on screen and that these characters and their stories speak to people as strongly as they do to us. But at this point, that’s out of our hands. And there’s something terrifying and exhilarating about that.

Thankfully, we were blessed with an amazing lead, Lucy Hale, and a wonderful mentor and partner in Bill Lawrence (and immensely supportive spouses who supported us doing this in the first year of our children’s lives)… so… what we’re saying is, it seems like we were given all the tools to succeed and our hope is really just that we didn’t screw it up!

TrunkSpace: As writing/producing partners, you have worked on other series together, including your own creations. Does this one feel different? Does the buzz that’s been building for “Life Sentence” give you a different perspective at this stage in the process?
Cardillo/Keith: It definitely does. Between having someone like Lucy attached and a producer like Bill on board, there are certainly higher hopes for this show at the studio and network level than on our other projects. And it’s nice to have a certain amount of excitement from fans who are eager to see what we’ve all been working on these last 18 months. But, at the end of the day, buzz or not, you’ve got to find an idea you’re passionate about, try your best to surround yourself with people who are more talented than you, and put everything you have into bringing that idea to life. That process never changes, and that’s where the real reward is.

TrunkSpace: Tone is everything when it comes to establishing a series, but it feels like that’s even more important when your main character is battling terminal cancer. How long did you two work on getting the tone down, and how much did your cast have a hand in it becoming a reality?
Cardillo/Keith: There was a lot of discussion about tone on this show. Especially considering that we first conceived of it (and pitched it to the networks) as a ½ hour single-camera comedy. But the more we (and Bill Lawrence and our producer Liza Katzer) talked about it, the more depth we saw in the idea and in exploring not just how this diagnosis affected our lead, but also her entire family. And so, we decided to make some tweaks and try our hand pitching it to CW as an hour dramedy. Once they got on board, the idea continued to evolve. Our first draft had much more of a comedic bent to it than the final pilot (and series) ended up having. As Bill likes to say, if you’d asked us before we started shooting the pilot how many times we thought Lucy Hale was going to cry on screen, we’d have said, “Maybe once,” but our director (Lee Toland Krieger) would have said, “Oh, like a thousand.” In the end, we collaborated and landed at a more reasonable number (somewhere around 10). And that sort of collaboration and evolution continued throughout the first season of the show and helped the show find, we think, a nice balance of humor and heart. That sort of collaboration is one the reasons we both love working in television… and, of course, the actors had a major hand in shaping the tone as well. All the good intentions and well-written lines in the world don’t matter if your cast can’t pull that tone off. What was fun on this show was, we didn’t always know going in what the perfect tone of a given scene would be. So, we’d try a version played for drama, a version played more comedically (thankfully we have a cast that can do both), and then you get to go into the editing room and really shape the scene…

TrunkSpace: From the time that you first put pen to paper on the concept to where you are now, what are you most proud of when it comes to “Life Sentence?”
Cardillo/Keith: Finishing it! Every show starts the season with a big empty white board and there’s nothing that makes our stomach hurt worse. Except maybe taking a multi-vitamin without food (which is seriously gross). Also, as we mentioned, this show was constantly evolving and where this season ends isn’t necessarily where we would have said it ended when we pitched the show. But, we’re really excited about the direction it ended up going in. We feel like it will be a satisfying journey for our audience and Stella, and hopefully, everyone will find some tears and laughter along the way.

TrunkSpace: CW is a network that is known for letting shows find their legs and grow. As creators, is that a comforting thought knowing that your creation will have as good a chance as any at having an audience discover it and hopefully, become emotionally invested?
Cardillo/Keith: Absolutely! Nailed it. This question was easy.

Photo By: Storm Santos

TrunkSpace: You’re both actors in addition to being writers. Does that skill set give you a different perspective on developing characters and scenes? Do you test things out among the two of you to see if the performance side of things will pay off?
Cardillo/Keith: We do. Before we were getting paid to write, we turned Erin’s dining room into our office. We’d write and act things out (often loudly and enthusiastically) to test how scenes would play, much to the chagrin of Erin’s neighbors. Especially when we were working on the pilot of the “Significant Mother” digital series, which was a super raunchy sex comedy. It involved us acting out scenes where one of us was mad at the other for sleeping with our mom, and we had a surprising amount of candid conversations about dildos. In terms of representation, this show had it all! In fact, I was reading Lovegasm’s article on representation just the other day when it hit me just how ahead of its time this show was. Erin’s neighbors definitely gave her weird looks in the stairwell.

TrunkSpace: Was writing always in the cards or was it a part of your careers that came after the fact? Did working as an actor serve as the catalyst for where you both are today?
Cardillo/Keith: Acting was definitely the way both of us got our foot in the door. And it definitely informs our writing process. We pay a lot of attention to the flow and rhythm of dialogue because we know first hand how much easier an actor’s job is when the dialogue falls out of their mouth naturally. In terms of writing, that’s always been in the cards. We’ve both always been interested in telling stories… it’s why we became actors in the first place. And, at the end of the day, whether you’re writing, acting, directing, producing, or editing etc., if you’re working in film, television, or theatre, your job is to tell stories. And, eventually, both of us started to feel like there were stories we wanted to tell that were outside the scope of the characters we could play as actors. So we started writing. Initially on our own, trading feature scripts and giving each other notes. Until we realized that the stories we wanted to tell overlapped and it made sense to tell those stories together.

TrunkSpace: What is it that you have found in each other creatively that makes the partnership work?
Cardillo/Keith: I’m (Rich) really good at getting up early (like 4 a.m.) to crank out drafts and my brain dies by about 3 p.m. Whereas I (Erin) really am happy working away into the wee hours of the night. So it allows us, as a team, to basically work 24/7 if we have to. And it still allows each of us individual time to rest and the ability to work at the times where their creativity is at its peak. We also make each other laugh a lot, which is really important. Especially when you’re about to start shooting an episode in 10 days and you don’t have a script yet… not that we have ever had that happen to us multiple times on multiple episodes of multiple shows that we’ve worked on.

TrunkSpace: You spent time working on “Fuller House” for Netflix in 2016. What did you guys take from that experience that you have carried with you in your careers and to where you are today with a show like “Life Sentence?”
Cardillo/Keith: On “Significant Mother,” we didn’t really have a full writers room because of time and budget constraints, which meant we had never really been in a full writers room with a staff sitting around a table breaking stories. So when that show came and went and our subsequent pilot at CW, “The I Do Crew,” didn’t go, we both thought it was really important that we staff on someone else’s show. So, if we were fortunate enough to get another show, we’d know first hand what it was like to be someone on staff. And we hoped that that perspective would help us learn how to collaborate with our staff in a way that not only made them the most productive, but engaged, creatively fulfilled, and invested in the show. Because at the end of the day, it may say “Created by Erin Cardillo & Richard Keith” but that’s just the beginning. It takes hundreds of people to bring a show to life and keep it alive. And the more you can make everybody feel like this is their show, like they see a little piece of themselves, and that they see their hard work in it, the better the show will be.

Hale in “Life Sentence”

TrunkSpace: Erin, you spent almost 100 episodes playing Esme Vanderheausen on the soap opera “Passions” from 2005 to 2008. Soaps can be such a breakneck environment where you’re sprinting through more pages a day than ever seems conceivable. Did working in that atmosphere sort of prepare you for anything?
Cardillo: It certainly had a boot camp element to it, but the biggest gift of that show was how creative I got to be during that time. Both with the character of Esme (who was an absolute loon) and because the writers let me improv a lot, which was so much fun. But also, because I only worked two to three days a week and we’d shoot my part of an episode out in three to four hours, which meant I actually ended up with a lot of free time on my hands. I wrote my first feature and developed my first TV project during that time. I never would have been able to do that if I’d been going from job to job as an actor and also working a side job to support myself, as a lot of actors have to. It was truly a gift in every sense of the word.

TrunkSpace: Richard, what have you learned in your career as an actor that you try to be mindful of now as an executive producer? Do you think you approach certain aspects of the job differently because of your own experiences in front of the camera?
Keith: Definitely. For me, it’s important to remember to really listen to your cast when they have thoughts or concerns on something that’s happening with their character in any given script. It’s every actor’s job to be an expert on their own character. To protect them. To fight for them. To service them. So, as a writer, you have to be humble and realize that while that character may have started in your mind, it now lives in their body, and while you have dozens of characters to focus on, they only have one which makes them an expert in a way you’ll never be.

TrunkSpace: If someone came to you with a time machine and offered you a chance to glimpse at what your careers will look like 10 years from now, would you take the futuristic peek?
Cardillo/Keith: Tempting, but no. Some of the best things in life happen unexpectedly. Sure, you may have a plan, but if you have an open heart and an open mind and are willing to let go of what you think should happen, we’ve found that things can turn out better than expected. And sometimes worse. But you learn from failure, and if you try to avoid it, you also rob yourself of the chance to grow as an artist and a person. Not to mention the fact that if you know what’s going to happen at the end of Act Five, you could forget to enjoy the ride of getting there.

Life Sentence” airs Wednesdays on The CW.

Featured image by: Storm Santos

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The Featured Presentation

Andrée Vermeulen

Vermeulen in “Angie Tribeca”/Photo by: Doug Hyun

With two long-running series up for discussion, the off-beat comedy original “Angie Tribeca” and the animated “Dragons: Race to the Edge,” Andrée Vermeulen is feeling fulfilled, but even if she wasn’t making a living doing what she loves, she’d still love doing it for a living. It’s part of who she is, and if that feeling of creative contentment no longer came from acting, she’d find something else to fill the void. It’s an outlook worth embracing, both in careers and in life. After all, sometimes the most elusive ingredient in the quest for personal fulfillment is happiness.

We recently sat down with Vermeulen to discuss how her career has defied the disbelievers, the “Yes, And” approach, and what we can expect from Season 4 of “Angie Tribeca,” premiering later this year on TBS.

TrunkSpace: You have been juggling two series these past few years, “Angie Tribeca” and “Dragons: Race to the Edge.” Is that a relatively new experience as far as the industry is concerned, performers having the freedom to work on multiple television/streaming projects at the same time?
Vermeulen: Thankfully, voice acting provides a sort of loophole where an actor can be a regular on two series at the same time because they are seen as completely different types of work. Because Dragons is animated, no one would even know I’m on the series unless they made a point to look up who voices Ruffnut, so it’s not a conflict. It’s funny, even in hearing “you’ve been juggling two series these past few years,” my initial reaction was, “I have?” I guess the rule is, as long as we can’t see your face, its not a conflict.

TrunkSpace: When you’re able to juggle two projects, especially when they’re both coming at performance from a different perspective, does that help to keep the work aspect of what you do exciting? Is variety the spice of life when it comes to acting/performing?
Vermeulen: I’ve been very lucky to play two characters who are so completely different from myself. Scholls is like a human robot. She’s deadpan, monotone, void of human emotion. Ruffnut is the complete opposite: loud, wild, aggressive, boisterous, and not the brightest. Scholls is a logical person. Ruffnut acts on emotion and goes with her gut. The contrast between these two definitely keeps things exciting, as well as the contrast in the work day. For “Angie Tribeca,” we shoot for 10 weeks, five days a week, and I have to get all done up in hair and makeup each day. I often wake up at 4 a.m. and get home at 8 p.m. For Dragons, I go in maybe once a month, in a window of time that I choose, and do three episodes in two hours and no one cares what I look like.

TrunkSpace: What is it about your current place in life… your career as it is today… that most excites you? What would 10-year-old Andrée be high-fiving you about?
Vermeulen: I guess the fact that I make a living doing what I love. That I don’t have to work in a restaurant anymore. That I figured it out. A lot of people didn’t believe in me, including most of my family. My mom and dad never doubted me, but the rest of the family thought I should be a business major.

TrunkSpace: Your background is in making people laugh. Is performing comedy something that always came natural to you or was it a love that you had to grow comfortable in performance-wise?
Vermeulen: Comedy has always been easiest for me. I’ve always been the “funny friend.” Growing up, I dreamed of being on SNL, I just didn’t know how to make that happen. Then I ended up going to college in NYC (Marymount Manhattan College) for theatre performance with a minor in musical theatre. My training, aside from the musical theatre classes, was all drama. At that point, I had forgotten the dream of doing comedy and was super intent on being a starving Shakespearean actor. But when my senior year rolled around, I finally got to do a comedic scene. It was in a “Dance for Actors” class, and I’ll never forget Professor Haila Strauss pulling me aside after my scene and saying, “You need to go do comedy.” I was so confused and annoyed at the time. I had plunged myself into massive college debt (no one paid for my college, and despite getting the Presidential Scholarship I still owed an astronomical amount of money when I graduated because a private college just can’t get the same funding that big schools get) for a degree in DRAMA and she was telling me to go do comedy?

Prof. Strauss told me to go to UCB, and thank God I listened. I started taking classes and performing with my indie improv team (No U Ki’in and As the Diamond Burns, an improvised Soap Opera) all around the city. Eventually I auditioned to be on a Maude Team (a UCB house sketch team) and immediately made the cut. It was interesting how much easier comedy felt to me. It felt like the amount of work I put into it was equal to the results I would get. And I hadn’t had that experience with drama. I was putting a lot of work into it and not being cast in any roles. I do think my dramatic training helped my comedy though. Nothing is a mistake. It helped to make my characters more grounded. So even if I was playing the most bizarre person ever written, I could play that person believably. So, I guess to answer that original question, I think comedy came natural to me but I had a round about way of realizing it.

TrunkSpace: You are a house performer with The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles. Does working in that environment prepare you for an “anything can happen” mindset as it relates to other aspects of your career? Are you better equipped on the set of “Angie Tribeca” for example because of your time with UCB?
Vermeulen: Absolutely. The overall mindset that is taught at UCB is “Yes, And.” Someone presents something, you say YES to it, AND you add to it, validating what they have brought to the table. Not only is that agreement so helpful in comedy, but it’s extremely helpful in life. When our gut instinct is to say “no” to everything, we limit our relationships with people, we limit our perspective, we limit our joy and our experiences in life, and ultimately we limit our ability for growth as a person.

In terms of “Angie Tribeca,” this “Yes, And” mindset is extremely helpful. We have such silly, nonsensical things happen on the show. We just have to say “Yes, And” to them. I think our show can be challenging because in order to play this type of comedy, we approach it like it’s a drama. We play the most ridiculous scenes like they are dead serious, high stakes scenes and that’s what makes them even more funny. But sometimes that can be tricky because if we analyze the scene like a drama and ask, “Why is my character doing this? What is the motivation?” It gets confusing. The character is doing that certain thing because IT’S FUNNY. The motivation is what’s FUNNY, and sometimes what’s funny is illogical. That’s where we have to let logic go and just say, “Yes, And.”

Ruffnut from “Dragons: Race to the Edge.”

TrunkSpace: We mentioned “Dragons: Race to the Edge,” which is currently pushing almost 70 episodes. When you first decided to pursue a career in the arts, was voice acting ever in the plan or, as Dr. Ian Malcolm from “Jurassic Park” is prone to saying, has life found a way? Did your career zig when you expected it to zag?
Vermeulen: The series actually started on Cartoon Network, and was called “Dragons: Riders of Berk” so there are well over 100 episodes. Pretty crazy. I originally did not have voice acting in the plan, but as my career went on, it definitely became a wish. It became a “that would be cool” thought in the back of my head. I just didn’t know how to achieve it. I have had a lot of vocal training – I sing, but I had not had any voiceover training. I got extremely lucky, and when the role of Ruffnut was open for auditions, I was with ICM who had a partnership with DPN, a voiceover agency. I got the audition because they were specifically looking for someone with an improv background who could do a sort of voice match to the Ruffnut that Kristen Wiig had established in the movie. I was also very lucky to do the audition at DPN because they are the real deal when it comes to voice-over. The technicians who run the booths are very experienced in the industry, so recording with them means you’re working with a great director. So, I went into the booth with Juliet at DPN and I did my first take, and she leaned into the mic on the other side of the glass in the booth and said, “Well, that was boring. I’m falling asleep over here.” And THANK GOD she said that! I’m forever grateful that she wouldn’t let me get away with a mediocre take. She had me do several more takes until it was up to par. That was my first ever voiceover audition. I didn’t know what I was doing. And I booked the job. It’s pretty insane. Then I had this job and I had to sort of learn on my feet. Walking into DreamWorks pretending like I’ve done this a million times. “Right, right, I know where to stand. Yes. Oh, me? I actually like the headphones ON. Thankyousomuch.”

TrunkSpace: From a performance standpoint, do you approach voice acting differently than you do onscreen work, either consciously or subconsciously?
Vermeulen: I had to learn to be more animated (pun intended). I was so used to commercial acting where the delivery is sort of thrown away. I started in live theatre, where the performance is bigger, and then I had to learn how to tone it down for on-camera. But then came voiceover where I had to bring it back up again. Maybe not all the way up, but I had to find a happy medium. Thanks to my training and my experience, I had all the tools in my tool belt, I just needed to learn which ones to pull out when. And that’s why I think it’s so important to have training and to practice your craft constantly, whether it’s writing, vocal warm ups, improv classes, sketch, character pieces, etc. You just never know when something will come along and you have to be like, “Why yes, I DO tap dance.”

TrunkSpace: Season 4 of “Angie Tribeca” will premiere later this year. Is there anything about Scholls’ Season 4 journey that you can share with us this early in the game? What can fans expect?
Vermeulen: Season 4 is set 20 years in the future, but we of course have not aged. Everyone has left the police force and are now doing Special Ops. This season Scholls is a part of the team, whereas in the past she would stay in the lab, and occasionally show up at a crime scene. Being a part of the team means a lot more screen time for Scholls and a whole new arsenal of special skills up her sleeve.

TrunkSpace: Do you still love performing as much today as you did the first time you stepped foot on a stage or set and began your career?
Vermeulen: No, I hate it. Kidding, kidding. I love it! I think if you don’t love something, you shouldn’t do it. Performing should make you feel like you’re flying. It should make you feel fulfilled. And that fulfillment should be great enough that you would wait a million years for any sort of success, no matter how small it was. Actually, that fulfillment should be so great that even if you had zero monetary success, and zero recognition from it, you would still perform, because it makes you happy. I haven’t been performing live as much lately, and I definitely feel like there’s a little hole in my heart because of it. I need to fix that.

TrunkSpace: If someone came to you with a time machine and offered you a chance to have a glimpse at what your career will look like 10 years from now, would you take the futuristic peek?
Vermeulen: I don’t know. I think I would be very curious to take the peek, although I’m not sure I should. I try really hard to trust in myself and God, or the Universe, or whatever you’d like to call it. I work really hard to let go of outcomes and to create from a place of joy. Also, real talk: the few times I’ve talked to a psychic or spiritual medium, etc. and they tell me some sort of future prediction that is exciting and then it doesn’t come true, I’m so disappointed. So, that being said, no I would not take a peek. Final answer.

Season 6 of “Dragons: Race to the Edge” available now on Netflix.

Season 4 of “Angie Tribeca” premieres on TBS later this year.

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Trunk Bubbles

Ismael Canales


Name: Ismael Canales

Favorite Comic Book Character Growing Up: That’s hard… I’ll go for Batman, Spider-Man and Superlópez, a Spanish Superman parody.

Favorite Comic Book Character Now: Athena Voltaire!

Latest Work: “Athena Voltaire and The Sorcerer Pope,” first four-issue arc of the ongoing series published by Action Lab Entertainment. (Series kicked off February 14!)

TrunkSpace: How would you describe your art style?
Canales: Not sure about that, it changes constantly. I’m very insecure about that, and I just try to adapt it to every new story I’m telling. In comics, art is supposed to be at the service of the story, and that’s what I’m always struggling with, just trying to make the story as readable and fun as possible for the reader.

TrunkSpace: How important were comic books in your life growing up and is that where you discovered your love and inspiration for drawing?
Canales: My mom started buying me comics even before I could read, and she also taught me and encouraged me to draw, so comics were there from the beginning and I learned to love them and be inspired by them since, forever. I wasn’t a sports kid, so comic books and films were my main source of entertainment when I was young, and I definitely wanted to keep drawing because of them.

TrunkSpace: Was there a particular artist or title from your childhood that you remember being drawn to and inspired by?
Canales: As a reader, I usually look for artists more than characters/series. The first two artists that I remember I started to identify with when I was a child were John Byrne and Alan Davis. (I’m a kid from the ‘80s!) I was really impressed with their work. Their comics were, you know, really well drawn! I keep looking at their work, loving it and trying to learn from them.

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?
Canales: I had no idea about how to break into comics. There’s no formula or trick to get there – I’m still trying to figure it out, indeed! I started going to comic cons here in Spain, meeting editors and pros. You know, I started to build a contacts list, because it’s always a good idea to hear the advice and critiques from the people of the industry – it really helps you to improve your skills. Finally, I started working with Butxido Agency and Luis (my agent) helped me to get into Athena’s world. As I say, there’s no “right” way of breaking into comics… you can work with an agent, you can create your web comic and get hired from some company, get hired after an interview at a con, or even self-publish your own creations. There are lots more self publishing companies out there now than when I first got into comics so look at your options and see which one will be able to help you. I suppose it’s just a matter of being there, working and showing what you do to anybody who may pay attention.

TrunkSpace: What was your biggest break in terms of a job that opened more doors for you?
Canales: My biggest break in comics has been “Athena Voltaire and The Sorcerer Pope,” the first four-issue arc of her new ongoing series published by Action Lab Entertainment. Not sure yet about doors that can be opened from now, but I’m really honored to be a small part of Athena’s legacy!

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?
Canales: I started to take it as serious as possible about eight years ago. I’ve been publishing some short stories in comic book anthologies here in Spain (“Cthulhu,” “Killertoons,” “Dark Hearts,” “Ensueños”), teaming up with dear writers/friends like Fátima Fernández or Alfonso Bueno, a couple of comic books for ECV Press (“The Continuum,” “The Hunters”) with Ben Schwartz, a 22-page comic book for an imminent sci-fi short film, “Is This Heaven” (written and directed by the amazing Bastiaan Koch, Marauder Film’s mastermind) and learning everything I could until Athena came to me last year. So, everything you do counts as a learning process. I also self-published a few issues of “Zinco,” a fanzine that my friend Domingo Pérez and myself created when we were younger. But each artist has his/her own timing. I know about artists that got in after their first interview, and others that had hundreds of rejections before breaking in, so it’s important to keep focused on what you want and don’t get discouraged… just like with any purpose you may have in your life.

TrunkSpace: Is there a particular character or universe you always find yourself returning to when you’re sketching or doing warm-ups?
Canales: Batman! Don’t know what happens with the character, but I discover myself sketching little Batmans very often. I love the shapes and how you usually play with the shadows when drawing Batman. It’s so much fun!

TrunkSpace: Is there a specific title or character that you’d like to work on in the future and why?
Canales: I’ll be more than happy working with any of the Marvel and DC classic characters – no surprises here, but I also love discovering new characters, like Athena Voltaire! My favorites can change from day to day, but if I have to say one right now, I’ll go for The Rocketeer. I really love this character, but I have to admit it would be so scary to be drawing Dave Stevens’ creation. He was a true genius and his work keeps inspiring me constantly. Man, he was SO good.

TrunkSpace: What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your career in comics? Where would you like your path to lead?
Canales: Just to have a long career in comics seems a big dream already! It doesn’t matter for me right now if it’s by working with some publisher’s properties or with some creator-owned stuff… hello, Mark Millar! Jokes aside, just to keep working sounds great for me.

TrunkSpace: What would you say is the greatest strength an artist can have?
Canales: Style, influences, tools… it doesn’t matter in the end, I think. Everyone has his/her own way of doing things. If you are serious with the work, and finish it (on time!), well, this is the best business card for a commercial artist. This is teamwork, and you can’t be the one who stops the production pipeline. After saying that, we all are human beings, and things can happen; Athena’s team has been incredibly supportive and nice when I’ve had some trouble (well, tons of them), and I’m so honored to share the title with all of them. (Steve, Emily, Chris… you guys are the best!) Being like them, nice and kind people, is a strong tool too when you work in something collaborative like comics.

TrunkSpace: How has technology changed your process of putting ideas/script to page? Do you use the classic paper/pencil approach at all anymore?
Canales: I started working digitally about three years ago, and it really helped me with working faster. It takes time to get used to these new tools, but it really helps you. And, hey, if everyone out there is using it, why are you gonna play to a disadvantage? Anyway, for me, nothing compares to using traditional pencil and paper, and I love when artists that I admire share pics of their original physical pages. It’s magic!

TrunkSpace: What advice would you give another young aspiring artist who is considering a career in the comic industry?
Canales: Just don’t! Just kidding! I’ll say, just try to keep your passion and vocation… this can be a hard job. It’s time consuming, and if you don’t have fun it can be a pretty frustrating thing to do every day. And don’t be afraid of working hard. And be opened-minded with critics, from editors to other artists. Be smart and learn as much as you can from them. Family and friends are usually nice and kind, but you need objective feedback to keep improving, and it can be hard in the beginning.

TrunkSpace: Making appearances at conventions: Love it, leave it, or a combination of both?
Canales: I’ve done just a few appearances at cons as an artist, and I have had so much fun. In a (usually) lonely job like being a comic book artist, it’s really great having an excuse to go out there and meet people and other fellow artists. And having the chance to say “hi” to artists and people you admire is a really amazing feeling. It is also time consuming, but I’ll try to attend as many cons as I can as an artist, no doubt about it.

TrunkSpace: What is the craziest/oddest thing you’ve ever been asked to draw as a commission?
Canales: I haven’t drawn many commissions yet, but I have to say that what has amazed me is that I usually don’t get asked to draw the typical iconic characters from comics (Superman, Spider-Man, etc.)… most of the time I get asked to draw comic or video game characters that I know nothing about, so I have to Google for references all the time. But it’s always fun to draw things that are completely new to me.

TrunkSpace: What else can fans of your work look forward to in 2018?
Canales: While answering your questions, I’m working on the last two pages of my Athena Voltaire run. I have to take some time before getting involved in any other projects, but I hope I’ll be talking with you about new comics very soon. I’ll keep you informed.

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Between The Sheets

Joelle Charbonneau


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

This time out we’re chatting with author Joelle Charbonneau about her new novel “Time Bomb,” how real-life teenagers served to inspire her writing, and why she’s learning to accept the fact that she’s a member of the author’s club.

TrunkSpace: You’ve released a number of novels over the course of your career. As you gear up for the release of “Time Bomb,” does it have a different feeling than it did with your earlier works, and if so, why?
Charbonneau: Every book release feels different and I tend to get more nervous with each one. When I first started writing, I never really thought people would read the words that I wrote. That made it easier in many ways to face the moment when the curtain goes on up on a new novel. Now I know there will be an audience for the book, but unlike my professional performance days when I can see the faces in the audience, I have no way of gauging whether or not the story speaks to readers. I can only hope that the story I tried to tell is one they will think about after the final page is turned.

TrunkSpace: “Time Bomb” focuses on seven students who are trapped in their school after a bomb goes off. Obviously this is a work of fiction, but are you nervous as to how it will be perceived in the current social and political climate following the tragic events that occurred in Parkland, Florida?
Charbonneau: This is a tough question. The obvious and very honest answer is yes. The anxiety level is incredibly high for parents and teachers and students after everything that has happened. And “Time Bomb” is a novel with danger in a school, which could make it a hard book for some readers to pick up. However, it is my great hope that “Time Bomb” is also a book that will lead to discussions about some of the issues that teens face every single day. Books help us walk in the shoes of characters who are both similar and different from ourselves. Exploring other points of views creates empathy and opens our minds to new ways of thinking and hopefully new ways of talking to each other. I think since the tragedy on Feb. 14th, the students of Stoneman Douglas High School have demonstrated with their amazing strength and words that our world can use all the empathy and open-minded conversation that we can get.

TrunkSpace: Much of your career has been spent writing the continuation of series that you created, including The Testing trilogy and The Rebecca Robbins mysteries. Was there something freeing creatively for you in working on “Time Bomb” and getting to essentially start from scratch?
Charbonneau: Starting a new project from scratch is both terrifying and incredibly wonderful. Terrifying because I do not yet know the characters I am writing about and with a book like “Time Bomb” that is six times as nerve-wracking. After all, there were six point of view characters from very different backgrounds that I had to shape from a concept into three-dimensional teens. But it is wonderful to feel the moment when each character’s voice clicks into place and to know that unlike a book in a series, a standalone story will be complete (or as complete as any story can be) by the time I reach the final page.

TrunkSpace: As you look back at the work, what are you most proud of when it comes to “Time Bomb?”
Charbonneau: I’m most proud of the array of characters in “Time Bomb,” which were created through conversations I’ve had with students who opened up to me about their lives and then were willing to read the draft of the manuscript and offer their critiques so I could continue to make the characters stronger. High schools are filled with students of a variety of cultures, religions and economic circumstances, many of which I can appreciate, but cannot claim as my own. The students who talked to me about their school and family lives, their concerns about how they are perceived in the world and the limitations they sometimes feel compelled to put on themselves gave me the building blocks which became what I hope is the heart of the book. Those teens gave me a true gift by allowing me to hear their joys and sorrows and I can only hope I have made them proud. (And if I have made any mistakes, they are completely mine.)

TrunkSpace: Your background is in theater. Do you think that has helped you in your career as a writer, specifically from the standpoint of crafting dialogue?
Charbonneau: Well, my background in theater has certainly helped when it comes to getting rejected. I’m a true champ at that whether it be in theater, opera or in writing. But I do think that I use the training I’ve had as an actor when I write dialogue. I often find myself speaking the words aloud and then altering words in order to find the specific voice or speech pattern of a character, which I’m sure confuses the cat who thinks I am talking to him.

TrunkSpace: You do a lot of visits and Skype sessions with students. How important are those events to you, not only to your career, but from an inspirational standpoint? Does inspiring the next generation of writers help to refuel your own creative tank?
Charbonneau: My first published books were for adults, so I had no idea when I wrote my first young adult book that school visits and Skypes were something that is often a part of a YA writer’s life. As much as I love writing, I love school visits and virtual chats more. Teens are strong and fun and give me hope for the future. They are also snarky and throw shade with the best of them, and I love every moment of it. I really hope that some small part of my visits inspires the students I talk to because they greatly inspire me. They remind me to question everything about the world – especially my own preconceived ideas – and to approach life as if anything is possible. I think of both of those things when I sit down in front of my computer and face the blank page. Then on the days when I think I can’t possibly fill the pages, I remind myself those teens believe I can and that I don’t want to be the one that ever lets them down.

TrunkSpace: How long did it take for you to discover your voice as a writer?
Charbonneau: All writers take time to develop their voice. I came to writing late. I was not the girl who dreamed of being a writer. I was a theater girl through and through. I loved reading other people’s lines and putting my own spin on their story. When I finally did start writing, I needed practice. Lots and lots of practice. I can see glimpses of my voice in my first manuscripts, but it took until my fifth manuscript for my own voice to consistently shine through. And I keep working on making it stronger with each book. I guess you could say, me and my writing voice continue to be a work in progress.

TrunkSpace: Regarding the process, is writing a labor of love for you or does it feel more like labor? Do you enjoy the process?
Charbonneau: In one word – yes. Yes, I love the process. Yes, it is a labor of love and yes it feels like labor. The more I know about writing, the more critical I am of myself as I write, which can be hard to set to the side so I can lose myself in the story. But I love the process of creating the world and exploring an idea that I am fascinated with. More often than not, I am writing to find out what I think about something so it is no wonder that the process of writing a first draft is equal parts frustration and fascination.

TrunkSpace: And what does that process look like? What are the ideal conditions for putting in a good day of writing?
Charbonneau: Wait!? There are ideal conditions for putting in a good day of writing? I guess that probably gives you a good idea of how I write. I am a mom, so I tend to write when and where I can. I’ve written poolside during swim lessons and on the sidelines of taekwondo lessons and sitting on the grass in a concert in the park where my husband’s band is playing. Because my writing process is what would be called by-the-seat-of-my-pants, I only have a vague idea of where the story is going when I start writing. I have the conflict in my head and I do some world building about the location and the circumstances surrounding the story, and then I write. I have tried outlining because that seems like it should guarantee that every day is a decent writing day, but for some reason it just doesn’t work for me. I find that each conversation my characters have veers me away from the outline and into previously unseen territory. So, I have finally decided that outlining isn’t meant for me – at least not on the first draft. I have to just follow where the story goes. To do that, I find I have to write seven days a week in order to keep the story straight in my head. Sometimes that means I get five to six pages written while my son is at school. Sometimes I am writing at 2 a.m. to eek out one page before I go to sleep. Lucky for me, my desperate need to find out what happens next in the story means that I am willing to write anywhere and anyplace as long as it gets me closer to THE END.

TrunkSpace: Do you self-edit as you write?
Charbonneau: I self-doubt a lot, which means I do tweak things a little bit on the pages I’m writing that particular day. But for the most part I don’t go back and edit until the draft is done. Part of not outlining is that often I don’t know exactly where the story is going to take me. So it is hard to edit since I have no idea what parts are necessary, need to be fleshed out or are just plain old silly. But I do keep a word document with questions that I think might need to be addressed or sections I want to make sure I pay attention to when I go back and edit.

TrunkSpace: Where are you the hardest on yourself as a writer?
Charbonneau: Because I wasn’t someone who dreamed about being a writer when I was younger, I find that I have a hard time believing that I belong in the author club, which can make me doubt every single word that I write. I’m always thinking that another author would be able to tell the story better or have the right words instead of the ones I am using. So many authors were writing fiction throughout elementary and high school. They majored in English and took creative writing classes. Me – well, I sang and acted and sometimes danced. So every day is a fight to remind myself that it’s okay to doubt because all writers do that. It’s okay to have bad writing days because everyone does that, too. And when I go to conferences and festivals, I have to remember that when other people see me, they don’t see the girl that doesn’t feel like she belongs. They see an author. And if they see that, then maybe that’s who I really am.

TrunkSpace: What are you working on now and what will people be able to read next?
Charbonneau: Right now I’m working on a project that has yet to be announced. So, shhh! It’s a near future, alternate history adventure that involves a young artist who has lost her mother and in trying to finish her mother’s final painting discovers that nothing about the world she is living in is real and that words are more than the things we use to communicate – they have the power to inspire, to control and in the wrong hands the power to destroy. As for what people will be able to read next, the final book in my fantasy duology, “Eden Conquered” will be out in June. It is the continuing journey of a brother and sister’s fight for their kingdom’s throne and the story of how far people will go to gain the power they most desire.

“Time Bomb” is available March 13 from HMH Books for Young Readers.

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Listen Up

Olden Yolk

Photo By: Daniel Dorsa

As a concept, Olden Yolk has been in existence since 2012. The brainchild of songwriter Shane Butler, the project’s current artistic path wasn’t paved until 2016 after he met and formed a collaboration with Caity Shaffer, a songwriter herself. Both multi-instrumentalists and sharing a love for “choral compositions,” the duo began writing and divvying up vocal duties, ultimately coming together in the studio to cut their self-titled debut, which was released in February on Trouble in Mind. (Our review can be read here.)

We recently sat down with Butler and Shaffer to discuss where they’re looking to expand on their cooperative sound in the future, why the album is a gateway to their live show, and what impact is felt on their music by marrying it with visuals.

TrunkSpace: Your debut album dropped a few weeks ago. What emotions were you two wrestling with as you geared up to launch such a big part of who you are creatively, both as individuals and as a pair, into the world?
Butler: Honestly, I’m personally just really looking forward to bringing the record to people. I have a lot of excitement to tour and to offer what we’ve gathered to the world outside. Also, I have a lot of excitement already to jump back in the studio and make another album after gathering experience touring these songs.

TrunkSpace: From what we read, the idea for Olden Yolk first hit in 2012, but it didn’t become the dynamic duo that it is today until a few years later. How has the band changed sonically from what you were in the beginning to what we hear today on your debut?
Butler: Well, in actuality the project didn’t really become a duo until this past year, 2017. Between 2013 to 2014, I recorded a split-album with our friend Weyes Blood, but at that point Olden Yolk was still a ‘solo’ entity. Caity & I met in 2016 and started to share a lot of ideas with each other and towards the beginning of 2017 we started working on this album together. It’s been super exciting; the opportunity to incorporate multiple voices, songwriting styles, and work with a partner has really expanded the project. The sound will probably always be changing – so this specific album is just one incarnation of that teamwork between Caity & I, as well as with Jesse (DeFrancesco) & Dan (Drohan) who added to the record.

TrunkSpace: Your vocals pair so well together. Did that marrying of your voices work instantly when you two first started playing together or did it take some perfecting?
Shaffer: Thank you. We’re both fans of choral compositions, and/or songs with multiple singers, so we made something we might want to listen to – something conversational. It was our first point of connection, musically. While demoing, I added some accompanying vocals to “Common Ground,” and the result excited us, so vocal interplay became a major focus from that point forward.
Butler: Very nice you say that. That’s one of the things that first got me really excited about collaborating together. When Caity and I started singing together it really was a breakthrough moment. I think the timbre of our voices are really nice compliments to each other, or at least what I’d like to listen to. When we figured out weaving moments on songs such as “Common Ground,” “Esprit De Corps” and “Takes One To Know One,” I was pretty excited. Also, listening back to that stuff just shows me how much more we can do with that idea in the future. We really want to push that stuff on the next album.

TrunkSpace: One of the things we loved about your debut was that while a studio album, we felt it was also a great window into what an Olden Yolk live show would sound like. Was that one of the goals with the album, trying to capture a live vibe?
Butler: Well, it was definitely important to do that on some level. For one thing we really wanted to have an album where we could play the entire thing live. I’ve been part of albums in the past where there are studio songs that you literally just can’t play live… and it’s a bummer. So, after all the demos were done we went into the studio to just rehearse and make sure we could capture a live essence of all the songs. This also allowed the ability for new parts and subtleties to be added to the songs. I think this was a time when Jesse was really able to come up with some great guitar lines and ambiances for certain songs to add to the arrangements that were already there. Almost every song on the album had it’s core played live by the band in the room and then we went back in and added to those original arrangements afterward. But, a lot of the sound on the album is from those first takes – the core of the songs were all live. It definitely helps to provide a gateway between the studio and the live show.

TrunkSpace: When you put the finishing touches on the album and called it a wrap, did the experience of putting it together exceed your expectations? Did you accomplish all that you set out to with it and more?
Butler: Yes and no. I think we were all really happy with the album, but as always happens, as soon is it was done I think we realized how much further we could go on the next album. I think this is actually a really healthy feeling. I feel like if you ever were to finish an album and say, “That’s it, we did it – this is the best thing we could ever make,” it’s like you would die as an artist. I think that constant want to improve and the knowledge that you can push yourself further is what keeps you alive as an artist.
Shaffer: Completely agree with Shane. After all was said and done, the album became more than anything Shane, myself, and the band might have accomplished alone. We had a lot of talented people lending their insight – Jon Nellen, Jarvis Taveniere and more – who enlivened the songs. Compositionally, we were coming to terms with our sound, and that’s what I hear. While I’m glad to have that process captured on the record, there’s a lot more we’re looking forward to.

TrunkSpace: Do you need to step away after completing a project like your debut in order to refuel the creative tank or does the process inspire you to jump right into the next chapter of your artistic journey?
Shaffer: I’m feeling ready to jump into the next thing. We’ll be playing a few recent songs on our upcoming tour, and otherwise have a stockpile of ideas. In some ways, releasing the album refueled the creative tank. Receiving positive feedback from friends is definitely motivating to me, as is listening to the songs on the album and having those “what if”/“next time” thoughts.
Butler: A little bit of both. Personally I’m really excited to play all these songs live throughout this year. I always learn so much from performing live and get ideas for what directions to bring the next set of songs from this process. For me, touring is an essential part of the writing process – it’s where you gather the notes you will use in the next stage of creation. Also, I’ve always experienced that a lot of songs come to me when I’m traveling, so I’m excited to be writing a lot while traveling this year – and getting a little break from being stationary.

TrunkSpace: You’re both songwriters. How does that impact the writing process for Olden Yolk? What does that process look like from the inception of an idea to the completion of a song?
Butler: It’s really different for every song on the album. Both Caity & I have a hand in every song that’s on the album although there are songs that one of us may have created the core for and vice versa. We always do a lot of workshopping for each thing and then bring it into a phase where we can just freeform and play with it a bit in the studio. Also, we have had helping hands from our bandmates Jesse & Dan and from other friends who have added flourishes and arrangements to the songs. Each song is it’s own organism with dynamic traits. We’re both really excited to push the boundaries of the collaborative process on the next album. There’s so many ways to do, so…
Shaffer: Yes, for the next album, we want to try to begin that collaborative stage a bit earlier – working on new songs at the formative stage of the writing process as opposed to the end. Just for kicks, to free things up.

TrunkSpace: We could be completely off base here, but it seems like you enjoy the process of marrying visuals with your music. Is that a continuation of your creative expression with the music itself, or does that tap into a completely different part of your artistic brain?
Butler: The blending of visuals and music has always been really important to me. I studied visual art and have pursued it alongside my music for a long time now. With this project we’ve really wanted to really have fun with our visual ideas and to test out what happens when we place the music alongside certain images. It’s a place where we’ve been able to bring together these two practices. It’s really incredible how much of an effect it can have. A lot of my favorite bands over the years have had a really strong connection to the visual arts and I look to them for inspiration. There is such a long history of visual artists making music and vice versa. Everything from Fluxus to La Monte Young to The Velvet Underground to Sonic Youth to Black Dice to Grimes and onward…

TrunkSpace: Where are you both hardest on yourselves as artists?
Butler: There are weeks where you feel that you are really on and that you are heading in the right direction and then there are weeks where you feel like you should just give up and never make anything again. Trying not to get stuck in the latter is the hardest thing. I’m so thankful to have supportive folks in my life and to have some inner-practices which have helped me continue forward.
Shaffer: Yeah, the existentialism bit is real. Outside of that – I’ve been hard on my voice, been surprised by it many times, asked myself what the hell it’s doing, felt like it wasn’t in my control. When nervous I slip into a British accent, and there’s just no need for that. My voice has a lower range, but that’s something I’m embracing – I see it more like a birthmark and less like a wart these days.

TrunkSpace: If your debut launched Olden Yolk into the fame stratosphere, would you be comfortable being cast in that bright of a spotlight? Is there a downside to sharing your art with the world?
Shaffer: I can’t see a real downside. The infrequent criticism/reviews might seem dark, but I think dealing with that builds character, not to mention that sometimes the criticism is spot on. Overall, we’re lucky that people are listening. Also, it is difficult to find a supportive label. We’re grateful for ours. Bill and Lisa (Trouble in Mind) are kindred spirits and we admire them a lot. Regarding spotlight casting, I enjoy a certain degree of anonymity that I am probably unwilling to part with. The reason I share is because I’ve benefited so much from others doing the same… but it took a while.
Butler: I can’t imagine a life where I didn’t have some semblance of anonymity and I don’t think I would like it if I didn’t have that. I would be very happy for our work to reach as many people as possible – yet, I would always like to maintain a ‘regular life’ along with that. I also really want to keep growing as an artist. I know that a lot of demands are placed upon those who have had a lot of success and it has been hard at times for them to change, grow, and push their art to another level because they have already become so successful at one thing. It probably takes an incredible amount of discipline and fearlessness to keep yourself growing once you’ve found a ‘formula that works’. Luckily there are people who have always pushed themselves in light of these things – if our work was ever to be held in a light like that – I would look to these people for inspiration/guidance.

Olden Yolk’s self-titled debut is available now on Trouble in Mind.

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The Featured Presentation

Peter Porte

Photo: Peter Porte Credit: Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: David Dolsen

As far as leading men go, Peter Porte is checking all of the boxes. He’s handsome, he’s charismatic on screen, and according to his costar Amanda Schull, he comes to set as prepared as any actor she has ever worked with. Oh, and based on our chat with him to discuss his new Hallmark Channel movie “Love, Once and Always,” which premieres tonight, he’s also ridiculously charming. He’s basically everything our wives wish we could be, and you know what, we’re okay with that because he happens to be about as down to earth of a guy as you could find.

Like we said, checking all of the boxes.

We recently sat down with Porte to find out what keeps him excited to be working with Hallmark Channel, how he’s always contending with dogs and sheep, and why a movie like “Love, Once and Always” is exactly what the country needs right now.

TrunkSpace: You’ve worked on a number of Hallmark Channel projects, including two last year. What is it about these particular jobs for this particular company that keeps you coming back?
Porte: It’s a wonderful company to work for, first of all. They really take care of us all. I also think that it’s quality entertainment that you can watch with your entire family, and that’s something that I definitely stand behind. And everyone I’ve worked with has always been a pleasure and they’re always shooting at amazing locations. We shot the first one out in Savannah and the last two out in Vancouver and I got to experience that city in both the summer and winter. I got to do some hiking over the summer and some skiing over the winter. The people I’ve met on those are still friends with me to this day. It’s always a pleasure to be working with Hallmark.

TrunkSpace: So how did your character on “Love, Once and Always” differ from those you played in your previous Hallmark Channel projects?
Porte: So, in this one, rather than having a dog, I had a sheep. We had a resident sheep that stole the scenes in basically the same way that all the dogs did, so I had a counterpart to contend with, per usual. (Laughter)

But as far as character goes, it was different from the last two because both of my last two characters were fairly earnest. The challenges were more situational than with my co-star. In this one, because we were ex-lovers, there was a lot more history and a lot more tension between the two of us. This character, I think, is really funny and a bit snarky, and fun. That’s a bit of departure for Hallmark. There’s a quippy banter between the two of them, and that was really fun for me.

TrunkSpace: Did the history between the two characters help to establish that banter?
Porte: I think that was it too. It’s because of that history, there was that comfort. The writers were allowing us to be a little bit more comfortable with each other – real, in a sense.

TrunkSpace: Hallmark Channel productions tend to move very quickly. When you spend so much time, in such a short period of time, on a character, does it feel like you’re abruptly pulled out of his skin when the project wraps, just because of the nature of how fast everything goes?
Porte: Yeah, in a way. This character was a lot like myself so it wasn’t as if it was a dramatic departure that I had suddenly completed and left behind. It wasn’t too much of a challenge, but I’ve been in those positions before. I’m trying to think of one right now that was jarring to get out of after spending so much time in it, but that wasn’t the case so much with this one.

TrunkSpace: What about seasonally? Often you’re working out-of-season on what is essentially seasonal movies, so you could be filming a Christmas movie at the tail end of summer. Is it odd to jump out of calendar time like that?
Porte: Oh, yeah. That is interesting. You know, when I was up there, we didn’t see sun for three weeks straight. Vancouver gets so cloudy. I’d never spent a winter there, but they had warned me that it was very similar to Seattle or Portland. When I got there, I understood exactly what they were talking about. I love Vancouver, but I was very happy at that point to… also, I had a low-key cold the entire time we were shooting, so I was very pleased to be back in sunshine after we wrapped. Although, it didn’t take much time before I was like, “Man, I miss mountains. I miss skiing.”

TrunkSpace: The air is so different up there too.
Porte: So different! Yeah, you can almost taste the air in Vancouver, it’s so rich. It’s so clean.

TrunkSpace: We spoke about what keeps you coming back to the Hallmark Channel fold, but in your opinion what keeps viewers tuning in week after week? What is the draw for all of those Hallmarkies out there?
Porte: I think no matter what your political affiliations or viewpoints on current topics are… I mean, they’re very polarized right now and I think it’s a lot on us as a nation, individually, as families, to cope with and to deal with… and I think that Hallmark offers a wonderful escape from that. It’s super important right now. I think that we are craving that kind of, not simplicity, but… I don’t know how to describe it…

TrunkSpace: It just feels wholesome.
Porte: Yes, that’s it! It’s wholesome. It is something you watch with your entire family. It’s something that will make you feel good, time and time and time again. I think that we’re, as a nation, craving that. It’s no surprise to me that it’s doing as well as it is, and I hope it continues to because I think that’s exactly what we need right now, when it comes to entertainment. It’s the same as all these incredible action, hero movies and why they are doing so well right now. We are craving heroes. We’re craving love stories. We’re craving that the good guy wins out in the end and they get married. It makes perfect sense to me.

Photo: Amanda Schull, Peter Porte Credit: Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: Bettina Strauss

TrunkSpace: There is incredible television out there, but a lot of it is heavy and you carry that with you.
Porte: You take it on! You take that stuff on. I was lying in bed yesterday and I had a long, hard day. I was about to start “Mudbound” on Netflix, and I’m like, “I don’t know if I can do this.” (Laughter) And so I put on some Bill Hader and I watched “Documentary Now!”

TrunkSpace: You’ve guested on some great shows over the years and we’re curious, which one would you have liked to have stuck around longer on? What was the show and character that you wished you had more time to spend with?
Porte: That’s a good question. I reoccurred on a show called “Baby Daddy” for quite a few years. It’s a sitcom, and I love the sitcom format because it’s the closest thing that we have, I think, in film and TV, to theater, which is a big love of mine. I think that there was a lot more to be had with my character having married Bonnie Wheeler, played by Melissa Peterman. I played the grandfather on the show because I married the mother of the baby daddy. In the years I worked on that show, I made such a strong bond with so many of the cast and crew, that that could have just gone on for the next 10 years and I would have been so happy. I love that show.

I also did a guest star last year, just one day, on “New Girl.” I think that entire cast is so brilliant and funny, I would love to just hang out and watch them do their shtick.

TrunkSpace: You mentioned your love for theater. Is that still a big part of your life today?
Porte: Oh yeah, absolutely. It’s very important to me. It’s probably my first love and why I got into this business. I don’t get as much of an opportunity to do it as I’d like, but last Christmas I got to do a show at the Annenberg in Beverly Hills, with the company that I’ve been working with for the last, I think, six years now, called For The Record. We did “Love Actually” live in concert. We performed the entire movie of “Love Actually,” but then all of the amazing songs that are within the movie, we also sang.

TrunkSpace: It’s a great soundtrack.
Porte: Oh, such a good soundtrack. We had 25 people in the cast, and I played Hugh Grant’s role, the prime minister. We had Steve Kazee, who won the Tony for “Once,” in it. It was amazing. It was six performances, and we’re hoping that it comes back next year in a larger capacity. But as long as I get in at least one or two of those in a year, I’m pretty satiated, I’m pretty happy. I love it, and I do miss it. I wish I could be doing more of it.

Love, Once and Always” airs tonight (9 p.m. ET/PT) on Hallmark Channel.

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The Featured Presentation

Amanda Schull


Times change, and in certain fictional circumstances, Amanda Schull has had a hand in it. As Dr. Cassandra Railly in the SYFY series “12 Monkeys,” the Honolulu native has been traveling through time for three season (the fourth and final kicks off later this year), doing her very best to save humanity from its own premature swan song. It’s dramatic, mind-bending television, often dark and emotional, so it’s exciting to see Schull taking a break  from the future to live in the present with Hallmark Channel’s latest movie, “Love, Once and Always,” which premieres this Saturday.

Eager to take on a playful role and banter on screen with her costar Peter Porte, the actress stars as Lucy, a London transplant who must return home to Rhode Island after learning that her beloved great aunt has passed away. With half of the family estate left to her and the other half to Duncan (Porte), son of the estate’s caretakers, a forgotten romance springs anew and takes both of them by surprise.

We recently sat down with Schull to discuss if she’s living out her dream, the beautiful experience she had working with Hallmark Channel for the first time, and why her costars think she’s having too much fun on set.

TrunkSpace: Looking at the projects that you’ve been working on over the last year or so – “12 Monkeys,” “Suits” and “Love, Once and Always” – they’re all so different. Is getting to play with that kind of project diversity a component of living out the “dream” of being a professional actor?
Schull: It is. It is a dream. I think it’s really uncommon to have a character that you can play for years and years and years and love. I think it is sort of ideal to be able to slip into somebody else’s clothes and skin, and show a whole other part of life and humanity and existence that maybe you’ve never had the opportunity to try on before. And with those three productions that you just mentioned, I couldn’t ask for three different women to get to portray, so I am very, very lucky.

TrunkSpace: It definitely feels unique to the times, too, because even just 10 or 15 years ago, it didn’t seem like performers had the opportunity to juggle a handful of characters at the same time and show so many different sides of themselves.
Schull: That’s interesting. I never really thought about that. I do know that sometimes it is challenging if you’ve been a particular character; that sometimes people feel like that’s the only character you can be and that’s the only person they can see you as. And I’ve been really, really lucky to not have run up against that, knock on wood, because I do think there are a few common threads with those three particular women you just mentioned. I think they’re all smart and strong, and I’m okay with being that. But as far as being pigeonholed into any one particular thing, I think that is frustrating for an actor as I would assume it’s frustrating maybe for any profession to only be seen as one particular thing.

TrunkSpace: From what we understand, this is your first Hallmark Channel production, correct?
Schull: It is, yes.

TrunkSpace: What did you take from the experience? We’ve been told that they move pretty quickly, in an efficient way, but can still be a bit of a whirlwind.
Schull: It is a whirlwind, but it’s a very lovely whirlwind. I had a really, really beautiful experience with them. From the very beginning, from even just meeting the producers and director for dinner before we even started, it was a very open, communicative process from start to finish where everyone respected and admired everybody else’s work and ideas and concerns brought up so that it helped with the efficiency. It helped to make sure that things run smoothly and efficiently, like you said, because there isn’t a lot of time. You have three weeks to do a movie, and that can be really daunting and it can be really stressful unless everyone is really well prepared in advance. And I think that that’s something that they do well, is they prepare and then they also have people who know what they’re doing so there isn’t a lot of confusion on the day.

TrunkSpace: You probably have to be on the same page just to make it work successfully within that time frame?
Schull: Absolutely, and what was really striking to me was the script. Scripts obviously go through a lot of revisions and modifications, and my character just had a lot to say. So with each revision, I had a lot of new dialogue and it was really exciting in a daunting way. I love being presented with challenges, trying to work on all that. Just to give you an example, often men don’t always, necessarily… I don’t mean to bash men after all this. (Laughter) It sounds horrible. (Laughter) But sometimes men don’t always show up as prepared as women, and Peter Porte showed up more prepared and organized, with more ideas even with the revisions with my character, with the new notes and the new things she had to say that I had only gotten the night before. Things that would help me. If I were to say, “I’m unclear about how I’m supposed to feel about this. If you wouldn’t mind, I don’t know how she’d say this or do that.” And he had all kinds of wonderful ideas and thoughts. It was just so amazing. Talk about people showing up and being prepared and being on top of it… he was on top of it times 10, and that was just really nice to get that kind of partnership with somebody.

I’m looking at it from my own selfish perspective that he really helped me in my role because he was so amazingly prepared. (Laughter)

Photo: Amanda Schull, Peter Porte Credit: Copyright 2018 Crown Media United States LLC/Photographer: David Dolsen

TrunkSpace: In terms of Lucy as a character, when you first took on the role, what was it that most excited you about getting to inhabit her?
Schull: I really liked being able to have the fun banter. I liked being able to play somebody who was smart and kind of quirky and playful, but also dug in her heels with things that she believed to be true and just. I hadn’t played somebody like that in awhile where it was just sort of playful, and that was really fun. And then the fact that I got to work with somebody who I had such admiration and such fun chemistry with off camera made it even more fun than I had envisioned it because getting something that’s supposed to be playful and fun could be a challenge if you don’t have that dynamic and it needs to be forced. And I can’t speak for Peter, but I loved every single second of getting to work with him. What I was excited about on the page ended up only being realized times 10 when I met and got to start working with him.

TrunkSpace: And that chemistry is such a huge factor in Hallmark Channel movies. If it’s not there, the audience can sense it.
Schull: Right. And I guess sometimes you don’t feel it. I guess there are probably ways to sneak that in. Maybe you could add music or something, but I was really lucky that I didn’t have to fake any of that with Peter, from my perspective. I can’t speak for him. (Laughter) Maybe Peter dreaded going to work every single day. (Laughter) I don’t know, but for me, I loved it.

TrunkSpace: A lot of times these types of movies focus on first loves, but in “Love, Once and Always,” the two characters already had a relationship, so that banter dynamic was probably able to thrive within the story itself because of that.
Schull: Yes, exactly. And that can be concerning that you need to establish the background in your own imagination and what their lives were like before getting on camera, and hopefully the other person has established something similar and that it’ll read similarly. From the first time I met Peter – we had dinner together before we started working and we walked back to our hotel together – and I thought, “Oh yeah, this will work! This will be great!” I was already having a ball with him.

TrunkSpace: Which kind of circles back to our first question about living out your dream. If you’re having a ball doing what you do in your career, then you’ve chosen wisely.
Schull: Yeah, that’s absolutely true. Most of the time what I do doesn’t feel like work. I do a lot of homework and I do a lot of preparation off camera and on my own time, and even that is sort of fun. It’s kind of detective work, where you’re sort of piecing things together to create a person and a human that seemed real and tangible on camera. And then you step on set so that you don’t have to work, or it doesn’t feel like work. Everything is kind of already built within you, and so it is true that it is a dream to be able to spend 12-plus hours on a set and go home and think, that didn’t feel like any time passed at all, and I enjoyed every single moment of it. And sometimes, I’ve even been told… for instance with “12 Monkeys,” Aaron Stanford, my co-star on the show, used to sometimes say to me, “Get a hold of yourself; you’re having too much fun.” And I’d love it. I really, really do enjoy what I get to do, and being surrounded by people who feel that way also is just, my God, it’s icing on the cake.

TrunkSpace: If something starts out as a love and then starts to feel like work, then it’s time to reassess things, but it sounds like you’re still enjoying yourself as much today as you were when you first started your career.
Schull: I guess there’s that really overused, lame-o expression where you find what you love and it will never feel like work, or whatever that horrible thing is. I’ve found it, I think.

Love, Once and Always” airs this Saturday (9 p.m. ET/PT) on Hallmark Channel.

12 Monkeys” returns to SYFY later this year.

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