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December 2018

The Featured Presentation

Catherine Lough Haggquist

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Starring in two Christmas movies this holiday season, including “Jingle Around the Clock” premiering Saturday on Hallmark Channel, Catherine Lough Haggquist has been surrounded by festive fare since September. Excited to be a part of the seasonal content consumption traditions of television viewers, the Vancouver native promises her films carry more bang for your Christmas buck than one of those yule log videos that we all can’t get enough of.

We recently sat down with Lough Haggquist about her prolonged holiday season, the reason Christmas movies continue to excite audiences, and the behind-the-scenes magic that makes “Supernatural” so successful.

TrunkSpace: We’re suckers here for a feel-good Christmas movie. You happen to be in two of them this year, “Christmas Pen Pals” and “Jingle Around the Clock.” Has your holiday season felt extended because we assume you’ve been surrounded by festive flare much longer than most of us given the production schedules of both films?
Lough Haggquist: I always love the holidays, so yes, it was great to get them started early. Usually, Christmas movies film in the summer, which makes it hard to get your Christmas jam on. In this case, we filmed “Christmas Pen Pals” in September and then “Jingle Around the Clock” just before Thanksgiving in November, so it just really felt like the holidays started early and haven’t really ended yet.

TrunkSpace: Projects like “Jingle Around the Clock” continue to grow in popularity each year, with networks like Hallmark being one of the few to build its audience. What do you think the draw is for audiences to tune into holiday films, especially in such an over-saturated market?
Lough Haggquist: I think holiday films are like holiday carols, in that they are a unique celebrations and representations of the season. In each case, you’re always looking for the new one that will become part of your holiday tradition. I know people who keep their TVs on holiday movies all day long, like other people play Christmas radio stations – as a nice way to create a holiday feeling at home – and besides, holiday films usually have better plots than the Christmas fire log video.

TrunkSpace: Television is well-known for having breakneck production schedules, but it is our understanding that films like “Jingle Around the Clock” make other television projects look like marathons. Does a quicker production schedule force you to approach performance in a different way? Do you have to try and find an understanding with your character prior to shooting your first scene?
Lough Haggquist: I think that in general when working in television, you have a shorter timeline to create than you would on a feature film. As such, you have to come prepared and in turn, you will work with others who are similarly prepared. In my case, I enjoy the fast pace, because it forces me to make clear choices quickly and it creates an interesting energy on set. The energy pushes all of us to do good work in a shorter time period. You have to bring your A-game and you have to come to slay!

TrunkSpace: Not only are we suckers for Christmas movies, but we’re also suckers for “Supernatural.” You’ve guested on the series twice over the years, playing a different character each time. From what we’ve heard, that is one of the smoothest-running series in the biz. What was your experience like working on that show at different moments in your career?
Lough Haggquist: The first time, I was a little bit thrown off by how much fun everyone was having on set. They were fully prepared and committed when it was time to shoot, but between takes, there were lots of jokes and the atmosphere was so relaxed. In television, the long days and time constraints don’t always lend themselves to that kind of working environment, so this experience was new to me at that time.

When I returned to “Supernatural” again, I knew what to expect, so not only was I welcomed back, but I got to be part of the fun, myself. I have no doubt that the show’s longevity is related in no small way to the fun and playful atmosphere that is created by the cast and crew.

TrunkSpace: How important are shows like “Supernatural” and “iZombie,” which you have also appeared on, to the acting community in and around the Vancouver area? Would it be a different landscape if such high profile shows like those and others were not actively shooting there?
Lough Haggquist: Having so many series available for actors to work on is necessary for the overall talent pool and sustainability of our creative community. With more work being available, it makes acting a viable career choice and I’m very grateful for episodic television as it’s offered regular work to myself and others.

That said, I think that the volume of film and television projects in Vancouver inspires all of us because it keeps the city vibrant with creative energy and makes everyone – whether we were actors, filmmakers, or another vital part of the industry – want to contribute and be part of it in our own respective ways.

TrunkSpace: As you look back over your career, can you pinpoint a single “big break” that took you to the next level, and if so, what was that role or project?
Lough Haggquist: I think that the project that was essentially my “big break” was when I was hired to be Holly Robinson’s stand-in on “21 Jump Street” because even though it wasn’t an acting job per se, it was the first time that I had ever had any extended exposure to the television-making process. Prior to that, I had only done commercials and a music video, and I hadn’t really had a chance to observe the process of making a television show.

That project was the first step for me towards building a meaningful network of people in the industry and there are friendships that I formed on that show that are important to me professionally and personally today.

TrunkSpace: Again, looking back over your career, what project or role taught you the most about the craft? Essentially, what job gave you more than a credit and paycheck?
Lough Haggquist: I think that the job that gave me a true insight into the craft while also offering me the most creative challenges as an actor was being able to inhabit the role of Nora on “Continuum” for three seasons.

The opportunity to work from the core of the character that we established and share her journey as new things happened around her was a great way to develop my own craft and give me many rewarding experiences along the way.

TrunkSpace: You founded Biz Books in 1996. How important has it been for you to maintain active interests in things other than on-screen work, and how do you juggle focus between the various endeavors?
Lough Haggquist: Since the beginning of my career, I have always been active in the acting and entertainment communities at large. Through this, I realized that there was a significant need in the marketplace for a local source that could provide creative types in Vancouver (and elsewhere) with essential books, plays, scripts and products that could help them along.

I started Biz Books because I wanted to lead by example in supporting my community, but my desire to support others in trying to reach their artistic dreams has also expanded into other work I’m involved with like teaching and coaching. If we aren’t supporting each other, we have already failed.

As far as focus goes, I enjoy the fact that my career has balance to it and that I’m fortunate to be able to shift between different challenges, endeavors and mindsets. Acting taps into skills that I have developed, while other activities like teaching or Biz Books bring out knowledge that I have gained that can assist others. All of these are equally rewarding to me.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Lough Haggquist: The highlight of my career so far was having the opportunity to attend a fan convention in London for “Once Upon a Time.” While there, I got to meet a number of men and women who shared their stories about how “Once Upon a Time” and the characters we had created had brought them joy, entertainment, and most importantly, community.

I am still in touch with a number of people that I met there. The whole experience really re-connected me with the importance of stories and storytellers.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Lough Haggquist: No, because the best part of this whole adventure is the journey, not the destination.

Jumping ahead would only show where I end up, not what brought me meaning along the way. I have arrived many places that were not nearly as amazing as the trips to get there. I want to discover and create, not anticipate and expect.

Jingle Around the Clock” airs Saturday on Hallmark Channel.

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Laugh It Up

Alex Falcone

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Name: Alex Falcone

Socials: Facebook/Twitter/Instagram

TrunkSpace: Was comedy always in the cards? Were you a “funny” kid, even at an early age?
Falcone: Yeah, definitely. Not like actually funny, but definitely trying to be. I discovered stand up in middle school, and I would memorize jokes and just pass them off in casual conversation as my own. And for years whenever I said anything remotely funny people would immediately ask, “Who’s is that?” Took a while to wash off that stink of childhood plagiarism.

TrunkSpace: When did you decide to pursue stand-up comedy as a career and did you make a plan for how you would attack things?
Falcone: From the minute I left college I knew this was what I wanted to do in some form. So I always structured everything I was doing so that I could do as much comedy as possible. I figured out how to have a freelance career, so that I would be able to take time off when needed, and then just as I got more comedy work I took fewer freelance clients. Eventually they just kind of swapped places. So now I build websites as a hobby and tell jokes as a job.

TrunkSpace: How long did it take for you to discover your voice as a comic?
Falcone: Oh, I have no idea what my voice is. A lot of people say it takes 10 years, so I’m running out of time. I have glimpses of it; I have jokes that I write now that I think I actually like, but that took like years. Really what having a voice means to me is that every once in awhile when I write a joke that I think is very funny but is not me – it’s not what I want to be putting out into the world – I don’t tell it. That’s what a voice is, it’s writing a good joke and then not telling it.

TrunkSpace: Is the approach you take now on stage different from the approach you took when you first started out? Is it one act that grew into itself or would you consider them two completely different acts?
Falcone: It was just a worse version of the same act, I think. When people start, they’re usually just doing an impression of a comedian they like. And I was definitely doing that. And now I’m doing an impression of the few times where I’ve really liked my comedy. I talk about somethings that are more important now, because I feel like my joke writing has gotten good enough that I can. When I was first learning, I always wanted to seem harmless. So audiences would give me the benefit of the doubt as I learned the actual skill set. So I cut my teeth telling jokes about dumb stuff like cake, and now I can talk about like, consent, in a way that is just as funny.

TrunkSpace: Is the neon “Open” sign in your brain always turned on, and by that we mean, are you always writing and on alert for new material?
Falcone: Of course, of course. I take 20 to 30 dumb notes a day of things that might be something that probably aren’t. It might not be stand up, it might be an idea for a book or for a TV show or funny way to answer a written interview question. Mitch Hedberg has this joke that really, really just nails it. He said his job is to think of something funny and then write it down, or if the pen is too far away, to convince himself it wasn’t funny. And I think that’s exactly what it is. Everybody thinks of weird, funny things throughout their days – comedians just trap every single one and then tries to squeeze it for laugh juice.

TrunkSpace: How much work goes into a joke before it’s ready to be tested out in front of a live audience?
Falcone: These days, I’m comfortable taking something that I just thought of up on stage. I have this swagger now where I know that I can either make a good effort of making it funny, or if it’s not funny, it won’t be the end of the world. I can hide it in the middle of my set so it doesn’t sabotage the rest of it. I still usually put several days of thinking about an idea and twisting it in writing on it before I go on stage, but every once in awhile I just grab something and throw it up there.

TrunkSpace: If a joke doesn’t seem to be working, how many chances do you give it in a live setting before you decide to rework it or move on from it altogether?
Falcone: I would say when an idea is new, I never tell the same joke twice. And by that I don’t mean I throw it away after one try, I just mean every time I test it, I tweak something. So it’s kind of a Ship of Theseus thing; the joke takes 30 rewrites before it’s good or bad, and by the end there’s no part that was part of the original idea. That (pretentiously) said, sometimes I put something on one time and I don’t feel a spark with it and then I throw it away. I also have jokes that I’ve been struggling with for two years that have never quite hit the way I want them to, but I keep polishing the turd because I think that there’s gold in it somewhere.

TrunkSpace: Is it possible to kill one night and bomb the next with essentially the same set, and if so, what do you chalk that up as?
Falcone: Of course. The difficult thing is that it’s hard to know exactly what it was. It’s easy to blame the audience – and it could be their fault, it sometimes is – but there’s a million other things it could be. Every set is like one of those Russian nuclear power plant control panels from the ‘60s. There’s just a million knobs, and any one of them might blow up the whole thing. So I keep twisting and adjusting and figure out which ones are dangerous and which ones make magic.

TrunkSpace: Does a receptive and willing audience fuel your fire of funny and help to put you on your game for the rest of your set?
Falcone: There’s this old saying in comedy that a good audience helps you write and a bad one helps you edit, meaning that when the audience is really loving it, I feel this confidence like I’m being held up by a wire so I can’t fall no matter how much I wiggle. And then a bad crowd, it’s like doing a tightrope without a net. I don’t take a single step off to the side because it’s too dangerous. It’s also a lot like sex in that the more fun they’re having, the more fun I’m going to have. What I’m saying is, I have sex with the audience.

TrunkSpace: What is your most memorable performance experience (good or bad!) that will stick with you for the rest of your career and why?
Falcone: I won Portland’s funniest person this summer, and that was pretty memorable. Everything just clicked that set, and I remember feeling like I was as good as I could possibly do. I also got to open for Sebastian Maniscalco last year at this like 5,000-seat theater at a winery, and the stage was like a castle. And I think about that set all the time. I remember sitting there after the show was over, I went back out on stage and I watched everybody file out of the amphitheater, and just thought, “I can’t believe I got to be here.”

TrunkSpace: How do you handle hecklers? What approach do you take?
Falcone: My opinion on hecklers is pretty controversial. I think that they’re a myth. I mean once in a million sets somebody is going to yell you suck, but 99 percent of the time somebody talks from the audience it’s just a person who’s intoxicated who thinks they’re helping. And that’s not heckling, that’s just somebody who is drunk and confused. So if you “destroy” them, you’re just a person taking time away from their job, to yell at a drunk person. And look, nobody loves drunk people, but we work in an industry that’s almost entirely funded by the sale of alcohol, so we have to tolerate them.

If you’re in a good club and somebody talks, the staff will tell them to stop. And if you’re playing bars where people just get to yell at you, then that sucks and it won’t be good no matter what you do.

Also, to be clear, this only applies to me because I’m a dude. Women who do comedy get yelled at way more often and way more things that are not helpful. But since I’m just a meh-looking dude, people don’t tend to sexually harass me on stage.

TrunkSpace: What are your thoughts on the stand-up landscape in 2018? Are you optimistic for the future of live comedy?
Falcone: Comedy is amazing right now. There’s a lot of old-time comics complaining they can’t say anything now because people get too offended, but people are always getting offended, they just now they have the ability to speak and tell the world that they’re upset. And I think that’s actually really great for comedy. You get in trouble for saying things that are marginalizing groups of people. I think right now comedy is embracing a wider variety of viewpoints in a way that is very exciting. There’s also so much good comedy right now, so many people pushing it in directions that it’s never gone before. It’s a very exciting time to be doing this.

TrunkSpace: Finally, who do YOU find funny?
Falcone: Maria Bamford is the GOAT. I think she is just brilliant. I love Jackie Kashian and everything she does. I’ve gotten to open for Demetri Martin a few times and he cracks me up. Chad Daniels is a beast. Up and coming comics like Kate Willett who just had a Netflix special, and Candice Thompson who was on “The Tonight Show” recently. My favorite people in Portland are Katie Nguyen and my friend Mohanad Elshieky who’s about to absolutely blow up. Also my wife is super funny but not a comic, she’s just hilarious for a Muggle.

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The Featured Presentation

Hayley Sales

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While multi-hyphenate Hayley Sales views her musical career and acting career as part of the same overall creative journey, both ways of artistic expression have delivered their share of unique highlights. With a new album currently in the works and recent roles in “Deadpool 2” and “Supernatural,” the future is looking bright for the Washington, D.C. native who has even more highlights to celebrate heading into 2019.

We recently sat down with Sales to discuss her artistic road so far, embracing the fashion of the 1980s, and justifying our Jensen Ackles bro crush.

TrunkSpace: You’ve had a successful music career and in many ways you get to control your own destiny by way of your music. You write what you want. You record what you want. You perform what you want. Did it take some getting used to, transitioning into the world of acting where so much is dependent on the decisions and actions of others?
Sales: Most definitely! In many ways, music is you realizing and actualizing your own dream whereas acting in a film or TV show is bringing someone else’s dream to life. It doesn’t mean it is any less rewarding or fun to do, just different. With acting, it’s more as though you are fitting into a puzzle, or doing a brush stroke on a huge canvas. I do find acting in an ensemble inspiring though. Probably because it’s so different from music. You get to be a part of something bigger than yourself. You get to tell a story that isn’t necessarily your own, although you put your heart and soul into it. I find it very expansive to be put into a box, as strange as that may sound. I do find that sometimes having limitations to art can be the most inspiring. Sometimes when you have a billion different ways you can produce a song, it can be daunting. With acting, it’s beautifully simple in some ways. You get to tell someone’s story, do them justice by bringing their joys and their fears out into the open in the hopes that you make someone else feel a little less alone. But I love them both so much. They’re so similar and so different.

It is definitely a challenge to handle the business side of acting and music, where you are rejected constantly. In both careers. Over and over again and not necessarily because of anything you are or did, but because you just aren’t what that particular label, manager or producer is looking for. It’s odd because, as an artist, you need such a thick skin, but if you don’t stay vulnerable, you lose the essence of art. At first, I’d wind up being in tears over this part or that part or this label or that label, and overtime, I think you realize, the right moment will come for you and to trust in that.

TrunkSpace: Do you view your musical career and your acting career as separate entities or do they fall under one larger creative umbrella?
Sales: To me they’re one and of the same. I can’t wait to be in more musical films. They’re both ways of expression. Whether you are expressing yourself or expressing your character, which in many ways, is expressing parts of yourself as well. I’ve heard so many reasons you can’t do both and for a while, I wasn’t allowed to act while I was signed as a teen. But in this day and age, I think art is art and I’m just grateful to be swimming in that pond of creativity!

I can’t wait to release my next record though. I actually spent four years on a record that was never allowed to be released. Universal had a huge staff switch over a month before the record’s release. Due to a corporate policy that had just been put in place, they refused to give me back the rights to my own music, even though I was willing to buy it from them. It broke my heart. I turned to acting entirely during the two years of legal battles. Only recently have I, finally, begun to sweep the pieces of my courage off the floor, into a dust pan, and back onto the table and am in the studio at my parent’s Blueberry farm as we speak! You can hear some of them on my Spotify. (@hayleysales)

Something happens when you experience that heavy a loss, that type of helplessness and betrayal. I thought I’d never have it in me to make more music. But now I feel more driven than ever to release the songs I love… not that a label would love or the radio would love, but the songs that make me feel most moved to sing. Can’t wait for you to hear. As we record, I’ve been diving into each song as though I am an actor telling a story… the story just happens to be my own. It’s been a very fun exercise in connecting two of my passions!

TrunkSpace: We love great music, but we also love great lines – lyrical snippets that stick with you beyond the macro of a song or album. What is your favorite line that you’ve ever written and why?
Sales: Don’t you love when a line from a book, song or movie just resonates so loudly you can almost feel it? I love when that happens. The words seem to weave their own tapestry that wraps around you! I honestly couldn’t even begin to say which was my favorite of my own writing, but maybe it would be this poem. I remember so vividly, writing this on the sand in Cocoa Beach after the loss of a dear friend…

Death will be a welcome visitor
When he chance to come
I’ll open up the door, I will
Invite him into my home

I’ll spread a feast of dreams and things
Collected here and there
Seat him at the table’s head
With wine and bread to share

We’ll chat of all the memories
I’ve lived and he has watched
Together we will drink to sleep
The tired and winded clock

I’ll ponder how I’ve loved and lost
And sometimes how I’d won
And as the night crawls further in
My mind will loose her tongue

A point will come when the silence
Has engulfed me in its womb
Old death will wink, and I will smile
I know my time is soon

I’ll look around my perfect house
And love the life I’ve lived
I’ve lived enough to know that life
Is better with an end

Goodnight to light, to breath, to song
I know we’ll meet again
For death is not the finish-line
But the means by which we mend

TrunkSpace: In terms of the feeling you get as a musician, creating this living, breathing thing from scratch and then turning it over to the universe… can you achieve that same feeling while acting? Are there parallels to creating a song and creating a character?
Sales: Very good question actually. I’d say they’re both incredibly similar and completely different. With music, you are creating, like you said, a universe. It’s your universe. It’s the exposure of your inner most thoughts and desires. Basically, you have to take a big red sharpie and circle all the chinks in your armor then go, “Hey world! This is me!” Music is powerful in that way. It’s a very personal communication between the listener and the musician. Having said that, acting is equally powerful and requires the same amount of vulnerability and exposure. The difference is, you have to bring all of your own world into this entirely new character’s life and begin to breathe in their shoes. You have to bring all of yourself into the universe of the story. But you aren’t really you…you’re you in someone else. Not sure if that makes any sense, but they are incredibly similar! But also balance each other out. They’re both exposing your truth, just through different mediums. Art is such an amazing communication. Cuts through all the rules and boundaries when it’s done right.

TrunkSpace: We are suckers here for “Supernatural,” particularly with the quirky, monster-of-the-week episodes. One of our new favorites is “Mint Condition,” which aired earlier this year. In it you play Janet Strong, and your wardrobe is totally tubular and wicked awesome. What does it feel like to be a part of such a memorable episode of this long-running series?
Sales: I am beyond grateful and yes… yes, my outfits were totally tubular and then some! I feel so lucky to have gotten to be a part of this particular episode and of the series in general. The energy was wildly hilarious on set. Whenever I’m in between takes, I love to stand near the director and watch the monitors. You can learn so much. A great deal of the time, however, as we were filming this movie, it’d take everything in me to not buckle over in laughter. And I wasn’t the only one. It truly feels like magic when everyone is in the right headspace and enjoying the process.

Slightly related and funny story about my callback for the role of Janet… before the audition, I went on a mad rampage through the attic for my mom’s ‘80s clothes. After finding truly amazing gems, I went on to borrow my 10-year-old niece’s scrunchy and my sister-in-law’s safety pin watch from 1983. I was so excited to get to play dress up. The callback was very fun. The director, producer – everyone was lovely, but here’s the best part – I wound up being slightly late out of the audition and had to run down the street with my side pony, cut off shorts and blue eye shadow, and let me tell you, I got some very, very interesting looks – like I’d just stepped out of “Hot Tub Time Machine.”

TrunkSpace: The series is continuing to excite its fandom in Season 14, which is hard to even fathom given how short-lived even successful series are these days. We hear it is one of the most welcoming sets to step onto in the business, but is it difficult to go into something that is such a well-oiled machine and not feel like the new kid at school? Were there nerves?
Sales: You know, I think most actors would be lying if they didn’t say they had some nerves. For me, they always happen as I’m driving up to set on the first day. Especially if I’m really excited. But, then magically, once I step out of the car, something happens and the butterflies take off. Everyone on the set of “Supernatural” was so welcoming it was hard to be nervous. We were all excited to be filming the hilarious footage we were filming, it felt like summer camp or something! I loved it. I wish every set could be that inspiring and warm.

Having said that, I do remember my first day on a big show though. It was a very emotional scene. I was so nervous and then crying so hard for the scene, they had to stop. You could hear my heartbeat on the mic! I was so embarrassed… but I remember the director came up to me and just talked to me about the story. Once I stopped thinking about myself, started thinking about the person in front of me, the nerves went away.

TrunkSpace: Have you had the opportunity to feel the reach of the passionate fandom – the SPN Family – since your episode premiered? Has any of it come as a surprise or did you have a sense of how big the fan base was before being cast?
Sales: I mean, when a show is on as long as “Supernatural” has been, they’ve got to be doing something right! And what an amazing cast and crew. It truly is the most welcoming set to walk onto. Having said that, I’m definitely seeing that it has one of the most loyal fan bases out there, and had no idea just how supportive Supernatural’s fans are! They’re lucky to have you cheering them on. Truly.

TrunkSpace: As children of the ‘80s, we have to go back to your wardrobe for a minute. Corey Hart may wear his “sunglasses at night,” but he’d have to wear them all day long if he were on set with you and all of that bright neon. Is the fun side of your job boosted even higher when you’re working on a project where the wardrobe itself becomes such a big part of the character and world you’re inhabiting?
Sales: Most definitely! I have to admit, one of the highlights of my day was watching my hair’s ascension towards the ceiling as they backcombed, sprayed more hairspray, and then backcombed again! Add that to the peacock glitter eye shadow, hot pink knit gloves and leopard print mini skirt, and it’s pretty hard not to feel like pulling out a boom box and slipping back into a different era. I simply love doing period pieces. You really are influenced by wardrobe and in many ways, it makes the job quite a bit easier as an actress. I find myself sinking into the story and the world without even trying. In a strange way, the more outlandish the outfit, the more you remember to just have fun. That acting shouldn’t be about doing it right or whether you’re doing well. It takes you out of your head and into your body, which makes the whole thing more fun! My amazing acting coach, Joe Anthony, once said, “You have to put the spotlight on the person in front of you.” If you think about it, when you’re having a conversation with anyone, that’s exactly what you’re doing. Either that or you’re worrying about what they’re thinking about what you’re saying. Somehow wearing a fun wardrobe or speaking with an accent gets you more present, loosens you up a bit, makes the whole thing more relaxed and experimental, especially when it’s hilarious ‘80’s outfit after outfit.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far – with music or acting – and why?
Sales: I knew as a baby I had to be in the arts. I loved music, acting… I just knew there was no Plan B. And while that choice hasn’t always been easy, and has ruled my life, I’m so grateful that I’m able to support myself doing what I love. It’s hard to say what the main highlight as been! There are so many, and an equal amount of being down in the trenches of misery! But I think, the first moment of absolute bliss for me was when, at the age of 13, I was flown to the Pentagon to sing Judy Garland songs at the WWII Ace Pilots Convention. Obviously, that was a while ago, but it let me know I could do it, that I just had to keep moving forward. And the tears in the eyes of the pilots as they danced with their wives, brought tears to my own eyes. I realized just how powerful a song can be.

Another highlight was slightly after signing my first record deal with Universal. I was in Nova Scotia on tour. We were in the car and I was busting about to pee. All of a sudden, I heard my first single “What You Want” on the radio… I could barely speak. I just swelled up inside and tears burst out with ecstasy. I even forgot I still had to wait another 20 minutes for a rest area. (Laughter) A similar experience happened when I signed with Verve in the US a few years back. I remember turning on a Judy Garland record, grabbing a glass of wine, and dancing around the house with such a feeling of joy and excitement, I could barely breath. I look forward to the next.

I suppose those are all the moments when I felt the highest. As far as credentials go, getting to perform with the likes of Ben Harper at Fuji Rock Festival, touring with Jason Mraz and INXS… so grateful for all those experiences. Then of course, finding out I’d been casting “Deadpool 2!”

TrunkSpace: Finally, Hayley, our wives give us a difficult time because they say our Jensen Ackles man crush is not normal. Having now worked on “Supernatural” yourself, come to our rescue here… he’s worth every ounce of our unbridled bromancing attention, right?
Sales: This might be the best question so far. I’ll keep my answer simple and sweet. Bromance away my dear friends, bromance away.

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The Featured Presentation

Paxton Booth

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Disney Channel star Paxton Booth didn’t get into acting for the recognition, he got into it because it’s fun. As part of the ensemble of the new hit series “Coop & Cami Ask The World,” the fun is emphasized thanks in part to seeing his character Ollie Wrather grow on-screen, while also having the opportunity to do his own stunts, including taking flight in a wing suit.

We recently sat down with Booth to discuss the popularity of the series, which Tim Burton film he’d have liked to star in, and the most cherished item in his Hot Wheels collection.

TrunkSpace: Congrats on the success of your new series “Coop & Cami Ask The World.” Are you surprised by how well it has been received or did you anticipate that people would tune in and enjoy it?
Booth: Thank you! After reading the first few scripts and seeing how the characters are developing, I knew it would be a good family show. It is definitely something my family would sit down to watch together.

TrunkSpace: In the series you play Ollie Wrather, the youngest of the Wrather family. He is a character who speaks his mind. What do you enjoy most about getting to play Ollie, especially over a long period of time? (We believe you’ve shot 20 episodes already, correct?)
Booth: We just finished shooting Season 1, which was twenty-one episodes! Ollie is such a fun character to play because he has no filter. It was fun to say things I wouldn’t normally say. Playing Ollie gave me the chance to do a bunch of stunts, which is something I’ve never done before.

TrunkSpace: Is it fun getting to stay with a character for that long – seeing him grow and develop over time?
Booth: Yes, it is great to play a character that actually grows up on screen! I’ve been on projects where you don’t get to play with the character much, so this has been awesome to be able to put my own spin on him. You can see his character develop so much from the pilot. The first few episodes didn’t have much of a storyline for Ollie, but he slowly grows and gets more involved in each episode. I really like how Ollie and Fred start to bicker as the season goes on.

TrunkSpace: What was the most exciting thing you got to do while shooting the first season of “Coop & Cami Ask The World?”
Booth: All the stunts were a lot of fun and exciting. One of my favorite was getting to fly in the air in a wing suit. We were lucky to have such an awesome stunt coordinator, Danny Wayne, to teach me how to be safe and always made sure I had fun.

TrunkSpace: Disney Channel is known for turning young actors into big stars. Are you prepared for the attention that could come with the success of a big Disney Channel show?
Booth: I haven’t really thought about it too much. I was so young when I started acting – I did it because it was fun, not to get attention. I don’t mind when people recognize me and say hi, it’s pretty cool.

TrunkSpace: We read that you are a big Tim Burton fan. If you could have starred in any Tim Burton movie, which one would you have liked to have been involved with and why?
Booth: I would have loved to been in “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.” Being the character of Barron, played by Samuel L. Jackson, would have been awesome. Playing the bad guy would be a big change and challenge. His character eats eyeballs in the movie and makes it look delicious.

TrunkSpace: You have been acting since you were 2 ½. What do you enjoy most about getting to perform and work in film/television?
Booth: I really like meeting new people. It’s cool to see your hard work on the screen and see people’s reactions to it. Plus, I get to play pretend every day!

TrunkSpace: You’re a Hot Wheels collector. What’s the prize car in your collection, the one you were most excited to get your hands on?
Booth: On the last shooting day of Season 1, one of the camera operators gave me a Hot Wheels from his personal collection he’s had since he was my age. It’s a fire engine from 1969 that has a really cool fire ladder and it’s in awesome condition. I really like collecting the classics, but when they have a personal story that’s even better.

TrunkSpace: Finally, Paxton, we know you’re still so young, but have you thought about what kind of career you want to have in the future? Have you set goals for yourself in terms of your acting and other creative endeavors?
Booth: I’d love to continue acting and eventually get into doing films. I’ve really started to become more interested in learning what’s going on behind the camera, too. I’d love to shoot some high fashion editorials and start my own fashion line someday, too. But like you said, I’m still young, so my future is wide open!

Coop & Cami Ask The World” airs on Disney Channel.

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Listen Up

Eric Schenkman

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Photo By: Karen Kuehn

Eric Schenkman didn’t set out to make a new solo album in 2018, but when the opportunity – and creative inspiration – presented itself, “Who Shot John?” was born. A diverse and sprawling collection of genre-bending tracks that range from blues to classic guitar rock, the Spin Doctors’ founding member is continuing his mission of creating music, four and a half decades after playing his first gig.

We recently sat down with Schenkman to discuss the business of streaming, the art of writing, and… curly cords.

TrunkSpace: “Who Shot John?” was originally slated for an October release but is now due January 11 after you partnered with VizzTone Records. Has that stop and go made this a unique roll out experience for you? Was it difficult having to pump the brakes on the release?
Schenkman: It was okay with me. I didn’t mind. The way I figure it is, the whole thing about records now is the roll out, pretty much, and then the first little bit and then it’s hard to hang on after that. It becomes repertoire rather quickly. Originally I was completely super-indie and I was just getting ready to put it out, and then one thing led to another and I started talking to people and I was playing stuff for people and I went and saw this friend of mine in Boston. I wasn’t even thinking about it, and then next thing I know the label, VizzTone, is going, “Well hey, we’d like to put it out, but we’ll have to make it a little bit later because of the distributor.”

It’s nice when something starts to snowball like that. You kind of feel like, “Oh, this is cool.” You know it’s working. It was sort of a pleasant experience, actually, to have that happen. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Anything to get ears on the music is a good thing because nowadays it seems like having as many different avenues for an album as possible is important.
Schenkman: Yeah, it’s all guesswork, but I would agree with you – the more avenues, the better, which is nice, actually. As an improvising musician, I can say that I like a lot of different avenues because you can go from the same place to the same other place in a lot of different ways.

TrunkSpace: You’ve been a professional musician for decades now. Are there still firsts for you? Do still get that sort of “fresh car” scent with any aspect of what you do, creative or otherwise?
Schenkman: Yeah. I love being a musician because that never changes. It’s always getting to know the thing a little better, or from a different angle, or always relearning or reimagining some aspect of something. Anything that’s worth your time in music, and I suppose you could extend that to business, too… I mean, I’m the type of musician that believes that… I kind of see my job as that I make music. And maybe I like to make ensembles, too. I enjoy doing that. But I make music. I think money and business – that kind of is the secondary thing to that. Sometimes it’ll make some money, sometimes it’ll make some business, but I want to make sure that it makes music every time.

TrunkSpace: The way that money is made off of music changes so quickly it seems. It used to be that tours supported albums, but now it seems like albums support tours.
Schenkman: Oh absolutely. The only hope that we have really as musicians, particularly young musicians, is pretty much to be on the road playing and hawking your wares night after night.

TrunkSpace: Are there more opportunities in the licensing world with there being so much more content – film and TV – in need of song placement?
Schenkman: I don’t know that there is, really. I think there’s still opportunity. I think there’s more home for content. As far as speaking to how that interfaces with business, I’m more the mind of putting a fish in the water – a horse in the race – and then scratching my head and watching it, because I really don’t know. All I can say for sure is the business has changed a great deal since I’ve been in it. I’ve been playing the guitar in a band since I was just a teenager, so that’s a few decades right there, and the music business has changed so much from the time the Doctors were making music. The records we made in the early ‘90s, that was a whole different business, you know? You used to make records to get on the radio. Now you make records, you go tour them, they end up on streaming services, and then you have to play gigs in order to support them. It’s literally like you almost have to support your tunes on the streaming networks by playing live because it’s almost like… I mean .0001 is very, very little.

TrunkSpace: It’s so interesting because 20 years ago there would be headlines about, XX Band Goes Platinum. Now it’s, XX Band Has 1 Million Streams.
Schenkman: Yeah, and on the one hand, streaming is very exciting from the point of view of the currency of it, and the fact that it’s there and it’s available. There’s so much different diversity and amazing talent. The trouble is, in terms of it paying, definitely as time wears on, it becomes quite clear that the musician is definitely the last in line for the buck as far as the streaming services are concerned. So you got to wonder if people are putting music out that’s “free” on the one side, on the other side, somebody’s making money somewhere.

It’s very interesting to me, but I don’t really know the business so well. Like I say, I make music and I love making music, but it’s definitely way easier to get an idea of what’s going on now if you can produce the music and try to set it out there and see how it floats.

TrunkSpace: “Who Shot John?” is very diverse, which is also reflective of your career as a whole. Has that always been your mission, to be able to be the type of artist that you wanted to be in any given moment and not back yourself into a corner creatively?
Schenkman: Yeah, I’m more happy for sure feeling free to be creative. I don’t like being in a corner. I feel very uncomfortable if I’m expected to do a bunch of stuff. So this record, for me, was really kind of a perfect storm for the year, because I didn’t expect to be making it. It really was borne out of playing with friends, playing this gig that I play regularly, really expanding my repertoire – new songs and some old songs, and songs that hadn’t been written yet sort of all bouncing around in my head. And then I realized that I was starting to record a bunch of stuff that I liked and so it was hanging together, and so I just kept following that, very comfortable creatively in that context. Live as well.

I do a gig weekly where I play three sets a night, and the Spin Doctors used to do that same kind of gig. And if you can stretch out, your playing can get to some real, real fantastic depths, and you need diversity to be able to do that. You need to be a student of music to be able to try to get better at dynamics and all these sorts of things. So, yeah, I started realizing that I had a record. I was like, “Oh, I got to put this out. I haven’t done one of these in a long time.”

I’ve kind of been waiting to do the next Spin Doctors’ record, actually, for the last two years, and one thing led to another and we just didn’t get started. We had some hang-ups and, I think this is another thing, some of the creative energy probably would have put into the band had we started working last year.

TrunkSpace: Would the Eric Schenkman who first picked up a guitar be surprised by this album or would it seem like a natural progression from where you started?
Schenkman: Yeah, I’d be quite happy. I would not be unhappy with where I’m at now. There’s one picture I have from the very first gig I ever played with an electric guitar, which would have been… I was 10, I guess… so I think 1973. I’m wearing a tennis sweatband around my head and a cowboy shirt with a Kent guitar. I’m sitting on the stage and… remember curly cords? I had a curly cord coming out of my guitar.

Anyways, yeah, I think for me, it’s the combination of trying to beat the fear of standing up on the stage and trying to sort of play your heart out… or sing your heart out… in other words, feeling like you really do have something to say or sing, but king of being just almost just too tepid to really take the first step. But you know, I have never been able to help myself. (Laughter) And so there you are, right? And that’s really a great place to be in the music because you’re really having to grab what works and stay afloat. And I think this record… it shows that throughout, and that’s all my former self would be looking for, would be validity in that. Truth in that.

Who Shot John?” is due January 11 on VizzTone Records.

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The Featured Presentation

Falk Hentschel

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Photo By: MAARTEN DEBOER

Welcome to Marwen” may be one of the more visually unique projects to come out of Hollywood in some time, but the voice of the film – the story and how that story unfolds – is nearly just as rare. Harkening back to the movie-making days of the late 1980s and 1990s, the film is a feel-good, character-driven escape from superheroes and end of days disasters. For star Falk Hentschel, who plays “villain” Hauptsturmführer Ludwig Topf, that is the exact kind of project that inspired him to pursue a career in the creative arts in the first place.

We recently sat down with Hentschel to discuss hanging up his dance shoes, taking direction from Robert Zemeckis, and how “Welcome to Marwen” saved him.

TrunkSpace: Your professional career began in dance, but from what we understand, your dream was always to act. Was there ever a moment where you felt that acting was taking a backseat and is that what prompted you to pursue your dream with a new focus?
Hentschel: Yes, absolutely. From when I was 14 years old ‘til about 21 there wasn’t too much acting opportunity in my life. I had shifted my focus onto dance in the hopes that the journey would lead me back to acting. I always spent time on filmmaking somehow, whether it was practicing monologues, getting more familiar with different American accents, or studying my favorite movies over and over again, but dance was the bigger focus in those years. But there came a point, once I had been in LA for a little while, where I realized that I needed to shift my focus 100 percent to filmmaking. It came to me when I auditioned for Justin Timberlake’s “FutureSex/LoveShow” tour. That would have been the pinnacle for my dance career and it was pretty much the only thing left that I wanted to do as a dancer. When I didn’t get the gig, I decided it was time to go back to my childhood dreams and passions – filmmaking.

From one day to the next, I canceled all my classes at Debbie Reynolds (Dance Studio), let my agent know that I would no longer pursue a career as a dancer/choreographer and pretty much hung up my dance shoes.

TrunkSpace: Your new film “Welcome to Marwen” entertains, but it also is saying something, which to us, is always the most powerful form of art – one that can leave an impact in multiple ways. As a performer, what does it mean to be involved in a project that is accomplishing more than just ticket sales?
Hentschel: For me that’s the ultimate goal. It’s honestly the only type of project I want to be doing. Unfortunately it has become very rare to have a project like that come your way. Growing up, I have always been inspired to think, feel and act differently after coming out of a movie theater. Sometimes very significantly so, sometimes more subtly, but no matter what, most movies back then inspired me.

So to now be a part of a film that has the potential to really move people and make them think about things in a different way is something I’m very grateful for. It’s a dream come true and has set a new standard for me as far as what I’m looking to do in the future. I truly hope people are as inspired and affected by the film as I was making it.

TrunkSpace: The subject matter is heavy at times. Other than pronouncing your character’s name – Hauptsturmführer Ludwig Topf – what was the most difficult aspect of discovering and slipping into the skin of this particular guy? What did you struggle with throughout the process of becoming the “villain” of the film?
Hentschel: (Laughter) Yeah, the character’s name is a mouthful, isn’t it?

Quite honestly, Hauptsturmführer Topf was not the biggest challenge. Topf is an old-school villain and on top of that, a doll. That allows an actor to really play around and be larger than life. Also playing in the MoCap world brought a certain freedom to acting that I had not experienced before. Everything other than your fellow actors had to be created in your mind.

It was “the thug” that beats Mark into a coma that was the real challenge to connect to although he has less scenes and less “to do.” He was the one that occupied my mind most. I can not play a character without understanding and relating to them, especially in this case since it is a true story. I truly believe that all humans come from a source of love and that all of us are spending our lives seeking love. The “villains” not only in our stories but also in our lives are usually just very, very hurt people that are longing for love. It’s a sad thing if you remember that those villains were beautiful babies once and someone’s child and had all the potential for greatness. Long story short, I decided that my “thug” character maybe related much more to Mark than we think and that the reason he almost killed Mark was jealousy and longing. Mark had a courage to truly be himself, even in front of these dangerous men. The “thug” probably wished he could have been this courageous and honest himself. He felt threatened by Mark and therefor lashed out. It took a long time for me to find this angle. I’m chuckling now, ‘cause on screen it probably doesn’t matter but it mattered to me.

TrunkSpace: Helping to shape your performance throughout the course of the film was none other than director Robert Zemeckis, an icon of the industry. What did he help to teach you about yourself as a performer on this film that perhaps you didn’t know you were capable of before your first day on set?
Hentschel: Bob is an incredible communicator. He knows his story down to the smallest details. He gently guides you when needed but also lets you do your thing.

The best gift that Bob gave me ultimately though was trust. In both directions. It was so easy to trust Bob every step of the way. I mean, come on, he is my childhood hero, and yet at the same time, I felt that he trusted me to take care of my job, which is a big deal for someone who grew up on “Back to the Future,” “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” and “Forrest Gump.” It makes you feel like you belong. He trusted his entire team every step of the way. It made everyone give their all every single moment of the shoot. You don’t wanna let someone down that believes in you. Often times people in Hollywood use fear to get people to follow them. It’s refreshing when it’s encouragement and trust instead. It was everything and more than I had imagined it being.

TrunkSpace: Visually the film is so unique. What was your reaction when you saw yourself brought to life as a doll?
Hentschel: I haven’t seen the film yet but from what I saw in my ADR sessions it was awesome. Very trippy. There are some sequences I have not seen yet that I can’t wait to see come to life.

TrunkSpace: For the audience, the most memorable aspect of a film is the finished project, but we would imagine for you, it’s the process of seeing it all come together. What was the biggest highlight of being involved in the film thus far – the moment that you’ll carry with you through the rest of your life/career?
Hentschel: In the second trailer for “Welcome to Marwen,” there is a moment where the song goes, “I got dreams in my head and they won’t go.” That sums up the whole experience to me. A little before “Welcome To Marwen,” I was pretty down about my career and about Hollywood in general. The type of movies that got me to dream of being an actor were no longer made and the experience to be a professional in Hollywood came with many aspects that are soul crushing. The flame of my dreams was dimming and I was very depressed. “Welcome To Marwen,” thanks to Bob, the producers, the cast and crew, delivered exactly what I had always thought Hollywood to be – creative playground for dreamers. Everyone playing together trying to create something beautiful. I walked away from this film having renewed belief in myself and the industry, singing, “I got dreams in my head and they won’t go” again.

TrunkSpace: You’re giving life to a bad dude in “Welcome To Marwen,” but you’re also familiar with playing heroes having portrayed “Hawkman” in The CW’s DC Universe. Is character diversity one of the draws of getting to be an actor? Does the variety keep it interesting, and is that why actors are so concerned about being typecast?
Hentschel: That’s a great question. Personally for me the answer is YES and YES. The whole point for me of being an actor is to be able to experience more than one life, even if it’s just for a brief moment in time. To get a little insight into someone other than you. To do things you would never get to do in real life.

The typecast thing is something I’ve always dreaded and have tried to avoid. Sometimes it’s nice to come back to a “type” because you feel like there is more to explore there than you were able to do before. But I don’t wanna get stuck playing the same thing over and over again. I long for new discoveries and new challenges, so I try to keep it fresh as much as I can.

TrunkSpace: Does “Welcome To Marwen” present you in a way that you think an audience – or those in a position to cast roles – have yet to see you in? Is Hauptsturmführer Ludwig Topf unlike anyone we have seen you inhabit thus far in your career?
Hentschel: I started my career playing villains, so it’s not a brand new thing to see me do. But I wonder how “Topf” will come across. After all, I’m playing a doll brought to life by Mark’s imagination, so of course I’m hoping that there will be little surprises here and there. Maybe I even get a few chuckles out of people at times. That would be lovely.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Hentschel: “Welcome to Marwen.” I’ve grown a ton through having had the privilege to work with such incredible talent, I’ve made wonderful life long friends and the experience revived my love for filmmaking. In a sense, it saved me.

TrunkSpace: Time machine question. If you could jump ahead 10 years and get a glimpse of what your career looks like a decade from now, would you take that journey? If not, why?
Hentschel: I don’t think I would. It’s like opening presents under the Xmas tree before Xmas. I would rob myself of the discovery process and then when Xmas comes it wouldn’t be as delicious anymore. I believe that we’re always right where we’re meant to be, ready for what’s coming to us, for better or worse. I want to trust life to deliver its goods to me at its own pace.

Welcome To Marwen” opens December 21.

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Trunk Stubs

98º

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Artist: 98º

Tour: 98º at Christmas 2018

City Attended: Medford, MA

Venue: Chevalier Theater

Concert Date: 12-08-18

The Reason We Went: Discovering fun holiday-related things to do throughout the month of December always gives a shot to the arm of the ye olde spirit meter. The childhood-like nostalgia of hearing harmonized vocal renditions of Christmas classics is about as good as it gets in that regard, an audible tree topper on the entire season.

What We Thought: At their peak in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, 98º was a chart-topping, platinum-producing, hit-making machine. Lumped into the boy band craze of that particular time period, they were often compared to the Backstreet Boys, yet always considered themselves more Boyz II Men. Like its four members, the fans who adored 98º two decades ago have since grown up, but apparently absence has made their harmony-loving hearts grow fonder. Screams permeated the theater as the quartet delivered a two hour set of both holiday favorites and some of the biggest hits from their own catalog of music, which the mostly middle-aged crowd of women excitedly unwrapped like presents on Christmas morning.

Show Highlight: We’re suckers for the classics, especially the off-beat ones. The group’s rendition of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” was extremely entertaining, highlighting the fun that they themselves are having reconnecting with old favorites, both songs and fans alike.

For upcoming dates, click here.
To read our interview with 98º member Jeff Timmons, click here.

And that’s why we’re giving it…

 

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Listen Up

Reverend Horton Heat

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Photo By: Gene Ambo

Not many bands have the creative stamina and indie credibility of Reverend Horton Heat, but then again, not every band has Jim Heath at the helm. With over three decades of writing, recording and touring under their belts, the psychobilly pioneers are showing no signs of slowing down, releasing their 12th studio album, “Whole New Life,” just a week ago on Victory Records.

We recently sat down with Heath to discuss the importance of persistence, inflatable reindeer, and why he’s looking forward to taking guitar lessons before hitting the studio for the next record.

TrunkSpace: “Whole New Life” is the 12th studio release for Reverend Horton Heat. How do you feel this album sets itself apart from your previous albums?
Heath: It’s the most positive album I’ve ever done. Some of my stuff in the past was dark, maybe too dark. I guess I’m not the awful vindictive jerk I thought I was!

TrunkSpace: A dozen albums is no easy feat. What has been the Reverend Horton Heat key to musical longevity? Is there a secret sauce?
Heath: Well, I’m not sure. Luck is part of the equation, but not as important as persistence. I’m not giving up – ever.

TrunkSpace: Speaking of longevity, you’ve stated that you’re on the Willie Nelson retirement program, meaning, you’ll never retire. As fans, we couldn’t be happier to hear that. Is it just as exciting for you to step onto the stage or slip into the studio as it was when you first started your musical journey? What keeps you going?
Heath: I actually enjoy playing music now more than when I was younger. Back then, there was always the pressure to perform well. Getting asked back for a return gig, agents, label reps and all that made every gig pretty important. Now, none of that stuff matters much at all. I get up there, let it rip and have fun, even if it’s 20,000 people. That being said, I don’t enjoy the travel as much, but that’s what has to be done. I do still love hanging out with the guys in my band and crew. We have a lot of fun joking around and stuff.

TrunkSpace: It’s difficult to say what the future holds though change is always a part of the equation. How do you feel your music – both lyrically and sonically – has changed over the course of your current 12-album journey?
Heath: Well, I think I’ve gotten better as a singer and storyteller. Certain aspects of my guitar playing have improved as well. But in general, there’s a lot of my style that is there and will always be there as long as I’m breathing. I’m still trying to improve though. I got a vocal coach before I started writing this new album. I’m going to keep going to him when I can, but I’m going to focus on guitar playing before the next one. I’m going to take guitar lessons Omaha.

TrunkSpace: Do albums become a bit like chapters of your life? Does it become, “Those were my ‘It’s Martini Time’ years and those were my ‘Revival’ years?” Are they musical yearbooks?
Heath: Maybe in a way that is subconscious. But in all honesty, I’m a fifties singles kind of guy more than a seventies concept album kind of guy. So, I’m more song by song. If I feel I’ve got a good song that doesn’t necessarily fit into the scheme of the album I’m still going to put it on there if it’s better than the ones that I think are weaker. In all honesty, sometimes the songs I think are not that strong are the ones people like.

TrunkSpace: The band tours relentlessly. With all of that time out on the road, do you create while traveling or is your writing reserved for specific spaces when you’re tour dormant?
Heath: I’m always thinking of concepts for songs. Either lyrics, a little melody, a chord sequence or a drum beat can hit at any time. Then, I have a little studio in Dallas where I go in and really work the concept into a completed song. I’ll crank my amp up and start caterwauling. I’m sure it sounds terrible, but something good always comes out when I least expect it.

TrunkSpace: With 200 shows annually, do you still experience firsts when you’re touring? Is there still some magic to be found beneath the wheels of that bus?
Heath: Yes. There’s always something new. Actually, we only play about 150 shows a year. Yesterday the new thing was that we have a giant inflatable Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer that’s 10 feet tall. It’s huge. We got a lot of laughs yesterday setting that thing up.

TrunkSpace: Your music is so infectious it could make Bernie from “Weekend at Bernie’s” get up and dance! When you set out to establish your sound all those years ago, was there a plan of attack or did the band’s sonic identity come together organically?
Heath: I wanted to have a fun band and play fast rock and roll songs and fast rockabilly and country type stuff too. So, I had this in my head before I even started the band. My albums have slow songs that I think are some of the best songs I’ve ever written, but live we don’t play very many slow songs. We keep the energy as high as possible.

TrunkSpace: Every time we fire up our phone, television or computer, it seems we are bombarded with terrible news that gives us yet another reason to escape through music. Having a band like Reverend Horton Heat around during those moments is a breath of positive, foot-tapping, fresh air. Is playing music as much of an escape for you as it is for the audience to listen?
Heath: Yes. After I read the news in the morning, I escape by reading about recording techniques, and recording equipment. I’ve built some microphones and microphone amplifiers. Then I go to my studio and listen to music, practice and record. The worst thing I can do is go on Facebook. That ruins my day. I feel sorry for people who are trying to learn to play a musical instrument nowadays. The smart phones are such a distraction. When I was a kid learning to play music, all we had was a television with only five channels, a radio and a record player. So music was kind of all we had.

TrunkSpace: What do Reverend Horton Heat fans have to look forward to in 2019? What’s next on the Willie Nelson retirement program?
Heath: This year is going to be deep into promoting the new album “Whole New Life.” We’re playing Viva Las Vegas Festival this year. Also, Summerfest in Milwaukee. Weâ™re going to Canada. Probably doing videos and such…and a lot of joking around.

Whole New Life” is available now on Victory Records.

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Deep Focus

Kevin G. Schmidt

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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 Kevin G. Schmidt, writer, producer and star of the new inspirational indie “Randy’s Canvas” about revisiting a 12-year-old screenplay, gaining valuable real-world insight into his characters, and why the art community is so important.

TrunkSpace: You wrote, produced and starred in “Randy’s Canvas.” Why was this a story you needed to be involved with in such an in-depth way?
Schmidt: That’s a good question. This story came to me in the way that a lot of things I get involved in my life comes to me – through writing. The director and I worked together for the first time when I was 18, so 12 years ago. The original idea for this story was actually crafted into a first draft 13 years ago. Two Aprils ago, Sean (Michael Beyer) hit me up and said, “Hey, we have the resources needed to finance this film, would you act in it? And would you call some friends to see if they would be in the film as well?” I was like, “Yeah, let me read it, it’s been 12 years since I’ve seen the first story.” And as it usually happens with a 12-year-old script, it needs some love and attention. And once you’re writing a project to shoot it, things have to be adapted to budgets and locations. So, we all agreed on packing a new draft together and working on what we would call our “finished” screenplay. Fortunately that attracted some really incredible artists and actors in our network and we all got together and made a film that really exposed us not only to the spectrum, but really a chance for all of us to work together on a cause during a film, which was even more beautiful.

TrunkSpace: Had you already moved on from your original script, thinking that it would never come into fruition and be produced?
Schmidt: No, not necessarily. I think you write stories that are meaningful or, and I’ll speak from my perspective, I write things that are meaningful… messages and themes I think are relevant and timeless. I wrote my first script when I was 15 years old and it still hasn’t been produced to this day. It’s not for any lack of effort, it is that stories and messaging come in waves. Things I’ve written 10 years ago get attention now. Writing is about storytelling and as long as your story is timeless and it focuses on themes that people can relate to as globally and universally as possible, then I believe that there’s always a chance for it to come back around. So, you never give up on a story, but you follow the momentum of your stories.

TrunkSpace: What were the biggest changes that you had to make in terms of updating the script and getting it shoot ready?
Schmidt: The main thing was tightening it all up. I think one of the main things that I went through and really focused on was crafting this film totally from a coming-of-age-story versus these larger than life fictional characters, and one of them happens to have autism. So, an example would be, in the old draft Henry and Randy have this card hustle kind of thing they were doing. They were like small time thieves and the whole opening bit is this five minutes of them hustling people on the boardwalk to earn some cash, and then they get caught and they run from the cops. It’s like this totally different thing. And when I reread that draft, I was like, “First of all, we’re selling a character-driven story that’s going to seem more drama than comedy. We don’t necessarily need this action bit. We don’t have time to shoot this action bit. It’s not really relevant to the core of all these characters and getting people invested into them. So let’s just remove that bit totally.” Then as we started looking at certain cast members to play certain roles, we were able to highlight a lot of their own experiences with the spectrum in their own lives and the things they’ve gone through. I’ve been friends with Scout (Taylor-Compton) since I was like 12 years old. I’ve had the fortune of growing up with her and learning about her. We’ve been friends for a long time, and she’s one of the most incredible actors I know. And when she decided to sign on for Cassie it was like, “Oh, I have this wealth of personal experiences that I have with Scout and with my friendship, and throughout collaborating, and throughout the years that we can put into this character Cassie. And she can have all these different layers to it just by what she’s thinking.” And that’s really what we did is we went through and we fleshed out all the characters and made them as relatable as possible.

A huge part of that as well was when we went into rewriting the screenplay, we worked with the Autism Project in Rhode Island and we called them our panel of experts. There were about 10 kids between the ages of 10 to 25, so some young adults as well – boys and girls – and we had this interview back and forth with them as we crafted the screenplay. The primary conversation was, “How do you feel autism is portrayed in the media?” And almost the 100 percent consensus was you’re either a massive savant, like in “The Good Doctor,” or if we go back a few years, “Rain Man,” or you’re super low functioning on the spectrum and it’s almost like everything is a burden. And I’m looking at these 10 kids who are more savant than they are non-functioning, and everything else in between, and you go, “Wow, we can’t tell a story about autism, we have to tell a coming-of-age story that all of these kids, us, and the broader audience, can experience that happens to be seen through the lens of the character with autism.” So, it reframed how we approached the story instead of telling a story about autism we were telling a coming of age story through a young man experiencing autism.

TrunkSpace: Just from that experience of sitting down with that group of 10 kids and young adults, that must have given you such a different perspective on how to approach some of those coming-of-age scenes.
Schmidt: Totally. I think something that was unexpected for me that came out of it was, we’re in such a PC culture right now, right? Everything is politically correct and people feel like they’re walking on eggshells, but when you’re dealing with an experience that somebody has had their entire life, there’s no alternate reality that they experience. It’s just like, “Hey, I am on the spectrum and this is my life. I’m still a person and that’s not who I am. It’s just a part of who I am. I don’t need to talk about it too much. I just do things a bit differently than you. Life is good.” It kind of made me go, “Whoa.” We spend so much time focusing on these minute differences within each other instead of these almost massive similarities that we have with each other. It allowed us to speak more freely and discover the intricacies of the spectrum through our panel of experts than we would have if we were so nervous every step of the way about doing something wrong. We were able to take risks.

Schmidt in “Randy’s Canvas.”

The boys and girls and young adults were all involved in making this film as well, so they were on set with us and we were always connected to the message behind the story. And that was unexpected to me, to be able to not only dive into something where from the outside if you’re not familiar with people with the spectrum, or close to somebody on the spectrum, you kind of feel like, “Oh, I’ve got to be careful what I say.” Well no, we’re really trying to highlight the individuality and the uniqueness of all these wonderful individuals who we were able to share time with and create art with along this journey.

TrunkSpace: You just mentioned how we as people need to look at the massive similarities we all have as opposed to the small differences, and in that, isn’t that the beauty of art and film? Regardless of where you come from, what your beliefs are or what side of the aisle you’re sitting on… art can bring us all together and we can find common ground within it, even when we don’t realize it.
Schmidt: I agree with that. That’s the whole reason I got into the arts. That’s the whole reason I started writing. It’s not necessarily the majority of the current environment. I also think that also means there’s more of an opportunity to tell stories that bring people together, versus polarization. So I hear you, man. Art, dance and singing… the arts are some of the most important tools to bring people together and create a sense of community. I’m always skeptical and a bit turned off when art is used as a weapon to marginalize one group or another.

TrunkSpace: There’s that same sense of community when you go and see a live concert. You’re all standing in this room together focused on the same thing… enjoying the same thing. That’s powerful.
Schmidt: Truly. And hopefully as this becomes the topic of conversation, so much about the important things about us like our experiences, our upbringing, sex, religion, politics… all the stuff we’re not supposed to talk about are actually the small minute differences that we can learn a lot from, as long as we’re not always trying to change people’s minds or be right. And I enjoy that. I’m the middle brother of three. I’ve kind of always been in the middle of things and listening to different perspectives. I’ve got a background in the arts. I love writing. Business is interesting to me too. So, I hope that as time goes on and as these years kind of play out, we get more community and conversation versus the current climate, which isn’t so conducive to that.

Randy’s Canvas” is available on on digital HD.

Check out our interviews with director Sean Michael Beyer and star Adam Carbone as well.

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