The Featured Presentation

Matthew Solomon


When the horror film Followed was released in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, it served as an incredible escape for individuals in need of a sense of normalcy, including its own star, Matthew Solomon.

Having the movie come out during the quarantine has been really great for me too; it’s been a bit of an anchor amidst all the craziness,” he said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Solomon to discuss his relationship with social media, the long road to the big screen, and keeping his internal dictator in check.

TrunkSpace: Your latest project Followed was released in the middle of a pretty tumultuous time for not only the country but the world as a whole. In a way, is it nice to be a part of people’s escape during all of this – to be their outlet to what was “normal” once?
Solomon: I love that you asked this. Yes, it absolutely has. People have messaged me on Instagram saying they loved the movie and enjoyed having a fun distraction. It’s awesome seeing a new love for drive-in theaters and being a part of that feels special! Having the movie come out during the quarantine has been really great for me too; it’s been a bit of an anchor amidst all the craziness.

TrunkSpace: Social media is given a horrific spin in Followed. For many people, social media can be a love/hate relationship with its own share of real-life scares. What’s your relationship with social media today in 2020?
Solomon: I have never been more addicted to it than now. (Thank you Covid.) It’s a double-edged sword. I find the activism, the more progressive influencers, the comedy, and the ability to connect from far away so rewarding. But I think there are certain aspects of beauty that can be damaging to people, myself included. If you understand that what you’re seeing from people is curated and not the whole picture, I think it’s a wonderful way to connect.

TrunkSpace: Walk us through what the experience was like to see Followed brought to fruition, because from what we understand, you originally worked on it back in 2016, correct? Was it a surprise to then see it released four years later and to ultimately find an audience?
Solomon: Not only did we work on it in 2016, I was cast for the project in 2015 before the script was finished, so I have had the unique experience of watching this project from the very beginning to the very end. I feel so attached to this team and this story, seeing it through, watching it get #1 in the box office, seeing how critics are receiving it – it’s the best feeling. But nothing about this is surprising because I know how hard this team works. Our director and producers are some of the most persistent people I’ve ever met so I knew no matter how long it took, that it would happen.

TrunkSpace: A person can change a ton in a four year span. What would the Matthew Solomon of 2020 have done differently with his performance in Followed? What choices did 2016 Matthew make that you wouldn’t make today?
Solomon: I believe if you talk to any creative about a project they made four years prior that they would have changes they want to make. Mike was such a fun role and considering who I was at the time, I’m very proud of the performance. I mostly wish I had the confidence back then that I have now. I would trust myself to carry the more emotional moments because it was all there, I just doubted myself. But also I wouldn’t be as confident now if I hadn’t played Mike in the first place. Getting to play the lead in my first feature film forced me out of a lot of that doubt because frankly, there’s no time for it.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Followed thus far that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Solomon: I think what I just said about trusting myself is the biggest takeaway. There are maybe 10 minutes of that movie where I’m not on camera so I had to just go, go, go. The other big takeaway is my friendships with the cast, especially Sam Valentine and Kelsey Griswold. Any time I get to see them is a gift. When we get together it’s that feeling of returning to summer camp.

TrunkSpace: As an actor – a profession where you generally are required to work directly with other people in a scene – how have you kept the tools in your toolbox sharp during this extended period of isolation?
Solomon: It is so hard! I would love so much to be in a studio working with other actors. Fortunately, my acting teacher, Joe Anthony, has been doing zoom scene work with us. Strange? Yes, but honestly it’s great practice for auditioning, and there are so many projects these days with video chats. Followed had so many video calls in it! So it’s an opportunity to sharpen a very specific acting tool. But I really miss being in a studio shouting at another actor and wondering if the office next door thinks we’re actually fighting.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an artist and how do you overcome those self-critical insecurities?
Solomon: Oof. Where does the list begin? I come from a family of go-getters, I went to very competitive schools, so I’m sort of hard on myself about everything. What I try to do is check that voice. I refer to him as the dictator. Those ideas and criticisms I have for myself come from external negative messaging, so I remind myself that they aren’t reality. I look that dictator in the face, smile, and say, “I’m good for now but thanks for your thoughts!”

TrunkSpace: If you could sit down and have a conversation with your 16-year-old self, would he be surprised by the trajectory of your career, and if so, why?
Solomon: He certainly would – firstly 16-year-old me wasn’t planning on a future as an actor. For most of my teen years I had given up on the idea and applying to theater school was an impulsive choice. I’m in the unique position where acting is my job, and nothing else is. I didn’t expect that to happen while I was in my 20s.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Solomon: I think this is the highlight right now; having my movie premiere during what could have been the slowest point for my career thanks to the pandemic, having the movie do well in the box office, and making Thrillist’s best horror movies of 2020. That’s all pretty cool! What’s so gratifying is that every step forward in my work has been a highlight, so I look forward to newer and bigger highlights in the future!

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?
Solomon: I want to be cool and say no, but I definitely would. Because there are small moves here and there that I can definitely go back and say, “You should have listened to your gut.” So yes I would like that glimpse, and hopefully I would be prepared for a few pivotal moments.

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The Featured Presentation

John-Paul Howard


The Wretched, a horror film with a throwback vibe, far exceeded expectations when it was released to select theaters and drive-ins during the midst of a global pandemic, even going so far to surpass the $1M mark in a run at a limited box office. Now available on Hulu, the film continues to entertain new audiences in new ways, much to the delight of star John-Paul Howard.

It’s always nice to be thought of as a silver lining in an otherwise dreary time,” said Howard in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace. “However, it will remain, to me, an amazing feat to be able to entertain the populous during a time where escapism is absolutely necessary.”

We recently sat down with Howard to discuss the film’s success, the scene that will stick with him throughout his life, and why the notion of the ideal male body is ridiculous.

TrunkSpace: Your latest project The Wretched was released in the middle of a pretty tumultuous time for not only the country but the world as a whole. In a way, is it nice to be a part of people’s escape during all of this – to be their outlet to what was “normal” once?
Howard: It’s always nice to be thought of as a silver lining in an otherwise dreary time. However, it will remain, to me, an amazing feat to be able to entertain the populous during a time where escapism is absolutely necessary. Some people have referred to The Wretched as, riding the wave of the unfortunate, to put it as politely as I can, but it is important to understand that no one can predict these things that occur even in a day-to-day life. So, to be an escape for those less fortunate is a welcome feeling.

TrunkSpace: When it first went out to audiences, it hit in one of our favorite places even pre-pandemic – drive-in movie theaters. Have you had the chance to experience the film in that format, and if so, what was that like for you, again, given the state of things today?
Howard: I must admit I never got the opportunity to view the film in that format and am incredibly jealous of those who got to go see it this way. The film was absolutely perfect for drive-in theaters, maybe it was the ‘80s vibes it gave off or maybe it was just fitting for the events in the country, but I regret not finding a way to go see it there. Although seeing cast and crew go to the drive-ins was relieving, knowing they could go back into the world and socialize in a safe environment achieved through distancing, masks and the security of one’s own vehicle, all in a nostalgia-fueled lot watching a good movie, I sincerely recommend heading to the drive-ins this summer just to get that feeling.

TrunkSpace: Would you say that the film exceeded your expectations in terms of how it has reached audiences, particularly in light of the uphill battle it was facing being released at a time when people were tucking themselves away?
Howard: It was really hard to have any expectations at all, especially when news of lockdown was surfacing, but truthfully after the smoke cleared it exceeded all of our expectations. Ultimately, I think we’re just ecstatic knowing our film was perceived positively by audiences.

TrunkSpace: The film hit Hulu last Friday. As an actor, what is it like working in this day and age where a film like The Wretched can have multiple lives – from theaters to streaming platforms – and find new audiences along the way?
Howard: It’s difficult to keep up with how the film is doing and where it’s located, but simply hearing that people are loving it and finding a way to watch it is good enough for me. I’m not a tech-savvy guy but can receive messages from fans and try to respond to them as best I can, so meeting all these new people is shocking but invigorating.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on The Wretched thus far that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Howard: To put this rather bluntly, my pool scene is probably something I don’t think I will ever forget ‘til the day I die. And unfortunately for the audience, I don’t think they will either.

TrunkSpace: As an actor – a profession where you generally are required to work directly with other people in a scene – how have you kept the tools in your toolbox sharp during this extended period of isolation?
Howard: Honestly, even watching a show or movie can help improve your craft or keep yourself sharp. Any sort of social interaction will do the same thing for me, so I might hop on the phone with a friend for a short bit or do a Zoom call with friends where we play games. Of course, reading has a similar effect but certainly not the same. You always want to improve your language skills as an actor.

TrunkSpace: You’re also a guitarist. As music lovers ourselves, how has that instrument kept you company during this time? Did you become dependent on it as a creative outlet?
Howard: Oh absolutely, I play it for a few hours every day, but I have to admit there are some days where I might just get slammed with errands to where I will forget, and at the end of the day my guitar sits in the corner and sends guilt trips every way it can.

TrunkSpace: Where are you hardest on yourself as an actor/artist and how do you overcome those insecurities when they make an appearance?
Howard: Actors are hard on themselves in a lot of ways, whether it has to deal with performance or appearance, but to me those are the main two. I’ve never really been fit and have been turned down before because of it. The “ideal male body” is rather absurd and not focused on as having a negative effect on people, but really, I am going to the gym. Not for the “Hollywood Body” but mostly for my own health.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Howard: The Wretched has been the biggest highlight, honestly. I could mention Hell or High Water or Midnight, Texas as being fantastic highlights, but the friends and family I’ve made on this production, along with the memories, make this my favorite. The unexpected turnout makes it the biggest.

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?
Howard: I don’t think I could, because truthfully, any possible outcome, whether it is good or bad, could cause me to just give up entirely or focus on the wrong part of it. The passion and drive of the moment is what pushes me to continue every day. Let’s be real, this crap is HARD!

The Wretched is available now on Hulu.

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The Featured Presentation

Sam Valentine

Photo By: Amanda Peixoto-Elkins

There was a great shift in the world of entertainment when Covid-19 hit. Movies were bumped from the release schedule, productions delayed, and theaters left empty. For those films still brave enough to venture into the socially-distanced fold of the cinematic experience, audiences – albeit smaller than the norm – were waiting to participate in the best form of escapism. For the independent horror hit Followed, that meant being #1 at the box office when it finally opened in June, which was a pleasant surprise for star Sam Valentine, who like everyone else, was navigating the highs and lows of 2020.

I do think that being one of the only new films dropped during this time has really helped us find a much bigger audience than we could have imagined with an indie horror feature, so you have to count those small victories,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Valentine to discuss giving people an escape, how she has kept her career in focus during quarantine, and why she chose to start the podcast One Broke Actress.

TrunkSpace: Your latest project Followed was released in the middle of a pretty tumultuous time for not only the country but the world as a whole. In a way, is it nice to be a part of people’s escape during all of this – to be their outlet to what was “normal” once?
Valentine: Absolutely. The film focuses so hard on social media and how we consume it, which I think is especially relevant in a time when that is one of our only connections. And being able to give people a fun and new (albeit kind of terrifying) piece of content to enjoy right now feels like a relevant contribution. On a personal note, this movie has been such a long time coming for all of us involved (we shot it back in 2016!) so it was such a great personal high note.

TrunkSpace: As you mentioned, social media is given a horrific spin in Followed. For many people, social media can be a love/hate relationship with its own share of real-life scares. What’s your relationship with social media today in 2020?
Valentine: Much like all of our emotions over the last few months, I have highs and lows. Sometimes I cannot imagine my life without the learning opportunities and incredible relationships I have made online. And then some days I leave my phone on airplane mode until the last possible moment. I will say diversifying my follows (specifically Instagram, the platform I use the most) has helped me come to a better place. During the height of the protests for Black Lives Matter, I made it a huge point to follow more BIPOC accounts, more body positive influencers, and just generally “clean house” on the content I was consuming.

TrunkSpace: Walk us through what the experience was like to see Followed brought to fruition, because like you said, you originally worked on it back in 2016. Was it a surprise to then see it released four years later and to ultimately find an audience?
Valentine: It has been a journey! This was the first film I was cast in after I joined the actors union SAG-AFTRA, so it felt like a big step in my career. But one of the hardest lessons actors have to learn is that nothing is on your planned schedule… ever. Our director, Antoine Le, has done an amazing job of keeping us all informed and up to date over the years. We even had a private friends and family screening with an early cut of the movie because they knew with the festival circuit planned before distribution, it would be a while before Followed got out into the world. And then we finally had a big theatrical release planned for April… but we all know what happened there! I do think that being one of the only new films dropped during this time has really helped us find a much bigger audience than we could have imagined with an indie horror feature, so you have to count those small victories!

TrunkSpace: A person can change a ton in a four year span. What would the Sam Valentine of 2020 have done differently with her performance in Followed? What choices did 2016 Sam make that you wouldn’t make today?
Valentine: That is such a hard question. I have definitely grown up quite a bit and found a lot more of my personal confidence, not only in my work but in my life as a woman in Hollywood. Of course you can always critique yourself the more time you have to reflect, but to me, the character of Danni will forever belong to 2016 Sam.

TrunkSpace: For fans, the final product of a film or series is always the most memorable part, but for those involved in a project, we’d imagine it goes much deeper than that. For you, what is something about your time working on Followed thus far that you’ll carry with you through the course of your life/career?
Valentine: Honestly, it would be the relationships established from that set. Our cast and crew had to fall in love in a two week span to make what we did, and I think those kinds of connections last a lifetime. Matthew Solomon (Drop the Mic) and I still have a close relationship and are always semi-joking about constantly looking for our next project together.

TrunkSpace: As an actress – a profession where you generally are required to work directly with other people in a scene – how have you kept the tools in your toolbox sharp during this extended period of isolation?
Valentine: I am still in my acting class every week at John Rosenfeld Studios – having a deadline to hit with a script and scene assignment has been vital for the days that everything feels messy and far away. I also have a self tape partner Jenna Michno who I have done some socially distant self tapes with during this time – we help keep each other in check and motivated. And lastly I have made a big point to continue to study film/TV and read a ton of books. Listening, being emotionally invested, and responding honestly are all skills we can practice… even at home!

Matthew Solomon and Sam Valentine courtesy Followed

TrunkSpace: You also run the blog/podcast called One Broke Actress. Creatively, what does this outlet do for you that you personally that you haven’t been able to achieve in you career? What does it accomplish beyond listeners?
Valentine: It gives me a job I can’t get fired from! (Laughter) Just kidding.

I have always felt there was a massive hole in terms of honest information about the day-to-day life of working actors. You can find thousands of articles and videos now from women being “real” and “authentic” and showing their scars and stretch marks and just being human. And I thought, “Where is this for actors? Why do we feel we are the ones who have to maintain a perfect image for casting/producers/etc?” So I decided to be the face of that movement and share as much as I can about this world I function in while inviting others to do the same. Too many success stories are written after they happen, so I get to write mine while it’s in progress.

TrunkSpace: What is the biggest misconception people have about a career in acting? What do those in your life – family and friends – who are not in the industry get wrong about your journey?
Valentine: I think the worst conception anyone has about this business (including people in it) is trying to map it out on any kind of time table. We can control who we are and what we choose to focus on, but the bookings, the “timing” of successes, that is all out of our control.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career as a whole thus far?
Valentine: It’s funny because you would think this answer would be some big premier or my biggest paycheck, but it’s actually when I was on set for a non-union allergy medicine commercial my second year in LA. We filmed the whole thing outdoors and I was on a zip line all day. I probably did 30 to 40 runs on that thing. I remember driving home and thinking, “Wow… I just got paid for something I would have paid to do… now this is the life!” I think finding the joys in the moments that don’t involve an audience is really the place success grows from.

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?
Valentine: Nope. Firstly if you have seen any movies, very little good comes from time travel! (Laughter) But no, I have such deep faith in my long term career and life that seeing it in a moment wouldn’t do justice to the journey to get to that point. And I really love that I have today and tomorrow.

Listen to the One Broke Actress Podcast here.

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The Featured Presentation

Christine Lee

Photo By: Laura Baldwinson

When Stephen King tweeted out props for the new zombie apocalypse series “Black Summer,” it didn’t only pique the interest of horror fans, it also sent a jolt of excitement throughout the cast. Series star Christine Lee, who plays Korean-speaking survivor Sun, reveled in the shout-out from the King of Horror, but more than anything, she enjoyed bringing a hero to the small screen that audiences are not used to seeing.

There was so much satisfaction in playing an immigrant woman who turned everyone’s expectation upside down,” she said in an exclusive interview with TrunkSpace.

We recently sat down with Lee to discuss taking stylistic risks, her real-world zombie survival plan, and why she always ends up doing what her heart tells her to.

TrunkSpace: Starring in a Netflix series is an exciting journey in and of itself, but then Stephen King went ahead and gave it a thumbs up. What would 12-year-old you think about this chapter in your life if she had a glimpse of what was to come?
Lee: My 12-year-old self would have freaked out but told no one about it? I always wanted to be an actor but to imagine that I’d be in a show that Stephen King gave a shout out for, would have felt like a far-fetched dream to me.

TrunkSpace: “Black Summeris a prequel to the hit Syfy series “Z Nation.” Is there a change in the on-set energy going into a job knowing that there will already be an audience waiting for you on the other side?
Lee: I think the creative team had a lot of confidence going into “Black Summer.” They’ve already made a show that ran for five seasons. They knew how to work together. Of course, we were taking a risk in stylistic choice. But John Hyams really trusted his team to bring their A game. And we did.

TrunkSpace: What were you most excited about exploring with your character Sun when you first read for her and what did you grow to love about her as time went on and more of her personality and journey were revealed to you?
Lee: All I knew about my character for certain was that she was only going to speak Korean – I was very excited for that. But what was even better was that Sun turned out to be a total badass. There was so much satisfaction in playing an immigrant woman who turned everyone’s expectation upside down.

TrunkSpace: We touched on it earlier in our conversation, but Stephen King the KING of horror gave Black Summersome serious love on social media. Do you think that opened up the series to horror fans even more so than it already was, and from your interactions thus far, how are lovers of the genre embracing what youre bringing to the small screen?
Lee: Oh yeah, his tweet was totally unexpected and it attracted more attention from the audience. I think the viewers find our show refreshing. Some of them are shocked by the fact there’s no build up and we just push them into this crazy experience. But honestly, that’s the best way to keep people on the edge of their seat.

TrunkSpace: When youre working on a show that involves zombies, there must be some surreal moments on set from time to time. Did you have any pinch memoments where you looked around zombies at the crafty table and said, WhoaI did not see this coming in my career?
Lee: My favorite moments on set are the times when I hang out with actors in zombie make up, just sipping coffee and talking about random things in life – like paying bills, or finding a babysitter. We could have the most intense moment on camera and then just ask, “When’s lunch?” It’s honestly the best. We all gel together because we love creating that fantasy and illusion for the audience. And to see what goes on behind the scenes is just a cherry on top.

TrunkSpace: For the viewer, the end result of a film or series is always the most memorable, but for those involved in a project wed imagine it is the experience. What will you take from your time on Season 1 of Black Summerthat youll carry with you for the rest of your life and career?
Lee: I came out as a different actor after “Black Summer.” I’m so lucky to have worked with so many creative and talented artists from that show. Thanks to “Black Summer,” I’ll always be hungry to create an innovative show for the audience.

Lee in “Black Summer.”

TrunkSpace: Weve all been there. Its late at night, were tossing and turning because were unable to sleep, and we start thinking, How would I do in a world where a real zombie outbreak occurred?Now that you have some hands-on zombie survival experience, how would you fare if the world went the way of the undead? What would be your approach to seeing tomorrow’s sunrise?
Lee: I’ve thought about this a lot – and I’ve decided that I’ll put my cat as a priority. I don’t care if that will get me killed. So I’ll pack water, knives, cat food, and my cat. And run to an isolated place. Maybe I’ll use my old boss as a bait for zombies to buy some time. Just kidding (..or am I?)

TrunkSpace: Outside of acting, you also sing in a cover band. What is your absolute, hands down favorite song to cover and why?
Lee: “Kiss” by Prince. I love the quiet sexual confidence in his delivery until things blow up in his guitar solo. It always gives me so much joy to belt out that last verse, too.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Lee:Black Summer.”

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?
Lee: Hmmm… I definitely know I want to direct and produce. If the glimpse of the future says I’ll be successful, awesome. If it shows me that I’ll fail, I’ll still go all out. I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person. And I end up doing what my heart tells me to do even when people say it’s a stupid decision.

Season 1 of “Black Summer” is available now on Netflix.

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Chilling Out

Chantelle Albers

Photo By: David Villada

Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re chatting with Chantelle Albers, producer and star of the new film “The 6th Friend,” which is available now on VOD.

We recently sat down with Albers to discuss how women drove “The 6th Friend,” marketing a film in this content-driven marketplace, and why she goes as deep as possible with every character.

TrunkSpace: When you’re working on a project in multiple capacities as you are with “The 6th Friend,” do you feel more pressure for it to succeed and find an audience? Creatively, is there more at stake for you?
Albers: Oh definitely, it was a lot more pressure to succeed and to have the film be received well with your audience. As the producer, and the film’s financier, I felt a lot more pressure to succeed. I felt pressure to make a movie that people within the horror genre and other genres would enjoy and want to watch more than once. We wanted to reach a wide audience, which is why we stayed away from gruesome violence and made it more about the chase and having quick kills. I really wanted the audience to relate to the characters, and feel the relationship between the six women, so that when something happens to one of them we care about them. I also think it helps create the suspense and horror when the audience is connected to the characters.

TrunkSpace: Do you view working in front of the camera and working behind the camera as part of the same creative journey, or are they two separate paths that you’re traveling on?
Albers: Working as producer behind the camera and actress in front of the camera is definitely the same creative journey for me. Both aspects deal with creating the same movie and the same outcome. I feel almost more connected to the character as an actress by also being a producer because you become so invested in the project creatively, emotionally and financially. I was completely emerged in the movie by creating it from the ground up. Working behind the camera gave me a lot of creative freedom when it came to the technical side of the film, and playing the part of Melissa gave me creative freedom in front of the camera. For me, the two roles were interchangeable because the actress in me and the producer in me both wanted to make a good movie.

TrunkSpace: What was it that drew you to “The 6th Friend” and how did you envision it fitting into today’s cinematic horror landscape?
Albers: I was drawn to the strong female aspect of it because I thought it was a good time for a film like this, and I thought it would resonate well with audiences. The heroine and the villain are both female which makes it have this “girl power” sort of feel without being too much of a feminist film. I also was drawn to the humor, which I think there is a lot of, and it makes us connect with the storyline and the suspense that will happen moments after the laughs. It’s more of a clean horror film, in that the kills are gruesome and will make you cringe, but they don’t go on for long periods of time. There are no torture kills in the script, which I appreciated and liked. For this movie that was just not my taste due to the all-female facet.

TrunkSpace: Is there something kind of nice about working in the horror genre, because in a way, it feels like it comes with a bit of a built-in audience. Those who follow the genre seem more willing to try out a new film they haven’t heard of before rather than someone who might be interested in a drama or comedy, for example.
Albers: Oh yes, horror fans are very loyal and they do seem to have an open mind when it comes to new films and new styles of horror. Some may not always like every movie, but they will still watch it and that’s what we want. We as artists want people to see our work and be inspired and entertained by it, and the horror genre seems willing to watch and give new movies a try. I also love working in comedy and drama too. It’s hard for me to stay in just one genre because I have such a love and desire for all different acting styles and characters. I love creating all different kinds of art and that includes different movie genres. That’s where my love of producing comes into play, I love producing projects of all genres that I’m passionate about and connect with the characters.

TrunkSpace: The film won several awards on the festival circuit and built up a nice amount of word of mouth leading into its release. With so much content competition out there today, how does a film like “The 6th Friend” capture an audience and turn a casual viewer into a fan? What is the key in 2019 to breaking through the noise on any given streaming platform and being the film that gets chosen by the viewer?
Albers: I think a good way to market a movie in order to gather a fanbase is to have something to sell in your movie. People really seemed to like the fact that we are female written/directed/produced/ and have a female main cast. It sort of put us in this female film niche. We also have some cast members that are well known to the genre and their fanbase has picked up on the buzz of the film. My team and I used social media as a way to promote the film in the beginning and that was a huge help in getting word out about it. I think a major component in getting your movie seen is having really eye catching artwork that would make audiences want to choose your movie to watch. Another element is recognizable cast members and having a strong visibility on the VOD streaming sites.

TrunkSpace: Speaking strictly to the Chantelle with the producer hat on, what lessons did you learn while filming and promoting “The 6th Friend” that you’ll apply to future projects that you step behind the camera on?
Albers: There was so much I learned and there were so many things that I know to do and not to do now that I’ve lived through it, but the biggest lesson I learned is to have patience with your project, because everything works at different paces and has different times. Sometimes we would need one thing done immediately, but we had to wait. So you shift your focus, and you start in on finishing another element that needs to be done. Filmmaking is fun and creative, and having patience and trust in the outcome of your work will help you enjoy the journey of the ride.

TrunkSpace: What has been the highlight of your career thus far?
Albers: There have been so many wonderful moments in my career both on stage and on camera, and they all were such special and unique experiences that it’s hard to pick out just one. Some of the highlights have been performing in front of thousands of people and having a standing ovation during live theater, and others were working with some incredibly talented and truthful actors that you could fall in love with. It’s also very flattering to be recognized for your work. With “The 6th Friend” we won several awards and had numerous nominations, and it was an honor to have them with a project so close to you.

TrunkSpace: Has there been a character that you’ve played that you wished you had more time to spend with, and if so, why would you have liked to inhabit that particular person just a little bit (or a lot) longer?
Albers: Whenever I play a character I go pretty deep into it, so I always end up spending more than enough time with my characters! (Laughter) I put a lot of research, character study and attention to detail in my work in order to make the characters fleshed out individuals with a strong desire and objective to accomplish what is in the script. It’s sort of like living with the character for a while. Rehearsing, researching and then finally playing always seems to fulfill my time with characters.

I maybe haven’t gotten enough of Melissa though. We’ll see if she emerges again.

A genre that I have always wanted to do is a Western! I am an avid horseback rider and I would really would love to play a sassy saloon girl who can take off on horseback out of gun fire.

TrunkSpace: We’re only about a month into the new year. Did you set any resolutions for yourself this year and if so, what is your plan to carry them out?
Albers: YES, I’m setting it right now… now that you mention it. I am going to try and take the time to meditate and read “The Stoic Philosophy” every day. I’m just going to make the time to do it!

The 6th Friend” is available now on VOD.

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Chilling Out

Alexandra Feld


Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re chatting with Alexandra Feld, producer and star of the new film “Killer Kate!,” which arrives in select theaters and on Digital HD today.

We recently sat down with Feld to discuss the horror fandom, how her family helped to make “Killer Kate!” a reality, and the reason the film – their first – finished on time and within budget.

TrunkSpace: As you gear up for the official release of the film, what emotions are you juggling with?
Feld: It has been an amazing process to get to this point, but I’m still in producer-mode leading up to the release, so I’m not sure I’ve had time to process the emotions of it all yet. I’m definitely excited for the film to come out and interested to see how it’s received! I’m sure there will be some relief once the film is out but also bittersweet because “Killer Kate!” has been such a part of our lives over the last year. That being said, I’m excited to shift focus and begin something new!

TrunkSpace: You wore multiple hats in bringing “Killer Kate!” to life. How much of your blood, sweat and tears went into making the film a reality? Was there ever a moment when you doubted it would happen?
Feld: I had the wonderful opportunity to produce on this film, my first feature as an actress. As part of the film since early development, I was able to be part of the creative process, including casting, selecting locations and crew, all the way through notes on the edit, which really allows you to get close to a project. We had originally planned to shoot another script last November, but a few months prior to pre-production we decided to put that script on hold due to budget and location constraints and create a new script around our resources. We knew we were going to shoot in November of 2017; we had our director, lead actress, and budget number, so that’s where we began. There was never a moment when I thought the film wouldn’t happen. Our production company, Feld Films, is comprised of myself, my husband (director Elliot Feld), my brother-in-law, David Feld, and my father-in-law, Larry Feld – it’s a true family business, and we work extremely well together. We are a pretty driven bunch and time is valuable, so once we made the decision to shoot, it was going to get done because it had to. We work full-time in the commercial world, so we are used to quick turnaround and working with very strict budgets, which lends itself well to indie filmmaking.

TrunkSpace: Did producer Alexandra and actress Alexandra ever butt heads in terms of what one knew was possible to accomplish and what one hoped was possible to accomplish? How do you find the middle ground between the creative wants and the day-to-day needs on set?
Feld: This is something we were all aware of and tried to set ground rules early on. Once we got to our shoot days, the plan was that I take my producer hat off entirely and just focus on acting, but that was better in theory! (Laughter) It took two days or so to get into our groove and quickly learn that I was most comfortable staying involved in certain parts of day-to-day production life. It’s certainly a delicate balance and something I will continue to learn as I follow this path, but I love being able to use both sides of my brain on set. Having other things to put my energy into also allowed me not to get inside my head as an actor, and it really challenged that “acting muscle” as far as turning it on and off – I loved it!

TrunkSpace: In the film, you play THE killer Kate. Because you were involved in the project on numerous levels, how did you see the character grow from where she was in the early stages of development to where she is in the final cut of the film?
Feld: If I remember correctly, Kate didn’t start out quite as likable or relatable. She was a little harsher and more sarcastic, but not in a fun way. After a few read-throughs with our co-writers, Elliot Feld and Daniel Moya, we all agreed to work on making Kate more authentic. I mean, sure, it’s great to have flaws in the characters, but in this case, you really have to care about Kate and her sister Angie; you have to root for them to get it together because, ya know – family!

TrunkSpace: Independent films are often operating on a limited budget, which means limited time. Did you have to make any on-site adjustments that weren’t in the script that ended up making it into the film, and in doing so, made the film stronger?
Feld: Yes, actually! So, we shot this film in 10 days, with two days of pickups which, if you’re unsure, is an insanely short shoot schedule. We had a director with a strong vision, a DP who loves to try anything, an incredibly talented cast, a rock-star crew, and the best 1st AD one could dream of – it’s this magical combo that allowed us to get our film made on time and on budget.

Alexandra Feld as Kate in the horror film “KILLER KATE!,” a Freestyle Digital Media release. Photo courtesy of Freestyle Digital Media.

TrunkSpace: What are you most proud of with the film?
Feld: Honestly, there are so many things, but I am most proud of my family. First off, I got to work with my husband, who’s drive and passion never cease to amaze me, and working together in the actress and director capacity was really special. Next, my producing partner and brother-in-law, David Feld – the level of trust I have with him is next level; he is so good at what he does! Lastly, my mom was the production designer (Stephanie Brewer), my dad the art director (Keith K. Brewer), my brother the prop master (Justin Brewer), and my sister the wardrobe designer (Kevynn Brewer). Looking back on it now, it still feels unbelievable that we had this opportunity to work together in this capacity! We could not have done what we did without the closeness, ease of communication, and intuition that comes with family. Even our dog, Daisy, came to set with us! It was a wonderful, comfortable, positive environment that allowed everyone on set to feel like part of the family.

TrunkSpace: Horror fans are willing to turn out for a film regardless of if they know anything about the film or not. Do you feel like the genre comes with a bit of a built-in audience, and if so, does that put more or less pressure on you with a film like “Killer Kate!” and being accepted by that fandom?
Feld: Oh, man, I think we’ve been totally spoiled by the horror fan community for our first film! I come from a theatre background, and one thing I have always loved about that world is the sense of community and support, and I feel a lot of similarities with our new horror family. I suppose if there is any pressure it’s that I love horror audiences, and I just don’t want to disappoint. Of course, I know our film may not be all horror fans’ cup of tea, and that’s totally cool, because, even still, everyone has been so supportive and enthusiastic, which I’m so grateful for!

TrunkSpace: Aside from making a quality film, do you hope that “Killer Kate!” will open up more doors for you, both in front of the camera and behind it?
Feld: Yes, absolutely! I am an actress, first and foremost, but it’s a tough business. As I mentioned, I began in theatre, but I moved to LA to transition to film, and, after a few years of auditioning for mediocre roles, stereotypes, and reading bad scripts, I realized I needed to diversify and start producing. I took four years off from acting to start from the bottom and learn the behind-the-scenes, so I could jump back in as a producer/actress and have a creative hand in the projects I was a part of. “Killer Kate!” is my first project back in the acting game, and boy, is it good to be back!

(L-R) Alexandra Feld as Kate, Amaris Davidson as Sara, and Danielle Burgess as Angie in the horror film “KILLER KATE!,” a Freestyle Digital Media release. Photo courtesy of Freestyle Digital Media.

TrunkSpace: This is an industry with so many question marks, and often, so much is dependent on the decisions of others. Do you feel like you’ve been able to control your own destiny a little bit in bringing “Killer Kate!” to life?
Feld: Entirely! Again, it’s why I decided to become a producer. I am a creative person, without a doubt, but I am also very business minded, owing in large part to the home I grew up in, where both were of equal importance. It’s also key to be wise with whom you surround yourself and also open to different thoughts and ideas. I was able to have a lot of influence on my role as Kate and the film overall, but I also trusted everyone on our internal team and then the key crew we hired.

TrunkSpace: Super general question, we know, but what’s next? After “Killer Kate!” is released and you’re able to come up for air, what project will you be breathing in?
Feld: Well, my current “day job” is as a commercial producer, so I’m always busy behind the scenes, but we do have a horror short film we are prepping for which Elliot will be directing. Beyond that I really hope to be sinking my teeth into another juicy feature part soon! We have a few scripts in development, so I’m excited to see which one we’ll be diving into next. Keep your eyes on IMDb, and follow me @AlexandraFeld on Instagram for more updates!

Killer Kate!” arrives in select theaters and on Digital HD today!

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Trunk Stubs

Trunktober: Train To Busan


This October we’re focused on one thing and one thing only… watching as much horror-related programming as possible to prime the pop culture pump in celebration of Halloween. Our consuming will be taking place nightly, and while there’s no rhyme or reason to how we’re going about choosing our scary screenings, we’ll do our best to tell you how we did it so that you can watch them as well.

Title: Train To Busan

Directed By: Sang-ho Yeon

Starring: Yoo Gong, Yu-mi Jung, Dong-seok Ma, Su-an Kim

We Watched On: Netflix

Trunktober Approved Because: For those who don’t mind subtitles, this zombie flick from South Korea is a wild ride, though admittedly not quite as wild as those the fictional characters from the film are forced to take as passengers on a besieged train from Seoul to Busan. We don’t blame you if you feel burned out on anything related to the undead, but this movie has something that so many others in the genre do not… heart. (Probably because zombies are more focused on brains.)

Biggest Scare: There aren’t a lot of jump scares to lift you out of your seat, but the sense of impending doom is enough to make you uneasy for the duration of the film, particularly for those watching who are parents and would have to traverse the undead landscape with kids in tow.

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Chilling Out

Elysia Rotaru and Stephen Sawchuk

Mackenzie Mowat and Jenna Romanin in “FWD”

Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re chatting with Elysia Rotaru and Stephen Sawchuk, the brains behind “FWD,” the new horror/comedy hybrid that is giving us a serious hankering for ’90s nostalgia.

We recently sat down with the creative duo to discuss embracing the camp, being scared to scare, and why they owe a lot of favors to a lot of people.

TrunkSpace: First and foremost, how did the creative partnership between the two of you come about?
Sawchuk: Elysia and I have known each other for nearly a decade now so it’s been a long time in the making. People always warn you not to get into business with your friends but I think what clicked for us is that we share a lot of the same creative instincts and work ethic. When we decided to pair up, Elysia was acting at the time and I was producing reality television, and we were both eager to sink our teeth into something new and different where we could flex our creative muscles a bit more.

TrunkSpace: Many of us believe in love at first sight, but does the same apply to creativity? Can two people share a like-minded creative POV right out of the gates, and if so, did you both find that in each other?
Sawchuk: We’re both creative people but that’s not to say we agree all of the time, which is a healthy part of the process. What works well for us is that Elysia brings her extensive acting and coaching background to the table, and as a producer I’m heavily involved in the day to day of both the creative and logistics, so we clicked and our skill sets complement each other and we push each other into new territory.

TrunkSpace: We love that “FWD” is ‘90s based. (Big ups to the chokers and the Skeet Ulrich reference!) Was the setting itself sort of necessary given the premise, which is based around a chain email that brings about unspeakable… wait for it… HORROR?
Sawchuk: Totally! We’re both huge fans of the 90’s slasher genre, and wanted to embrace the camp and ridiculousness of that era… Y2K fear and killer emails!
Rotaru: You remember those, don’t you?!

TrunkSpace: Speaking of horror, as filmmakers, do you feel like you kind of come into “FWD” having a built-in audience knowing how passionate the horror audience is for all things within the genre… even if there are different subsets within the larger horror umbrella?
Rotaru: The horror audience is very savvy, so it was actually a little scary (no pun intended) creating a film in the genre. It’s one thing to have a built-in audience, but another to have them actually enjoy your film!
Sawchuk: As newcomer filmmakers to the genre we wanted to make sure our first project had the elements of a horror film, but that it didn’t take itself too seriously.

TrunkSpace: On the opposite side of that coin, is the horror audience difficult to please, because in a lot of ways, it feels like a genre where each project has to keep upping itself in terms of gore and twisting plot points?
Sawchuk: Absolutely! There’s a lot to live up to in the genre, and during the brainstorming process for “FWD” I kept asking myself “what can we do differently?” And that’s a super tough question to answer because I think people kind of feel like “it’s all been done before” in terms of the slasher genre. So my challenge was to tell a contained story in less than 10 minutes that wasn’t just a guy with a knife stalking two young girls. We hope we accomplished that with a unique setting and era and a twist ending in the final scene.

Elysia Rotaru

TrunkSpace: In creating the short, do you see this as your complete vision, or is the hope to take the concept and turn it into a full-length feature?
Sawchuk: There were a ton of things we wish we could have done differently with the short, but we did our best with the time, money and resources we had available.
Rotaru: And we knew we just needed to make the film! It sounds cliché but it’s true – if you wait around for the perfect moment to start, you’ll never start. So there were a lot of things we wish we could’ve done differently with the short, but we’ve been developing a feature-length film based on the short that we’re really excited about!

TrunkSpace: Was there anything that you had hoped to accomplish with “FWD” that you had to revisit during production because of budget or time constraints?
Sawchuk: We made the movie on a buck and a half (kidding not kidding) so we really had to stretch every dollar and beg, borrow and steal. Any filmmaker in the genre will tell you that funding resources are super limited… a lot of the organizations ignore or disqualify horror altogether which is disappointing, so you have to get creative with how you’re going to make it happen. We self funded and set up an Indiegogo page and the film wouldn’t have been made if it weren’t for the support of friends, family and fans of the genre. We also had a crazy talented crew who worked on the project simply because they liked the script and the people on the team. So basically we owe a lot of favors back! Looking back, I wish we could have used some different camera gear and upped our special effects/gore game a bit, but we did what we could with the resources we had available. I think every filmmaker gets that “woulda shoulda coulda” feeling.

Stephen Sawchuk

TrunkSpace: As we said, the film is based in the ‘90s, but there’s also a great ‘90s horror vibe to it as well. Were the return of slasher films like “Scream” and “Urban Legend” an influence in “FWD” coming into fruition, particularly given the comedic tone that it strikes at times?
Sawchuk: Totally! The opening scenes of the “Scream” movies really inspired us. Those scenes are usually five to 10 minutes long but they immediately rope you in and keep you engaged until the title card comes up. Our challenge was to try to have a similar impact on an audience, but tell a contained story that had a pay off by minute seven. I could watch the openers to the original “Scream” and “Scream 4” on loop! The way the “Scream” movies infused comedy into the genre was game changing. Nobody did the horror-comedy spin better than Wes Craven and Kevin Williamson.

TrunkSpace: What did the two of you take from the experience of bringing “FWD” to life that you’ll apply to your next project and each one after that?
Rotaru: Follow your instincts, honor your vision and have fun throughout the process. Filmmaking is so collaborative, which can sometimes mean there are a lot of cooks in the kitchen, so it’s important to stick to your gut.
Sawchuk: We were lucky to work with a really great, supportive and talented cast and crew and honestly we wouldn’t have been able to make the film without them. Surrounding yourself with like-minded people who share your passion is really important. Another key takeaway from working on our first project together is to not take yourself too seriously!

TrunkSpace: What’s next for you two as far as your creative partnership goes?
Sawchuk: Our second screenplay is ready to roll!
Rotaru: It’s another horror-comedy called ‘Daddy Issues’ that we’re both really excited about, and it was written with feature film potential in mind. We’re still in development but hope to take it to camera before the end of 2018.
Sawchuk: We’re still working on the treatment for the feature-length ‘FWD’ as well!

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Chilling Out

Lisa Ovies


Jason had his hockey mask. Freddy had his glove. Simon has… his huggable, squeezable, loveable plush body, which he will use to lull you into a false sense of security before horrifically murdering you.

Yes, not only do we live in a world where we have to worry about deadly flu outbreaks, erratic weather, and an endless run of New England Patriots’ Super Bowls, but now we have inanimate felt killers to fear, at least according to the exciting new horror/comedy mashup from Lisa Ovies, “Puppet Killer.”

With the film set to hit the festival circuit throughout 2018, we recently sat down with the mastermind (and producer/director) Ovies to discuss how the core concept for “Puppet Killer” first came to her, discovering the right tone, and where Simon is right now.

TrunkSpace: The idea for “Puppet Killer” first struck you after watching a parade with singing puppets. What was it about taking that concept – a kid-friendly character made of felt – and turning him evil that interested you?
Ovies: I was actually producing a really great short called “Bedbugs: A Musical Love Story” at the same time that I was casting a horror film. I remember sitting on the stairs watching a musical number and thinking, “What would I do if I was in charge?” And the answer was, I would kill everyone. I would kill everyone with a puppet. I guess it was the product of living in both worlds at the same time.

TrunkSpace: Independent productions can often take a long time to come into fruition. How long has the “Puppet Killer” journey been from that spark of an idea to where you are today with the finished film?
Ovies: I think about three years? The film itself isn’t actually quite finished. We are happily chugging through post production with an amazing team.

TrunkSpace: Horror/comedy hybrids can sometimes be a challenge for filmmakers in terms of finding the right balance between the two genres. How much energy went into establishing the tone of the film, and when you started out, were there any projects that came before “Puppet Killer” that you wanted to emulate tone-wise?
Ovies: Yes, it is a really fine line to skate between a genuine comedic slasher, and a parody. We worked really hard to play the drama throughout and it was the actors’ fantastic ability to accept the circumstances and to play opposite Simon in a very truthful and honest manner. That was pretty much my biggest focus throughout and I am very grateful the actors trusted me in it. When we talked about it leading up to filming, I would reference “Evil Dead 2,” “Shaun of the Dead” and “Dead Alive.” I think we did a great job finding that energy in the film.

TrunkSpace: In watching the trailer, the film has the feeling of a classic 80s slasher flick – “Friday the 13th” meets super trippy “Pinwheel.” Did that decade of slasher greatness inspire any aspects of “Puppet Killer” or you personally as a filmmaker?
Ovies: A huge yes to both. I love 80s slasher horror films and it is very evident in “Puppet Killer.” It pays homage to all the greats, from “Nightmare on Elm Street,” “Halloween,” and “Friday the 13th.” The main character is raised by a mother (played by myself) who is obsessed with 80s horror and as a result, Aleks Paunovic’s character and Simon are as well.

TrunkSpace: You pulled together a great cast and crew to bring “Puppet Killer” to life. Many of those working on the film have been involved with projects that have amassed huge fanboy/fangirl followings, including “Supernatural,” “The 100,” and “Van Helsing.” From a business perspective, is that the audience that you’re targeting with your film, the Comic Con crowd, because this seems like something they could get behind?
Ovies: I think they are a part of our audience for sure and I know they will love seeing their favorite actors in such a different light, but we definitely made this film as an homage to 80s horror. As a result, die hard horror fans are going to love uncovering the Easter eggs and subtext within the film.

TrunkSpace: You wore many hats throughout the “Puppet Killer” development and production process. Do you enjoy taking on many different roles, or in a best-case-scenario world would you have preferred focusing on the directing alone?
Ovies: I love being creative and I love producing but at the end of the day, I think I will always be my best self when I am able to focus on one job. The next two features I am slated to direct I am only wearing the one hat and I am really excited. However, I always cameo in anything I direct so I expect you will see me pop up in them as well.

TrunkSpace: When it comes to filmmaking in general, do you see yourself as someone with a creative focus on genre projects or do you have an interest in throwing your director’s hat into the every-genre ring?
Ovies: I would love to challenge myself in different genres for sure. I really want to do a big budget action movie like “X-Men” or “Star Wars,” but at the end of the day practical effects and horror will always have my heart.

TrunkSpace: What has been the most difficult aspect of bringing your “Puppet Killer” vision into reality? What kept you up at night?
Ovies: Sadly the answer is just money. We want to keep this film ours and not lose creative control by bringing in other money, so the self-funding has been a tad stressful. We have an amazing group of executive producers that have supported us and we are truly grateful. We are trying to keep the quality really high while keeping the costs low. Our problems are certainly not unique in the independent world of film.

TrunkSpace: Was putting the final stamp on your vision a difficult thing to do? When you’re invested so much in a project, is it stressful to officially call it “done” and send it out into the world?
Ovies: I have made several films before “Puppet Killer” and that is a great question. Part of you feels relieved and so excited to share it with the world but then there is another side that will never be 100 percent done. You can always make it better or make different choices, so at one point, you need to trust yourself and your team and call it done. “Puppet Killer” is close to that stage but still has some pieces that we need to have fall in line before we get to call it done.

TrunkSpace: You’re taking “Puppet Killer” to festivals throughout 2018. Is it nerve-racking for you to sit in on a screening of a project that you had such a big hand in both creatively and on the production side of things? Do you look forward to seeing the instant reaction of audiences?
Ovies: I always worry about audience reaction but I LOVE sitting through the emotional journey with them. The first screening is the hardest… there are moments that you hold your breath and hope they get the joke, or that the jump scare will work – the gore will affect them. It is a crazy experience and every audience is different.

TrunkSpace: Finally, where is Simon right now?
Ovies: Well, as I type this, I am on a plane to LA so he is not with me. He is at home with my partner and puppies. He has lived with me since we wrapped and I love it.

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Chilling Out

The Dark Tapes’ Michael McQuown


Chilling Out is where TrunkSpace talks all things horror and genre with those who work in the projects that give us the thrills and chills to keep coming back for more. This time out we’re talking with Michael McQuown, writer, producer, and director of “The Dark Tapes,” a found footage horror/sci-fi mashup that has been scaring up fans on the festival circuit.

We sat down with McQuown to talk about the film’s extended shelf life, stolen furniture, and how the plot all came together in the final hour of production.

TrunkSpace: Horror seems like one of the few genres where you can still build a decent audience by word of mouth alone. From your perspective, is marketing a horror movie different than another genre?
McQuown: Well, I would say yes because the horror people seem to be quite fanatical. They watch everything they can get their hands on. That’s why there’s so much bad horror made because they might have one good gory scene in it and the horror fans will still gobble it up. So you do have a fair amount of genre content being done for a low amount of money because they just know they can make a profit on it and turn it around. Hopefully… hopefully we try to go for something better than that, but people have their own particular tastes.

TrunkSpace: Since the film’s release, what has brought it the most amount of attention and put it on people’s radars?
McQuown: The first festival we got accepted into was the Phoenix Film Festival/International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival. That was last April. A few reviews came out of that, I think six of seven, and all but one was positive, and there were some tech issues still to fix on the film. I submitted to a bunch of other festivals too and then we started winning five awards and then 10 awards and then 20 awards. I tried to make as many festivals as I could and I talked to a couple of the festival directors and they were just like, “We really, really love you film.” And I’m like, “Are you sure?” I’m it’s own biggest critic since I know it so well. And they were like, “Trust us… we got X number hundreds of submissions and yours is right there on the top.” And then actually we got into some non-genre film festivals and surprisingly the couple that I attended there, the audience members were actually even more inquisitive than the genre people. They were like, “We normally would never even see a horror film, but we really liked it.” And then the people would quiz me for a half hour or 45 minutes on stuff. So, hopefully it struck a nerve. Now we’re up to 61 awards and nominations, so there definitely seems to be an audience for it. I think that’s spread over 30 festivals and competitions… the 61 awards are. And we’re up to about 50 reviews and all but two are positive, so it seems to be striking a chord with people.

TrunkSpace: Another thing about the horror genre that doesn’t seem to apply to other genres is that it has a longer shelf life. Have you found that to be the case as you’re out supporting “The Dark Tapes?”
McQuown: Yeah. Maybe a model on this is… with a much larger budget, don’t get me wrong… but “The Taking of Deborah Logan.” I’ve checked out its IMDB rankings in the past year and you can see it just had a very long, slow fade from its initial VOD release. That definitely sort of became a word of mouth movie and then it got put on all these top movies of the year lists. So, hopefully that’s the case. We’re with Epic Pictures, just for the U.S., and they do have experience in genre stuff. But, still, we didn’t open in 30 theaters and have all of the reviewers from all those cities reviewing it, so we’re still working diligently on the marketing.

TrunkSpace: You spent many years working on the film. Was there ever a point where you thought it would never get finished?
McQuown: Well, I thought up the idea, basically… and I have said this in other forums… I saw “V/H/S.” One of the producers is a big horror fan and said, “Hey, you should check out ‘V/H/S.’” And actually a couple of weeks before that, the same producer said, “Hey, check out ‘The Pact.’” And I watched that and I thought it was a good movie. I researched it and I was like, “How come I didn’t hear about that?” It was straight to VOD. So I did some research and I found out that the VOD market was something that you could at least break even or make a profit on if you do a quality product and horror was the biggest genre in that market. And then when I saw “V/H/S,” a light went off and I went, “Hey, that’s what I’m going to shoot… a found footage anthology.” The thinking was, if we mess up the first story, we can go back and reshoot it and not have to reshoot a whole feature. (Laughter) And I knew my production costs would be lower, etc. etc. etc. And then when I saw “V/H/S,” I was like, “Yeah, that’s exactly how most found footage films should be done.” They should be done as like a mini feature because a lot of them just have the same problem where you’re sitting through the first 40 to 60 minutes with not much happening.

And so we shot “The Hunters & The Hunted,” the first full segment that you see in the film, in October 2013. And the idea was to shoot two other segments and one thing I’ve learned being an entrepreneur is that things always take three times longer and cost three times as much and delays are inevitable. And the delay that we had there… we had a great location and the idea was to rent a place at Airbnb and live at it… myself and the two producers who are also the primary crew members… and we would shoot there as well. So we rented a place and when we showed up, the furniture was gone. And we’re like, “What?!?!” The guy who presented himself as the owner was actually sub-leasing it/renting it on Airbnb and he just decided to steal all of the furniture. (Laughter)

TrunkSpace: Yikes. You can’t plan for something like that!
McQuown: Yeah. It took me about 10 days to find another location that we could live and shoot at. It was in LA so a lot of the owners were like, “Oh yeah, you can do it for $6,000.” I was like, “Well, we might only spend that much on the whole thing.” (Laughter) So, we were only able to do one segment and the two producers, who are British friends and flew out from London, went back. I then went back to Miami and then came out to LA and delayed everything for a year because I had some opportunities to make some more money. So in 2014 nothing was done. And then in 2015 we shot the four stories, one of which is not in the film, but it will be in the DVD as an extra bonus. And it’s not because of the quality or anything like that. I just realized as I was editing that it would push it towards two hours and I felt it would be a stronger film if it was under 100 minutes.

TrunkSpace: That also makes it interesting for people who have already seen the film to give it a second look.
McQuown: Exactly. Right now for people who pre-order and send us a screenshot of their iTunes pre-order, we’ll send them a screener link to the extra story in the summer when I finish editing it.

TrunkSpace: You wore pretty much every conceivable hat in the production of the film. What for you was the most difficult to manage while juggling all of the other duties you had at the same time?
McQuown: I can say the one that is the most time consuming and cumbersome and least creative would be casting. We used a casting director and now I can see the value of a casting director… just in the amount of time you’ll save. The casting director did cast four of the roles. Vincent Guastini, who did the practical effects and directed “To Catch A Demon”… he brought in Cortney Palm. But the rest of the roles, which was like over a dozen, we cast ourselves. We put ads in the right websites and trades in LA and we had probably 3,000 to 4,000 submit. So, that means I got to look through 3,000 to 4,000 headshots online, organize them into the right character, tag them as not good if it’s based on appearance, and now you’re down to 1,000 or 2,000, which I gave to the two producers. They then watched the tapes on the people… 1,000 to 2,000 people. (Laughter) And that got us down to a few hundred people that we scheduled for auditions. And then you’ve got to schedule them, which is a whole cumbersome process because you don’t want people all showing up at once. And then we had to actually book the audition space and go there and set up. It ends up being… that was probably 100 to 200 hours of work between three people to do all of that. So now I certainly see the advantage of the casting director. He already knows who is going to work for that rate that’s up and coming. The people that he brought in all had serious independent film credits. Some had supporting roles for studio stuff. Brittany Underwood was the lead in a Nickelodeon series and she was a well known soap actress for some years. He already knows those people, so for him, it’s probably two hours of work per role. (Laughter) Whereas if you’re going to do it from scratch, it’s 20 hours of work per role.

But I’m perfectly content and happy with the cast. They did a great job. And we got Emilia Ares Zoryan, who is the lead in the wraparound story from “V/H/S Viral,” through our own auditions, so we ended up getting people who had significant credits even through the open casting that we were doing.

I did have something that did help. I did mention that I was the original writer of “The Perfect Man,” which was a romantic comedy that Universal Studios made starring Hilary Duff, which is exactly the type of move that I would never make. (Laughter) I happened to know the person the true story was based on and I thought it would be an easy script sale. And it was. So, I would mention that in the casting listings, so I’m sure that helped us bump up interest a little bit.

But again, the cast was great. We gave them instructions to act very naturalistic because of the found footage nature of the film. And a little interesting note is, in “The Hunters & The Hunted”… because we had the delay with finding the location… that script was really only half done. About half of that was improv. Anytime that the ghost hunters are doing their research, that was all improv. I just told them to watch “Ghost Adventures” and other ghost hunting shows and then we bought actual ghost hunting equipment and the crew and I just hid in a room downstairs. There was one room that never got seen and we’d all just hide there. And it was just like, “Okay… do your thing for an hour.” They had the camera, we had them mic’d up with lavaliers and they just did a bunch of improv.

TrunkSpace: It sounds like the horror version of “Curb your Enthusiasm.”
McQuown: There you go! Exactly. But, it came out really well. And in the DVD we’ll be making an extended version of these scenes we cut out for running time purpose.

TrunkSpace: Some of the best cinematic moments come out of a those moments where an idea or an effect isn’t working and it forces filmmakers to think on their toes and outside the box. Did “The Dark Tapes” have one of those moments?
McQuown: Oh yeah. Absolutely. The demon in “To Catch A Demon” was originally supposed to be on wires and crawling up the wall and crawling on the ceiling and stuff like that. And myself as a first time producer, we had a stunt coordinator bring his whole wire set gear… someone who Vincent Guastini knew… and my fault, I did not have him come to the location to confirm that he could set up all of his wires, which he wasn’t able to because it wasn’t strong enough… the things for him to connect to. So, when we had the whole battle scene at the end with the demon and in other times where you see the demon, he wasn’t supposed to be standing like a person. If he was going to stand like a person, we would have had a different type of practical effect. So, I had to edit around that and the fight scene at the end just wasn’t quite working from what we had shot. He looked too much like a person in a practical effects outfit, which again, he wasn’t supposed to be standing. My fault for not consulting with the stunt coordinator. So we had an extra day of reshooting where we were going to reshoot some of the fight scene and literally with about an hour left to shoot… it just all of a sudden occurred to me that we should have the professor and Cortney Palm’s character Nicole be in multiple, we called it, time dilations, as if they were multiple universes simultaneously with multiple outcomes. I told Vincent, the director, I said, “Yeah… let’s just shoot some scenes of him saying that because then I can go more normal narrative crazy jump cut editing. I can edit anything and anywhere and I’ll make the fight work.” We had bits and pieces of the fight that worked fine, but because of the found nature of the film, you have no cutaways. So, you’re editing choices are very limited. And so literally, it was a very important plot point where he says, “Oh, we’re in multiple time dalations,” and then I realized that “To Catch A Demon” was actually going to be a standalone story. And as I was editing, I was like, “To Catch A Demon” should be the wraparound story, but, “How do I tie it in to the other stories?” At that point I had a way to tie it into “The Hunters & The Hunted” and I had a way to tie it into “Cam Girls,” but I didn’t have a way a way to tie it into “Amanda’s Revenge.” So, again this was all done in the last hour of shooting on one day of reshoots… I pulled David Rountree the actor aside and said, “You’re stuck in multiple time dilations and you’re going to say something worse is coming because you turned on the machine.” And the something worse that are coming are the aliens/demons, whatever you want to think they are, in “Amanda’s Revenge.” And then if you notice the time dates of the stories, that’s why I made “To Catch A Demon” a few years earlier, so then that way the “whatever” that’s coming… it took them time to get here through space because they got the signal from the machine. So, that entire very important plot turn… plot twist… was literally thought up in the last hour of the reshoot to fix the fight scene.

TrunkSpace: So having learned a lot of these first time producer lessons on the fly, what advice would you give to aspiring filmmakers?
McQuown: If I was advising any other filmmakers or people who want to become filmmakers, if you’re going to do it for zero budget… or as I like to say, this film is a negative budget movie because it comes out of my pocket… you’re going to have things come up. If you have skill sets as a good entrepreneur in crisis management… you’ve got to think on your feet and make lemon out of lemonade when it happens. And that’s what happened. We had a fight scene that needed improvement and it led to a critical plot change. We didn’t have time to shoot the wraparound story and instead it became the bookend story, which lead to the “To Catch A Demon” becoming the wraparound story, which ended up tying all of the stuff together better.

Learn more about “The Dark Tapes” here.

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