Producer, director, actress, model, and Air Force veteran, Traycee King was featured here nearly a year ago when her How to Survive a Horror Film series grabbed me. After looking over her resume, I knew she was a lady I had to ask for an interview. While doing my research, I learned there are a lot facets to Traycee and it wasn’t easy narrowing down the questions for my usual-length feature here. She has several award-winning projects to her credit (most notably her web series 8.13), all produced by her own company, Kitty Quilt Productions, she dabbles in archeology, astronomy, and giving people positive reinforcement. Also, her work with the Young Storytellers Foundation, where acting mentors volunteer their time to work with underprivileged kids, was definitely on the list of things to learn more about.
Besides all that good stuff, Traycee also occasionally enjoys making a real piece of crap film. So bad, in fact, that she had one of her gems featured at last year’s International Shit Movie Film Festival. (I didn’t make that up. Google it later.) The above, and exclusive photo is courtesy of Traycee, herself.
CHRIS CHARLES: Thanks for doing this Traycee. I love your How to Survive a Horror Film video series. As you know, last year, I did a short piece on one of your entries in that one. Will there be any more tips coming soon?
TRAYCEE KING: I’m so glad you enjoyed them! I do plan on doing more as soon as I can. I’ve been working on a few things here and there for other people. One series I’ve been working on is a tips and tricks series for the popular Activision video game, Skylanders. The series is called Skylanders Boomcast and Zachary Gordon (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) is the host. It’s a blast to work on!
CHRIS: So, you studied archaeology along with theater at UCLA. Ever consider going to that field?
TRAYCEE: All the time! I know to other actors it’s a no-no to want anything else, but my mind wanders and it’s such a fascinating subject. I figured that if I study something other than acting, it’ll only broaden my life experience and make me a better performer in general.
CHRIS: You and I have something in common. We’re both veterans. Was it after high school or after college, that you went into the Air Force?
TRAYCEE: I actually joined the Air Force after high school then went to college. I did everything backwards! (Laughs)
CHRIS: Ahh, so you were enlisted, like me. So, what was your time in the Military like?
TRAYCEE: It was boring! (Laughs) I was stationed at Pope Air Force Base for four years, got out, then was reactivated during 9/11. I can’t say that anything exciting happened, but I was fortunate to have met the people I did. Every single one of them taught me something, for better or for worse, and I love them for it. I was a tad bit of a prankster and got in trouble a lot. I also got in trouble for speaking my mind, even though our higher-ups encouraged it. It was a confusing time in my life; “do as I say, not as I do”, etc., etc. I’m stronger for that experience, that’s for sure. As far as my actual “job,” I worked at the aircraft parts store …. and that’s my official answer (she says with a knowing smile).
CHRIS: Did you do any modeling or any kind of film work before you joined the Air Force?
TRAYCEE: I did the whole “John Roberts Powers” thing. It’s like Barbizon, and it’s a total ripoff. The only good thing about those “schools” is that they’re like charm schools; they teach you about fashion, makeup, etiquette, blah, blah, blah, but a total waste. I did book a few jobs while I was in the Air Force. I did a few stock photos with a few fellow Airmen and those pics pop up everywhere!! It’s because they’re so wholesome looking. Every time I see those pics I think, “Ha, if only the public knew.”
CHRIS: Yes, I can definitely relate to that . So moving on, your “zombie” web series 8.13 has won several awards. What does “8.13” refer to? (Author’s Note: I later found out Traycee was in the shower, washing her breasts when she came up with the idea for 8.13)
TRAYCEE: During the 1st production meeting of 8.13, the director at the time, Mando Franco, mentioned that he’d like to plug 8.13 somewhere in the series. He does it with everything he works on mainly because it’s Hitchcock’s birthday, and Mando is a huge fan. We didn’t have a title so I threw it out there, “hey, what if that was the name of the series?” I did a bit of research and Romans 813 (“For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live”) sounded like a zombie reference to us. Of course, it isn’t, but it was a pretty cool find. 8/13/2010 was also the release date of episode one, which happened to fall on a Friday. We also released the first episode at 8:13PM that night, and within the series, the entire night takes place on 8/13/???? It starts at 8:13PM and ends at 8:13AM the next morning, when Johnny comes to a crossroads. Also, a fun fact; that number kept popping up everywhere during production for many of the cast and crew, whether it was door numbers, addresses, timing of an episodes first cut, wrap times, etc.
CHRIS: Interesting. Also, we have a common friend who’s appeared in 8.13; Inkerbella. What’s she like to work with?
TRAYCEE: She’s amazing, patient, professional, and really good at what she does. She’s a dream to work with. I know how hard filming can be with long hours and a ton of sticky, bloody makeup, but she never complained and was a champ.
CHRIS: Not surprising to hear, at all. So, besides producing good stuff, you also seem to enjoy making an occasional piece of crap. You had a film featured at the International Shit Movie Film Festival last year. It was “a real piece of crap,” as you called it. Do you have one in the works for the 2014 ISMFF?
TRAYCEE: Ha! Yeah that was a blast to work on! And let me just say that there were a ton of entries I was actually jealous of. Like; why didn’t I think of that!? I do have an idea for my next “crappy film,” but I can’t say what it is just yet.
CHRIS: I can only imagine. Are any awards given for the films featured there?
TRAYCEE: There are audience choice recognitions. Since the film festival is for fun, the competition isn’t fierce. What’s good about that, is it allows everyone to relax and enjoy the show. Plus, it really brings everyone together. The crappy movie movement is a thing!!
CHRIS: Would you say just as much effort goes into making a shit short film as it does making a good short film?
TRAYCEE: Yes and no. The preparation, shots, lighting, makeup etc. still take work. It depends on how good you want the makeup though. Part of the fun is that it doesn’t have to be perfect. However, if you want people to enjoy your creation, filming still needs to be organized, lighting should be decent, and sound is key ….probably the most important factor since you want everyone to hear what’s going on. If picture quality isn’t great, it only adds to the charm, but if that sound isn’t good, then your movie will not hit the mark. We did a lot of practical effects and rather than rent equipment to make things splatter, I did everything by hand, literally. That was me throwing fake poop on one of the actors. We purposefully allowed crew members to get caught in shots, the boom pole was low in another shot, and my dog walked in on several scenes. We thought it was funny so we kept it! We were able to finish filming that entire trailer in five shooting hours. It reminded me of being a kid, running around with my camera, and making a movie with my friends, and no worries if it was going to suck.
CHRIS: (Laughs) That’s awesome. So, do you prefer working behind or in front of the camera?
TRAYCEE: I prefer working in front of the camera. I’m so much better at acting than anything else. I started working behind the camera because I wanted to create my own stuff. I then realized that a good actor should know what is going on behind the camera. They’re much more patient when they know what every job entails.
CHRIS: I know horror is your favorite genre. Do you have any favorite old school Scream Queens?
TRAYCEE: Ya know, I thought about this numerous times before ….but my answer is common; Jaimie Lee Curtis. 1. She’s an awesome actress. 2. She’s in Halloween and Halloween is a John Carpenter film ….and he is god (*cough* The Thing *cough*).
CHRIS: I’m just curious; do you frequent comic book stores?
TRAYCEE: Not as much as I used to, although there is one just a block away from me and I’ve been meaning to go in there.
CHRIS: If a guy were to hit on you in a comic book store, what would be a good line to use?
TRAYCEE: I like a man with balls (courage). Not all women are as forward as I am and I know it’s impossible for guys to know what they’re getting into when they hit on a girl, but if a man were to come up to me and just start talking to me ….and DON’T ask me what I’m doing in the comic store, because I will say something rude ….I almost ALWAYS love it. If you ask what my favorite comic is (Elfquest), I’ll talk your ears off!
CHRIS: How did you come up with the name “Kitty Quilt” for your production company?
TRAYCEE: (Laughs) I’m glad you asked! My husband actually suggested it. When my brother, sister, and I graduated high school, we each got graduation gifts. My brother got an entertainment center, my sis got a laptop, and I got a quilt with cats on it. Not that I didn’t appreciate the gift because I love EVERYTHING, I’m easy to please, people give me, but I thought, “how is this going to help me in the real world?” I joined the Air Force right after high school, so when I got to my duty station, I used that quilt as a towel, blanket, curtain. I had nothing so it became everything. Like the quilt, my life became little pieces of experiences, challenges, and solutions. I then became resourceful with what little I had and I was happy. So really, it was the best thing that I could’ve left home with. The name “Kitty Quilt” represents all the people who come together to help make my films, and since most of us were new when we started working together, the “quilt” became stronger, torn, used, experienced, and much more interesting.
CHRIS: Okay then. I’m glad I asked that question, too. So, tell me about your work with the Young Storytellers Foundation.
TRAYCEE: The Young Storytellers Foundation helps kids who are shy, aggressive, rambunctious, have learning disabilities, etc. For six weeks, a group of 10 or so kids are pulled out of class for an hour to work with mentors on a script. The mentors guide them, but are not actually allowed to write the scripts. After the six weeks are up, they call on actual actors to perform what the kids have written on stage… I volunteer as an actor, and as an actor we’re encouraged to do everything! From playing our parts, to being trees, rocks, background, animals, sound FX, you name it.. it’s all improv and reading cold from a script so it’s a wild ride!
We also have to audition for the kids and let me tell you, I audition all the time but this part ALWAYS scares me! You have to show them what you can do in a couple of seconds and hope you get the part (laughs). This is not for the faint of heart because you really have to be active and over the top, since it’s on stage and it’s for kids, the characters have to be bold. You really get your exercise. I’ve been doing this for years and every time I go in to perform, I’m always amazed at what these kids come up with. It’s a must see because I can’t explain it. After the program is done, the kids transform and come out of their shell. It’s really amazing!
CHRIS: Do you have any plans to branch out to other avenues of show biz, such as stage, TV, music, etc.?
TRAYCEE: I don’t have any plans at the moment. I’m an actor so stage, TV, etc. are always on the plate.. but music won’t be in my future because I cannot sing.
CHRIS: One last question, just for my curiosity; what’s the backstory on your tattoos?
TRAYCEE: My Battle Angel Alita is the most popular of my tats. Not only am I a fan of that anime/manga, but it represents me beating the odds when no one believed in me. I don’t mean that as a general statement, I mean to say that everything I do, people doubt.. and I always come out on top! I’ve even won a few tattoo contests for that one. Another fun fact; it was done by Hannah Aitchison on the 1st season of LA Ink, though they never aired my story. I’m kinda glad they didn’t because I ended up puking in a trash can. I also have a female lion with a crown on her head because I’m a Leo, and even though the tattoo is the correct color, people still call her a panther, so I had the crown added for clarity.
I have an “A” with a heart next to it behind my left ear and that represents the first initial of the name of the most important person in my world. Hope that made sense. And lastly, my most recent tat; a tiny elephant. I was drunk when I got it. Thankfully, I consider the elephant one of my spirit animals so it wasn’t a total mistake! ANOTHER fun fact; All of my tattoos are located on the left side of my body because I’m considered a black sheep, and that made sense to me.
CHRIS: And with that, I’ll say you were an awesome interviewee and I thank you again for doing this, Traycee. Also, it’s great featuring a fellow veteran here. In closing, any shout-outs to anyone?
TRAYCEE: Awesome, this was a fun interview! Thank you! I’d love to give a shout to Inkerbella because everyone should know and hire her. You’re welcome. Another shout out to my hubby and biggest collaborator, Beau Ryan. He helps me with ALL of my productions! My sister, Rachael King; director, editor, DP, everything extraordinaire. Dan Henry, who is also a genius at everything he does; editing, DP, lighting, EVERYTHING. Drew Krassowski, because without his sweet music skills, all of my projects would be flat. Mando Franco, another horror collaborator and director genius. Billy Smith and Shannon Mansion because they make scary fun, makeup, etc. Chris Dorman, because he’s one of those actors who can do almost anything, except fly, and I cast him in EVERYTHING Hire him too, everyone. HACK PACK FOR LIFE!
Originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, Chris flirted with the music business there and in Nashville before joining the U.S. Army and serving in South Korea. He remained in Asia for several years afterwards, teaching English and covering the regional entertainment scenes. Currently in a mindset between Seoul and San Francisco, besides Idol Features, you can also catch his writings in the print edition of the quarterly magazine, Effective.