In a mere two years Colton, discovered a way to combine his three passions, filmmaking, art and music into vinyl on canvas. His method might make some uncomfortable, especially for the Vinyl preservationalist but once you get past the desecration of breaking records and using the pieces to recreate some of Hollywood’s most infamous monsters, films and persona’s you realize it’s sort of brilliant.
As a budding filmmaker already represented by Trevor Astbury, with shorts that have toured the festival circuit, a web series “What’s Next For Sarah” that he directed starring I Carly’s, Jennette McCurdy, Colton has already made a name for himself in young Hollywood.
His next project entitled, Gloom, is a studio-backed feature in the works. Tran has been compared to a young Tim Burton with a whimsical colorful approach to storytelling and most of his stories have a darker edge. Interestingly enough Tran’s obsession with the genre began with two things: The 90’s Wes Craven Cult classic “Scream” and German Expressionism.
He also has an authentic love for all things Halloween inspired. With his home decorated year round with pumpkins, witches, a life size animated doll of Linda Blair from the Exorcist even candy at the front door. Basically Halloween is 24/7 365 days a year and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
I first met Colton Tran at a recent benefit thrown by The Art of Elysium held at The Theatre at The Ace Hotel. His work was different, and as a lover of Vinyl and music, I was immediately taken that the records were the only medium he used to create his pieces. His work has already been commissioned by some of Hollywood’s elite and continues to generate interest.
Tran invited me into his Burbank home, made me some coffee and after I looked at all his fun decorations, got over my initial scare of The Exorcist we sat down to catch up on everything he has in the works.
Franceasca: Let’s start with your career as a filmmaker and the movie, especially your up coming project, Gloom.
Colton: The style and tone to is like a colorful take on Pleasantville that takes a mysterious turn when children turn the age of thirteen. It’s kind of a like a Stepford Wives vibe, mixed with the tone of Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands and then sprinkle some, Hocus Pocus. That is the main film we are focusing on. I moved out here with another film titled, Monstrosity, when I was living in Utah, I was producing all my films out there. Then a manager saw it and wanted to represent you. So that’s when I moved to LA with my producer Laura Young, with representation.
From the short film, “Monstrosity,” you got repped moved to LA and then decided to go with ahead with the feature? You do realize this is THE Hollywood dream.
Colton: I know right, I do feel blessed. Although it was supposed to be pushed as a feature (Monstrosity) until we decided to concentrate on Gloom, (the film mentioned earlier) and are in the pre-production stages, and being shopped to studios.
Which short got you noticed more, Monstrosity or the other one, Unpleasantville?
Colton: Unpleasantville went to a ton of film festivals, from that short we made a trailer, for Monstrosity which was much darker film and that’s what they wanted to push to the studios. I have a really great team behind me that is supportive with keeping the original vision of the film and my POV as a director. But it has been interesting as an independent filmmaker to now be involved with a big studio, even though the style is more in the studio vain.
It’s definitely high concept.
Colton: It’s just odd in the best way possible to have our film pushed through a studio because it’s a completely different environment. They like the style because it is dark and quirky and no one has really been doing that since Tim Burton. It’s about time for a younger filmmaker to come out and at least attempt it.
You filmed a trailer off a script that hasn’t even been completed, and watching the trailer, makes it look like a completed feature film. That is a talent within itself.
Colton: That’s why it’s good because some people just pitch a script and a package but when they have something like a video/ trailer they can see the end goal that the filmmaker is after and that’s when they become more invested into the project.
Did you write the trailer?
Colton: I came up with the concept/story and Carl Joglar wrote the screenplay for the trailer.
Did you direct the trailer?
Colton: Directed, Edited, I had a Producer Laura M. Young producer that came on board and worked with me.
How and what age did you get into filmmaking?
Colton: I grew up in Utah, which didn’t have a huge film community. Now it’s much bigger with Sundance. So when I was about 12, director/producer, Scott Freebairn and his daughter, Alyson, moved about two doors down from me. Alyson, his daughter was my exact age and he invited us to be extras on set. After that I knew I wanted to this forever. So he gave us a camera, and said go film something. They taught us how to edit on iMovie and then about six months later, we kept doing making movies. Then he suggested to we learn final cut, which we did at 13 years old and I became fluent in that. I took it in high school, started making more films there and then got a scholarship to University of Utah for Film Leadership. They sent their two top film students to the east coast to a nationwide film competition and I ended up taking first place. I got a scholarship to the Art Institutes in Utah and was there for about a year and a half. When the scholarship was up that’s when the manager approached me and then that’s when I moved to LA.
You’re also an actor.
Colton: I started acting because I realized as a director there are a lot of directors that are very technical and I wanted to be the technical director as well as the actor’s director. I felt I had the whole technical side down so I wanted to put myself in the actors shoes especially how do I / they need to be spoken to understand what the director wants. And that’s how I started acting. It’s funny because when I moved out here I started working on Gloom and we actually flew to Utah to film the trailer for it. My acting agent in Utah, called and said “Hey Colton, there’s a Disney Movie filming in Utah, called Cloud 9 can you audition? I went in and auditioned the next morning, got three callbacks within the same trip and when I flew back to LA, I ended up booking the role and ended up going back to Utah for two months to film. I feel like everything happens for a reason, so it was cool that I was at the right place and the time.
How did your career change after?
Colton: Cloud 9 really helped with publicity of the acting side. Teen Vogue, Seventeen Magazine did an article on me so I always would mention the filmmaking aspect of my work as a director because that’s what’s most important to me. My friend Jenette McCurdy wanted to Executive Produce and she also is a writer for her own web series, What’s Next For Sarah? She brought me on to direct and we just finished it last month and has done really well. That helped spread the word of about me as a director. Now I’m actually directing another short film this month, based off an older/horror/ legend. Sort of like an Urban Legend theme.
Do you get most of your work as a director from your agent or from people plucking you from seeing your body of work?
Colton: Mostly people that see my work that approach me separately. Sometimes my agents will send me a certain script or a certain film and say hey these producers are looking for a director for this film and its right up your alley.
So lets talk about your artwork made out of Vinyl aka Transylvinyl?
Colton: I started making the artwork when I moved to LA about two years ago. While we were pushing Monstrosity our walls were empty and I’m like we need something. So we went searching for art. I don’t like buying art because I literally grew up drawing and it dawned on me that I’d rather make my own that buy it. I went and bought a canvas and because I love the movie Scream so much, so I actually got a bunch of vinyl and was going paint over them with red paint, like blood, the Ghostface but then I snapped it in half and I was like what if I build off the broken pieces, and that’s what literally ended up happening. Then I made another one and they sold immediately. A friend from Amoeba Records saw them and asked if he could an article about my artwork. So he wrote a piece, and then my agent asked me if I could make him an Alfred Hitchcock one , and then people just started requesting them. I made about forty pieces so far and I sold about twenty. They are all horror and film inspired.
Making Art Out of Records with Colton Tran of TransylVinyl & Broken Vinyl Record Art
Colton: Well of course, I started with Scream. I also did a piece from Trick or Treat, that’s another one of my favorites. The Ring, Mars Attacks, Some of the older Universal Monsters: Bride of Frankenstein, Frankenstein, Batman Returns, Catwoman, Penguin, I’ve done a series from A Nightmare Before Christmas, I’ve been commissioned to do something completely on The Grateful Dead, I did one from Halloween; you know Michael Myers, Walking Dead, Jurassic Park and my latest one is from Psycho and I’m also doing the headless horseman for this upcoming show at the gallery so I am very excited.
Colton: I take the record, the shatter it, in no particular way and then build from the pieces that have broken.
You don’t weld, carve or format them to create a particular piece. It’s like a puzzle that you are really organically put together. These broken records are going to be inserted into the canvas as is and then it becomes exactly what you are trying to project. The only medium is a broken record and some varnish to cover it.
Colton: I put the full vinyl in a bag. Bend it in half and smash it. Do it to several records. Pull out the bigger pieces. Put them on a plate. I have medium size pieces and then I will dump all the rest of the shattered into the plate so they are the small ones. And then I lay out the canvas and have a photo reference. Or I’ll do a light sketch or something because I didn’t want any pencil to be on the canvas. I lay the pieces on it and then sometimes you sometimes find pieces that just fit exactly. It has a certain curve to it. It’s very cool.
Colton: Yep, free vinyl it’s so cool.
Then you have the October 18th show through November 1st, which is at Gallery 11:11 which is a villained themed show in Tarzana.
Colton: I have a whole back wall. And doing an installation around it. And then Mindful Nest, which is like a little gallery in Burbank is going to be showing my work for the rest of the month of October.
So you get commissioned to make these pieces. You sold a few at the last Art of Elysium event where we met at the Ace Hotel. In fact, A-List Actor bought one. How did you get so into Horror, Monsters?
Colton: When I look at my old sketch books as a kid its all like Dracula, Sharks, Dinosaurs, its all the stuff I love till this day. I don’t know where the fascination came from for the monsters but I know I have always have had a fascination towards them. What got me into horror is when Scream came out. But I never went to theaters to see it because my dad scared the crap out of me with Chucky, When Scream came out, my dad brought the movie home and then I watched it and then became addicted to Horror. I dressed as the Scream character every year. A lot of my beginning films at the age of 13 were Scream inspired. That’s how it all kind of started. We made our own DVD artwork, learned how to animate the DVD menus, basically DIY and then we would start to showcase them at school and have all our family come over and they were so supportive which was really what kept us going.
As a little kid doing all of this stuff. You might not like it but the fact that you are so inspired and motivated the support system is really about that you are focused and finishing what you start, especially packaging it. To any adult that’s extremely impressive.
Colton: I was lucky that I was mentored at that age, because it really solidified what I wanted to do. But it’s great to have something on the side like the Transylvinyl artwork. Something that keeps me creative. It keeps me brainstorming with film. It’s in the vain of my passion.
You are basically using soundtracks to create your artwork.
Colton: I can purchase the entire Scream soundtrack on vinyl or all of Hitchcock’s score. So if people commission my work they can specifically ask for that.
Colton Tran is bursting onto the scene as a true artist. His feature film, Gloom is currently in development, with an already fantastic trailer in place, he is following the footsteps of legendary filmmakers like Tim Burton and is inspired by German Expressionism.