Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Steampunk Granny's Interview of The Soulless Star, Jason Propst


I had the honor of meeting Jason at the premier of The Soulless Part One a few months ago. Jason plays one of the lead characters in this apocalyptic film directed by Christopher Eilenstine. He plays the part of David Peterson, father of Nicole Peterson. Nicole was played by three different actresses over the course of the film starting with Carlee Iannone in the opening scene, Kaylin Iannone at age 12 and finally Jennifer Teska as Nicole age 24. Join me now as we learn more about Jason Propst.

Marie Gilbert:  Jason, please tell my readers a little bit about you.

Jason Propst: I was born in Detroit, though moved to Florida at a very young age and lived somewhat transiently with my mother and brother - throughout the state - until I moved to NYC at about 17 years old.  Back and forth from Florida to NYC, I eventually moved to Italy for a couple of years, then various cities throughout Europe, working in the fashion business.

Marie Gilbert: You were in the fashion business?

Jason Propst: Well, one day while I was in New York, someone from the Ford Agency stopped me and asked me if I wanted to model. I wasn’t completely interested, but then he followed up with would you want to go to Italy in January? Of course that sounded exciting and so I ended up going to Italy and got involved with modeling. I went to Milan for the first show season, did some shows and ended up staying in Milan. Italy is incredible. Then I met some other agents and went to Germany and Paris, just traveling Europe a little bit. It was a very exciting time in my life.

After Europe I moved to Martha’s Vineyard, then Vail, CO.  I worked as a bartender and carpenter and went back and forth, seasonally, several years until moving to San Diego. After 2 years-ish in San Diego, I moved back to NYC for another year or so, then floated around between Vail, FL, the Vineyard, Boston, NYC, and a brief stint in Paris, some time in Huntington Beach, Los Angeles… I’m sure I’m forgetting a few others.  You get the point… restless bones.  Although I loved all the places I’ve been, they never really felt like home.  At some point I decided Vail would be my home, perhaps triggered by the birth of my daughter, and now that I’m back here I’ve never been happier.

I now own a business selling/installing design conscious building products.  Designing and building have always been a passion so I’m fortunate to have found something that encapsulates those components.  Building a brand is a special feeling.  It’s your own creation, not so different from a child, though also very, very different.  It’s another type of love.  So I’m no longer working… I’m living.  It’s an extraordinary sensation.
                         Jason Propst with actress Kaylin Iannone in The Soulless                                 

Marie Gilbert: No father in the picture?

Jason Propst: No father, but I did find him when I was twenty-one for the first time, but opted not to meet him for various reasons.

Marie Gilbert: Are you married? How many children?

Jason Propst: I’m not officially married but I have two kids, Jezebel and Saunder and live with my partner, Gabrielle. Jezebel just started kindergarten and Saunders starts next year.

Marie Gilbert: Were you always interested in acting?
Jason Propst: I’ve always been interesting in writing.  I love developing characters and visualizing locations and events.  It’s invigorating to invent situations and put it down on paper.  I get bored very easily though and there’s always a better story just beyond the one I begin - so finishing hasn’t been my strong suit.  However, there is a character that’s been with me for years.  Lately, she’s all I think about when I go to bed.  I have hopes of sharing her someday.

As far as acting goes, I’ve been drawn to it since my first trip to NYC.  I went to HB Studios, then from this recommended coach to that one.  Every town I went had a coach to inspire me.  I went to quite a few acting schools… several in California, several in NYC and one in NJ.  It was always a lot of fun, but I was young and insecure and auditions never went well.  I gave up acting after yet another nauseating audition in LA.  I didn’t want to feel sick to my stomach anymore.  I was well into my 30s before I felt comfortable with myself and fell back into Community Theater.


Marie Gilbert: What drew you to work in the Soulless?
Jason Propst: I did a play with an actor, Steve Hirsekorn, who was also filming a movie at the time.  Steve asked me if I’d like to play a short role in his film and I was thrilled.  Chris Eilenstine was filming that movie.  Shortly after that, Chris called and offered me the role of David Peterson.  There wasn’t a formal script, so I was a bit nervous going in.  I wasn’t sure who the character would be.  But the opportunity to work on the craft was exciting, a zombie film? Awesome. A father? I’m a father… what a great tool to grow.  There were many factors… and most of them thrilling.

Marie Gilbert: Were you a zombie fan before starring in The Soulless? Did you watch a lot of zombie movies?

Jason Propst: No, there was a movie a while back called Body Snatchers, which I liked.  It had a Rock & Roll style to it.  It wasn't exactly zombies, but a similar type of thrill.  But that was ages ago, maybe 1993... beyond that, I wasn’t into that culture at all. 

Marie Gilbert: Was it hard doing a zombie film? If no then why and if yes...why?
Jason Propst: Zombie films are amazing b/c there is a large demographic of incredible people enveloped in this culture.  They bring things to the table that other genres of movies could never dream of obtaining.  For example, if Chris posted a call for zombies, he could have a dozen to fifty show up – half of them in full gear; waiting for makeup at 8am in 25 degree weather.  Try that with a romantic comedy and you’ll be standing in the cold, with only your best friends – if they had the time for you.  And this culture doesn’t stop at “cut.”  They take it home with them, they go to shows, create zombie dolls… it’s truly unique to horror.
All that being said, I’m not sure I would say it was hard, specific to a zombie film.  Characters have definitely come easier to me than David Peterson.  But it was more about raising a daughter in an apocalyptic world, than about zombies.  In that sense it was challenging.  The zombies were just color.

Marie Gilbert: Now that you’ve been in an Independent zombie movie that’s going places, are you now looking at other zombie movies and shows differently? 

Jason Propst: Yes, quite a bit. Well like I said, I really didn’t have any experiences with zombie films, but lately I’ve started watching “The Walking Dead” through Netflix. I’ve heard a lot about the show while I was filming this movie and I thought it would be interesting to watch... and it is. It’s a bit addicting and I love the show.

Marie Gilbert: Oh yeah. I write the weekly recap of “The Walking Dead” for Biff Bam Pop and yes, it’s addicting.

Jason Propst: Yep and beyond that I’ve watched World War Z when it came out. The similarity within The Soulless and “The Walking Dead” is the drama involved. The fact that there is drama involved gives it that addictive tone, whereas with movies like World War Z, it’s almost exclusively about the adventure.

Marie Gilbert: With the zombies in World War Z, you don’t identify with them like in The Soulless.

Jason Propst: Right.

Marie Gilbert: What was it like to work for Director Chris Eilenstein? 
Jason Propst: Chris has something that I’ve seen in very few people; the tenacity to push forward regardless of the obstacles.  That is something I strongly admire about him.  He had this vision (albeit an amorphous vision at times, which is why we now have a trilogy on our hands) to communicate. 

And his drive to lay this vision on film was strong enough to push his family, his actors, his crew and producers to over a year of work.  I, myself, had committed to quitting several times because it was taking a tremendous amount of time; way longer than anticipated (another reason we now have a trilogy on our hands).  In the end, one of the factors that kept me going was his tenacity and will to succeed and, of course, the story.

Marie Gilbert: You had to work with three different actresses who played the part of Nicole Peterson, I’m not sure of Kaylin’s little sister’s name, but you worked with her, Kaylin Iannone and Jennifer Teska. Was it hard to adjust to their different acting styles?

Jason Propst: My first scene was with Kaylin.  We never even spoke.  We were thrust into this ice cream scene on Z Day and I had no idea how to relate to her.  It was completely awkward for me.  It took a while to get comfortable with her.  I couldn’t say exactly when it happened, but our relationship eventually developed into a boisterous friendship.  So unruly, in fact, that at times I longed for the good old days when it was just awkward. So riotous, actually, that I had to move almost 2000 miles away to retain my sanity.  And now that it’s getting drudged up again I may need to call my therapist.  I love her.

Jennifer.  So easy to relate to and work with her.  From the first scene I realized that she was going to make it much easier for me.  Although I have yet to see that scene, it created the type of father-daughter relationship we would have throughout the film; the bond that we would share, in spite of the characters we stumbled across; and the way we related to the rest of the cast and crew.  There was no adjustment… it was immediate chemistry.

Carlee and I only had a few scenes together.  The only adjustment I had to make was to rise to her level of commitment.  She was incredible and brought me to tears on our first scene (I think it was our first scene) together.  Then, in the park scene it was easy to think of her as my daughter.  She was so adorable.  Although, in the last few days of our association I recall a little Kaylin coming out in her and I fear for people.  Seriously… 2 of them?!!  Forget zombies.  There are Iannones out there!   I love them.

Marie Gilbert: If this film is picked up by a Network, would you be willing to travel to the filming location, especially if it’s a hit?
Jason Propst: There’s a whole lot of ambiguity in that question given the sacrifices I’ve made to get where I am now.  Certainly if everything fit I would love to work with everyone again and would welcome the opportunity to hone in on David Peterson with even more depth and insight.  I’ve made a lot of commitments here and I so love it.  It would be tough.

Marie Gilbert: Did you do MacGuffin before or after The Soulless?

Jason Propst: I did it before The Soulless. I was in Community Theatre ever since we came back to the East coast and I was doing a play with the writer/director of MacGuffin, Steve Hirsekorn. He had seen one of the earlier plays that I did and we talked about a mutual collaboration early on and I can’t remember if MacGuffin was before or after the play we did, but inevitably I did do a scene in the movie. It was fun. The girl playing opposite of me was Rebeca Spiro and I actually pulled her into a little short film that some friends of mine were doing later on. So yes, there is a community. It’s a circle.
Marie Gilbert: Are you doing any acting in Colorado?

Jason Propst: Vail is a ski resort but there is a theatre that I contacted when I moved here, the Vail Valley Theater Company.  I just missed auditions for Chicago, which is probably for the best since my singing voice really only shines in the shower and the occasional karaoke bar. I can audition when the next show comes up, but it’s only one and it’s not like New York or New Jersey where they are everywhere and you can just call up anytime you want...so there are limited opportunities as far as that goes. I have aspirations to act, but no time. There is just too much going on in Vail in the summer… rafting, hiking, wakeboarding, SUPing, biking, skating… on and on.  The kids are so happy and I’m so exhausted. 

Marie Gilbert: What are your feelings about Independent Films?

Jason Propst: I love independent films.  I generally prefer them because I love watching talented people I’ve never seen (or have seen very little).  There are so many gifted actors, directors, writers, etc. and the more I experience, the better my life… in acting, writing, creating, or what have you… also it’s important to support independents if only to embolden those would-be creators to go for it.  I like a good blockbuster as much as the next guy… but I feel special when I’m watching an independent.  I feel like I’m a part of something that the masses are not.  Independents make me feel ever-so-slightly more unique… don’t ask me why that matters… conditioning perhaps… but that’s the effect.

Marie Gilbert: You mentioned earlier that you were interested in writing. Could you tell us about the story you’re working on?

Jason Propst: The story that I’m working on is science fiction with a strong helping of drama and existentialism. It's another world entirely.  Architecture is different, transportation is different... even varying degrees of gravity, which changes innovation and technology, as well as politics, mentality, strengths and weaknesses... virtually everything is affected.  That is why it's been such a mainstay in my creative warehouse.  I can change anything.  Then I learn to recognize how those changes affect everything else.  It's a barrage of epiphanies and excitement.  I have a few chapters written, but they are incessantly changing.  I took a Creative Writing Class to help me extrapolate the main character and develop her more in the story.  Positive feedback makes it even more exciting.

Marie Gilbert: Do you have a title for the book, yet?

Jason Propst: The working title is “The La La Room.  It delves into a father-daughter relationship much like The Soulless, but there is also a son… and they may not be entirely related.  I guess you’ll have to wait and see.  That is to say, I’ll have to wait and see.

Marie Gilbert: That is so great and I’m wishing you luck as a writer and if you ever want me to read it for my point of view, let me know. Are you thinking of joining a writer’s group in Colorado?

Jason Propst: Well, you know I just started a business out here and we haven’t actually opened yet. We’re getting a lot of our products from Italy, so things take a while to get to the showroom and it’s a work in progress designing the showroom and that’s taking up most of my time.

But, that is a great idea and I will probably join soon.

Marie Gilbert: Because then you won’t feel isolated in your writing and I felt that joining a writers’ group was the best thing I ever did.

Jason Propst: Yeah and it motivates you to prepare something for the group as well. It gives you deadlines.  That helps me quite a bit.

Marie Gilbert: Tell me more about your business?

Jason Propst:  My partner and I sell design conscious building products. We sell Italian kitchens, doors, floors, appliances, windows, hand-crafted carpet – almost everything one needs to finish a home or space. Our floors are from Norway, German carpet, Italian windows and cabinets… modular homes from Finland, etc.  We aim to find the products that have value and aren’t offered anywhere else.

Marie Gilbert: You’re products are different?

Jason Propst: Yes, our kitchens for example… there is one other company in the U.S. that provides these kitchens - located in Miami.  And, with our doors, the only other company that provides these doors is located in New York.  So, we source these amazing products, get exclusivity in our market and the products sell themselves.  The Vail market is high-end… but we’ve noticed that people aren’t looking for brands as much as value.  Our products are the best in the world, but many aren’t established brands yet.   Therein lies the value.

Marie Gilbert: That’s awesome and I wish you the best of luck.

Jason Propst: Yes it’s going tremendous even before we’ve opened up our doors. It’s just a rocket ship.

Marie Gilbert: Do you have a Web page that I can share with our readers?

Jason Propst: Yes, it’s www.yournewbox.com

Marie Gilbert: I’ll share the link so people in your area will read this. Whenever I’ve seen cabinets, floors and buildings from Europe, I just feel that they’re made better. There is no wasted space.

Jason Propst: They are miles ahead of us as far as design goes and as far as craftsmanship goes, when you touch and feel it, it’s just worlds apart. We do offer domestic cabinets and commodity products so people can see the difference.

Marie Gilbert: I’m so excited for you, Jason, and I’m wishing you the best with your business and your writing.

Jason Propst: Thanks Marie.  I wish you all the best as well.



  1. Okay, Marie, I know Jason now after reading your interview and gazing intently at his...I mean your photos. So...when are you going to introduce me?
    Wonderful interview. I always enjoy your blog and your exciting life meeting all these hand...I mean interesting people.

    1. There are benefits to this job, I must admit. There will be another premier coming out of the film and maybe you can walk the red carpet with me when I go to it in a month or so