Have you ever walked into your workplace and the first person you see is that colleague that’s always smiling? Well, Derek James Trapp is that person. It doesn’t matter which film set you are on, whether scheduled call time is really early or late at night , Derek will be waiting for you with a smile.
Let’s start at the beginning Derek, when did you decide you wanted to be in production? How did you get into the film-arts scene?
I remember a family friend telling me they did background/extra work in commercials, movies and television through Kari Casting for years. I was very interested, so I submitted my picture and some basic information about myself. I just kept thinking “I hope they contact me one day.”
A year or so later, my buddy Alex and I were at the gym working out. We were talking about a movie Keanu Reeves was doing in town called Siberia. As we were talking, I literally got a text from Kari Casting asking me to be an extra in the movie, and be on set the next day. I thought it was a prank text or something, but the next day I was on set with Keanu Reeves. I even texted Kari a picture of my buddy at the gym, said he was free, and I got him booked on set too!
The next day I got to meet Keanu Reeves, talk to him, work on set with him for 10-12 hours and he even took a picture with me. The rest is history…
Do you have a favourite film production you’ve worked on? Or least favourite?
This is a hard question because every production is fun, unique and memorable in its own way. I have to say I’ve really enjoyed working on the 20th Century Fox movie Breakthrough, The NETFLIX movie Fractured, working on the CBC TV series Burden of Truth during the 4 years it was shooting. I also had a blast making the short film Shiba.
I’ll give a reason why each of these productions where my favourite to work on…
Breakthrough: This show had huge stars in it like Chrissy Metz, Topher Grace, Marcel Ruiz, Josh Lucas, Mike Colter and many more. We all got to know each other really well. We shared many laughs, stories, jokes. Marcel (the lead) and I played basketball games in between takes. Also my fiancé, my mom, my sisters, a couple of my best friend’s, and tons of other friends were on this set. This show was a blast all around, and the crew was phenomenal to work with. I’ll never forget playing a cop on this movie, and working in the A.D department for 20+ days on this show!
Fractured: The director Brad Anderson was fantastic to work with. He was down to earth, and explained things thoroughly. It was an honour to work with him. I got to do a few speaking scenes in this and Sam Worthington was in the scenes, so that was a very amazing experience. Unfortunately the dialogue was cut from the movie though, ha-ha! You can still see me in a few scenes, and I have a speaking credit. You win some, you lose some….
Burden of Truth: This show I worked on over 4 years in different capacities. I did around 20-30 background days over 4 years. Two small featured roles, played the character Jerry Smith in season 3, worked as an office P.A for the entire prep, shoot and wrap out of the show for season 3, and 4. Overall everyone on this show was just incredible to work with.
Shiba: This short film was fun because I basically got cast as the lead actor with no information, and this was for the 48 hour film festival. So the entire cast, crew and I had basically 1 day to shoot everything and 1 day to edit before it had to be submitted. We all got to set, everyone introduced themselves, and a few of my buddies were there. I got some intense make up done, and basically had to learn all of the stunts and fight sequences on the spot with the stunt team. It was a day of punching guys, kicking guys, getting punched, kicked, hit, using weapons, fake blood and the highlight was choke slamming my buddy Bronson through a table! This was one of the best days on set in my life, and I really want to do more physical roles like this that involve stunt work and fighting!
I’m not going to name any productions out of respect, but there where two particular productions that I worked on, and enjoyed dressing up as a cop & swat member. I had lots of fun, but the reason they were my least favourite is because we shot the scenes during freezing cold Winnipeg nights. I can still remember being in a bush in the middle of nowhere, it was pitch black, and it must have been minus 40. During filming I understood where Winnipeg got its nickname Winterpeg ha-ha!
What has your experience been like working from one film project to the next?
Honestly, I’ve been very fortunate. I haven’t really ever had too much down time from the film industry. I always get two weeks off every year, and I’m basically working the rest of the year. I have acting experience in union shows, non-union shows, voice acting experience, stunt experience. I’ve worked on set in various departments, worked off set, and worked in the production office in different capacities. I worked in many areas on purpose so that my experience would be well rounded. So that I would understand all the work it takes to make a production. Doing this helps get me different jobs and always keeping me busy. I don’t like to put all my eggs in one basket. I like diversifying myself. The way I look at it is the more you learn, the more you earn.
What is your typical day on set like?
There is no typical day on set. Every day is different than the day before, and everyday has new obstacles to face. I find things are easier to shoot in spring, summer and warm weather, and believe that winter creates more unpredictable circumstances. To me film making is basically being able to find solutions very quickly and keep working on the fly, no matter what circumstances get thrown your way! This is why it’s crucial that your whole crew works well together, communicates effectively and efficiently. A film set is a very busy place with an extremely fast paced environment, tons of people, so many moving parts, gears and logistics!
Can you explain why the days on set are so long?
There is so much planning, prep, hours, money, people and hard work that goes into each and every single shoot day. There is so many moving parts from transporting the actors from hotels/ accommodations to the hair, makeup, wardrobe trailers, to getting the background performers signed in, dressed, processed in hair/ makeup. Decorating the sets, re – decorating the sets for different looks, building the sets, painting sets. Using different props, setting up different camera equipment, constantly changing camera angles, laying down track for the camera dolly and so much more.
How can someone who is looking into film production get started or get training?
I would say a good place to contact would be Film Training Manitoba. If you contact them they have wonderful training courses, resources, and are really good at helping out, or pointing you in the right direction. Honestly it’s interesting how many people got in this industry in completely different ways. There are many stories that would surprise you.
More emerging artists are getting interested in film. Are there any jobs that film production is short on or in need of?
The movie/television industry is growing, and we are always looking for hard working, talented people that are great to work with. There are so many positions in different departments. There are countless jobs in the industry and plenty of opportunities to start working, learn more, grow and advance. I’ve worked on so many productions where they’ve flown in multiple crew members, actors, and people in various positions. This shows me that there is room for growth right here in our backyard, and plenty of opportunity!
Can you give some tips to younger artists who are just starting to begin their journey and career?
The best advice I would have is to do what I did, and just get out there! Get out there, meet people, network, make friends, make connections, and work on as many projects as you can. Even work on volunteer productions, or low paying ones just to learn, gain experience, get on set, see what things are like first hand. To experience them! I did this and now have experience in the following departments/ positions: A.D department, locations department, production department, transport department, props department and acting, voice acting, stunts and more.
Has the Winnipeg Film Industry grown in the last 10 years? What is it about Winnipeg that helps bring Film Companies in?
It has grown because our tax credit is absolutely phenomenal. There are so many different things you can shoot here visually. We have great locations that offer different looks and different seasons to shoot in. The people here are friendly, hardworking, talented and welcoming!
We hear young artists say they want to be like a certain actor. There is that sense of Hollywood glamour to watching your favourite star. Yet, you don’t hear artists say, “I want to be just like the Best Boy!” Why are there not more acknowledgements for production? Is there enough artists excited to join production as oppose to acting? Can people balance and do both?
I will be very simple and straight forward for this question. I’ve been on both sides of this scenario on multiple productions, and have experienced working as cast/crew numerous times.
I will give a personal story of working as an actor and a personal story as working as a crew member. When I had a speaking role playing Jerry Smith on the CBC/NETFLIX TV series Burden of Truth I was working on a rainy day. I drove from my house to the cast trailers, and when I arrived I was walked and shown my personal trailer for the day by one of the A.D’s. I was then processed through hair, makeup and wardrobe and got to sit in my trailer until my scene. I had a transport driver pick me up from my trailer and drive me to set. Because it was raining out I had one of the A.D’s walk with me and hold an umbrella over my head so I didn’t get wet. They brought me to set, brought me to the green room and I hung out with the other actors until it was time for my 2 scenes. I had a wonderful lunch this day, was paid incredibly well and was treated like royalty.
Now, when I work on set in production it is not so glamorous ha-ha! It can literally mean hauling heavy gear up hill in the rain, working in the extreme heat, extreme cold, and let’s just say that no one is holding an umbrella over your head for all of this, and there’s no personal trailer! The days can be very long, extremely physical, and things change on a film set so quickly so it can be extremely stressful at times. There’s a lot of pressure to get things done quick because time costs money.
The world between acting and crew is very different, but both are needed and required to make a production happen! I do both and balance working between the two to make a living and pay my bills. I’m happy to say that my benefits are fantastic in the movie industry. They pay you well and there are a lot of pros like getting free food, snacks and coffee every day at work.
I know plenty of people in this industry who act in productions, work behind the scenes on set, work in the production office and even do background/extra work. You can make a living in film so many ways, and it’s definitely an industry where you can do more than one thing!
What are you hoping the film industry will bring to Winnipeg in the future?
Honestly, I would love to work on a MARVEL movie, or a Jurassic World movie. So if anything ever came through town that was a massive budget movie, I would love to work on set for this. To experience everything that went on, and take it all in.
Film Companies have been busy regardless of the pandemic. What projects are up next for you?
I’ve been blessed to be working with the wonderful crew at Eagle Vision the last few years. I can’t discuss any projects in detail with you, but I just want to say that the hard working people at Eagle Vision are always working on something. I’m excited for what the future holds! It’s truly a honour to be working with the wonderful people at this production company.
Like always, this has been a great opportunity and I thank you for your time. With that said, is there anything you’d like to close with?
I just want to say thank you so much for selecting me to interview, and that I enjoyed this experience very much. It’s been an absolute pleasure chatting, and I know without a shadow of a doubt that the New Year will bring a tremendous amount of movies, TV series, productions and most importantly opportunities to Winnipeg! I look forward to seeing you all out there, and wish you all the very best!
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Behind the Scenes is a series dedicated to show appreciation for the thousands of crew members around the world who work in the arts. From backstage and behind the scenes or even in the office building at your local school, they are the ones behind the curtain helping to create the magic.
This article is another instalment in the Behind the Scenes series.