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Interview with the Vampire - Redux

by Dan Van Crone

I've been promising this for a while and here it is, finally. The model for the Tim Bradstreet's "Jeanette" wallpaper - Erin Layne - took a few moments to talk to PlanetVampire about her experience working with Tim, her involvement in the promotion of Bloodlines, and of course, herself!

If you haven't seen the wallpaper yet you can get Jeanette and the other two of "Max" the Nosferatu and Ming Xao the Kuei-Jin right here on PlanetVampire.

You're a professional model. Do you work a lot and have you done anything outside of this game that we might be familiar with?

For a long time, I didn't take modeling seriously as a career possibility. I didn't consider myself the 'model type'... not in the insanely tall, gaunt, vacuous-looking sense, anyway. Only recently has the industry begun to appeal to me, and while I can book mainstream jobs, it's really the dark, edgy, "alternative" side that I enjoy. Most notably, I've just gotten a job modeling for Lip Service, a well-known Gothic / Punk / Fetish clothing company, which I'm very excited about. I've posed for Barry Underhill and Tiger Lee, and figure-drawing artist Kevin Llewellyn, for a piece commissioned by Trent Reznor's girlfriend. But my career as a model is really in an embryonic stage, and the work I get hinges mostly on the effort I put into getting out there and scheduling with photographers and designers and such. I'll be reworking my personal site very soon, which will have plenty of updated information and photos and other nifty stuff.

Tell us about where you live, how you ended up LA (unless you always lived there) and do you have any involvement in the Goth scene apart from moonlighting as a vampire for computer games? Would you like to continue modeling or is there something else calling you?

I was born in Los Angeles, and have resided here for most of my life. (I'm technically in Hollyweird, now, and loving it!) I am pretty heavily involved in the Goth scene, all vampire modeling aside, but not to the extent that it's a lifestyle. I tend to enjoy the darkly beautiful and the bizarre and have interests and ideals that generally stray from the norm, but I don't define myself with any of them specifically.

I would definitely like to continue modeling, and there are always other things calling me. I've a developing acting career as well, and have several small credits to my name... short films, music videos... nothing you'd really hear about as of yet, but my work is certainly beginning to pay off.

Are you a role-player? Were you a fan of V:TM and the WoD prior to this project? Do you play V:TM or have you played Redemption on the PC? Do you play any other games either on paper or on consoles/PC?

I'm a big geek, always have been. Was a tomboy growing up, where video games are concerned... I was good at 'em, too. I played Redemption a couple years ago when it was finally released to us poor, deprived Mac users, and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. The Awe discipline was my best friend.

I'm a role-player, as well. I first discovered this in an online chat-room in 1996... it all went downhill from there. There was a fairly popular site years ago, WBS, where I'd created and hosted the first multiple-location themed webchat RPG, 'The Realm of Elahrair'... a high fantasy game, of sorts... but that's another story entirely. It was after that that I discovered the World of Darkness. I dabbled in Vampire, and quickly fell in love with Werewolf. Don't have much time for it now, but when I can, I play in a text-based forum called GarouMUSH. Highly recommended to anyone who enjoys gaming in that medium, appreciates excellent storytelling and writes well (ahem).

Oh. I play tabletop, too... Vampire, Werewolf, Changeling, DND, Star Wars, Call of Cthulhu. But it's so difficult to find a good, solid gaming group these days.

How did the job modeling for Bradstreet come up? Do you keep your ear to the ground for opportunities like these or did it just fall in your lap? Were you subjected to any scrutiny to determine your "worthiness"?

Funny story, this. It did sorta fall into my lap. I was out of state for a while, filming a movie, and wound up online one night perusing profiles on Shane DeFreest (Activision Community Liasion - Dan) had one posted... he seemed interesting (or at least amusing), so I randomly messaged him on Yahoo. He noticed that my profile listed World of Darkness as an interest, which led to a long discussion about the game... so on and so forth. Eventually, he found some of the pictures on my website, which inspired him to mention his current project: finding a reference model for the new 'Bloodlines' video game. He explained that he'd had absolutely no luck finding anyone on the local casting lists who looked the part and was familiar with the material. He actually thought I'd contacted him specifically about the job. Apparently, I fit the bill. Long story short, he asked if I'd be interested in the gig and passed my photos around to the production people at Activision. A couple days later, everything was approved and I was on a plane to Los Angeles to meet with Shane and work with Bradstreet.

How was it working with Bradstreet? How does he operate and how did he get you into the mood for your shoot? What was the atmosphere in his studio like? Were you a fan of his work prior to this job?

Tim is awesome. Easily one of the coolest, funniest and easy-to-talk-to people I have the pleasure of calling a friend. He's professional without being too structured, and casual enough to make his models feel incredibly comfortable and at home... it was like going over to a gaming buddy's place to hang out. Tim himself is obviously a huge geek, as evidenced by his office in the back, filled with all sorts of comics and action-figures and sci-fi memorabilia... but I'm sure none of this is surprising.

As for the shoot itself, Tim would make suggestions on poses and we'd joke around, but he left me plenty of freedom to explore the character myself.

I actually was a fan of Tim prior to the job, although I knew his work and not his name. I'd become familiar with his stuff when I first started role-playing, and friends would use his drawings for their character pictures. He signed a copy of his book, Maximum Black for me, and it wasn't until later on the drive home that I discovered he'd actually drawn one of my favorite pieces. Neat how that works.

The poster of you that we've all seen wasn't your first attempt with Tim Bradstreet, was it? There was another shoot a few months prior to the one that led to the Jeanette poster we all have on our desktops. What was the outcome of that shoot and why was the result deemed unusable?

The first attempt, while resulting in a really cool piece of artwork, was based very closely on the Bloodlines key art (which you see on the box cover). The background was the same, and my pose was very similar. It wasn't used, because Activision decided that they wanted Tim to create something unique... his own take on the character, the background, etc. They wanted something different in appearance and mood for posters and shirts, so they scratched the first piece and had us collaborate again. Which was just fine by me... it was another opportunity to work with Bradstreet, and this time... two other kick-ass models!

You possibly had a tougher job ahead of you than any of the others people who modeled in this project. For one thing you're Jeanette - the "face" of Bloodlines. You are to this game what Lara Croft is to Tomb Raider. For another thing yours was the first poster released so you were scrutinized closely by a gaming public who are a very demanding bunch and require perfection. Did you understand that from the outset and was there any sense of additional pressure?

Lots of pressure. I like to set high standards for myself and tend to be a perfectionist. This generally hinders me as much as it helps, but yes, I understood from the get-go how important this project was. I wanted to be certain that I did the character justice, not only for the shoot but for the conventions and press event, as well. That involved nailing down every last detail for the costume, and digging as deeply as I could into Jeanette's pretty little head. I didn't expect - or even want - everyone to love the poster. That would be boring. Anything like this is going to be heavily scrutinized. But the general consensus seems to be that it's a hit, and everyone at Activision and Troika loves it, so that's what counts.

Did you know what a Malkavian was when you were approached with this job? When you found out was it "Oh, cool!" or would you have rather been the face of a different clan? Which clan archetype would you most identify yourself with?

Previously, I would have said that my favorite clan are the Toreadors. Sleek, dark and elegant is generally more my style... but I was thrilled to be getting a chance to portray a Malkavian! While the whimsical and the insane appeals to me on many different levels, I'd never done the crazy, undead schoolgirl thing, so getting into "Jeanette" took a little time. But by now after posing as her for Bradstreet twice, playing her at conventions and the recent press release, as well as donning the costume for the amusement of friends, I think it's safe to say we know each other very, very well. Perhaps a little too well, eheheh.

You did some work helping to promote the game at GenCon. What was the reaction of the fans like? Were they mostly PnP Vampire players who were learning about the game for the first time or were there some people there who were "in the know"?

GenCon caters to PnP players. I don't recall seeing many other video games on display at that convention, and Bloodlines was actually part of the World of Darkness booth. Even so, it got plenty of attention, and was well received. Some attendees had been following the game around and had seen the older demo.

The Jeanette poster debuted at GenCon, and gauging its popularity was interesting. By the last couple of days, there was - much to my amusement - actually a consistent line of gamers waiting for signed copies. It was an incredibly surreal experience, and I was kept very busy. White Wolf's release party for Requiem and the new World of Darkness was also amazing... a huge event in a fabulous industrial-looking club in a warehouse in the middle of nowhere. A few of us were recruited to go-go dance in cages. Great exercise!

How closely have you been following the development of Bloodlines outside of your direct involvement with the creation of the poster? What is your impression thus far? Do you intend to play the game when it's released? If so, will you play as a Malkavian first?

I've known about the second game for quite some time, but began following its development very closely when I became involved a little over a year ago. It's fascinating to have seen all the changes and improvements over the past several months, and from the sort of behind-the-scenes perspective that I've had, it's really nifty to watch how a game like this is developed and promoted. I'm hoping for an expansion.

Of course I intend to play Bloodlines! I've been eagerly anticipating its release along with everyone else (and will have to wait much longer for a Mac version -- grrr, hiss!). I probably will choose a Malkavian to play initially... not just because of the poster - the character interactions and speech choices for that clan are just terribly funny, if totally nonsensical. Confusion! Yum.

Last question - how do you feel with the how the poster turned out and the exposure you've gained from it?

I'm pleased with the final artwork. I prefer the two other poses (as shown in the gallery here) to the one selected for the poster, but am still happy with it. I'm overly critical of any project that I'm involved in, and would have liked to see the skin tone more of a vampire white than zombie gray, but Tim's an excellent artist and I think the end result captured the dark and very sinister aspect of Jeanette. I'm grateful to Shane and Activision for the opportunity to work on this project, and for Tim's creativity. It's been amazing.

Many thanks to Erin for participating in this interview. I hope you all enjoyed it!