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An Interview with Trevor Juenger, Director of Coyote

by Mike Haberfelner

December 2014

Films directed by Trevor Juenger on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Coyote - in a few words, what is it about?


Coyote is a headtrip into the mind of an increasingly violent sociopath as he loses touch with reality. Weíre exposed to his paranoia, delusions, and hallucinations. Itís up to the viewer to put the pieces of the puzzle together and understand what is ďrealĒ and what is a mental fabrication.


What were your inspirations when writing Coyote? And since the film's written entirely from a psychopath's point of view, to what extent can you identify with your character Bill?


Thereís way too many to list, but according to the internetz, the film reminds people of Lynch and Cronenberg, both of which are huge inspirations for me. Iíve had the Lynch comparisons for a while. Thereís been a reluctance for me to acknowledge that and be labeled a Lynch-clone, but there are many worse labels for filmmakers out there. Eraserhead changed my life. I love Lynch. William S Burroughsí stream of consciousness writing was a pretty good influence on the script... Thereís some Kafka in there too. Iíd love to give you more literary references, but honestly, I hardly ever read fiction.


Coyote's narrative approach is of the non-linear, associative nature - during writing as well as filming, did you ever have the feeling you might just lose your story in the sometimes bizarre things going on?


Coyote has a story?

I think when writing something intentionally open to interpretation you loosen your grip with the finer details. You have a logline that you follow with the script, and you donít stray from that too much... When youíre on a no-budget and some element becomes impossible or thereís an opportunity to do something new and better than whatís in the script, itís great to exploit those moments to the best of your ability without the guilt of wondering if an audience will ďget itĒ or if it strengthens the story arc.

With Coyote weíre in the realm of dream logic, which at its surface seems to make sense, but several contradictory elements can serve to confuse or irritate those with plot OCD that need the puzzle to complete itself. Itís more about character and experience than the stuff that happens.

Iím a big believer Bertold Brechtís Verfremdungseffekt and how it applies to film (which is essentially the opposite of verisimilitude, or the willing suspension of disbelief). I feel by ripping people out of the narrative in various ways (including non-linear storytelling) and thrusting them back in results in a viewing experience that lasts much longer in the memories of the viewer.


Coyote does get rather violent at times - so do talk about these scenes for a bit, their narrative necessity, and was there any line you refused to cross (for other than budgetary reasons)?


What is necessary for a narrative really? Itís all kind of gratuitous if you think about it.

I can say that, personally, Iíve always had an attraction to violence, death, sex, and human emotion. I think a lot of people have these same interests. We have this reptilian brain that tells us to kill and fuck, but a logical brain that says there are repercussion for doing so. When we were homo erectus, maybe we acted on whatever instincts we had, and now that weíre domesticated, weíre sort of deprived of these experiences. Maybe thatís why we seek out violent or prurient materials; to live vicariously through fictional characters and not feel guilt about their actions.


As for lines or boundaries, nothing was off-limits with violence, although we were dramatically limited by budget. I wouldíve killed a lot more people with more money.

As for other boundaries, thatís a little more interesting, and a constant topic of discussion between myself, Bill Oberst jr [Bill Oberst jr interview - click here], and Carrie (my wife and producing partner). I drew the line at scat myself. Oberst was talking to me about a film he agreed to do at the time where his character painted in feces, which kind of revolted me, but now I think I was just being short-sighted. Iím open to scat now.

For Oberst, I tried pushing him to his breaking point throughout the whole set... and he does things in Coyote that Iíve never seen a professional actor do on screen. I asked him if heíd amputate his arm for a role. His response? If we can reattach it later, Iíd do it. Thatís dedication.


What can you tell us about your overall directorial approach to your subject at hand?


In the case of Coyote, like many DIYs, you donít have the chance to do weeks of rehearsals before you shoot, and there are so many distractions that I feel I did a pretty piss-poor job of directing on set. Iím still young, still learning the give and take of a set where you have to fill many behind the scenes roles, and direct on the fly. I kept things simple, used levels of intensity, referenced animals, and focused more on Oberst and how heíd respond to the natural inclinations of the other actors.

However, thereís a huge perk to writing/directing/producing in that you can break a fundamental rule of writing and write direction into your script. Analogies and metaphors not only make your script more colorful and easy to read, but give actors insight into your mind and creative processes. If there was no time for us to have a conversation about the scene, the actor had subtle hints to drive his or her instincts. You canít overload your script with that shit, but itís helpful when used sparingly.


From what I know, you have written Coyote with Bill Oberst jr [Bill Oberst jr interview - click here] in mind from the get-go - so why him, how did you get him, and what was your collaboration like?


Iíd never heard of him before he sent me an email. He hadnít worked with the Asylum yet, but had a masterful demo reel. Three of them actuallyÖ one was a horror one, another was dramatic, and a third one with stage stuff. I saw him as a complete package, and wanted to exploit all of his strengths in a script crafted with him in mind. Heís since branded himself almost strictly as a horror guy, which is good for business, but I hope he transcends the genre because heís really great at everythingÖ a true character actor.

The dude couldnít be more of a professional. He lowered himself to our standards and didnít skip a beat. In fact, he raised us to the pinnacle of trash. Iíve never seen remotely this much publicity or interest in anything Iíve ever done.

I remember Oberst out in my back yard digging out a grave that Iíd dug weeks earlier because it was too small for our coffin to fit. The dude is a trooper, and collaborated in every way during production, post production, and PR for the film. He was instantly everyoneís best friend.


What can you tell us about the rest of your cast, and why exactly these people?


Bill Finkbiner and Victoria Mullen both turned in pretty outstanding video auditions for me. I cast Finkbiner partially for his size in relation to Oberst. Oberst is so ripped, I needed a bodybuilder to look big in comparison. Heís a super-dedicated guy. I loved having him on set.

MullenÖ Itís kind of remarkable that she hasnít pushed through to higher profile shoots. She was in Ape and some other films at the low-budget level, but the road is a lot tougher for womenÖ or so Iíve read. She was a blast, and our roommate for a couple of weeks.

The rest of the castÖ Is there a rest of the cast? Some of the actors Iíve worked with before, and theyíre reliable, funny, and/or charismatic enough for me to bring them back over and over. Others were experiments found on local casting sites and


Do talk about the shoot as such for a bit!


It was really hot. Iíve blacked out everything else.


A few words about critical and audience reception so far?


Iím surprised by every positive review. Itís been overwhelmingly positive. I donít know what to say. I thought I was making a film for everyone to hate. I thought the clamoring by horror fans to see something unique and different werenít looking for something like this, but apparently people actually enjoy watching it.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


Nope. There are a ton of them though. You can track me down if it interests you.


What got you into filmmaking to begin with, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


Iíve been doing SOV stuff since I was about 5 years old. The first thing I did of any interest was called Live or Die which I shot on my parentsí VHS camcorder. I donít know why I picked up the camera, but whatever reinforcement I got for what I made mustíve made a strong impression.

I graduated with a bachelorís degree in film production. Now, I sound like a fraud with all of my DIY filmmaking bullshit... Four years of college didnít teach me half of what I learned on one DIY film set though.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Coyote?


All of my recognized works are usually surreal shorts and character driven, but I canít recall any of them being horror films. In fact, I didnít think Coyote was a horror film until post-production arguments with Oberst. He was right. I try to think of the world without genre.

Penile mutilation and bathtub death scenes abound everywhere!  Everything with exception to Coyote has been released for free on the intertron webscape.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


I hear the word young a lot. I take that to mean inexperienced but with potential. It couldnít mean that Iím hip or ďinĒ because somebody would have heard of me.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Fuck, man, you want a list? Iíll go with Ronny Carlsson who makes surreal DIY films like me. I can pick his brain on why he makes the choice he does and that means more to me than any non-interactive film.


Your favourite movies?


Alright, Iíll give you a listÖ Top ten (ish) in no particular order:

1. Eraserhead

2. Santa Sangre

3. Last House on the LeftÖ or A Nightmare on Elm Street (I canít decide)

4. Strange Circus

5. Taxi Driver

6. Videodrome

7. Antichrist

8. Evil Dead/Evil Dead 2

9. Suspiria

10. Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance


... and of course, films you really deplore?


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Ummm. I donít care much for Uwe Bollís films. I did like Rampage though, so thereís always an exception. MaybeÖ Disney TV movies? Iím grasping here.


Anything else you are dying to mention and I have merely forgotten to ask?


Not that I can think of. Thanks for the interview!


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© by Mike Haberfelner

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Robots and rats,
demons and potholes,
cuddly toys and
shopping mall Santas,
love and death and everything in between,
Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

is all of that.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to
a collection of short stories and mini-plays
ranging from the horrific to the darkly humourous,
from the post-apocalyptic
to the weirdly romantic,
tales that will give you a chill and maybe a chuckle, all thought up by
the twisted mind of
screenwriter and film reviewer
Michael Haberfelner.


Tales to Chill
Your Bones to

the new anthology by
Michael Haberfelner


Out now from




On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD