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An Interview with Justin T. Malone, Director of Beware of Goat

by Mike Haberfelner

April 2023

Films directed by Justin T. Malone on (re)search my Trash


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Your new movie Beware of Goat - in a few words, what is it about?


Beware of Goat is a comedy set in the rural American South about two redneck families who get into a dispute because one familyís goat gets loose in the otherís yard. Itís sort of an absurd (hopefully very funny!) story, but we also use that framework to explore questions about poverty and the human capacity for cruelty. 


With Beware of Goat being about a neighbourly dispute, is this based on any real life experiences, and some of the worst neighbours you've ever had?


Yeah, the film is a combination and exaggeration of two different real life stories told to me by family members. I canít tell you those stories exactly without spoiling the film, but just know that all the characters and events depicted in the movie have a basis in reality, no matter how absurd it seems.


(Other) sources of inspiration for Beware of Goat?


I grew up in Western Tennessee, in a community similar to the one portrayed in the film. Being from the rural American South is a complex thing and thereís not many movies that have portrayed my culture with nuance. Weíre always shown as evil, bigoted rednecks or as supernaturally noble and wise, and neither of those things reflect my experience. A lot of people in the rural South are awful because a lot of people in the world are awful, but thereís also a lot of wonderful people, and a lot of social and economic factors that arenít typically contextualized when talking about the negative aspects of our culture. Most of my work is about trying to portray that experience with as much nuance and complexity as possible. I want to show the bad stuff, but I want to do it compassionately and with a dark sense of humor.


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


My typical directing style is pretty maximalist and Iím not much for subtlety. I figure if Iím going to make a directorial statement I might as well do it with a megaphone. But with this project, I thought the interactions between characters were the most important part of the film and we had an incredible and funny cast who could carry scenes without any help from me, so I tried to dial things back. The director of photography Alex Woodruff and I tried to let the number one rule be to let the actors carry the film, and make sure that nothing we did with camera movement or lighting would distract from their performances.


Do talk about Beware of Goat's cast, and why exactly these people?


The performances in Beware of Goat are probably my favorite thing about the movie, because I think everyone in it is so great and I landed my first choice for every role. Peyton Pilgrim, who plays Mitchell, is one of my best friends. We met in film school and spent two summers working together at a salmon fishery in Alaska while I was saving up money to make this movie, so he knows me really well and he had a deep understanding of who the character was and what the film was, which made working with him easy. We barely had to talk on set at all. Lindsey Roberts, who plays Mitchell's mom Louise, and Cecelia Wingate, who plays the obnoxious neighbor Mary, are both living legends in the Memphis, Tennessee film and theater community. Lindsey was one of the leads in the 2000 film The Poor and Hungry, which is one of my favorite Southern movies, and Cecelia played the lead in He Couldíve Gone Pro, which was a Memphis-made short film that really blew me away, and Iíd been pestering her to act in one of my films since I first saw it. I was drawn to them both because I had seen them play very complicated southern characters with questionable morals who you couldnít help but root for anyway. I had seen John Sneed, who plays Maryís husband Roger, while working as a crewmember on a couple of different short films and I was so impressed with his work ethic. Iíd only seen him in very serious, dramatic roles, and I thought it would be interesting to take his typical intensity and direct that energy toward this absurd comedic role. All four of those roles were written with the actors who played them in mind. The final role of Mitchellís older sister Millie was originally written as an older brother, and I wasnít sure who I wanted for that. A couple months after I wrote the first draft, I met Lauren Gunn when I cast her as the lead in my previous short film Roadkill. When we worked together on that I felt like she was an actor with a lot of range and charisma, and I decided that I should change the brother character to a sister, and that was when the final piece fell into place.


You of course also have to talk about Beware of Goat's main location, and what was it like filming there?


Finding the right exterior location was the most stressful part of the production. Because the script called to be shot in the yards of two neighboring houses, that meant we had to find not one but two property owners who were willing to let us invade their homes for a weekend for not a lot of money. We finally found the perfect spot in Gallaway, Tennessee, a small town about 30 miles outside Memphis, and the two families who allowed us to shoot on their property were really wonderful and accommodating. It was a difficult shoot, because we only had 2 days at that exterior location to shoot 10 pages with constantly changing lighting conditions, animal actors, and a small crew.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


Stressful though it was, shooting the film was a really great experience. Most of our cast and crew worked for below their normal rate because they believed in the movie (for which I am eternally grateful), and the community in Gallaway was really friendly and welcoming to us, even though we were running around in the middle of their town at all hours of the night with a barking dog and an ornery goat. The crew was a mix of some of my best friends and collaborators going back to film school and a collection of Memphis-area film professionals who I had never worked with before, and I learned a lot from watching them work.


The $64-question of course, where can Beware of Goat be seen?


Beware of Goat is on the festival circuit right now throughout the US, and it will be released online in early 2024. We had our world premiere at the Tonkawa Film Festival in Oklahoma in mid-April, and weíre headed to Los Angeles for a screening at the 2023 Pasadena International Film Festival on May 7th, with more announcements to come. You can keep up with the film and its upcoming screenings at my website and social media links below. And if youíre a programmer or distributor who is interested in showing the film, you can talk to me at :)


Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of Beware of Goat?


Iíve been pleased and surprised by the reception weíve gotten so far. We won an award at our very first public screening, for Best Comedy at the Tonkawa Film Festival in Oklahoma, and the audience just really came alive by the time the credits rolled. Our film is a comedy, but itís definitely a dark comedy and it deals with unpleasant subject matter in a comedic way, so I thought there was always a chance of us alienating the audience, but so far everyone has really met the movie halfway and it seems like they both understand what weíre saying with the film and appreciate the comedic element.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


I donít have any more short films to share at the moment, but Iím developing two different features that Iím hoping to take to market in 2024 with the potential of one of them becoming my feature film debut. The first is a Southern Gothic drama/thriller called The Devilís Workshop and the other is a dark comedy called Born on Third, which is about a feud between a blue collar father and his 12 year old sonís baseball coach. I think of it as a spiritual successor to Beware of GoatIím also developing an hour-long television crime drama called Fugitives of Dust with my friends J. Aldo Gonzalez and OíShay Foreman, both of whom worked on Beware of Goat as production coordinator and producer, respectively. Itís about a smalltown sheriffís deputy in rural Illinois who suspects his boss may be covering up a hate crime. I also direct music videos and promotional content for small businesses, so once again, if any of that sounds interesting to you, you can talk to me at :)


What got you into filmmaking in the first place, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


Growing up I always thought I wanted to write novels, but by the time I became a teenager I realized that I was more drawn to movies. I went to film school at the University of Memphis which taught me a lot about the technical aspects of production and helped me find my voice as an artist. Iíve been living and working in film production in the Memphis area ever since.


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Beware of Goat?


Beware of Goat was my first non-student film production with a real budget. Most of my student work was amateur, but Iím still very proud of my thesis film, called Roadkill, which is available on YouTube and on my website. Itís a Southern Gothic thriller about an upper-middle class teenager who tries to cover up a crime sheís committed to avoid jeopardizing her future.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


I try to be as prepared as possible before we get on set, so that when itís time to do it for real, everybody already knows what weíre trying to accomplish and itís just a matter of executing it properly. Above all, I try to work hard and take my job really seriously. As a crewmember, it drives me insane being on set with a director who is lazy or isnít taking their job seriously. Getting to make movies for a living is the coolest job in the world and a huge blessing. Most of my family when I was growing up worked really hard jobs in factories or doing manual labor, so I want to make sure that I never take a job this amazing for granted.


Filmmakers who inspire you?


Harmony Korine, Sam Peckinpah, Paul Schrader, Lynne Ramsay and Michael Mann are who came to mind first.


Your favourite movies?


Thatís always hard, but Iíll just throw ten out there that live in my brain: Spring Breakers, First Reformed, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Ride the High Country, Manhunter, Boyhood, The Fountain, Lost Highway, The Wolf of Wall Street and Sling Blade.


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


Hmm. Thereís not a whole lot of movies I truly hate, but I really disliked the "live action" remake of The Lion King because it seemed so pointless. I found Vice very grating and annoying. Moonrise Kingdom and La La Land are two skillfully made movies that lots of people love but that just run completely opposite to my taste. 


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Your/your movie's website, social media, whatever else?


My website:

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


I think Iíve already talked way too much. Thanks for taking an interest in the film!


Thanks for the interview!


© 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