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An Interview with Trevor Juenger, Director of The Man in Room 6

by Mike Haberfelner

October 2022

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

 

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Your new movie The Man in Room 6 - in a few words, what is it about?

 

Itís about a young woman who meets an elderly man in a nursing home who claims to be immortal. He tells her stories about how he was cursed to grow old but never die. 

 

Thereís a lot more to it than that, but thatís the short synopsis.

 

What were your sources of inspiration when writing The Man in Room 6?

 

I think weíre always trying to inject bits of our lives into our stories. My grandfather was living in a nursing home at the time. He went into hospice care and eventually died during one of our shooting days. Carrie Juenger was working as a medical courier for nursing homes and asylums at the time, so I was privy to some wild stories from her.

 

Films are such a part of my life that I canít help but inject them into my stories. I think the more obvious ones are horror omnibus films like Black Sabbath, Tales from the Crypt, Kwaidan, and Trilogy of Terror. I think we (myself and most of the cast) are in love with Klaus Kinskiís work, so Nosferatu: Phantom der Nacht came up more than a few times when preparing a scene. A Tale of Two Sisters is a fantastic lesson on perspective that Carrie and I studied. Lots of horror influences for sure.

 

There are also some things from film history that I love: the editing in Breathless, Rashomonís revisionist storytelling, Tarkovsky's cinematography. Thatís all in there to some degree. I remember watching Little Big Man while writing and stealing some stuff from that. I think you could make a game of ďspot the homage.Ē

 

The Man in Room 6 is rather labyrinthine in structure and seems to follow its own logic - so how easy or hard was it for you to not literally lose your plot telling your story this way?

 

It has this kind of dream/fantasy logic that takes the shackles off in the writing process. That makes what happens easy to rationalize. The more challenging thing is to wrap your mind around multiple interpretations of the story and revise around that. Is it psychological, supernatural, or some combination of both? Thereís no truth here. We removed anything that would indicate clearly what weíre experiencing.

 

It was always meant to be a challenging film from the viewerís perspective, but I didnít realize how challenging that makes the production side. Every detail needs to be considered.

 

To what extent could you actually identify with The Man in Room 6's protagonist Carrie - or any of the other characters, really?

 

I think Carrie is an amalgamation of myself and Carrie Juenger. Itís very close to me. Youíd have to ask Carrie how she feels about it though. Iíd consider myself a mostly quiet, introspective type.

 

I think I can relate to all of the characters. You have to project yourself into these situations and consider how you might react. I think in some situations, Iíd react much differently than others. The nastier people in the script are the same way. I think if weíre honest with ourselves, thereís a bitter, angry little person that lives inside our minds. How often we let that out depends on our life experience. Weíre kidding ourselves if we canít understand why some ugly people became that way. 

 

Do talk about The Man in Room 6's approach to horror!

 

We tried many things, but a big philosophy we tried to employ everywhere was contrast. If you do things a particular way several times, then change that up, people canít anticipate exactly how things are going to go down even if they know whatís logically going to happen next. We try to do that with the pacing of scenes. We also try to do that with explicit images of spooky stuff. You obscure things. You keep them hidden in shadow or visible only as the aftermath of something awful, and your brain fills in the scary bits better than anything I can show you directly. If you do it the entire time though, people get used to it, so you have to give them something eventuallyÖ I think a lot of monster movies operate like this. In my experience as a viewer, the monster reveal disappoints nine times out of ten. In our case, weíre not building to a monster reveal. Thank goodness for that.

 

A few words about your overall directorial approach to your story at hand?

 

I think Iíve learned a lot from when I was a kid trying to make movies. I used to hide behind the camera because working with actors is intimidating. Itís tough to speak the same language. As a director, everyone looks to you for answers to questions. When I was less secure about what I was doing, Iíd make poor decisions and feel the need to stick by them, because Iím supposed to know everything.  Itís not really that way though. This is a collaborative art form, and itís fine to answer a question with another. Itís fine to try things and admit you are totally wrong and try something different. Itís ok to ask for help.

 

We had very few rehearsals on this picture. When we did, it was in anticipation of tough blocking situations. Instead, I trusted some performers that I was very comfortable with to bring their vision to their characters. These are very talented people, so I think itís best to give them the freedom to do what they do best. Then, directing becomes a much more manageable task of trying to get everyoneís work to mesh.

 

What can you tell us about The Man in Room 6's key cast, and why exactly these people?

 

Most of them are really talented people that Iíve worked with before. I knew how to talk with them. I feel comfortable working with them. I usually write with certain people in mind.

 

I worked with Bill Oberst jr [Bill Oberst jr interview - click here] on Coyote in 2012. Iíve been trying to get him back for another project for years, but things never seemed to line up. Heís an inspirational person. He has this aura around him that makes everyone want to perform to the best of their abilities. Heís always chatted with me about wanting to do a film without dialogue. That kind of inspired the style of the ocean sequence. Great screen presence and great guy.

 

I wrote the whole script for Jackie Kelly [Jackie Kelly interview - click here], who I worked with on Dope, a pilot for a show that didnít go anywhere. She had to have a meltdown in a scene for us, and we really challenged her to bring everything she had. I was so pleased with that performance. I could see that she wanted to be a character actor, but didnít have the chance to show that range at the time. I wanted to give her something where people could see her ability.

 

David Wassilak I had worked with several times on both narrative and experimental projects. Heís an absolute professional and a stage veteran here in St. Louis. I had no idea he was capable of what he does in this film. I actually donít think I wrote him as cruel or dark as what David brought to the table. Iím happy I trusted him with the character.

 

Victoria Mullen, Frankie Ray, Don McClendon, Shawn Chevalier, and Joe Hammerstone are all people Iím familiar with from other projects and enjoy being around.

 

Debbie Rochon [Debbie Rochon interview - click here] was a new one for me. I wanted another horror veteran to stabilize us. Itís so valuable to have those calm and confident voices on set. Debbie was so smart about building her character. We did a lot of research on actors to find the right person, and Iím very happy we settled on Debbie.

 

There are plenty more. This is an epic horror film, and I was very happy with my cast.

 

Do talk about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere!

 

I think things were tenser than in previous projects. We had some very late nights, and everyone was striving to do the best that they could possibly do. When you shoot for 3 years, the stakes feel much higher regardless of budget. We want this movie to be good. No one was dragging their feet. That doesnít usually make things feel fun while filming. I donít want to speak for others, but it gives me a sense of satisfaction when things come together though. I think being close with cast and crew members really helps when things get tough. We arenít afraid to be real with one another.

 

The $64-question of course, where can The Man in Room 6 be seen?

 

Right now, you can buy physical copies on themaninroom6.com. Streaming is imminent, but we donít know an exact date for that. We know Prime Video should drop first and Tubi eventually, but as DIY filmmakers, we donít really get the luxury of dictating release dates to streaming platforms.

 

Anything you can tell us about audience and critical reception of The Man in Room 6?

 

Iím honestly one of the worst people to ask that question. If you tell me you hate it, I absolutely believe you, but if you say you love it, itís difficult for me to believe you. The reality is that very few people like films with small budgets. I read about so many people hating films that I consider to be objective masterpieces. Plenty of people have told me that they like the film, because why would you approach someone to tell them that their art sucks unless you want to be rude and confrontational.

 

Like it or dislike it, what I really care about is whether or not you feel like we tried something unique. The goal is to produce a different kind of horror film. If you think itís run-of-the-mill or nothing special (even if thatís a very bad kind of special), thatís the worst criticism I can hear.

 

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Any future projects you'd like to share?

 

Plenty, but writing about them publicly is an instant jinx.

 

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

 

My website is trevorjuenger.com. You can find socials on the website.

 

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

 

Nope. You are pretty thorough. Thanks.

 

Thanks for the interview!

 

© by Mike Haberfelner


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Thanks for watching !!!



 

 

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
Amazon!!!

 

 

 

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
WHICH IS WORSE!!!

 

A Killer Conversation

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

out now on DVD