Trevor Juras is an up and coming filmmaker based out of Toronto. Previously known for several short films, most notably The Lamp which played at Fantasia and the Toronto International Film Festival among others. He recently completed his first feature The Interior which has been playing festivals after making it’s debut at this year’s Fantasia.
I spoke to Trevor after a screening of The Interior at the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival and he was kind enough to agree to let me send him some questions, which he answered after his film had a sold out showing at the Toronto After Dark Festival.
JM: Let’s start with a cliché. Tell us a bit about yourself and how you got into film making.
TJ: I was born in Toronto and raised in a suburb called Mississauga. I went to university for film and then worked in TV commercial casting for years after school. That was painfully awful. Basically, I’ve wanted to be a director since I snuck into Clint Eastwood’s “Unforgiven” as a kid, but I had to get to a certain age before I had the guts to actually give it a go.
JM: Before The Interior you did several shorts, most notably The Lamp. Some authors say writing a short story is harder than writing a novel because of the limited space available to tell your tale. Would you say the same is true for film?
TJ: Yes, I agree with that, aside from the fact that making something feature-length requires a massive amount of time and resources. But conceptually, I find it harder. Some of my less successful shorts needed more time for the story to breathe, and more details and scene to fill them out. The Lamp is neat and tidy and tied up with a bow, which can be tricky to pull off.
JM: I’ve seen The Interior referred to as Mumblecore more than once. Do you think that’s a fair classification?
TJ: I had never heard the word “mumblecore” before I started reading that, too. In fact, I saw my first certified mumblecore movie only a few weeks ago, and I honestly don’t see the comparison. The camera was floating around randomly and the cutting was willy-nilly, and the writing was all cuteness and cleverness—none of these things I relate to. Perhaps I need to see a few more examples!
JM: There’s not a lot of dialogue in the film, even before James heads into the woods. Was this a conscious choice or did it just turn out that way in writing it?
TJ: In the woods, definitely. The original version of the script (written years ago) had a couple camping together, so of course there was a lot more dialogue. Wanting to cut out all that dialogue was a big reason it was changed to be one character out there alone. I wanted something more meditative and challenging, and I wanted to avoid the cliche of conversations about being lost and being afraid, etc… There’s a fair amount of dialogue in the open scenes, but our main character doesn’t have the bulk of it. I’m a quiet person myself, so perhaps the protagonist reflects that. I would say in those opening scenes it just came out that way.
JM: Setting some scenes to music with no sound effects or dialogue makes them feel like old silent movies. What were you trying to evoke with that effect?
TJ: For sure. Silent films are fascinating to me, especially the darker ones. My only complaint about them is that the acting is usually so silly and over the top, but there are a few silent films where this isn’t the case. Our lead actor, Patrick McFadden, is exceptionally good at communicating something without words. The effect we were trying to get was the feeling of being by yourself out there. The music is meant to evoke what’s going on inside the character, and to some extent what’s happening around him. It was important not to be too on the nose with it, which is why I love using music from the great composers—it’s so rich and complex. The beauty of the music paradoxically highlights the nightmare going on inside of him, without being on the nose.
JM: James isn’t the most likable of protagonists, has this caused audiences to have issues identifying with, or caring about him?
TJ: Generally, no.. Most people have told me they identify with James, though for sure he has turned off a few, but they’ve been in the minority. One reviewer said that if you don’t identify with the main character there’s little chance you’ll like the movie, and that might be right. Personally, I’m drawn to somewhat unlikable characters, and most of my work is populated with them. I think it works because I have tremendous empathy for them, and so I write them from that angle. James isn’t malicious or bad or evil, in fact he’s somewhat pitiful. I think audiences are easily drawn to that.
JM: Why did you choose to not let the audience know just what the medical condition he has was?
TJ: Perhaps this worry was unfounded, but I thought it would make his illness (whatever it may be) the focal point of the film. I also think throwing that hip hop track over top of it is amusing.
JM: For what I’m fairly sure was a low budget film The Interior is very well shot, especially the night scenes. Can you tell us a little about how they were done?
TJ: Thank you! First, we picked a camera that has a reputation for *not* being good in low light. There are cameras out there where you can see right into the darkness, but this camera just filled the screen with black. The only light source was the character’s flashlight. In real life, at night in a forest, you see only what your flashlight illuminates, and everything else is unsettlingly dark. We wanted to make it as real as possible, so we never lit the forest up. As a result, the colours of the woods are so vivid next to the black, and you never know what’s lurking just beyond the flashlight beam.
JM: At the Q&A after the showing at the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Festival you mentioned Werner Herzog as an influence. Who else influenced you?
TJ: In a general sense, my influences are Lars Von Trier, Paul Thomas Anderson, The Coens, Park Chan-Wook and Bong Joon-Ho from South Korea, Jody Hill, Louis CK (I could go on and on)… For The Interior specifically, All Is Lost, Gerry, and of course The Blair Witch Project were all films in the back of my mind at some point.
JM: As of my writing this, The Interior is still looking for distribution. What would you prefer, a small boutique company that can give you personal attention and a small arthouse release or a big company that could get a big VOD/DVD release?
TJ: I think a boutique company would have a better shot at marketing something like The Interior. I’d be worried about getting lost in the machine of a large distributor, or them just not knowing what to do with something unconventional like this. I’d be open to anything, though.
JM: Have you considered self distribution via VOD and streaming platforms like Indiefilm.com? Why or why not?
TJ: Yes, I have. If distributors don’t bite, or the deal just isn’t right, that’s an option. Who knows, maybe that’s the right move to make? One has to look at the music industry currently to get some sense of what the film industry will look like several years from now—perhaps crowd-funding and self-releasing to going to keep looking more and more attractive in the years to come.
JM: Do you have anything particular in mind for your next film, or are you waiting until the current one has distribution before you start on a new project?
TJ: I am writing, though there’s still work on The Interior to be done. My next film will be less genre, and lord willing will have a budget with substance. Right now it’s a drama with a dystopian background… Not a 1984 or Brave New World type of dystopia, but something resembling our current society taking a wrong turn.
JM: Do you want to stay indie doing personal projects or would you be interested if a studio offered you something, say a straight to video sequel or remake?
TJ: Indie all the way. I’m not good with authority or being told what to do. If I don’t have creative control, I’m not interested—I’d rather work as a tree planter or something. I’m not above selling out, though, so perhaps I’ll eat these words. I just don’t see a big studio offering me the kind of cash it would take to make me flush my artistic ideals into the septic tank.
I would like to thank Trevor again for taking the time to answer my questions and I hope we’ll be seeing The Interior in distribution soon. In the meantime the trailer for it and the short The Lamp are available on Vimeo: https://vimeo.com/trevorjuras and his IMDB page is here: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1894295