Jill Gevargizian: inside the mind of an independent horror filmmaker

photo by Maggie Dolecheck

photo by Maggie Dolecheck

 

Creepy perverts and creepier call girls.  Grandmas who have gone off the deep end.  These are just a few of the things that Jill Gevargizian loves to showcase in her films.  As a filmmaker, Gevargizian has pushed the boundaries of low-budget filmmaking as well as her creative resources each time she’s gotten behind the camera.  She’s an incredibly outgoing and enthusiastic person to talk to, so it’s little surprise she was able to recruit Tristan Risk (American Mary) and Laurence Harvey (The Human Centipede II) to star in her awesome short film Call Girl, which just so happened to be her directorial debut.  You can watch the short film here and I highly recommend you do!

 

Caught up in the whirlwind that is the film festival circuit and working on big news regarding The Stylist, a short film that Gevargizian says is her most personal yet, the blossoming director and all-around horror fanatic was kind enough to chat with me recently.


MANGLED MATTERS:  Who or what got you into the horror scene, per say?

JILL GEVARGIZIAN:  For as long as I can remember I have loved to be scared.  It started with the Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark books.  I also loved the TV series Are You Afraid of the Dark?.  One of the first horror films I remember watching- at 10 years old- was Candyman and that is still one of my favorites.


MM:  You’re a huge presence in the horror convention scene.  What are a few of your favorite aspects of the horror convention?  For me personally, it’s just meeting new friends, like-minded people who you can feed and feed off of creatively while you chat!

JG:  I agree with you!  To me, it’s like going away to summer camp when you were a kid.  I enjoy going to see friends and make new ones.


MM:  As a filmmaker, you’ve created quite a resume in a relatively short amount of time.  What has been your most proud moment as a filmmaker so far?

JG:  Thank you.  I feel I’m just getting started.  I’ve directed only four shorts so far!  I do, however, also love to be involved in other filmmaker’s work.  I always learn a lot and meet great people within the industry.

My proudest moment.  I’m not sure.  The thing I’m most proud of making so far is The Stylist.  I feel deeply connected to it on a level I can’t really explain.  I feel this film will truly show people what I am capable of.

 

Louis Wong (camera operator), Robert Patrick Stern (director of photography), Gevargizian, Sarah Sharp (production designer) and Najarra Townsend (actress). Photo by Ryan Housknecht.

Louis Wong (camera operator), Robert Patrick Stern (director of photography), Gevargizian, Sarah Sharp (production designer) and Najarra Townsend (actress).
Photo by Ryan Housknecht.


MM:  As a fan of the genre, who are some of your directorial or creative influences?

JG:  Well, this isn’t a horror director, but one of my biggest influences is David Fincher.  His work is very stylish.  That is one thing I strive to be as an artist, stylish.  Adrian Garcia Bogliano (Here Comes the Devil)- also a very stylist filmmaker.   When I met him, he was speaking about filmmaking and he said something I’ll never forget.  He said, and I’m paraphrasing, “People these days are too concerned with making their movies look and feel ‘real’- but it’s not supposed to be real.  It’s art!”  I really love that idea and have held it close to my heart.


MM:  Is there a topic or subject that you would personally consider taboo as a director?

JG:  No way!  I personally love very confrontational and disturbing films.


MM:  Call Girl is a fascinating project because you have two big name horror actors in Laurence Harvey and Tristan Risk showcasing an independent short film.  How exactly did this project come to be?

JG:  It was quite an intimidating project because it was my directorial debut.  It started with my good friend Eric Havens, who wrote the film.  I asked him if I could direct it.  I met Laurence at a convention years ago, sent him the script for advice and he offered to be in it!  We announced casting for the female lead and Tristan responded- thanks to her desire to work with Laurence.  We crowd-funded the project through Kickstarter.  It was a wild experience and still is!  We’ve been touring festivals for a year and a half – screeened over 60 times so far- and still going.  An artist in Japan, Daiju Kurabayashi, did a full comic adaptation of the film. It’s unreal.


MM:  Personally, what was it like to see your directorial debut make its premiere at one of the coolest horror conventions out there at HorrorHound Weekend?

JG:  It was a very awesome moment.   Only a year prior I couldn’t have imagined it.


MM:  Your latest project, Grammy, is another awesome project because it makes one of the most loveable people in a child’s life someone to fear.  I love it!  What was it like directing children in a horror film? How exactly did you maintain the horror without scaring the kiddies?

JG:  (laughs)  Grammy is about a little girl who wakes from a sleepover at Grandma’s to find out that there’s more to her that meets the eye.  It is super short- not even two minutes long- and will be premiering on Eli Roth’s Crypt TV.  Our young star, Hala Finley, was a blast to work with.  She is only six years old and very talented.  I feel pretty comfortable around kids, but it was all new to me directing one.   Her mother, Somyia, helped me out and told me to be very serious on set and to treat Hala like an adult.  She has quite a bit of experience for being so young.  I learned a lot from her.  And she’s tough!  She told me she wasn’t scared of anything except clowns.  (laughs)  I agree with her.

 

on the set of Grammy, with Marilyn Hall. Photo by Maggie Dolecheck

on the set of Grammy, with Marilyn Hall. Photo by Maggie Dolecheck


MM:  What makes for a truly upsetting horror film in your eyes?

JG:  What disturbs me most in film is sexual violence.  I find it very hard to watch.


MM:  What upcoming horror conventions or events can fans meet you at in the near future?

JG:  I don’t have any appearances scheduled, but my films are showing at a lot of festivals this fall!

Call Girl is screening at the Saskatoon Fantastic Film Fest, Ax Wound Film Fest in Vermont, and Twisted Horror Picture Show in Oklahoma.

Police Brutality is screening at Scream in the Dark Film Fest in Omaha and Days of the Dead: Chicago.

Look for Grammy this fall on Crypt TV– they post all their content on Facebook and Twitter, so give them a follow!

And I hope to premiere The Stylist in the spring at a prestigious festival.  Details to come when I can share them!

 

 

on the set of The Stylist. Photo by Ryan Housknecht

on the set of The Stylist. Photo by Ryan Housknecht

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2 thoughts on “Jill Gevargizian: inside the mind of an independent horror filmmaker

  1. Thank you Justin, for this enjoyable interview, as well as supporting women in the genre. You never know who could read this, become inspired, and ultimately become part of the next wave of influential filmmakers.

    • Thank you for the kind words, Danni. As a former assistant to Ms. Hannah Forman for Women in Horror Month a few years back, I am a huge proponent of the WiH movement. It’s a true privilege to be living in a day and age where there is such a new wave of amazing filmmakers out there and it’s truly an honor to be able to chat with some of these fantastic minds, like Jill!!

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