Filmmaker Goran Stolevski directorial feature-length film debut, You Won’t Be Alone, is a beautiful, heartbreaking, and poetic film. Filmed in Serbia but set in 19th century Macedonia, You Won’t Be Alone follows Nevena on her horrific journey of finding out what it’s like to be human. To celebrate the film’s release, I chatted with Goran via Zoom, and we discussed his inspiration behind the film, how he became a filmmaker, and what’s up next.
PopHorror: I really loved You Won’t Be Alone, so I’m excited to speak with you today.
Goran Stolevski: Cool!
PopHorror: What inspired the film?
Goran Stolevski: Mainly, I write relationship drama, and at that point in my life, I had made a whole bunch of short films and written a lot of features, but I wasn’t going anywhere much in life. This was one of many scripts I wrote during an extended stint of unemployment. I thought I’d try something different and thought I’d do a genre premise, but treat it like a relationship drama as I normally would, and use the conventions that might be useful to the story to trap the feelings, and then kind of ignore the ones that weren’t really connected. And then I came to horror pretty quickly.
I tend to mainly write from women’s perspectives because they’re more closely aligned to my actual brain. And then witches was the natural starting point for that. I researched some things in terms of Macedonian folk horror and wasn’t very productive because there weren’t many folktales leftover that weren’t weirdly moralistic stories about what a woman’s place in life should be, so I ended up having to generate my own.
The one thing that was useful in the research was looking at historical patterns of circle witchcraft and how it’s treated. I found that even in Eastern Europe—I knew of it in the West—but I didn’t know that in Eastern Europe, women were also accused of taking the shape of another human being or an animal to do their witchcraft. I just thought, “That’s kind of all I need.” If you are capable of doing that and the rest of the world is just as it is, what a strange and incredible perspective on life you have, that you can live in different bodies as different humans and animals. And I just went from there and crafted it from that premise, basically.
PopHorror: Were you a horror fan before?
Goran Stolevski: I’m just a film nerd. Every kind. I don’t have a preference. I’m as excitable about a musical from the 1950s as I am about a horror film from the 1980s. I’m just an everything fan. I don’t watch, specifically, horror more than others, I guess? But it wouldn’t be less than others, either. I’m thinking of writing an action film next. They thrill me when they’re great, but I go with there’s an energy or a feeling that comes to me, and then what’s the natural shape of the story that it fits it?
And horror… I like stories from an outsider’s perspective, and I feel like it gives you the opportunity to do something that gives you an outsider’s perspective that’s very grounded in real life. Like sci-fi, seeking the cerebral or far-away voice. I really want it to be something about the day-to-day life here but with this element that is transporting as well, like the horror aspect. I want to be taken somewhere far away that reflects a mirror on life as it is here. And I think the horror premise helps me go far away and be transported and taken to this other frequency, this other place.
PopHorror: This is your first feature-length film. What made you want to be a filmmaker?
Goran Stolevski: When I was 12, and I moved to this country—I’m in Australia right now—I did not have any friends. That wasn’t the fault of other children, I was just a very strange child to be around. I forget how I came to movies. Initially, I was more of a bookish child, and then I think I started becoming obsessed with cinema history because I think the Oscars were happening around that time. There was this montage of all these films, and I’m very drawn by things that happened every year. There’s a pattern and I’m like, “That’s amazing.”
I started researching film history, and I just became a film nerd. My friends became Katharine Hepburn and Ingmar Bergman for many years. Initially, I thought I would be drawn more into being a film critic because I was under the impression that to be a filmmaker, you had to either be related to filmmakers or just really, really rich. And I was neither of those things. And then I was like, “Fuck yeah! I’m going to make movies!”
And it’s funny because my initial impression was correct. Generally, to be a filmmaker you have to be either really, really rich or related to a filmmaker. But somehow… And maybe that’s why it took me 20 years. Some of these things are instinctive, and as you get to know each other better, you start to realize that there’s this thing of analyzing my own feelings and thought patterns within the safety of my own world of people that I’ve created, essentially, and just processing that. Like I was mentioning, my stints of unemployment, just having something that can possess me so much. I do have something worth waking up for the next day even when literally, the world is not answering my emails, and I have no prospects. And I’m well into my 30s by this point. Creativity in general is what I was drawn to, and because film language was the first one I was exposed to very intensely, that seems to be the easiest one for me to shape things in. I so wish I could write prose. It’s so much easier and cheaper. But I don’t know how to do that. And now I’m here.
PopHorror: What is up next for you, Goran?
Goran Stolevski: The reason I didn’t used to write genre much is because genre is expensive, and generally, I thought my first one needs to be small and manageable and cheap. So most of the stuff I was writing was stuff I could do this with very little money. And ironically, the most expensive film was the first one we made so I’m like, “Now I’m going to write lots of expensive ones.”
The action one is coming eventually. I already finished one. I just made a film, and we just finished editing it so we’re doing the sound mixing. It’s called Of An Age. I made that in Australia. It’s much smaller. It’s a small, indie, grungy, gay love story set in the 90s, mainly in the blandest suburbs of Melbourne, so as far away as you can go from the mountains of Serbia. So I’m doing that, finishing it up, and then I’m flying to Macedonia in May to start the third one, which is another indie drama about a queer woman who is forced to raise her dead partner’s daughters even though she doesn’t want to be a mother. It’s in a society where she can’t legally adopt them so she has to maneuver things. It sounds dark and depressing but it’s mainly a comedy. And I hope I survive that process. Doing queer films in some of these places can be very tricky.
PopHorror: Well, you have me intrigued! I am ready for some queer films, so I am definitely intrigued about these.
Goran Stolevski: The action film is also queer!
PopHorror: Oh, awesome! You have my attention. Just one last question for you today. What is your favorite scary movie?
Goran Stolevski: My favorite? Oh, I don’t know. Is Psycho a scary movie?
Goran Stolevski: Psycho is one of my favorite films. Would you say it is?
PopHorror: Yes, of course.
Goran Stolevski: Alright, cool. Well, I guess Psycho. Recently Get Out, but yeah. There’s lots, I guess, but let’s go Psycho.
Thank you so much, Goran, for taking the time to speak with us. You can catch You Won’t Be Alone in theaters now!