Interview With Jill Gevargizian: Cutting Hair, Shooting Films and Taking Names

Ever since her short horror film, The Stylist (read our review here), became a smash hit on the film festival circuit in 2016, winning 7 awards and garnering 5 nominations, independent filmmaker Jill “Sixx” Gevarigizian has been on a roll. This ambitious director, writer, producer and hair stylist recently returned from Chattanooga Film Festival where two more of her short films, BFF Girls (read our review here) and 42 Counts, were shown. PopHorror was lucky enough to catch up with Jill soon after this experience to discuss her passion for indie film, her time at Chattanooga and some exciting news that was just announced!

Jill Gevargizian behind-the-scenes of the music video “I’m Ready”

PopHorror: Hi, Jill! Thank you for taking the time to sit down with me.

Jill Gevargizian: No problem!

PopHorror: So, to start… have you always been a fan of horror? Has this always been your genre of choice as a filmmaker?

Jill Gevargizian: Yes and no. Yes, I’ve always been a fan of horror, but I want to make films in other genres as well, like drama and crime.

PopHorror: Versatility is a great thing! When and how did you get your start in the filmmaking industry?

Jill Gevargizian: I have been directing for a little over 5 years. I got into it by founding a monthly screening series, Slaughter Movie House, where we show independent horror films in my hometown of Kansas City, Missouri. I met so many filmmakers through that and started by working on some of their projects. Then, I got the guts to direct my first short, Call Girl, and ever since I’ve been addicted.

PopHorror: Independent horror films seem to be a passion of yours. What does the indie scene mean to you?

Jill Gevargizian: Oh, man! It’s hard to put into words. The genre film community has become my family, best friends and co-creators. Even worldwide, the community is fairly tight, and I love it. It’s the best when everyone supports everyone. We can all succeed that way.

Brian Lonano, Jill Gevargizian, BFF Girls
Director Brian Lonano and Jill Gevargizian behind-the-scenes of BFF Girls

PopHorror: That is something I have come to know and love about the indie film community as well. What is your favorite part about creating films?

Jill Gevargizian: So many parts! So, I’ll go with one I was just doing yesterday that I love. I love location scouting. Locations do and mean so much to your film. The right place makes all the difference. A stylish place makes all the difference. Something with character. Something that reflects the story and the character your story is about. I’ve always been an explorer at heart… and location scouting is a lot of that. Exploring.

PopHorror: I can see how that would be fun! You recently had 2 short films premiere at the Chattanooga Film Festival, BFF Girls and 42 Counts. Could you tell me about BFF Girls and what inspired the film?

Jill Gevargizian: Yes! Well…kinda. It was 42 Counts’ world premiere, but BFF Girls made its world premiere in March at Boston Underground Film Festival, although it did also screen in Chattanooga. That was my first time seeing BFF with an audience, and it was amazing. They went crazy with laughter. The film was directed by Brian Lonano and co-written by Victoria Cook [both of whom worked on BFF Girls]. I helped produce the film. I can’t speak for Brian and Victoria, but I do know the film is inspired by Power Rangers, Sailor Moon, and the Japanese cult classic film, House. It’s a wild, bloody and hilarious film with a lot of heart, and I’m really happy to see that, so far, audiences are feeling it. It’s going to continue to play festivals through the end of the year, so be on the lookout!

PopHorror: That sounds like a fun one! If I’m not mistaken, 42 Counts is based on a true story. Could you tell me a little about this film and how you came across this story?

Jill Gevargizian: Yes, it is. A man owned a tattoo shop with a second floor serving as an apartment located here in Kansas City. He rented out the apartment to an artist who worked for him. Long story short… the artist learned that the owner had placed 11 hidden cameras in the apartment and had been watching them for God knows how long. I frequented that tattoo shop when I was 18, and I am close with a person who helped uncover the cameras.

Jill Gevargizian behind-the-scenes of 42 counts with actors Andrea Dover and Najarra Townsend

PopHorror: That is an unnerving story. It makes me want to see 42 Counts that much more! What was your favorite part about filming these two productions?

Jill Gevargizian: For BFF Girls, shooting was so crazy and fun. It’s really hard to pick a moment. I’m going to have to say it was the first time I saw our villain, Fabuloso Doom, played by Lawrence Sykkmon, in full costume and makeup. He looked amazing. Perfect. I got teary-eyed. Truly though, seeing all of the characters come to life was magical, thanks to costume designer Toniet Gallego, special effects artist Lucas Godfrey, and makeup artist Robyn Cason.

For 42 Counts, it was the first time we had our bad guy walk down this creepy hallway… I’ve got a theme going here, see? Once I said, “Cut,” the whole crew exclaimed, “Holy shit! You looked like a monster!” Our bad guy was played by Sam Williamson who is a very tall, big man. I could totally see him playing Jason or Michael or some new, iconic horror villain.

Lawrence Sykkmon, Jill Gevargizian, BFF Girls
Jill Gevargizian with Lawrence Sykkmon as Fabulous Doom behind-the-scenes of BFF Girls

PopHorror: That is awesome! What was the most challenging part about filming these two productions?

Jill Gevargizian: For BFF Girls, we faced a lot of challenges along the way. I think it was because it was such an ambitious project all around, but I say thanks to Brian’s directing and extensive preparation, we dealt with every curve ball really well. On the final day of production, which had already been completely relocated, one of our lead actors no-showed. So, in a matter of hours… early on a Sunday morning… we had to recast a lead character… someone that would magically fit into the custom costume… and we did it! Carolann Utely, who plays Superhero Violet, was cast last minute and saved the day! Saved the film!

For 42 Counts, we shot half of the film in this basement that had to be close to 200 years old… and it was gross, scary, and the air was not clean. Nothing was clean down there. The whole crew was wearing dust masks. But it looks amazing on camera and in the final product!

Jill Gevargizian, Jordon Rioux, 42 Counts
Jill Gevargizian and cinematographer Jordon Rioux behind-the-scenes of 42 Counts

PopHorror: Those would be incredibly tough hurdles for any filmmaker! You recently returned to Kansas City from the Chattanooga Film Festival. Was this your first time at the festival? How was this experience?

Jill Gevargizian: Chattanooga Film Festival is flipping awesome! Yes, it was my first time. They had a great line up of films and great attendance from filmmakers from all over. They also threw some crazy, awesome parties. Holy shit! At one point, I was drinking whiskey on a school bus around noon! I hope to return next year… and the next… and the next!

PopHorror: That sounds like a wildly great time! Where do you see your filmmaking career going from here?

Jill Gevargizian: I plan to take the leap into making feature films.

PopHorror: That sounds like the right step for you. Do you have any upcoming projects that you would like to discuss?

Jill Gevargizian: Yes, I do. Like I said, I want to make my first feature film as soon as possible. I have a couple in development. One is the feature adaptation of my short film, The Stylist. The other was just announced, and it’s entitled Permanent Address. It was written by Eric Stolze. The project was selected to be part of Frontieres Market at Fantasia International Film Festival. I hope to have more news about both projects soon!

While Jill prepares for her full length feature films, BFF Girls will be shown June 4th at her monthly film showcasing, Slaughter Movie House, in Kansas City, Missouri and 42 Counts is scheduled to screen at the Toronto True Crime Film Festival on June 9th. Making quite the noise in the indie scene and receiving outstanding responses in regards to her short films, we look forward to seeing what she does with her full feature projects. We, at PopHorror, wish Jill the best of luck at the Fantasia International Film Festival!

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