Fantastic Fest 2020: Director of ‘The Stylist’ Jill Gervagizian talks horror influences and pre-production

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Sixx Tape Productions | Daily Texan Staff

After succeeding as a short on the festival circuit in 2015, Jill Gervargizian’s “The Stylist” has been adapted into a feature film. The stylish slasher premiered at 2020’s Celebration of Fantastic Fest online event. The Daily Texan spoke with Gervargizian about the inspirations for the film and the journey to its eventual feature-length form. 

The Daily Texan: When you directed the original short in 2015, did you intend for it to be a feature afterwards?

Jill Gevargizian: When the idea came to me I wanted it to be feature length, but I knew at the time (I’d only directed one short film) that was something way over my ability. We started with writing a short. Had I been more aware of the scene and the industry I would’ve maybe started with writing the feature. We started with the short and basically, right after wrapping shooting that, we started outlining ideas for the future. The short came out in 2016 and it played Fantastic Fest that year. The short did really well and we were excited about it. We spent a couple years trying to get it financed, the purgatory most filmmakers are in. Last year around this time, we decided we were going to figure out how to do this on our own. I have no idea how we finished it this fast.

 

DT: Do you have any advice for taking your own short films and turning them into features?

JG: One thing I really learned was you need to be prepared for the best case opportunity. You never know when those are going to come and if you will be ready to show (producers) something. It’s hard to know when this can happen. Say your film plays at some big festival and does really well, there’s a good chance that people will be interested in what else you have. And if you have something to show them right then, that makes all the difference. Not just the idea, but like an actual script. It’s all about riding that wave when you have it. I beat myself up when the short came out because we had lots of interest in a feature about “The Stylist,” and it was just nowhere near ready to show to anybody. I felt like I really missed an opportunity there, but now I feel much better that we got it done. 

DT: Were there any specific horror inspirations for “The Stylist”? 

JG: The inspiration is all over the place. I kind of looked to films with similar themes and then specific films when we were getting further into pre-production, as far as look and design. I made this watchlist that I gave to almost every person who worked on the movie. The character started, for me, as a female Leatherface. I always joke that it’s like a glamorous Leatherface. I got really deep into specifically looking at films with female characters that lose their minds and have identity crises. Films like “Black Swan” (and) “The Neon Demon.” For older stuff, we were looking at “Carrie” and “Sisters.” I’m (also) really influenced by Lucky McKee’s film “May.” You can see lots of that inspiration in the character of Claire.