For Women in Horror Month I wanted to shine the spotlight on someone who I think is a total badass, an inspiration to women everywhere and someone I really admire. So I chose Jill “Sixx” Gevargizian because she does everything and she does it all very well. She’s been a hairstylist for over a decade and also produces music videos and writes and directs horror movies. She created Slaughter Movie House in 2012 in her hometown of Kansas City, Missouri and the independent horror film showcase is still going strong today. She founded Sixx Tape Productions in 2014 with her directorial debut, the short horror film CALL GIRL. Their latest film, THE STYLIST, is one of my favorite short horror films and has won over 20 awards worldwide. Since the first time I saw THE STYLIST I hoped it would be made into a feature film and it looks like that just might happen. In the meantime I’m very much looking forward to Jill’s soon to be released projects 42 COUNTS, a thriller short film based on a true story that she wrote and directed, as well as BFF GIRLS, a horror/comedy short film that she produced. I talked with Jill about her work and we have the trailer for BFF GIRLS, which is playing the festival circuit this Spring!
Nightmarish Conjurings: You’re involved in so many amazing things and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to talk to you during Women in Horror Month, because I think you’re incredibly inspiring. How hard is it for you to juggle being a hairstylist, producer and writer/director? Can you give me any special tips you use for organizing time and prioritizing?
Jill Gevargizian: It’s very hard! I really struggle focusing. But – it’s the only option right now. I am doing everything independently as a filmmaker – which means I pay for the stuff I make. Hair is what pays the bills! I don’t know that I have any tips. I guess, one will l realize how much they want something based on how much time they dedicate to it. I spend most of my free time working on film projects. It’s my second full-time job that costs me money….. I must be insane. I also run a year-round mostly screening series, Slaughter Movie House.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Why did you want to be a filmmaker and how did you get started?
JG: I’ve loved films since I was a little kid. I would make silly videos with my dad’s camcorder in middle school. I grew up interested in theater, dance, photography, fashion, music…and really with film, you get to work in all of those fields. What really kicked me into gear was through running Slaughter Movie House. I met so many filmmakers through showing their work. I think prior to meeting a filmmaker, it never dawned on me that it was an option. A friend of mine had a script for a short film and decided directing wasn’t “for him.” And so, I just asked, “Hey.. um.. can I give this a try?” That is what became Call Girl, my directorial debut, starring Tristan Risk and Laurence Harvey. And ever since – I’ve been addicted. I’ve had no formal training. I just figure it out as I go and I call on my more experienced filmmaker-friends for constant advice and help.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Why did you choose the horror genre?
JG: I love horror and that’s because it’s confrontational, exciting, never boring. That being said, I want it to be clear I have no intention in only making horror. My first love was tragedy. I loved any film that would make me cry starting as young as I can remember. THE LAND BEFORE TIMEand AN AMERICAN TALE were two of my favorite films as a child. My goal with THE STYLIST, was to combine horror and tragedy, like a lot of my favorite films do, and to show that I also have an interest in directing drama. I am a very emotional person and I want to make very emotional films. While I love horror and tragedy, I also love raw, yet hopeful films like MOONLIGHT.
Nightmarish Conjurings: I’m a big fan of your short film THE STYLIST. It’s pretty gruesome and I love it. Aside from being a hairstylist, did you have any particular inspiration for the story?
JG: From the start – she was my female Leatherface. Like him, she skins her victims, she wears their skin, she “becomes” that person who the skin belonged to, all in hope for an escape. She’s also very inspired by MAY. I think both of those characters are similar. I like films that let you see from the “bad guy” perspective and help you understand why they are the way they are.
Nightmarish Conjurings: I love the cinematography in THE STYLIST and the macabre story and would love to see it as a feature length film. I know this is something you’ve been working on. Can you give me any updates about when it might be a feature film?
JG: I wish I could. The script is ready. The hard part of filmmaking is finding financing. I have an incredible producer on board and we are working everyday, doing everything we can. I’m dying to tell more of Claire’s story. (Hint, hint to all the money-people out there. I won’t let you down.)
Nightmarish Conjurings: Najarra Townsend is such a talented actress and she stars in your short films THE STYLIST and 42 COUNTS as well as being a part of your company Sixx Tape Productions. How did you two meet and what do you like most about working with her?
JG: I mean, beside the fact that she is an incredibly talented actor – she is one of the sweetest, most down-to-earth, unassuming, passionate, and caring people I’ve ever met. I don’t know how I got so lucky.
Nightmarish Conjurings: I’m really looking forward to your new short film 42 COUNTS. I know it’s based on a true story. Can you tell me more about that and do you have a release date?
JG: Thank you! I am looking forward to releasing a new film, that’s for sure. Yes, it is based on a true story, but I can’t yet discuss details or I would spoil the film. It is honestly hard to talk about short films at all, until after everyone has seen them. I am happy to announce that 42 COUNTSwill be making its world premiere at the Chattanooga Film Festival, April 5-8, and I will be there! I can’t wait.
When I was at Telluride Horror Show in 2016 with THE STYLIST, I was chatting with fellow filmmaker Justin Harding at the closing party. We had such a great time at the festival, we both said we wanted to make another film in time to return the following year. (Didn’t happen but…) Inspired by a short film we had seen there, he said something like, “ Let’s challenge ourselves to make something featuring two characters, just talking.” That stuck with me. I decided I wanted (needed) to make something I pull off with little-to-no money. I decided that meant no gore or special effects (the scalping in THE STYLIST took a whole day to shoot and weeks of prep and cost a lot of money). I wanted it to be drama/emotionally-based. And I wanted it to star two women. Then one day, over a year later, I was with a friend and they reminded me of this creepy local true story and it clicked, “THAT’S my next short film.”
Nightmarish Conjurings: We definitely need more recognition of women filmmakers. Do you have any advice for women who want to get into filmmaking and might be afraid to take the first step?
JG: It’s scary to imagine doing it all by yourself, but once you go out and connect with your local film community – you learn filmmaking is all about team-work. Meaning, there are 10-30+ people on this journey with you, who all want the best for the project. There’s a lot of comfort in that, you’re not alone. But you do need to know how to lead, and that takes faith in yourself. If you don’t believe in yourself and what you’re doing, how could anyone else?
Nightmarish Conjurings: Do you have a favorite horror movie and why?
JG: I have a lot of favorites and I normally go to THE TEXAS CHAIN SAW MASSACRE, so this time let’s talk about CANDYMAN! It’s a perfect horror film from it’s gothic score to its social and political relevance. Also, at it’s core, it’s a classic tragic monster film. Candyman is a misunderstood monster looking for help. Like Leatherface, he is a multi-dimensional villain, which is what attracts me to both films.
Nightmarish Conjurings: Are you working on any new projects that you can tell me about?
JG: As mentioned before, we are working hard trying to get THE STYLIST feature off the ground. I also have another feature film out there seeking funding. Neither I can discuss in detail yet.
I have another short about to hit the festival circuit, one I helped produce, BFF GIRLS. It was directed by Brian Lonano (GWILLIAN, CROW HAND), written by him and Victoria Cook. I am very proud of the film and can’t wait to see it with an audience. It is making its world premiere at Boston Underground Film Festival and will also be at the Chattanooga Film Festival! The trailer is out now!