The Stylist’s Jill Gevargizian talks moviemaking career, Black Mold, and teases upcoming thriller
Jill Gevargizian knew since high school that what she craved in a career was creative freedom. She wanted to dye her hair, dress, accessorize, and express herself however she saw fit. Today, she has accomplished this goal by combining two seemingly unconnected jobs—hairstyling and filmmaking.
Gevargizian, a Kansas Citian, has been a hairstylist for over 15 years now and started producing films about 10 years ago. One year after producing her first film, she moved into a director role, and after two years, she had written, directed, and produced her first short film, The Stylist.
The Stylist is about a hairstylist looking to escape her mundane life. She desperately wanted to find some excitement but didn’t know the lengths that she would go to until one unlucky client came into her salon… and never walked out.
This short film garnered awards from festivals across the country, including Best Director from the Vancouver Badass Film Festival, Best Horror Short Film of 2016 from the Fright Meter Awards, and Best Locally Made Film in the Best of KC 2016.
In 2020, Gevargizian released a full-length adaptation of The Stylist—her second full-length film that she wrote, directed, and produced.
“There’s definitely more stuff happening in Kansas City, specifically, more genre films like thrillers and horror,” she says. “I think that’s awesome. I feel like things are finally being attracted to the area, finally.”
Gevargizian’s support system and inspiration to move into the director’s chair is a group of filmmakers she refers to as her “filmmaking family.” They are a team of independent filmmakers in the Midwest with a passion for creating horror movies. They made up almost the entire production team for The Stylist and her newest project Black Mold.
Gevargizian has seen almost every film production side, but Black Mold brought new challenges. In addition to being a producer, director, writer, and editor on the film, John Pata asked her to be the hairstylist—a job she had surprisingly never done before.
She ignored the nerves that came with combining her two passions because, as a part of the filmmaking family, Pata holds a very special place in her heart and has done a lot to help her career.
“[Pata] was a filmmaker that really inspired me in the beginning to make my own short film,” Gevargizian says. “I helped produce one of his shorts a million years ago, he helped with mine, and he’d made a feature way before. So, I’ve been looking up to him and just trying to get to that point.”
Having this friendly support on set was especially helpful when she was finding her footing as the hairstylist. She ran into a few challenges, but with her background in film, she knew how to develop creative solutions.
The characters in this thriller go through some nightmarish situations. They go from pristine to filthy and from dry to soaking wet in different parts of the film. Gevargizian had to plan around these changes and find ways to gently change their look.
“I learned some cool stuff from the movie,” she says. “We had to work between scenes where the actors were soaking wet. I learned ways to do that other than literally just pouring water on somebody’s head.”
The scenes aren’t shot in order, so she made a spreadsheet tracking where the actors were in the film and breaking down their hairstyles in phases. They can’t go from clean hair in one scene to bloody, dusty hair in the next. By breaking the schedule down, she could plan the middle phases.
“In the post, I’ve been doing our PR and submitting to all the film festivals and all kinds of stuff. But it was cool to work on a feature from the hairstylist position,” Gevargizian says. “Seeing the whole film and every other department from that perspective and to see how it goes down, I mean, I’ve never been in that place.”
Gevargizian wasted no time starting her next project after her Black Mold wrapped. Just a few weeks ago, she finished shooting for a movie that she is directing in Hagerstown, Maryland. The title hasn’t been released, but she teased that it is a “home invasion thriller meets a haunted house film.”
Michael Williams, who is a part of the cast of The Blair Witch Project, stars in her upcoming film, and director Eduardo Sánchez is producing the film, as well.
“Just being able to work with them was like a nerd, horror fan dream come true,” Gevargizian says.
Gevargizian pushes herself to put out movies that make you feel. This is part of the reason she gravitates toward scripts in the horror genre. They come at you “aggressively,” but you will walk out of the theater with an experience.
“[Horror movies] aren’t passive. They connect with you whether it’s scary or sad or disturbing,” she says. “I have a deep interest in understanding really dark things.”
Since she first started making movies and meeting her filmmaking family, Gevargizian wanted to bring more independent movies to Kansas City. As she gains more experience and begins working with bigger names, she is starting to see the fruits of her labor.
Gevargizian’s website has information on where to screen all of her movies, but if you want to see one in theaters, catch the world premiere of Black Mold at the 2023 KC Panic Fest on Saturday, April 15. In addition, the title and more information about her new film should be coming out in the next few months.