Featured image: Najarra Townsend as Claire in The Stylist. (Courtesy of Justin Cook PR.)
In The Stylist, Najarra Townsend plays Claire, a lonely hairdresser who loves her clients as they confide in her with their secrets. She has a number of kills under her belt as a hairdresser, but when she becomes more obsessed with one of her clients, Olivia (Brea Grant), who asks her to be her stylist for her wedding, she begins on a more aggressive, murderous rampage.
Blending character study with slasher, Jill Gevargizian’s The Stylist paints an intriguing portrait of loneliness and obsession, as it definitely has more gore than your average stalker story, making it feel more like a slasher. It all leads up to a thrilling ending, as it’s still interesting learning what will happen to Claire by the end of the film because of Townsend’s layered performance as the character.
I was able to chat with the film’s writer, director and producer Jill Gevargizian through e-mail about her film, in time for the film’s Blu-Ray release today, June 8, through Arrow Video. Read on below:
Daniel Prinn, Filmcraziest.com: Those scenes where Claire actually kills are pretty brutal. Did Najarra Townsend enjoy doing those scenes?
Jill Gevargizian: I think so! But I also know they are the most stressful to shoot. From all angles, for everyone! All of our special effects are practical, which means it’s a gamble every time. We never know if it’ll happen how we hope, or if it’ll be better, or much worse. And on a film our size, we hope to get it on the first try, or we lose half a day redoing it.
DP, Filmcraziest.com: As well, is the ripping sound as creepy on set or was that mostly done in post-production?
Jill Gevargizian: All of the sounds that happen during the kills were completely done in post-production. We worked with an incredible sound team in Chicago called NoiseFloor. Using all kinds of interesting and funny things; like digging fingers into melons, and Velcro ripping!
DP, Filmcraziest.com: I loved the production design and set design here – what was it like creating Claire’s lair with all those fun props and wigs?
Jill Gevargizian: That is my favorite set. Our production designer, Sarah Sharp, also worked on the short film version of The Stylist. So she built the original lair 5 years ago and has since been collecting items for the day we finally got to make the feature film! We both saw eye-to-eye on the feeling we wanted to create in her lair. This film is about Claire, it’s her story, and this is her safe place. We wanted it to be warm and beautiful and completely surround her like a nest, while also still disturbing.
DP, Filmcraziest.com: Those scenes with the montages of Claire doing her client’s hair… What was it like creating those montages visually? There’s such an elegance to them and they’re so memorable.
Jill Gevargizian: Thank you! It’s also something that we brought back from the short film, but we did so much more of it. It was part of this rule we created for the film called “Claire Trance.” We had rules that applied to the camera work, the editing, the music for these moments — moments when Claire got lost in her head, often admiring hair.
A fun tidbit is that those montages are mostly extreme close-up shots of hair washing, blow drying, curling, pinning, etc. While Najarra practiced hair for months leading up to the shoot, as a hairstylist myself, I wanted that stuff to look like second nature, like she’s been doing it for 15 years plus. So in all those close up shots it’s actually our production designer Sarah Sharp’s hands, who is also a licensed cosmetologist!
DP, Filmcraziest.com: I love that… Also, with you being a hairdresser, I’d love to hear about your research. Did you mostly research depicting hairstyling or were there other aspects of research you were more focused on?
Jill Gevargizian: I’ve been a hairstylist for almost 20 years — that was my research, outside of that I didn’t do any. That was why I was inspired to make a film about a hairstylist in the first place, it is something I know personally and deeply.
DP, Filmcraziest.com: Now, this film is based off your short film of the same name from 2016. What was it like turning that into a feature-length project, and what’s it been like for you and Najarra workshopping Claire over all this time to really explore Claire and for Najarra to get into that mindset?
Jill Gevargizian: It’s been great to have so much time with Najarra to build Claire into such a deeply layered character who we both care for very much. Between her and I we created a background for Claire, and specific memories from her past. Najarra also journaled as Claire leading up to the shoot, and while we were shooting. Najarra knows Claire so well, loves her as much as I do, and I trust her so much. I would turn to her frequently on set and ask her how or if Claire would do a certain thing and she would always have the right answer. It was such a special and comforting thing.
DP, Filmcraziest.com: Last one here. What’s it like for you being on a subscription service like Arrow Video and having that platform?
Jill Gevargizian: Honestly, it’s so surreal. Hard to grasp. Is this really happening? HAHA! But really… It’s a flipping dream come true. I feel spoiled to death. ARROW cares about the film’s vision like we do. I appreciate that more than there are words because this is incredibly personal to me. They treated us like part of their team and I just hope I can work with them more in the future.
The Stylist is now available on Blu-Ray through Arrow Video and is also streaming on their subscription service.