Writer Eric Havens is still celebrating with “The Stylist” director Jill Gevargizian, the film’s crew and cast after “The Stylist” won the “Jury Prize” and “People’s Choice” Award at this year’s “Etheria Film Night”. A talented writer who has spent his summers in a dark library room watching classic films has taken those classic moments and has made his living writing for TV and film. Before getting back to work after the twisted tale of “The Stylist”, Eric took some time out and entered “The Night Market” to chat about the short film, influences and inspirations of cast and crew as well as the fun of writing horror! Hey Eric, thank you for taking the time to journey into “The Night Market” here on “Tom Holland’s Terror Time”. Congrats again the success!

Etheria Film Night The Stylist

Terror Time/ Jay Kay: Talk about the growth and challenge in your writing from “Call Girl” to “The Stylist”? How did Jill Gevargizian take this material to such an incredible level? What has/is that partnership like with you, her and the crew for both short films?

Eric Havens: Well, “Call Girl” originated as a challenge from a filmmaker friend who asked me to write a working short script that couldn’t be longer than one page. So the first draft was just that, a one-page script that took place in one room that my friend could film quickly. Obviously, that fell through and the script just ended up sitting in my archives for a year or so. I went back to it on a whim rewrote it to add character and story elements and ended up making it an epic six- pages. The plan was then for me to direct it and Jill was going to help me produce it. That’s when a crazy thing become evident to me; I am not a director. The whole process gave me anxiety and self-doubt. And that was within a week or so of pre-production. I talked to Jill and asked her if she’d want to direct it. And here we are.

That’s when I really appreciated what Jill brings to filmmaking, and when I really knew I was correct when I decided I wasn’t a director. Jill, both with “Call Girl” and “The Stylist”, brings a level of coordination, passion and artistry that quite simply blows my mind. So when the conversations about “The Stylist” started, which began as an idea and outline from Jill, I knew that this was a project I could believe in and trust. Jill has a vision, that is for sure.

So, in short, I guess what made “The Stylist” truly different from “Call Girl” was that it started as a more complex project than a filmmaking challenge and it also started with a real sense of trust on my part. I’ve seen firsthand what Jill can do so working with her on “The Stylist” was the epitome of a no brainer.

Jill Sixx

TT: What moment or section of “The Stylist” best reflects what you created? Post production perhaps is the most crucial phase in the vicious cycle, what did John Pata’s eye bring to the editing process to fully form your words & Jill’s vision? What does a good editor bring to the project?

EH: That’s a hard question to answer, because a film innately changes so much from page to screen. I can see pieces of what I envisioned as I was writing throughout the running time of “The Stylist”, but I also see the input of the entire cast and crew. For me, Najarra and John specifically brought a tangible energy and pacing that created layers to my script that I could have never hoped for. To answer your question, though, I think John brought a real underappreciated sense of pacing and place in the film. I always kind of saw the film process as this: The script creates a picture. When the script is filmed it is deconstructed into specific pieces and sequences. That’s when it becomes a puzzle. Without a good editor, those puzzle pieces might never fit back together; which makes the whole thing feel awkward and forced. I think John put together a damn fine puzzle here.

TT: Talk about being a part of the crew that won the “Etheria Film Night’s” “Jury Prize” and the “People’s Choice”? What was the weekend like and how does that fuel you to the next project?

EH: I think the word that captures it all is probably surreal. The weekend itself was great for the simple reason I got to hang out with so many people from “The Stylist” for the first time since we filmed. So spending a few days with Jill, John, Sarah, Najarra, Robert, and everyone else was great on its own. Then you throw in that we not only were featured among some amazing short films, but we won both the jury and the audience award? I mean, I’m sitting here a week or so later and I’m not sure I know how to process that even now. Surreal, incredible, humbling, thankful, all those things. As for fuel, I think it gives me just that. Filmmaking and writing is a long and grueling process, so to finally have a night like that; well that just makes you want to keep going…and to hug everyone.

TT: What film and/or writing influenced you on “The Stylist”? What made actress Najarra Townsend fit the pivotal role?

EH: I’m actually the odd duck who goes out of his way to avoid any inspiration or influences when I start a project. I know a lot of people do research and go back and see how great filmmakers or writers have approached similar ideas in the past, but I just can’t work that way. I kind of go thematically off the grid when I start a project. I probably don’t have the healthiest approach.

As for Najarra, that was all Jill’s work and another example of how good Jill is at this. I knew of Najarra through her work on “Contracted” so I knew she had the range to play Claire, but it was Jill who had the idea to have her read for it. I can’t emphasize how much of a good decision that was. Looking at the finished film now, I have a hard time imagining anyone else tackling that role. Najarra is just plain amazing.

TT: What makes horror so much fun to write and transition to the screen? Does the aspect of a very limited budget and chances to capture each scene help or hinder the screenplay and its transition?

EH: Horror is great to me because it’s a pretty malleable genre. You can tackle nearly any theme or idea on the skeleton of the horror genre. You can make a horror-comedy, a horror- drama, or a horror romance. It can facilitate most, if not all, human ideas capable of being made into a story. It also allows a writer to not only acknowledge the darker, morose part of life, but to revel in it a bit. And that’s a lot of fun. I sound weird now right?

As for the budget stuff, I think most fantastic films come out of struggle. I mean, we all know Jaws is so great because Bruce wouldn’t work. I think the combination of communal input and the struggle against real-life logistical challenges are what make films so great. That’s all easy for me to say, though. I’m a writer. I just come up with words and then eat at the craft services table on set.

For me, I would say the climax in front of the mirror was the most difficult aspect to capture fully on the pages. It was saturated with emotion and the presentation is a wild horse that may not be tamed! What was the most difficult section of the writing to capture for you That’s a great question. The ending of “The Stylist” was something Jill and I kept coming back to. I don’t think we had the version you see up on screen until a week or so before production. The idea never changed but we kept tinkering with the tone, going from something a little more playful to something a bit darker. We settled in on something in the middle, and on something we both felt was the truest to the character. While it’s more muted than some of the versions, it feels like the response Claire would have.

As for being on set, that was a very intense night. I actually avoided set for the first few takes because I didn’t know if I could handle it. Jill finally convinced me to come down and watch and I’m glad she did. I got to see Najarra bring so much truth and emotion to that ending. And I got to see it happen in front of me. It is something I am so glad I got to experience and share with everyone on set. And, for the record, Najarra had to do that scene multiple times and she never lost the emotional power of the action. She’s a marvel to watch.

The Stylist Crew

TT: How has the love and support been from your peers, fans and other professionals? How much does it impact you personally and professionally?

EH: I’m going to use the same adjectives I used earlier. Surreal, incredible, humbling. Everyone has been incredibly supportive and great. Not to sound too self-hating and/or pitying but it’s hard to write, or to create anything really, because it is the process of just putting yourself out there, scars and all, in front of everyone. For people to be so embracing and warm, well that is what I call a pretty great thing. I can’t even express the gratitude I have for everyone who’s ever taken the time to check out anything I’ve written, let alone give me positive feedback on it. Great, now I feel like hugging people again.

TT: Where can we find out more and what is next?

EH: I have one book published that is available on Amazon, ‘A Message of Hope From the Terminally Depressed’, and I just finished writing a second book in real-time. That means I wrote a chapter a day and released it to the public with no edits. That can be found over on my site, www.erichavens.com. There will also be an edited and rewritten version of that book out very soon. I have several other film projects in various stages of production happening that I probably shouldn’t mention by name here. I guess people could also follow me on the social medias.

I think all of them share my incredibly creative handle of @erichavens.

Terror Time / Jay Kay: Thank you so much for taking the time!

Eric Havens: Thank you! And I mean that, I don’t use exclamation points lightly.

You can follow Jay @HorrorHappensRS

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