Photo Credit: Joel Chamaa

Get used to hearing the name Goran Stolevski, because the filmmaker is quickly proving himself to be one of the most exciting, versatile auteurs working today.

Born in Macedonia and raised in Australia, the writer-director cut his teeth on short films before making his bold feature debut You Won’t Be Alone, a bewitching folk horror that doubles as a subtle, thoughtful trans allegory.

After that, his follow-up—the sweet and somber gay romance Of An Age—felt like a complete 180, but was no less assured and showed us he could break our hearts just as well as he could scare the sh*t out of us.

And now comes Housekeeping For Beginners (his third film in as many years), an achingly human drama about found family. The story of a woman left to raise her girlfriend’s young daughters—with some help from her gay BFF and his latest boy-toy—and forced to fight for their right story stay together, the film is both intimate in its scope and universal in its appeal.

But why stop there? As Stolevski reveals to Queerty, he’s got big plans for the road ahead, including a sci-fi, a historical mystery, and a political satire. The may all sound unique and completely different from the last, but given his track record thus far, there’s no doubt each will be worth checking out.

After Housekeeping For Beginners made its premiere at the Venice Film Festival last fall (where it won the Queer Lion award), the triumphant feature finally arrives in U.S. theaters this weekend. In celebration of its release, Queerty invited Stolevski to the hot seat for our rapid-fire Q&A series, Dishin’ It. In our conversation, the director opens up about the real people who inspired his latest film, the TV series that convinced him he needed “to start having sex with men,” and the queer comedians he can’t get enough of.

Is there a piece of media—whether a movie, TV series, book, album, theater, video game, etc…—that you consider a big part of your own coming-out journey, or that has played an important role in your understanding of queerness? Why does it stand out to you?

Back at the start of the century I remember very consciously growing comfortable with gayness through watching the first season of Six Feet Under, and along the way realizing two technically unrelated but—on a personal level—equally vital things: 1. the world will just never sufficiently appreciate the goddess that is Frances Conroy, and 2. I need to start having sex with men.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Your latest film, Housekeeping For Beginners, is this lovely and authentically chaotic portrait of a family. Can you tell us where the earliest idea for this film came from? Are you drawing inspiration from your own life in any way?

I was very much trying to escape my life when the idea came. I was working a dead end job (literally interpreting at colonoscopies on the outskirts of Melbourne) and numbing my brain on Facebook (it was a different time…) when I came across a photograph a friend of mine posted—veteran Aussie filmmaker, Tony Ayres.

He posted a photo from Melbourne in the late ’70s when he was living with his boyfriend and eight gay women in one chaotic and fun-looking house. I liked that sense of living this kind of unapologetically queer life in a cocoon-like space in a time and a place where that didn’t make it easy to find that. I thought that would be a great story-world to get lost in. I updated it to the present day and shifted it to my native country of Macedonia—not out of any sense of patriotism but because in its culture and socio-economic make-up Macedonia is actually quite similar to a hell of a lot of countries whose queers rarely get to see stories about themselves.

Goran Stolevski on the set of ‘Housekeeping For Beginners’ | Photo Credit: Viktor Irvin Ivanov / Focus Features

The central “found family” here is a charming mix of eclectic—and at times opposing—personalities, which we imagine was similar to the vibe with all of these actors together on set. Do you have a favorite funniest/most surprising day, scene, or memory from filming with everyone that you can share?

Oh every day that involved our five-year-old diva, Dzada Selim, was a surprise. Which is to say, almost every day.

In real life she’s a bit like if you imagine a super-jaded tri-lingual Bette Davis in the body of a five-year-old Roma girl in Skopje. People keep asking me “how did you get this performance out of a child—how did you direct her?” As if anyone gets to direct Dzada. She directs herself, thank you very much! And frankly one should consider themselves lucky to have her on set in the first place (she’ll give you five minutes at a time, maximum). 

She agreed to deliver about half of the dialogue I wrote for her, she went ahead and improved the other half, and then on top of that she improvised a hell of a lot herself—literally commentating on the proceedings in each scene, sometimes even critiquing her fellow actors in real time. Honestly we were all essentially petrified of her. But also we had a ball. And it’s the casting decision I’m proudest of.

Goran Stolevski on the set of ‘Housekeeping For Beginners’ | Photo Credit: Viktor Irvin Ivanov / Focus Features

The film opens with a really wonderful at-home karaoke scene. Do you have a go-to karaoke song—and what makes it such a good one to sing? (And if you’re not into karaoke, what’s a song you can always rely on to put you in a good mood and why?)

In real life I’m a surly bookish hermit who rarely leaves his apartment—and when forced to, I just lurk in the shadowy corners of gatherings, usually seeking out any fellow churlish hermits who’ve also been dragged out by well-meaning friends or spouses. 

Which is to say, karaoke makes me run for the hills. But I do love making people sing and dance in my films. On that note: in between shooting and editing this film, I’ve now listened to that song from the opening scene—”Muskarcina” by Sara Jo—upwards of 200 times.. .And yet I still play it regularly! Because it’s just that good.

Not to oversimplify things, but your debut feature, You Won’t Be Alone, is a sort of folk horror movie, your follow-up Of An Age is a romance, and now you’ve got this family drama Housekeeping For Beginners. Are there other genres of film you might be curious to explore next? 

I’ve just finished writing something that’s technically set in the future, I also have a script that investigates a strange case involving two gay men in the 1940s from a present-day perspective, and one where a messy American woman accidentally undoes the governments in three separate countries. So technically you could say I have a sci-fi, a historical mystery, and a political satire in my slate. All of them are very character and relationship-based. I love them all like they’re my children. I have no real preference, I have to make all of them as soon as possible or I won’t be able to breathe. Let’s see which one gets financing first.

Where’s one of the first places/spaces you can remember that made you feel a part of a queer community?

To be honest I’m not sure I’ve ever felt a part of any community, be it queer or otherwise. I’m usually not great in big groups but I often form really intense connections really fast with queer people on an individual basis. Not necessarily men (if anything I’m a lesbian on the inside). I find that two queer people have the capacity for a particular deep-soul kind of connection that two straight people could only ever dream of experiencing.

What’s been one of your favorite films you’ve seen of late and why?

I’ll have to be a cliche: I really loved Past Lives. Few films ever live up to the kind of hype that film got, so it’s just a double miracle really. I so rarely see believable or complex or deeply passionate or authentic depictions of a migrant’s experience in movies—so many well-meaning “migrant” stories are just Sundance Lab’d to death—and the writer-director Celine Song not only avoided all of the usual pitfalls but really delivered something so potent and layered and real. And with three utterly perfect performances to boot.

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Who is a queer or trans artist/performer/creator that you think is doing really cool work right now? Why are they someone we should all be paying attention to?

Most of my favourite artists in the world are actually queer comedians. Some, like Bowen Yang, Ayo Edebiri, Hannah Gadsby and Jerrod Carmichael, are thankfully getting plenty of attention. Others, like Jaboukie Young-White and Josh Thomas, are at least very well known but deserve way more because they’re geniuses. And I don’t know why Louis Virtel and Julio Torres aren’t household names by now.

Housekeeping For Beginners is now playing in select theaters.

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