Name: Ted Geoghegan
Birth Place: Beaverton, Oregon
Notable films: We Are Still Here (2015), Mohawk (2017)
How did you get into filmmaking?
Ted Geoghegan: In college, I was writing a never-to-be-published book on lesser-known horror filmmakers. One of them, Andreas Schnaas (based in Hamburg, Germany), was an early adopter of the internet and had set up a website, which I emailed. To my surprise, Andy wrote back and we very quickly became friends. A year later, in 2000, he asked if I would be interested in co-writing a script for his first English-language film, and I jumped at the opportunity.
Because this was pre-digital revolution, I managed to have an IMDb page with a legitimate credit on it before the rest of the world, and I hustled to get other gigs based on the fact that I was a produced screenwriter. All of those screenwriting gigs eventually transformed into producing gigs, which – over a decade later – led me to directing. My directorial debut feature, We Are Still Here, debuted in 2015.
As a horror creator, what is it about horror that attracts you?
TG: As a child, I was terrified by any even remotely frightening entertainment. I still remember, quite vividly, sobbing uncontrollably in my family’s living room while watching the 1985 TV special “Garfield’s Halloween Adventure”.
By high school, that fear had only gotten stronger, but my best friend, who loved horror, was determined to get me into it. Promising that “the film has Corey Feldman in it”, he convinced me to watch Joseph Zito’s Friday the 13th: The Final Chapter. He would pause the movie before every kill, giving me fair warning about what was about to happen and by the time the end credits rolled, I was hooked. I felt high on the excitement, fear, and exhilaration – like I’d gotten off a roller coaster in my basement rec room.
As the desire to create crept up no me, I knew I wanted to replicate that feeling. There are enough terrible things in the world these days…I love being able to give people a couple hours of safe scares, and an escape from reality.
What films (queer or not) have made a significant impact on you and your work? In what way?
TG: After being exposed to the Friday films, I fell head-over-heels in love with slashers, although I was never picky about what I was renting. I’m regularly floored by people “discovering” films like Demon Wind or Society in 2019, as I must have watched every single horror VHS tape in my local video store 100 times.
While camp entertainment is openly and lovingly embraced by the queer community, I never found myself overtly drawn to campy horror. I now see – and monumentally respect – the queerness of Clive Barker’s films and the wildly-ahead-of-its-time subtext in Freddy’s Revenge, but I can’t claim that they made any more of an impact on me than other horror film(s) that I consumed in my youth.
70s and 80s Euro horror influenced We Are Still Here and my sophomore directorial effort, Mohawk, was inspired by [John] Boorman, home invasion thrillers, and Antonia Bird’s very queer Ravenous, but I would consider my work more homages to the films and people more than anything.
The bottom line is that I’m a genre fan, through and through. I’m sure, on some level, everything that I’ve consumed, from my youth to today, has weaselled its way into my art.
As a film publicist and a filmmaker, you’re seeing a couple of different sides of the industry. How progressive or welcoming is it for queer creators right now?
TG: I feel very fortunate to work in an industry that not only openly embraces queer creators, but runs on them. Working around the diverse people involved in this community has helped me far better understand and accept my own self and my identity.
In particular, I am very lucky to work in horror, as it is a genre that has, classically, been made by and for outsiders. Horror creators and fans – most of whom have spent the better part of their lives explaining to their friends and loved ones why they love the strange things that they love – have an open-mindedness that really does put all others to task.
You talked very openly about your decision to include polyamory in Mohawk when it was playing the festival circuit. Do you feel like your sexuality informs your filmmaking?
TG: Polyamory was included in Mohawk for a variety of reasons. First, it’s historically accurate. During the era in which the film was set, it was societally acceptable for Mohawk people – women, in particular – to have numerous partners. Second, I’ve always prided myself on showing cross-sections of humanity that film-goers may not always have the opportunity to see, so having a healthy, happy polyamorous triad as my leads seemed like a no-brainer. There was never an agenda, but rather, an opportunity.
I can’t say if my sexuality informs my filmmaking, but I truly believe that the more people are casually exposed to lifestyles different than their own – and the more often traditional concepts, born out of religious indoctrination, are questioned – the more accepted and normalized “different” lifestyles will become.
Do you subscribe to queer readings of your films?
TG: I subscribe to any readings of my films that people care to make. I create art that purposely doesn’t offer answers. Engaging with critics and fans is one of the greatest parts about being a storyteller.
Following up that thread, have you interacted with many queer horror fans of your work? What has that experience been like?
TG: I have interacted with many queer horror fans, and have bonded with all of them. I’m always moved to hear about their lives, and what made them fans of not just my work, but the horror genre in general.
I know you balance filmmaking with your job as a film publicist, but as a result it feels like forever in between films. When can we expect a new film from you?
TG: I sincerely hope that you’ll be seeing a new film from me in 2020.
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