Interview: ‘Mohawk’ Director Ted Geoghegan And His Lethal Leading Lady Kaniehtiio Horn Talk About Teaming Up

Being a big fan of great films as well as the equally tasty turns within, the teaming of writer/director Ted Geoghegan and actress Kaniehtiio Horn is a big deal for yours truly.  The man behind the mind blowing haunted house opus We Are Still Here (which scored in my Top Ten Films of 2015!) and the gal who played one unforgettable needle-to-eye wielding serial killer in the standout segment Vision Stains via the anthology flick The Theatre Bizarre (a poignant performance that scored Horn a coveted spot on my Top Five Best Female Performances in 2011!) finally joining forces for a no-holds-barred thriller about a young tough female Mohawk warrior who is forced to fight American military renegades hell-bent on revenge – needless to say it’s a cinematic slam dunk.

And the result of their pitch perfect pairing now in select theaters, VOD and HD Digital from Dark Sky Films is called Mohawk, a bold and brutal tale steeped in real historical horror that features gripping work from the duo on both sides of the camera.  Since Mohawk marks the first time the twosome have collaborated together, it felt only right to get further insight into the flick from both the maverick director and his lead lady muse.  So what follows is some candid conversation from both Geoghegan and Horn who chat all about the film, the importance of authenticity in it and how a link via Vision Stains helmer Karim Hussain brought them together.  Nothing better than when two talented folks collide for a savory piece of cinema – please welcome…




First off Ted congrats on having films on my various year end Top Ten lists as both a filmmaker – for the amazing We Are Still Here in 2015 – and a publicist – for the haunting flick you repped last year titled The Transfiguration – you do indeed have a knack for surrounding yourself with five-star films…

Ted Geoghegan: Excellent – that is wonderful to hear! I just spent last weekend with Michael O’Shea the director of The Transfiguration.  Amazing dude. I actually had never met him in person, but we as well as some others were involved in a film forum in Amsterdam and I spent some time with Michael.  I’m very excited to see what he does next as well.

And Kaniehtiio that last time we talked you had won a coveted spot on my Top Five Best Female Performances in 2011 for your role in The Theatre Bizarre segment Vision Stains

Kaniehtiio Horn: Oh my god – that’s so long ago!

But still soo tasty!

KH: (Laughs) And then we got to work with them again on this one!

Ted, Mohawk is very different from your first film We Are Still Here – what made you want to make it your follow up film?

TG: I am definitely of the mindset that I was very blessed to have been given the opportunity to direct one film – the fact that I got to direct two is an utter miracle.  And I knew that while We Are Still Here is a love letter to the Euro-horror films that I grew up loving, I knew that the second film had to have more of a message.  Given everything that’s going on socially and politically in the US and I suppose around the world right now, I did feel as though there were more important stories to be told.  And the idea of being able to tell a story about marginalized people was something that was very important to me.  I knew that by taking the chance and making something so wildly different it might surprise a lot of people, but I suppose that’s the joy of filmmaking.

Kaniehtiio, how did the script come to you?

KH: I got an email from my agent saying that they had been contacted by Ted because when they brought Karim Hussain on to DP he said, ‘The only girl you need to get is Tiio Horn!’  So that’s how it came to me – which was nice of Karim.

TG: I said if we’re going to be telling a story as bold as Mohawk we need to ensure that these people are actually Native Americans.  And as the script wrapped up and we sent it to Karim to get his thoughts, he read it and said to me, ‘You know I worked with an actress who not only is Native American, but is Mohawk and I think she’d fit perfectly for this lead role.’  I was utterly thrilled at the happenstance and when he mentioned that it was Kaniehtiio who had starred in Vision Stains I was floored.  I had seen that segment and it was my favorite of all of The Theatre Bizarre and I thought her performance was phenomenal.  So I jumped at the opportunity and Karim was kind enough to put me in touch with her and we chatted it up.  Obviously her first reaction to this was, ‘You’ve written a film called Mohawk, yet you and your co-writer are white men of European descent.’  Fortunately for us she did respond very strongly to the script and she was very appreciative that we had in fact done our research.  And while there were some inconsistencies, she contacted me and said, ‘If you really want this film to be authentic, I’d love to sit down with you and explain to you situations, moments, lines in this film that are not Mohawk and how we can make them more authentic.’  And obviously the opportunity to work with someone who was Mohawk on a script like this was incredible and we took every single note she gave us and made sure it was included into the script.      

Kaniehtiio, what were some of your suggestions?

KH: I don’t remember exactly, but it was more like in some of the dialogue and situations the mind of an Indigenous person wouldn’t think that way and I think that’s what I was keeping an eye out for. But they were so awesome and open and willing to hear what I had to say – it was my job to keep an eye out for that stuff.

Had you seen Ted’s first film We Are Still Here?

KH: No I hadn’t.  I read the script for Mohawk and I talked to Karim and said, ‘I don’t know these guys – how are they?’  He was like – ‘good, good, do it, thumbs up!’  And then I remember when I agreed to do it Ted sent me a link to We Are Still Here and he was like ‘watch it really loud’.  And I put the speakers right next to my ears and watched his movie – it was cool!

With Mohawk not a typical one not genre outing being a revenge flick, dark historical drama and even at times a terror tale, how would you describe it Ted?

TG: A sad, angry thriller about a group of marginalized people being hunted down by men who do not realize that their outlook on life is going to put them on the wrong side of history.

With both of your films you get the most out most likely a modest film budget – what is your secret for making things look so damn good?

TG: I am blessed with a phenomenal producer in Travis Stevens who is absolutely incredible when it comes to getting every dollar up on the screen.  And an incomparable director of photography in Karim who I was fortunate to have shoot We Are Still Here and Mohawk – his visual style is unprecedented in the independent film scene.  The answer is I surround myself with extremely talented people.

Having worked with Karim in The Theatre Bizarre segment Vision Stains as a director Kaniehtiio, what was your reunion like with him on this film?

KH: It was super awesome – the best way I can describe it is it was like a dance.  Because he was also camera operator and it felt like sometimes when people were trying to figure out other things we would look at each other and be able to work so well with each other.

Barbara Crampton recently posted a wonderful message on Facebook about you Ted saying “One time I was having a difficult moment on set and @tedgeoghegan held my hand for a few minutes. That’s the kind of relationship I appreciated having with a director” about working with you on We Are Still Here.  What is your style and philosophy as a director and were you able to keep it the same shooting both your feature films?

TG: I am an actor’s director and I’m very open about that. I really like to spend as much time with my actors and help them get inside the heads of these characters.  On We Are Still Here it’s essentially a film about four people in a house with others coming and going, so I was actually able to spend a lot of time with those four actors and the results I’m very happy to say I think really shine through on the screen.  On Mohawk it’s an ensemble film where there’s ten people in the film and they are through the majority of the film.  It tested a new directorial style for me wherein I was put in situations where I didn’t have the amount of time we had on We Are Still Here, but I still wanted to land a strong human beat.  The first thing is ensuring that you have the right cast and I felt very blessed with Mohawk.  And when shooting, especially out in the middle of nowhere in these blazingly hot forests in the middle of the summer depending on their acting prowess, to really land these beats.  I didn’t hold any hands on Mohawk and the performances are across the board exactly what I wanted them to be.

After playing the eye needle loving serial killer in Vision Stains and warrior woman in Mohawk plus countless other lethal ladies would you say Kaniehtiio you have an affinity for playing characters who kick serious ass?

KH: (Laughs) I feel like it was a really safe place for me to be and hide for a long time to be playing roles like that.  A tough exterior, kicking ass and all that sh@t.  Now it’s sort of changing where I’m looking for the more vulnerable characters.  But I know what you mean. I still want to kick ass and everything, but I feel myself leaning towards the more sensitive older lady parts if that makes any sense.  (Laughs)  But I’m still gonna kick ass, okay, with ass kicking roles!

Ted – what’s next in terms of another film from you and also a tasty one being repped by you?

TG: (Laughs) Well right now I’m currently writing two screenplays that I’m not directing and they’re going to other folks.  And I have just finished the first draft of the screenplay that I would like to direct next.  I can say very little about it other than it is a return to traditional horror in so much that it deals with the supernatural and also a period piece – very excited to dig into that.  And in terms of films I’m repping I have absolutely no clue!  Not on any films right now, but when a few more hop onto my radar I’ll gleefully send out those press releases.

And you Kaniehtiio?

KH: I’m in this awesome web series that just launched on whohaha.com, Elizabeth Banks streaming site and it’s called Ghost BFF and I play the ghost.  It’s not gory (laughs), but I do play a ghost. I’m also launching a podcast called Coffee With My Mom – I’ve recorded and I’m in the final stages of being able to let it out in the world.  And I’m also a show in Canada called Letterkenny, a comedy.  And I did a pilot called Winter and you might like it because I kick ass in that one too! (Laughs)




I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

1 Response to “Interview: ‘Mohawk’ Director Ted Geoghegan And His Lethal Leading Lady Kaniehtiio Horn Talk About Teaming Up”

  1. Gerard Iribe

    Mohawk is on my list to see. I’ve heard nothing but great things!