This weekend marks the release of writer/director Ted Geoghegan’s third feature Brooklyn 45, now streaming on Shudder after a successful festival run earlier this year. Set in a single room over the course of one bitter cold night between Christmas and New Years Eve in 1945, a small group of war buddies get together to support an old friend…and commune with the dead in an impromptu seance. Naturally, the night does not go as planned. Secrets are revealed, morals are tested, and the group is visited by a ghost or two.
We sat down ahead of the release of Brooklyn 45 to talk with Ted Geoghegan about the process of fleshing out his military-focused story with his father (a retired U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant), why he enjoys working in specific periods of time, and what lessons modern American can learn from Post-WWII America.
“I, like most genre film fans, adore practical effects and want to do as much of my effects in-camera as humanly possible.”
NOFS:Your movies are always set in very specific periods of time. What is it about period pieces that attract you?
Ted Geoghegan: I’m not a very big fan of the present, so any opportunity I have to escape it, I’m going to take. I’m also not the biggest fan of modern cinema, so making films set in different eras affords me the ability to play with bygone tropes – like the melodrama in WE ARE STILL HERE or the stage-like setting of BROOKLYN 45. The main thing for me is that I want to keep fresh, and by skipping through time, I feel like it gives me an opportunity to continually tinker with new ideas.
NOFS: When you’re sitting down to write a new screenplay, is the era something you already have in mind, or does that come naturally as the story progresses?
Geoghegan: I typically come up with a loose idea of what I’d like the film’s core concept to be, and then pick an era that I think would work best with it. For BROOKLYN 45, I knew I wanted to do a real-time seance, and as I dug through eras in U.S. history, I found myself drawn back, time and time again, to the early post-war era… after Hitler was dead, but before everyone moved out to the suburbs and settled into the Leave It To Beaver life. It was an untapped time that we don’t see much of in art, and I thought that the metaphoric ghosts that people carry with them after a war was perfect for the concept.
NOFS: I was surprised to learn that you had written the screenplay with your father. How did that decision come about?
Geoghegan: I didn’t actually write the film with my father. I had written the first act of the movie and was a little stumped on what to do next, so I asked if he would read it and give me any input. As a retired U.S. Air Force Staff Sergeant with a Masters Degree in 20th Century U.S. History, I figured he would be the perfect one to assist me. He continually told me that he “wasn’t creative”, but offered up a ton of historic notes and details on the military that I never would have known. They really helped develop all of the characters and bring the whole project to life.
NOFS: Was it weird to work on something creative with your dad? What was the biggest surprise that came from the two of you working together?
Geoghegan: It actually wasn’t weird at all. We had a great time tossing the script back and forth, and he got really excited about seeing his notes implemented into the story. After finishing the script in early 2019, my dad called me to say how excited he was to watch the film one day. We hung up the phone and he died. It was the last time I ever spoke to him. I suppose the biggest surprise was how personal the film became in that moment – and how desperately I wanted to get it right. I’ll only ever have one opportunity to make a film with my dad, and I’ll be damned if I’m not going to be proud of it.
“I’m not a very big fan of the present, so any opportunity I have to escape it, I’m going to take.“
NOFS: You’ve got a great cast that really embodies their characters. Was the casting process difficult or were a lot of the roles written with those actors in mind?
Geoghegan: I’d written the role of Clive with Larry Fessenden in mind. He’s a close friend and mentor, and we had a great time working together on WE ARE STILL HERE eight years ago. I’d seen Jeremy Holm in THE RANGER and was excited to work with him, and had worked with Ezra Buzzington previously on MOHAWK. I was a fan of Anne Ramsay from her work in A LEAGUE OF THEIR OWN and, more recently, THE TAKING OF DEBORAH LOGAN, and was a big fan of Ron E. Rains from his videos at The Onion, where he would play their gruff film critic, Peter Rosenthal. And I’ve been friends with Kristina Klebe for nearly twenty years and we’d always wanted to work together, so it made perfect sense to have her as a part of the project, given that she’s German-American and would be able to bring a lot of her own story to the character she was playing.
NOFS: The story evolves as the night progresses but the whole affair really hinges on a seance early in the film. Was that a stressful sequence to get right?
Geoghegan: Every sequence in the film was stressful to get right, but the seance was actually one of the easier sequences. We’d blocked it out in great detail and were lucky enough to have two cameras on that day, so we were able to get all of the coverage we needed to make it all land with strength. It also didn’t hurt that we’d prepped the ghost effects well in advance, so we knew exactly how we were going to practically pull them off.
NOFS: Brooklyn 45 does find time to get a little gory but some of my favorite special effects felt right out of mid-40s filmmaking. Tell me a little bit about your approach to special effects.
Geoghegan: I, like most genre film fans, adore practical effects and want to do as much of my effects in-camera as humanly possible. We shot the ghost sequences practically, and drilled a hole into the table in order for the very real arm to emerge from it. I felt like doing it via VFX would cheapen the moment and pull audiences out of the era. While there are some digital tweaks here and there, the end goal was to make the supernatural elements feel like classic glass plate transparency effects, like you might see in everything from 1937’s TOPPER to 1984’s GHOSTBUSTERS.
NOFS: What do you think is the biggest lesson modern America can learn from post-WWII America?
Geoghegan: The hate that is dredged up in war lingers for a very long time. We are still, to this day, seeing the fallout of World War II. If we are ever to move on as a species, we have to find ways to let that hate go. Forgiveness and love can go a long way.
“…the end goal was to make the supernatural elements feel like classic glass plate transparency effects, like you might see in everything from 1937’s TOPPER to 1984’s GHOSTBUSTERS.”