Family hunting tradition inspires filmmaker Kieran Mahoney's Antlers

The stuffed pheasants and mounted fish in Kieran Mahoney’s thesis film project for the prestigious School of Visual Arts (SVA) in New York City are not props. They are family heirlooms.

Mahoney, a 23-year-old Oklahoma City native, came up with the idea for her 18-minute short film Antlers while she was a 15-year-old student at Classen School of Advanced Studies. In May, she watched her film, shot in Guthrie and Kingfisher, at its SVA Dusty Film & Animation Festival debut.

Antlers makes its Oklahoma City premiere at a private screening 7 p.m. June 30 at The Paramount Theatre OKC, 11 N. Lee Ave.

Though she now lives in the nation’s largest concrete jungle, Mahoney said her family’s (and especially her grandfather’s) bond with the outdoors made a significant impact on her.

“This story was really influenced by everyone in my family,” she said. “Whether male or female, whether they like it or not, everyone got taken to go hunting except me. Hearing it from my mom and my uncles and my aunt about their first time going with my grandpa and how they either loved it and are still doing it or they hated it and never went again.”

Antlers is the tale of experienced hunter Ford Blackwell (portrayed by actor Ross Riley) taking his son out on his first hunt. The catch? The man has hunted animals all his life. Looking for a change of pace, he takes up ghost hunting with the idea that the two are basically the same.

Soon, a reality show crew joins them. The father thinks they’re showcasing his ghost hunting talents, but the filmmakers have less sincere motives.

The dark comedy/mockumentary begins with the gruff, Southern father showing off his taxidermy. Mahoney collected most of the pieces from her family.

The Dusty Film & Animation Festival is essentially the grand finale for graduating SVA film students, where they showcase their best works. The event screening was the official premiere for Antlers.

Though SVA is based in New York, it is not unusual for students like Mahoney to film outside of their immediate surroundings. In addition to Oklahoma, student projects were shot in Kenya, Sweden and Trinidad.

Mahoney remembers seeing a movie in last year’s festival that was shot in Tulsa. Though she always wanted to shoot her project in Oklahoma, seeing someone else pull off a shoot in her home state confirmed her confidence that she could do the same.

“Okies have kind of this welcoming vibe, and when I was writing it, I was like, ‘There’s no way this can’t happen in the Midwest,’” she said. “In New York, you can’t find anything like this. I knew it was going to be kind of a journey both with finances and with organizing, but it was still worth it in the end because it ended up being the perfect place to shoot it.”

Mahoney moved to New York after graduating high school. Such a location change can be a big step up for some, but luckily, she already had connections in the city.

“I just jumped into it,” she said. “My sister had already lived here for a couple of years, so she showed me the ropes.”

She might now call the Big Apple home, but Oklahoma, its people and her family are indelible influences on her art and spirit.

“My heart will always belong there just because New York is so common,” she said. “People kind of know what happens here, but when I moved here, some people didn’t even know [Oklahoma] was a state. I definitely feel more influenced with my writing from family and from Oklahoma.”

For more information about the screening, contact Mahoney at [email protected].

Print headline: Buck shot, Kieran Mahoney’s Antlers draws inspiration from family hunting tradition.

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