Tasmanian-born filmmaker Damien Power has always loved films since childhood. Determined to bring something fresh and new, Power succeeds with his feature film directorial debut, the survival thriller Killing Ground, coming to theaters from IFC Midnight on July 21.
World Film Geek took the opportunity to talk with Power about the film.
Thank you, Damien, for taking the time to talk about Killing Ground. This was truly a film I didn’t expect and really enjoyed it.
Well, thank you. I really appreciate it.
Before we get into the film, can you tell me how you got into filmmaking?
Yeah, I was always interested in films. I grew up in Launceston, Tasmania. It’s a pretty small town, about sixty thousand people, and one cinema. I would go to the movies a lot and as a teenager, I joined the film society there with my grandfather. And this was the mid to late 80’s, so we were watching a lot of early Jim Jarmusch and Spike Lee; American indies and classic cinema. But, film seems like other people made it somewhere else. It’s impossible.
When I eventually got to Sydney, I got with people who were into making films. I took a couple of community college courses, short courses in filmmaking. I had a separate interest in writing, but I felt I wasn’t really happy with what I wrote. But, when I discovered script writing, the screenplay format was actually pretty liberating. You know, you didn’t have to write a perfect sentence. You just had to write a really good action line, or a group piece of dialogue. So, I kind of put those two things together and because I was interested in directing a point of view, and I can see the story in my head, it just seemed to me the right thing to do. To direct the things I was writing.
Yeah, so I made some short films and went to film school. Went to the Australian Film, Television, and Radio School in Sydney to study directing for two years. Then after that, it was about trying to get a longer form, which I’ve done.
Great! So let’s get into Killing Ground. How did you come up with the idea for the film?
The idea came from an image and it is the image of the orange tent in the bush that came to me. And I thought to myself, “What happened to the campers who were there? Where are they?” And that suggested the antagonist. And then it was “Who found that tent? What is their story?” And so, piece by piece, these characters came to me. I set out to write the kind of film that I like to watch, and that was a smart, intense, survival thriller.
It probably invested a lot of time because I was camping and you’re kind of in the middle of nowhere. You just feel that sense of isolation.
Did you have influences in writing the film because one thing I really loved is that the film crosscuts between two different time periods that meshed quite well?
Yeah, I mean in film terms, I went back to those classic character-driven films from the 70’s such as Straw Dogs and Deliverance. From the beginning, it was my intention to do it in a non-linear way. Mainly because most of these type of films are linear. And you gotta try to bring something new. So, when I was thinking about that, I was looking at films that sort of had that structure. Films like Reservoir Dogs for example, ones that cut backwards and forwards in time and runs circles around an event that we’ve never seen.
What was it like working with the cast as they brought out such powerful performances in the film?
They were great. So we were funded without the cast attached, which was great. Probably never happen again [laughs]. So, I was kind of afraid to pick the best actors for the roles. So, I feel blessed to have the cast we had because they came in 110% committed to what was a pretty tough shoot, and a pretty tough subject.
Speaking of tough shoots, what difficulties did you endure when shooting the film?
How long have you got [laughs]? Well, the biggest problem was weather. The entire film was practically outdoors and shot in the driest months of the year. And yet we were hammered by rain. So, we probably lost about three shooting days. And then have to schedule an extra two days. And anything that costs you time can kill you. So, I think that was probably the biggest difficulty.
This was your feature film directorial debut. Do you have any plans to make more feature films down the road?
Oh yeah! I’m just getting started [laughs]. I mean, this one took eleven years from the time I came up with the idea to when I actually walked on the set. I was always working 9-5 jobs outside of the industry including when I made the film. And the only benefit for taking a long time to make a film is that I’ve always been writing another project. I’m always trying to advance stuff.
So, I have different projects in different stages of development. I think one of those is a thriller based on my short film Peekaboo. Have you seen it yet?
I have heard of it, but have not seen it yet.
That’s okay, I think you can find it online. It’s an abduction thriller.
So you plan to expand that into a feature film?
Yeah, that’s one of the projects I am currently working on but they are all in that thriller space.
That’s great! So, Killing Ground comes to theaters and VOD on July 21. I think anyone who loves camping survival thrillers and those who want something fresh and exciting should check this out. Thank you again Damien for taking the time to talk about the film.
Thank you so much! Keep in touch!
A special Thank You goes to Katrina Wan PR and Damien Power for making this interview possible. For more on Damien and his projects, go to his official Twitter page.