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Damien Power talks w/411 About His New Film Killing Ground

July 18, 2017 | Posted by Bryan Kristopowitz

The 411 Interview: Damien Power

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Damien Power is an award winning Australian writer/director who has been making movies since 2011 with the short film Peekaboo as his first listed credit on imdb. Power’s latest movie, Killing Ground, is his first feature length effort and is set to be released on July 21st in select theaters and on Video On Demand via IFC Midnight. Killing Ground had its world premiere at the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2016 and had its international premiere at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. In this interview, Power discusses making Killing Ground, how it was made, and more.

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Bryan Kristopowitz: Why did you want Killing Ground to be your first feature film as a director? How did it happen?

Damien Power: I was developing a couple of scripts that I thought could be my first feature. But Killing Ground was always at the head of that pack. It was a story that gripped me and never let go. It was also something that could be made on a low budget (small cast, few locations) but have a big impact. And it’s in a genre that people still see at the cinema – a great place to experience the film if you get the chance.

BK: Where was Killing Ground made? How was it funded?

DP: We were looking for the middle of nowhere as close to Sydney as possible – and we shot the film in a nature reserve called Simmo’s Beach in a suburb of Sydney called Macquarie Fields. It was funded by the screen agencies Screen Australia and Screen NSW plus some private investment from Post Op Group and others.

BK: How long did it take to actually make Killing Ground, from writing the script to post-production and finishing the movie?

DP: It was eleven years from the germ of the idea to the shoot and almost another two years to release (with some festival play over the last year). It’s been a long journey!

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BK: What was the hardest part of making Killing Ground? The easiest?

DP: The hardest part of making any movie is finding the money – hence the eleven-year journey. The hardest part of the shoot was the weather. We were slammed by rain. Anything that costs you time while you’re shooting has a huge impact. Many of the casting decisions were very easy, and I feel blessed to have the cast I did.

BK: This may seem like a weird question, but was it always your intention to make such an intense movie, or is that feeling something you figured out while making Killing Ground? Did the essence of the movie change while you were making it (that’s probably a better way to say it)?

DP: The germ of the idea – the discovery of an abandoned tent in the woods – set the story down a dark path. Deciding I wanted to make it as grounded and realistic as possible, set the tone. The intensity didn’t change through the various drafts. It was always high. The finished film accurately reflects the script.

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BK: Do you consider Killing Ground a thriller or a horror movie? I think it straddles the line between the two and could be considered both.
DP: I think of Killing Ground as a survival thriller (like Deliverance or Straw Dogs) but I understand why people call it horror – it straddles that line. And probably crosses it a few times.

BK: You made several short films before making Killing Ground your first feature. How different was the experience directing Killing Ground as opposed to one of your short films like Peekaboo? How was it similar?

DP: It’s the just the same – except longer. But no short can really prepare you for the marathon of exhaustion that is making a feature.

BK: Is it difficult, relatively speaking, getting a movie like Killing Ground made in Australia? Are the “money people,” for the lack of a better phrase, easy to convince that a horror/thriller movie is worth making, or is it harder to get something like Killing Ground made as opposed to a sort of straight up, mainstream drama movie?

DP: There are few paths to financing in Australia that don’t lead to the screen agencies. I’m so grateful that Screen Australia and Screen NSW came aboard to finance Killing Ground. We wouldn’t have made it without them. Part of that process was convincing them of my intentions for the film. It’s a tough watch, and the script was a tough read. I needed our financiers to understand how I was going to depict the violence and why it was necessary. I wrote an extensive ‘bible’ to go along with the script.

BK: Who are your movie making heroes?

DP: Kubrick, Hitchcock, Haneke, Paul Thomas Anderson, George Miller.

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BK: Any upcoming projects that you can tell us about? Do you intend to stick with the horror/thriller genre, or do you want to try other kinds of movies?

DP: I have a few projects at different stages of development including a feature adaptation of my short Peekaboo (you can link to the film here) and a teen horror/thriller. I’m interested in many genres but the projects on the boil are in the horror/thriller space.

BK: After Killing Ground and movies like Wolf Creek 1 and 2, is it time to just stop camping anywhere and never leave home?

DP: I don’t think you’re safe at home, either.

BK: Damien is a cool name. Do people ever give you crap for it, though? The whole The Omen thing?

DP: They used to. Not anymore.

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I want to thank Damien Power for agreeing to participate in this interview and Samantha Arevalo for setting it up.

Killing Ground is in select theaters and Video On Demand starting July 21st, 2017 from IFC Midnight.

Check out the Killing Ground Facebook page here.

Check out the IFC Midnight Twitter page here.

Check out Damien Power’s official website here.

Damien Power image from Damien Power’s official website. All other images courtesy of Samantha Arevalo and IFC Midnight.