Distributed by IFC Midnight, KILLING GROUND is the feature-film debut of Australian writer/director Damien Power. The film tells the story of a young couple’s romantic camping trip that becomes a desperate fight for survival when they come across an abandoned campsite, two local misfits, and a traumatized infant. We had the pleasure of speaking with Power about his new film and his experience in the film industry thus far. KILLING GROUND will be released in theaters and on VOD on July 21st.
Blumhouse: How did you go about casting for KILLING GROUND? Given the brutal content, were there any actors or actresses that read the script and said “absolutely not”?
Damien Power: There were a couple of actors to whom I had offered roles, knowing their work. For example, Aaron Pedersen who played the role of German. I think he’s one of Australia’s great treasures. And I was actually really happy when he said yes right away because he usually plays cops [as opposed to villains] and I think that’s what helped us get him. He isn’t offered those roles very often. I found most of the cast through an audition process and everyone who auditioned seemed up for the content. There were one or two people that I would have liked to reach but they said this wasn’t for them. And that’s fair enough.
BH: The baby in the movie was played by twins, Liam and Riley Parkes. How did you get their parents on board with this role?
DP: Well, that’s the thing you shouldn’t do when making a movie, I guess. Working with kids and animals. So, we had twins, Liam and Riley. I remember when we were casting them, I was concerned because I needed to explain the role to the parents. Obviously, on paper, the role is tough. But when I turned up at the their house to talk to them about it, I noticed that they had a poster of THE GODFATHER a clip of bullets from the movie in the frame. And I thought to myself, “I think these parents are going to be pretty cool.”
BH: Did you face any challenges while working with infants on a film set?
DP: On set, the biggest challenge was to get the twins to sleep. For a lot of the script, the child is unconscious or asleep. For the scene when the child is first found on the ground, we created a mattress bed with a bit of dirt on top of it. And we set it up quite close to where we were shooting so that at any moment if one of the twins fell asleep, we could try and get that shot. So, we were shooting around the car and we had a voice over the radio saying, “The twins are asleep. The twins are asleep.” Then we ran very quietly to this other spot to get the shot that we needed.
BH: In the movie, sexual assault against one of the characters is only implied. Did the script originally contain scenes of sexual assault or were they always intended to be implied?
DP: It was never my intention to show that. The most that you ever see is that it’s implied with photos and the scene begins in the aftermath of that. So, I very deliberately wanted to leave the sexual violence off-screen and to the audience’s imagination because I think that they can fill in the blanks probably worse than I can.
BH: You recently signed with the Creative Artists Agency (CAA) in the States. From your experience, how does the American film industry compare to the industry in Australia?
DP: It goes without saying that it’s just so much bigger [in the U.S.]. What has been great about my experience with Hollywood so far is the opportunities that are out there and people’s enthusiasm. I think those are great things here [in Australia] but we have a much smaller industry. However, I think as a country we tend to punch above our weight.
BH: The town where you grew up only had one movie theater. What are some movies that have influenced you as a writer and director?
DP: I grew up in Launceston, Tasmania and it’s a pretty small town with only one cinema. I remember seeing the first STAR WARS. The first TERMINATOR movie was the first film that I saw twice at a cinema. As a teenager, I also joined the film society there with my grandpa. So, we saw the early work of Jim Jarmusch, Spike Lee, and Peter Greenaway. And we were watching a lot of the classics. I was always interested in film. Directors that inspire me now would include people like Stanley Kubrick, Alfred Hitchcock, and David Fincher.
BH: Do you have any other upcoming projects that you would like to share with us?
DP: I’ve been developing a couple of projects that are in the thriller genre. There is one which is a feature adaptation of a short film of mine called PEEKABOO. The short film is available on Vimeo. It’s a story about a woman who loses her child in a public car park and believes that her child has been abducted. So, the feature will be an abduction thriller.