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Unfiltered Warfare: The Making of Kilo Two Bravo

Trevor Hogg chats with filmmaker Paul Katis, former Lance Corporal Paul ‘Tug’ Hartley, and actor Mark Stanley about recreating a deathtrap that contemporary British troops encountered in Kilo Two Bravo

A birthday celebration for an 18 year old soldier eager to serve in Afghanistan led director Paul Kantis, screenwriter Tom Williams and producer Andrew de Lotbinière to make a movie about the military campaign to defeat the Taliban.  “The British film industry doesn’t make movies about contemporary wars,” notes Kantis.  “It’s all World War II or World War I.  I wanted to portray a young Brit going to war and what his life was going to be like.”  The fictional project shifted toward depicting a real life tragedy dubbed The Day of Days when the filmmakers learned about The Parachute Regiment of the British Army’s 3rd Battalion getting trapped in a minefield which resulted in fatalities during a patrol of Afghanistan in 2006.

A Facebook page was setup to establish a research group.  “It was quite successful,” remarks Paul Katis.  “We thought maybe we should do something about this and launched an Indiegogo campaign that raised 47,000 ₤ which served as a primer to get the development underway.   It helped us immeasurably as enabled us to pay for the casting and to go out on location.  There was a fantastic diaspora of people who wanted to see the film made.  I wasn’t the only who wanted to see a British film about British troops in a contemporary war.”

“When the whole process started Paul and Tom promised to make it as factual as possible to tell our tale,” recalls former Lance Corporal Paul ‘Tug’ Hartley while promoting Kilo Two Bravo at the 40th Toronto International Film Festival along with Paul Katis and actor Mark Stanley who portrays him in the war movie.  “Unless you were there on that day it’s as close as you’re going to get.  It’s both factual and authentic.”   Katis and Tom Williams were able to gain the trust of the soldiers who experienced the tragedy.  “It was the honesty and passion.  I remember Paul and Tom coming to my house and their sincerity that they were going to do us justice.”

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“One of the best things that happened to the project is that we landed Hubbard Casting which is a top UK casting agency and they have a tradition for casting unknown actors and discovering stars, like Kate Winslet,” states Paul Katis.  “Ros and John Hubbard loved the project and the first thing they said was, ‘You don’t have stars in this.’  That’s a good response because we didn’t have the money for any stars.  It also meant that we could reach out to the entire acting fraternity. They sent casting calls to all agents saying this is what we’re looking for, went through a process of three or four rounds where the actors were preselected, and dumped a shortlist on my lap.”

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“I was on a shoot at the time so we had to do long distance calls to audition for the part,” remarks Mark Stanley.   “It was important for the casting that we were selected accordingly to where our characters are from so we could carry the same accent and have a similar background.”   Stanley had to strike a balance between injecting himself into the role and getting the actual mannerisms of Tug Hartley right.  “There was a moment when we were waiting for the green light to come up for the production and I had it in my mind that I wanted to meet Tug.  It wouldn’t be a personal character option it would be moving towards playing him in the production but time limited that a lot.  What we ended up going for was to bring yourself to the character and I’d meet with Tug after so not to complicate what was going on in my mind.  It wasn’t like that I look, feel, and walk like him.  It was much more to do with specific casting and feeling that we were the guys who were there.


A two day boot camp was conducted for the cast.  “What we endeavoured to create and maintain was a sense of camaraderie,” remarks Mark Stanley.  “In retrospect it was like a simulation of what it would be like to be these guys a certain percentage of the way.  We were dark with our humour and taking the piss out of each other constantly. It was soldier banter.  Our main military advisor Luke Hardy from day one, said, ‘You’re Tug.’  We were character names for seven weeks.  It was an immersive experience.”  The dialogue was authentic.  “If you’re going to use military terms just do it right,” states Paul Katis.  “If they’re holding a radio and come up with some call sign then work it out.  It’s not that complicated.  The other thing is that authentic speech is where you start your characters because they become people quicker.”

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“It was interesting when you read the reports there were soldiers standing on rocks looking down only feet away from these guys who are in tremendous pain and suffering, and there was nothing they could do about it,” states Paul Katis.  “That theatrical feel is embedded into the story.  I didn’t invent it.  It’s like withJaws when you’re standing on the beach but can’t get into the water.”  The independent production filmed at Al Kafrein Dam, Jordan rather than Kajaki Dam in Afghanistan where the actual incident took place.    The switch in locations did not hinder the authenticity for Tug Hartley.  “The first time I saw the film it took me three to four minutes to realize that the setting had changed to Jordan than to where we were.”

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Tug Hartley had a leapfrog moment with a knapsack which was re-enacted by Mark Stanley.  “It was nearly what happened,” states Hartley.  “I tried to land on my feet and kept falling off so in the end I had to land on my knees.  It was a little bit longer in real life than in the film.”  Mark Stanley literally threw himself into his role.   “We didn’t take much heed to safety when it came to stuff like that.  We just went for it.  We were bouncing off rocks a few times.”  The filming conditions added to realism.  “We were shooting in 53 degree heat,” notes Paul Katis.  “No one was treated differently.  We got that scene quickly.”  Stanley adds, “We did it within an hour.  We followed on from another intense scene.  A huge amount of credit goes to the ensemble of people who were there as well as what Paul did to get us there in the moment and on the day.  We helped each other. If people needed some smashing around a bit to get their head in the right place then that’s what we did.”


“When we got to the location it came clear that we were going to shoot on long lenses with the background out of focus,” explains Paul Katis.  “I knew instinctively that I wanted to shoot it wide.  The sun started at the top and then we go down into hell.  There’s a deliberated transition as the sound drops out.  We shot on 18 mm for the opening sequence.  As each explosion went off we pushed in tighter and got the 50 mm out for the closing scenes.  The joy of shooting outside like that is that our lighting budget didn’t exist.  We didn’t need practical lights.  We had reflectors for the whole thing.  There were certain tropes I wanted to avoid like a desaturated look.  What you’ve got are primary colours, blue, and sand so go for it.  The colour grading took three days.”

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“You were either fortunate or unfortunate depending on what position you decided to take for the scene,” observes Mark Stanley who made what turned out to be awkward to decision during a scene where he was to give treatment to a soldier injured by the final blast.  “I decided stupidly in the first shot which was wide to kneel.   In the film you’re talking about 30 minutes of coverage of that section of the story but that’s a two week to a week and a half of a shoot where you’re going back to that position.  You’ve made friends with the rocks around you and know which ones are going to kill you and which ones aren’t.  You learn to say, ‘I think I’ll stand for this moment rather than completely bludgeon the knees!’” Stanley previously played Grenn on the fantasy epic series.  “With Game of Thrones you’re walking into a huge machine that is already turning and working away.  You’re sliding in as a small cog especially with the size of the part I was playing.  With this I was moving into a much smaller intense machine but for me personally it means a lot more.  We had to emulate these guys on one of the most pivotal days in their lives.”


“It still feels like yesterday,” admits Tug Hartley.  “I’m not a soldier any more.  I do think that the Coalition Forces are going to struggle with mental health like Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.  We already have UK veterans who are homeless or in jail.  25 per cent of UK prisons consist of ex-military.  PTSD can take up to 15 years to manifest so you might be okay today but not tomorrow.  How do I live with it?  I have a strong wife and family.  If I had come back a single soldier and gone out with the boys I probably would have drunk myself to death.”  Hartley notes, “It’s a job.  Nobody chooses to kill anybody.  It’s you or them.  You need to protect your friends.  That’s all it boils down to.  I’d save the guy next me and vice versa.   There’s no joy in it.  There’s no honour in killing somebody.”


“The happy birthday scene was one we are built for and came at a good stage in the shooting process,” states Mark Stanley.  “We were so well acquainted with one another there was an emotional connection between the cast.”  Paul Katis was pleased with end result.  “I was personally crying after the birthday scene because it was genuinely moving.”  Kilo Two Bravo does not follow a usual cinematic formal.  “If there’s a flag being waved it’s one of friendship, camaraderie and bravery and I don’t think you get that in a lot of war films,” notes Stanley.  “There’s always an element of patriotism somewhere.”  Tug Hartley observes, “There’s not political agenda in the film.  I wouldn’t classify Kilo Two Bravo as a war film.  It’s a bunch of men in a bad situation who come together in extraordinary circumstances.  It’s a film about adversity.”

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Many thanks to Paul Katis, Tug Hartley, and Mark Stanley for taking the time to be interviewed.

To learn more visit the official website for Kilo Two Bravo.

Trevor Hogg is a freelance video editor and writer who currently resides in Canada; he can be found at LinkedIn.


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