Local writer-director Zak Hilditch knows exactly what he'd do if the end of the world was nigh - he'd party.

"We talked a lot about what we'd do in pre-production and on the set," the chatty 34-year-old admits from Sydney, happy to do his first interview on the first day of press engagements for his first film to score a major cinema release.

"My answer is very stock standard. Friends, loved ones and lots of booze. Just let it all hang out."

Not surprisingly, Hilditch's shot-in-Perth end-of-the-world saga These Final Hours, which opens next week, includes a last-day- on-Earth party so salacious it makes the office parties in The Wolf of Wall Street look like an episode of Play School (more on that later).

Yet even Hilditch's modern-day Sodom and Gomorrah sequence - the film's big water-cooler moment - is part of his point. He's not interested in the kind of quests for survival we've seen in nuclear- disaster movies, alien invasions or zombie apocalypses. He's interested in what people would do on their last day alive.

"There are a lot of disaster movies where people don't see it coming and they don't have time to prepare," says Hilditch, whose film won a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

"I wanted to turn that on its head to where we could see it coming. We couldn't stop it from happening but we could stop to take stock and figure out where you truly belong, who you truly love, and what you should be doing."

These Final Hours is set on the last day on Earth with our imminent destruction just hours away. Society has crumbled. Violence is everywhere. People are committing mass suicide. Troubled, hard-living tough guy James (Nathan Phillips) heads to the ultimate party to end all parties. On the way, he saves the life of Rose (Angourie Rice), a child desperately searching for her missing father, and it sets him on a journey to redemption.

"What people do with their last day on Earth was such an interesting and poignant question to pursue, and it covers universal themes we can all respond to."

Inspired by his love of science fiction, and six years in the making, Hilditch's $2.5 million apocalypse party was shot in 25 days over multiple locations including Rockingham beach, Malaga's Perth Ice Arena and the northern suburbs where the urban sprawl reflects a soulless nightmare.

More than any other film, These Final Hours is proudly and unmistakably recognisable as Perth.

Hilditch locked off streets such as Hepburn Avenue to shoot key scenes and admits he snuck in some guerilla filmmaking during the weekdays in snoozy suburbs. He was also gifted a Peppermint Grove mansion to film the big party where James reunites with his girlfriend (Kathryn Beck) and best mate (Snowtown's Daniel Henshall).

"We were lucky enough to be given this mansion for a full week and it was full on. Our extras all got into the spirit of it, take after take after take."

You can say that again. Hundreds of Perth's 20 and 30-somethings flash plenty of flesh as they drink, drug and party themselves into oblivion in the raucous sequence. Going by the amount of boobs, beer, bongs and guns on show, it's hard to believe Hilditch when he says it was "a dry set, all above board and very professional".

"Everyone was so supportive and excited that this film was being made in their backyard and so excited about bringing this story to the screen in their home town. It was a real team effort."

Indeed, the former courier has built an impressive home-town following since he put every penny towards studying film at Fremantle's Film and Television Institute and making shorts and features of his own. Determined to succeed, he raised the funds to film his first three features (The Actress, Plum Role and The Toll) and was chosen as young filmmaker of the year at the 2006 WA Screen Awards.

The likable Palmyra lad first made These Final Hours as a 2012 short called Transmission (also starring Rice), which attracted the attention of producer Liz Kearney (The Turning) and executive producer Robert Connolly (Balibo). It was developed through Screen Australia's Springboard program with the assistance of ScreenWest and landed Roadshow Films as distributor.

While it premiered at the Melbourne Film Festival last year, it received a standing ovation at the Cannes Film Festival in May. "It's every filmmaker's dream to have their work shown in Cannes, so it was a dream come true. I'm still pinching myself over that.

"It's been such a long process, and to be so close to the release, it's crazy. We were just looking at some of the billboards around Sydney yesterday - and they're huge. It was a very surreal moment."

Hilditch has already acquired a US agent, is reading scripts for new directing projects and is busy writing his own scripts.

"Things are looking good. I'm still learning and honing my craft but I feel so lucky I got to make this film. It's been the biggest learning curve of my life, and hopefully the next one will be even bigger and better as a result."

The West Australian

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