Part I: Overview | Part II: Brandon Sun | Part III: News Story | Part IV: Photos
Part V: Episode 1 Video and Screen Captures
Local Actor Recounts Experience
of Shooting Search for the Sky
by Joanne F. Villeneuve ~
Brandon Sun ~ October 25, 2004
At the beginning of the month, Robin Hillman took part in the filming of the newest Frantic Films live action series, tentatively entitled Search for the Sky.

Reliving the experience of many young Commonwealth men during the Second World War, Hillman spent 10 grueling days training through the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in Picton, Ont. 

Though this was created for television, there was nothing glamorous about the experience. 

"I think it was a lot more difficult than I thought it was going to be, especially the physical aspect. They really pushed us past our limits," says the 23-year-old, who is a Brandon University graduate.

"It was surreal because everything was so realistic, yet we had cameras on us all the time. They did a really good job of making us think that we were in the 1940s. It was a time warp. As for thinking about defending our country they were always reminding us: 'You're learning about this rifle so that, if you're shot down, you can kill Jerry.'"

The training that Hillman and six other young men (three from Canada, and one each from Mississippi, Australia and the UK) -- all of whom were truly training and being filmed as opposed to acting with a set script -- unfolded as it would have 60 years ago and he reports it was as authentic as it could get.

Amidst the yells and expectations of the drill sergeant -- who is actually in the military -- weight training with machine guns, sit-ups, push-ups, long distance running and other physical rigours that would have been imposed on the young men in the original training plan were re-enacted by Hillman and his colleagues for the series. 

"It was a real eye-opener seeing the kind of training that they went through. I've got a lot more respect for them because they did this for six months and we were only there for 10 days," says Hillman, whose three great-uncles trained according to the BCATP (and lost their lives on flight missions in Europe.)

"People who fought in that war were young guys, my age. It's important to remember the veterans, but also the guys that went out and died."

Other realities he experienced during the (three week) shoot included listening to Big Band music on 78s, shaving with an old-fashioned razor, foam brush and soap -- getting nicks and cuts along the way -- using a horsehair toothbrush and tooth powder. 

"All the stuff we used was authentic, 1940s products," says Hillman, who has since returned to his computer job in Red Lake, Ont.

Everything was spot on. They tried to make it as accurate as possible. It really felt like we were back in the 1940s. Every day, we were learning all the things that they did."

While the young men were reliving this training that has been acknowledged as one of the reasons why the Allied Forces won the European conflict, they were constantly being filmed, sometimes at extremely close rang, capturing their every movement.

"It was a bit unnerving, but I really liked working with the crew. They were all really accommodating and they made us feel real comfortable so we were able to get through the day with cameras in our faces," says Hillman, who recalls one incident were they were punished for not doing a rifle drill properly. 

"The sergeant made us hold out the heavy rifles -- probably about 12 pounds -- straight out with tone hand, for what felt like hours. And then the camera guy is right in your face and trying to get your facial expressions and you don't dare put it down because you're on camera and if you do, the sergeant's going to yell at you. That was a bit tough."

Another reality of the shoot was being isolated from the rest of the world and not having modern conveniences to keep in touch. 

However, a highlight was the flight made in one of the few remaining Lancaster planes, originally used during the war.

"My group was the firs that went up and when they started up those engines -- I even had ear protectors on -- boy, it was the loudest thing I ever heard. When we got up, we could go to the different machine gun turrets and up to the cockpit and it was really just amazing. It was like some sort of weird dream," says Hillman. "I'm so lucky to have had that experience."

This particular series, which is the fifth created by Frantic Films' CEO and executive producer Jamie Brown for the History Channel, is a tribute to the young men who fought, and sometimes lost their lives, in that war.

"We're really excited about this story and consider it an honour to be able to talk about these people we all here have so much respect for the veterans and we're really hoping we do something that they're pleased with in the end," says Brown. "The director, Don Young, is incredibly excited about it and thought we had just a phenomenal group of young guys on the show. And it's going to help other people who are watching it under stand better too."

The History Channel has tentatively scheduled the series for the spring of 2005.

News Documentary sends 
Brandon man into the 1940s
Robin Hillman, 23, lived the life of a military recruit in training for 10 days
for a documentary on the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan.
WINNIPEG.CBC.CA  Nov 1, 2004 08:54 AM CST
BRANDON - A young Brandon man spent 10 days flying into the 1940s as part of a historical documentary by a Winnipeg film company.

"It sort of felt like an old movie, except everything was in colour."  'Pilot' Hillman

"We'd wake up at 5:30 in the morning and they'd make us run and do pushups and all that it was pretty brutal and then we'd be up until midnight polishing our boots and studying," says Hillman.

The work wasn't all marching and saluting: Hillman also learned to fly.

"We flew a Tiger Moth biplane, we were able to pilot that for a few minutes," he says. "It's a lot tougher than it looks, let me tell you that. You have to be constantly adjusting for winds."

Hillman was one of seven young Canadian men [Editor's note: four Canadian, plus one each from Australia, England and Mississippi, USA) who went through the training. None of the men were actors; they qualified because they had relatives who went through the same training.

The four-part documentary series, made by Winnipeg-based Frantic Films, will air in the spring.

Copyright © 2004 Canadian Broadcasting Corporation - All Rights Reserved
Links related to this story:
Odyssey of the Tiger Moth
#1 Heritage Hangar: BCATP Museum Dedication Ceremony

RCAF Lancaster and Campbell Tribute
TRIBUTE SITE: F/L W. G. Campbell 
& Crew of Lancaster KB 879 Tribute
HMCS Prince Robert and Hillman Tribute
& H.M.C.S  Prince Robert
NAVIGATION MAP to Hillman Tribute Sites
World War II & Military Nostalgia Sites
TRIBUTE: F/L Donald E. Hillman
S.O.E. Secret Halifax Missions Log
TRIBUTE: F/O J. Gordon Hillman
Lancaster Downed in 1000 Bomber Mission

150 WWII RCAF Vignettes

BCATP 4-Hour Documentary
Navigation Map to our Feature Web Pages

Part V: Episode 1 Video and Screen Captures


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