Local Actor Recounts Experience
of Shooting Search for the Sky
by Joanne F. Villeneuve ~ email@example.com
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
"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
The History Channel has tentatively scheduled the series for the spring