Local Actor Recounts Experience
of Shooting Search for the Sky
by Joanne F. Villeneuve ~ firstname.lastname@example.org
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
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
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.