Meeting Tip Cullen the main actor in low season.
This meeting had waited for some time and all of the production was still being stalled by our need to lock down dates for locations other cast and crew. All hinged on Tips availability, and suitability, and the old adage which comes first the chicken or the egg probably fits with my headspace and partly my inaction.
But not wholly, I had been recommended Tip by Rusty the cinematographer, and had instantly asked him to make contact with Tip and find out his availability. This was I now realise a mistake as I continued to ask for several weeks with no progress or return on that front, (Im not blaming Rusty here) In fact I should have asked Jake way earlier to contact him directly.
Well on the …………date I finally woke up to this need, and Jake contacted him within 3 days we had our first meeting.
It is important to state that although I have worked with Dancers and non actors this film is my first time working with a trained actor. It is part of the reason that i want to make this film now, it is an integral part of my learning process as a film maker.
I really wanted this film (although it contains no dialogue) to communicate and connect on a human level with the audience and the exploration of these particular spaces both internal and external I began to believe can in this case be best accessed by working with a trained actor.
Tip I as described by Rusty a very enthusiastic guy, he fits not just my parameters for age but also his background in an indirect way leads me to believe that we can work together to find the character I have been living with in my head for so long.
Tip Was a Royal Marine for nearly 30 years and although he came out an officer joined up as a 17 year old enlisted boy. He therefore in my mind at least has a deep well of experience to pull on and certainly brings a strong presence with which to work with on set.
I was nervous but not unduly alarmed at the prospect of meeting him, most of all I really did hope that we would get along and that in person I would see in him the seeds of the character. I had seen him in Rusty’s Graduation piece, and it was his brief lines and presence that I thought had stolen the film.
In a way I had not a lot to worry about, Tip was friendly talkative and as both myself and Jake met him at the college and bought coffees at the caffeine club, told us a lot about himself and in a sense we got a potted life history, It was good in a way I had questions prepared, but sitting back and listening and watching was of far more use to be honest. And my usual propensity to talk far too much, was thankfully not a problem!
To keep this simple I believe he is the man for the job, we talked character and I found myself really telling him a lot about the characters hopes dreams his life, what he felt and what he considered to be his identity. Some of it just seemed to flow and some of it had been there a long time.
Tip listened and chipped in and seemed to grasp very quickly where I was going with this.
It was a conscious decision at the last minute to bring a few questions and not a script or formal abstract of the film, I realised at the last minute, and Jake also suggested it that I just talk to him and this seemed to work extremely well leading to a good flow of communication and exchange of ideas.
Add to this that Tip was head of the Mountain & Arctic Cadre of the Royal Marines who are an elite unit that train extensively in Norway and I realised My request for him to immerse himself in the sea in march was not going to be a problem.
We agreed possible dates his availability was good on the weekends and his flexibility and his ownership of a van is also helpful.
One last note I want to make is this, Not only does Tip have a certain connection to my character, but we found that we both share a similar pattern of taking a massive change in mid life jumping ship so to speak and trying out something completely new, myself coming from a manual background and then working as a ranger with no experience in academia or the arts, and himself a professional soldier who is now embracing Greek tragedy and Shakespeare, this resonance and drive I believe makes for a good beginning of understanding and reflects back on the characters own need to try and reshape his own identity and evolve from what he has been.