New Frank E. Flowers project leans on local acting talent

Film a ‘milestone’ for Cayman’s movie industry

Ronnie Hughes assists mermaid Margaux Maes during a movie shoot.

When movie director Frank E. Flowers returned to the Cayman Islands to shoot his latest project, he had one small problem – where to find a decent mermaid.

Mr. Flowers assembled a local crew, recruited Hollywood actor Garrett Hedlund and rented a luxury villa on Boggy Sand Road to shoot his short movie, “Tocsin,” in December.

The only stumbling block was finding someone who could swim safely with a silicon tail for underwater scenes involving a mermaid.

“This thing weighs about 45 lbs,” he told the Cayman Compass in an interview ahead of the first public screenings of the movie, planned for Camana Bay later this month.

“It is basically like tying your feet together and putting a concrete block on your toes. It is not safe unless you have had some training.”

Enter Margaux Maes, daughter of underwater photographer Ellen Cuylaerts and videographer Michael Maes, who was the underwater cinematographer for the movie.

The 20-year-old had been effectively rehearsing for the mermaid role since she was 14, modeling in various photo shoots for her parents.

“I was initially brought in as a stunt double to film the scenes with the tail, but after Frank E. saw the test footage my dad and I shot with the tail, he decided to cast me as the mermaid,” she said.

“To play a mermaid in a movie was fantastic. Finally this niche skill I had developed since childhood paid off.”

Mr. Flowers said he was surprised to learn that operating a mermaid tail required such skill and that there was someone on island who had trained for years to perfect it.

He was equally impressed to find enough talent in Cayman to fill his cast and crew with largely local faces.

“Shooting in Cayman is not, logistically, the easiest thing to do,” said Mr. Flowers, who brought a Hollywood crew to the island to shoot his feature film “Haven,” starring Orlando Bloom and Zoe Saldana, in 2004. He said the latest project was a milestone for Cayman and showed what could be done with local talent.

The movie was produced by Strike Twice Creative and Awesome Productions, which worked with seven different local film companies to coordinate equipment rentals, fill crew roles and secure locations. Mr. Flowers said the production had involved a level of collaboration never attempted before in Grand Cayman.

Actor Garrett Hedlund in a still from Frank E. Flowers’ new short movie ‘Tocsin.’ – PHOTOs: FRANK E. FLOWERS

“It was one of the happiest and most enthusiastic sets I have ever worked on,” he added.

One of the key members of the crew was another Cayman Islands exile working in the international film industry. Samuel Lancaster, 23, has worked as a cinematographer on various movies and music videos in Australia and the U.S.

Before the shoot, he ran a training session for the cast and crew on how a professional movie set operates. Mr. Lancaster said he got his first taste of the excitement of the movie business when Frank E. Flowers visited his school, Cayman Prep, during the filming of “Haven.”

“I remember hearing him speak and thinking, ‘this is what I want to do’. I was inspired by Frankie and what he did all those years ago,” he said.

One of the final pieces of the jigsaw for this project fell into place when Garrett Hedlund, a respected Hollywood star who appeared in the Oscar-nominated “Mudbound” last year, signed on to play the lead character.

“We were very lucky to get him,” Mr. Flowers said.

“He comes to Cayman on vacation. He has a beautiful heart and wanted to give something back to the island.”

The movie also stars English actress Juno Temple as well as local actors Chad Bodden, Shane Allenger and Stephen Ebanks. “Tocsin,” written and directed by Mr. Flowers, is the story of a musician who travels to a remote island studio in search of inspiration and discovers a much darker secret in the shallows.

Mr. Flowers said it had been a fun experience that could eventually develop into a larger project.

“We shot it to live on its own but the few people that have seen it were saying there is definitely a bigger movie here, so who knows,” he added.

A premiere will be held on June 15 at Camana Bay including three consecutive screenings of the 12-minute movie and an after-party with cast and crew.

Tickets are available from Camana Bay Discovery Centre or through Cayman Martial Arts at [email protected] Proceeds go to the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre.