With more bravado than experience, actor Myles Pollard embarked on an ambitious multi-million-dollar project to produce his first feature film. Myles wrote about the experience for The Equity Magazine
Sam Worthington and Myles Pollard on the set of Drift in WA
Having worked as an actor for about 15 years, with only a few short-film-producing credits under my belt, the decision to produce a feature film was not made lightly. Necessity is said to be the mother of invention so, during a lean acting spell, I decided to shake the tree.
I was in New York and met up with fellow surfing fanatic, producer and West Aussie Tim Duffy, who showed me a very early draft of Drift. I somehow convinced him that I had the business acumen to produce an $11.4 million film with him, based on the script. In retrospect, having never produced anything of significance before probably worked in my favour. The combination of pure idealism and absolute naivety replaced a fear of failure that might have accompanied any real experience.
Having another West Aussie, Sam Worthington, agree to join the cast was the icing on the cake.
The concept of Drift resonated immediately with me when I read the first draft. In the 1970s, two brothers in south-west WA start a surf-lifestyle company in their backyard shed and in the process lay the groundwork for the modern surf industry. A couple of knockabout larrikins, determined to make something of their lives, take hold of the reins and fulfill their destiny. Who doesn’t love an underdog!
South-west WA has always been my spiritual home. I have fond memories of camping and surfing in the region, and have gone through many rites of passage there. The prospect of heading ‘home’ to work was very appealing.
This article was orginally published in the Autumn 2013 issue of The Equity Magazine
Producing a feature film and casting myself in one of the lead roles had its own mix of anxiety, self-doubt and moments of heightened sensitivity, but taking control of my own professional destiny was empowering. Finding a balance between these disparate jobs was probably the biggest challenge I faced, and I made two decisions in this regard that I think helped support the film.
Firstly, I didn’t watch any of the rushes, leaving the rest of the creative team to deliberate honestly; and secondly, I took off my producer’s hat while we were shooting my scenes, helping me remain impartial in the eyes of the crew and other cast, and leaving me to my most important responsibility: my role as lead actor.
The shoot was intense. Financial constraints meant we had to cut back the planned 38 days to 32. We had to decide between ripping out pages of the script to reduce the schedule or shoot faster. The latter won out.
We had winter to contend with, as well, which was very stressful. For the entire pre pre-production we endured a deluge of biblical proportions, which miraculously eased for the first day of shoot.
For his first day on set, Sam Worthington was required to float in the deep, cold Indian Ocean a kilometre off the coast in shark-infested waters. He did it without question and lived to complete the rest of the shoot but, tragically, a local surfer was killed by a shark where I had been surfing and being filmed the afternoon before. WA experienced four more shark-attack deaths over the next six months. My heart goes out to all the families of the victims.
After spending six years of my life producing Drift and experiencing the many ups and downs, I had two strong defining moments when principal photography finally arrived. The first was when I was standing in the catering line on my first day and suddenly realised, wow, this is real; we’re now being fed. This little ‘hobby’ of mine has morphed into a beast. It exists independent of me, supports many and is actually happening.
The second was in the Indian Ocean, being towed into towering waves by a jet ski with a full camera crew in place filming me doing the two things I love more than anything: acting and surfing. Here I was in the middle of one of the most beautiful wildernesses in the world on my ultimate centre stage, supported by experts to practise my craft in order to hopefully create a little bit of history. Now all I had to do was survive the process. But, hey, I’ll leave that for the reviewers.
Myles Pollard plays Andy Kelly in Drift, which is due for general release in Australian cinemas on May 2