Now that Coast has hit the big screen it seems fairly safe to talk about those eight days that we spent at Whitehead.
The thing which makes Coast all the more rewarding is the fact that is was nearly the one that got away. I actually missed the auditions due to other filming commitments in Ballygowan, North Antrim. But I e-mailed the production team and wished them all the best.
The next I heard of Coast was when I was filming a music video in Belfast, Marty Stalker was directing and he informed me that he was also Director of photography on Coast – and that I would have been perfect for the role of Niall. To say that I was experiencing some regret would be an understatement. At this stage it was two weeks until principal photography started on Coast, and all the roles had been cast. I told myself that I would just have to audition for a supporting role in one of the following 5 episodes.
About two weeks later I was at home whenever I received a call from Alan Stewart, one of the producers on Coast. He told me that the role of Niall had just become available, and could I make it to whitehead the following morning at 7am? I asked if it was to rehearse, and was informed that they were actually beginning to film!
I was e-mailed a script, which I did my best to learn – but considering Cameras were set to roll in 14 hours, there was only so much I could do.
Without a doubt the development of the role of Niall was a big challenge. In the past I have played characters in films that appear for 5 lines, and then disappear. And theatre roles which have been played by more actors than I could imagine, which gives you a head start with Character development. Niall was different; he was a totally original creation. The time limit would also prove difficult, and the fact that I hadn’t rehearsed with the rest of the Cast.
As it turned out my interpretation of the role of Niall was pretty different from what the writers had envisaged, my Niall was much more of a ‘mopey smart ass’ than Alan Stewart had written. But the creative team seemed delighted with the fresh angle that I brought to the story, so I kept it in.
I was also a little concerned when I arrived on Set for the first time; I was worried that perhaps the Cast had grown attached to the Actor who originally played Niall. But I couldn’t have been more wrong, they were great – and very soon I relinquished my grip on Marty Stalkers sleeve.
The first scenes that we filmed involved my awkward approaches towards the character Caroline, played by Rachel Kennedy. They were made all the more awkward by the fact that I and Rachel had only just met, so it was very much a case of Art mirroring life.
It was also around this time that I got my first look at the production schedule, which was eight days. I made a note to stock up on coffee.
The rest of the shoot seems somewhat blurry, probably due to the fact that shoot days ranged from 12 to 16 hours! One memorable scene was in the shack, it featured the first occasion when we acknowledge the fact that we are being followed. Niall takes Caroline’s camera and flicks through the snaps, only to find the stalker in the background of one of the photos. When I first read the script I knew that it would be a poignant scene. The fact that we filmed it at the end of a sixteen hour day helped, the tears were real – I just wanted to go home. We got it in one, which is just as well – it took a lot to break down in front of a group of people that I had just met.
The last scenes that we shot were actually the first to appear in the episode, and were filmed in the studio of ‘White noise’ a design company based in Belfast. The day was made all the more special by the fact that it was my 23rd Birthday, and I was presented with a cake! It was a great way to finish off my time on the Coast shoot. It was truly a fantastic experience; I had met some amazing people – and remarkable Actors.
Whenever I was told nearly a year later that the Pilot episode would be premiering at the Odeon in Victoria Square (Screen 1), I was awash with feelings of excitement and reservation. I had filmed so many other things in between, and had forgotten many of my scenes. The morning of the screening it was all I could do not to vomit, but my nerves were misplaced. I was very happy with the finished product, as were the rest of the cast and crew. But in this business it really only matters what the viewing public think, and before Coast can reach them we have to make it past the Network Representatives – and get our series commissioned.
And so the Coast Saga is on hold for the time being. But I will always remember those eight days in the sun, at Whitehead.
If you want to find out more on the series: www.coastmovie.co.uk