Caymanian film director Frank E. Flowers continues to enjoy a film career in Los Angeles, but he has never forgotten his roots.
Flowers frequently returns home to Grand Cayman and on these trips he has noticed a growing community of Caymanian artists, to the point where he knew he had to launch a project that made the most of the strengthening arts scene on island. From this motivation, his latest project, the short film “Tocsin,” was born.
“I thought, ‘What would happen if we put all these talented people together — some young artists who are coming up, others more established — and we all worked together as a crew [on a project]’?” Flowers said.
Cayman Prep & High School alumnus Samuel Lancaster, a cinematographer, was tasked with gathering local talent to ensure everybody was on the same page in terms of industry standards, safety protocols and terminology. The group was talented and experienced, but for many it would be the first time working together in a crew structure.
Principal photography for the film took place over three days in December 2017, with one day of underwater shooting and two days on land. The underwater shooting required the recruitment of 20-year-old local Margaux Maes, who was accustomed to wearing underwater mermaid tails weighing up to 45 pounds. Her father, underwater videographer Michael Maes, provided videography for the shoot.
The on-screen talent included a combination of Caymanian names, including Maes, Shane Allenger and Chad Bodden, and Hollywood actors Garrett Hedlund, Kelsey Grammer and Juno Temple.
“Garrett is a dear friend and one of the most talented people I know,” said Flowers. “It was serendipitous in that he was coming here on vacation — as he has done many times before — and he had mentioned that if I ever wanted to do a project here to give back to the community, he’d be happy to donate his time. The island has a special place in his heart, and he just loves it here. It became a working vacation for him, but he was here to give something back and to help, and for that I am grateful.”
Hedlund said he loves coming to the Cayman Islands.
“I started coming here because of Frank, who I’ve been friends with for 15 years now,” he said at the premiere of “Tocsin” on June 15 at the Camana Bay Cinema.
“Last year, I visited [Grand Cayman] three times and it was one of the best years of my life.”
Hedlund said he’s “been looking” for places to buy so he can have a permanent second home on Grand Cayman.
In “Tocsin” Hedlund plays a young musician who travels to a remote island studio in an effort to overcome his creative block. While there, he discovers a dark secret hidden in the shallows. The germ of the idea stemmed from a cruise Flowers took to Alaska (“my first and last cruise,” Flowers joked) when, in the middle of nowhere, he spotted a lighthouse. “I was looking at the dark water and could see this lighthouse.
There was a generator and it looked like someone lived there. I was thinking what it must be like to be out in the middle of the sea. From there, I thought of a musician going off the grid.”
Flowers said his intention was to tell an interesting story which explores the frustration of the artistic and creative process, while also having the opportunity to shoot something at home, something he hasn’t done since filming “Haven” (his feature-length film starring Orlando Bloom, Zoe Saldana, Bill Paxton and Anthony Mackie) here in 2004.
“It’s an honour to be able to shoot at home, and an even bigger honour and privilege to be able to celebrate the work at home in a beautiful location and a state-of-the-art theatre,” Flowers said. “It’s such a privilege to be able to see your movie on the big screen and to share it with this community that has given so much. That is what it’s all about.”
The premiere’s timing corresponded with the weekend of the annual Flowers Sea Swim, a project launched by his father, Frank Sr., and Flowers said the Tocsin premiere event would benefit the same charity — the Cayman Islands Crisis Centre — as the sea swim.
Involving the Caymanian community in the Tocsin project was one reason it attracted big Hollywood names. Hedlund said the best part of the project was “watching Frank work with local Caymanian artists. It was so incredible and such a great experience.”
Flowers’ plans for “Tocsin” beyond the premiere are still in the works, but one thing is certain: the project has only strengthened the Caymanian film community.
“The gift of the whole experience for me was showcasing what we can do when we all work together.”