Former Royal Marines film crew disrupts Hollywood production model

It’s great action, great drama, as you would expect from former Royal Marines applying a commando philosophy to professional filmmaking.

Sunray is a soon-to-be released three-part series starring lead actor Tip Cullen, a “born again Janner” who, after leaving a 30-year career in the military, trained in acting with a BA. Hons at Marjon University, Plymouth.

The program aims to highlight the often violent and damaging work that the armed forces and even emergency services have to do, and how to deal with it. But where Sunray differs from more mainstream shows is in the choice of its staff. Use real veterans, instead of traditional actors, to share powerful stories.

On a scorching Thursday in Dorset, we had access to the filming of the second episode of the series.

“I’m not acting for fame or fortune,” said Tip, who lives on the outskirts of Plymouth and already has two sons in the Royal Marines.

“For me, it’s about telling stories.”

Tip Cullen in the makeup section accessing memories to help her performance

The sense of burden for the role is clear. Tip’s character, Andy, has had a similar professional welding background, but it’s the impact of the job where the two men’s paths differ.

“This show is about helping the audience understand that violence in the service is what we do if it needs to be,” Tip said.

“We are doing difficult things to save people. But the people who have to deal with violence are also human.”

“My wife was amazing but [in Sunray] Andy loses his marriage and things go wrong.

“This project is for all those who are struggling and to encourage those in pain to speak up. The police, the fire department, the NHS. The culture of hard and mean work is for you people. I want them to watch it. and get something out of it. “

Producer Sam explains his vision and motivations for using the Royal Marines so extensively on the set of Sunray
Producer Sam explains his vision and motivations for using the Royal Marines so extensively on the set of Sunray

Sam Seeley, one of the three project managers, is a screenwriter and producer and another former Royal Marine.

“We had to build the production from scratch and make the original trailer for a very modest price,” he said.

“We raised £ 66,000 on Kickstarter and it gave us the budget to bring in professionals from the industry. Which helped with administration.”

“We have also benefited from corporate sponsorship. We had the helpful support of Black Onyx Concepts which really took us to the next level.

“UK Tactical, Elliott Brown, have all been helpful with donating kits that allow us to allocate funds to production values.”

However, this is not a normal Hollywood where actors are asked to put themselves in the shoes of a soldier. On the set of Sunray, real veterans share their own stories.

Do you know any veterans who have faced the same issues as Tip Cullen and his teammates? Let us know in the comments section below.

“It’s not like any other movie set,” Sam said. “On Sunray it’s a lot more collaborative. Equality is everywhere. The use of veterans disrupts the industry.

“We are very flexible in the way we do business and use a mix of approaches. Sometimes you need a scalpel, sometimes you need a hammer. “

The widespread use of military consultants on Hollywood sets has also been reversed here.

Sam said, “The crew helps make the script more accessible to those outside the military. Dialogue is fine-tuned all the time. That said, I’m an enemy of precise, authentic drills and optics on weapon systems. “

Second Assistant Director Rose smiles as she explains how her experience on this set is different from anything she’s worked on before.

“You learn words and phrases that you would never hear.

“However, it’s a two-way street. A lot of their lingo rubs off on the crew, but the language of the crew rubs off on the veterans as well.”

Lauren applying more wounds for a scene
Lauren applying more wounds for a scene

Makeup artist Lauren, sweeping her hair as she makes up an already scarred torso, said: “It’s all like family, very cool, not a traditional way of working.

“The actors are less maintenance.”

As we continue our walk around the set, the remote location and the film unit have a feel of life on the ground. Accommodation is vehicles and tented living conditions with a country kitchen. The warmth and remoteness add to the realism of the narration.

The set for the next shot, a post-fight shower scene, is an adjacent treeline trailer With the cast, crew, lighting, effects, and sun outside, it’s hot. . Yet Tip is simply delivering his performance.

“In the body, you have to believe,” he says. “In acting, it’s about credibility and he tells the story I want.

“The hardest thing is digging into emotional roles, so feel like I’m visiting [dead] friends.

Control marks and lighting are ready for
Control marks and lighting are ready for “action”.

“In the military experiences are blocked. Acting transforms that. I do it for my friends and I think about the things that I have done so as not to be afraid of the audience. It’s all about perspective. . “

How did Sunray come to be? Sam described how “writing brought out bad things” for him; the “ultimate means of therapy”.

“After I left military service, I got rid of the safety net and never looked back,” he said. “There was no anxiety about getting into trouble and the creative tap was released.”

“When you bring the two worlds together, the military and the film industry, it creates magic.

“I’m already writing for next year. Maybe the Sunray community will contribute for more stories.

“We are creating a community that people can be a part of. Building a Sunray world. We are not one and finite.”

Sam understands that distribution will be through a global streaming service for three episodes in October 2021.

You can follow Sunray on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and their own website.

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