From the open seas to the streaming screen: an interview with Alec Drayton
With experience working on music videos for UK award-winning rap artist Tinie Tempah, island features with the BBC and ABC news, as well as local tourism projects for the Barbadian government and Mount Gay Rum distillery, Alec Drayton shows no signs of ego when discussing his attitudes towards his breadth of projects and his most recent involvement with Netflix's Outerbanks .
On a humid London evening, I called up sailor and visual producer Alec Drayton in Barbados, where the hot weather is pleasantly accompanied by a cool island breeze. With his upcoming involvement in the third season of Netflix drama Outer Banks, I sat down with the creative to get an insight into his career path, and perspective on the developing Barbadian film industry. What began as simply wanting a nice lock screen for his phone, Drayton’s journey into the production sphere possesses the laidback yet persevering spirit of Barbados itself.
How do you approach the projects that come to you, whether they be local or international?
A: If someone comes to me and says we’re going to do this beach shoot, and we need a drone shot of a speed boat, versus somebody coming to me and saying we’re going to do a production for Netflix, we need you to help, I’m going to say yes, the same way. My tone will not change. We’re going to do it, we’re going to accomplish it, and then find something else.
With up to 50 locals involved in roles from set construction, logistics and production co-ordination, the Barbadian visual industry was an integral part of production for Outer Banks. Cindy Legall of BCB Communications headed extras casting, contributing to the use of local talent and bringing what the island has to offer to the forefront of production.
What would you say is the difference between working with local productions, versus your involvement with bigger organisations like Netflix?
A: Every project has its pros and its cons. With Netflix, there are so many people, so you can miss that close knit feeling. On a smaller, local project, where there are maybe ten people, in typical Caribbean style, there’s a different vibe. You might say something like “that shot was clean” on a smaller project with local teams, but on bigger projects you just move on to the next shot. It’s kind of like school where you are quickly ushered along to move on to the next topic.
Barbados based company Crucial Productions, headed by Phil Archer, worked closely with line manager Carole Peterman for the latest Outerbanks series. As a result, production coordination on the island was able to function with the knowledge of the local team members for where to source skills, equipment and other pre-production needs.
What does having a developing visual industry and small community of creatives mean for the integrity of filmmaking in Barbados?
A: From working with the yachts and having to have a precise, on-time, mentality, I’ve brought that back to Barbados for production. If I’m on a production, I need to achieve this goal. I start at the goal, or the end product and how they want it to look, and then from there I work backwards. Everyone here is so multitalented, but because the market size is so small, no one person is an expert at one thing. In Barbados, if you have a small budget and you’ve asked someone to do hair, most likely they can also do makeup, or something else as well. You have a do it all attitude, and cover so many bases. It’s hard to say whether that’s a good or bad thing, because whilst you have this multitalented workforce, there are few specialists. But regardless, in the tight knit community you have the ability to reach out to a familiar face when help is needed.
Popular tour company Sweetfuhdayz leant their hand to the equipment, cast and crew transportation for the production of Outer Banks. Managing Director Nicholas Rose’s involvement in the project ensured that no integral part that include Barbadian based involvement, was overlooked.
What does Barbados offer logistically for audio-visual content creation?
A: Firstly, Barbados is a great logistical hub. There’s plenty of air travel into the island, with availability from the UK, the US, you even have flights coming in from Panama. If you have flights, you have the potential to move cargo as well, so a lot of the equipment can be transported quickly. Unlike other remote locations where you find the challenges of finding a connecting flight, or things like luggage being lost, you don’t have that challenge coming to Barbados. Even down to just having the ability to call someone without the issue of time differences makes communication for production so much easier. The working window for the UK and LA for example falls within working hours for Barbados, so wherever your colourist, sound guy, or even your talent is, if you're shooting in Barbados, but you have a team abroad, you can still get in touch. Just the ease of working here is unmatched. If you need to shoot at a particular house for example, I can assure you, within a couple phone calls to some friends, you could find the person that owns that spot and get the permission to shoot. With everyone practically knowing everyone, there is an ease to networking.
Though a mere 266 square miles, Barbados is home to an array of unique landscapes from the northern cliff points of St. Lucy, the mystical hideouts of Harrison Cave and the quintessential crystal beaches of the West Coast. The small island has been a sought-after site for Sports Illustrated photoshoots to the 2022 romantic espionage feature Blackbird, a co-production with Parachute Film Studios shot in the colloquially named lands of ‘Bimshire’. With plans to continue developing the Barbadian film industry, Prime Minister Mia Mottley met with Bollywood’s top producer Rakesh Sabharwal to discuss how the world’s second most popular film industry can bring its spectacular sets to the idyllic island landscapes.
Finally, why should producers come to Barbados?
A: Well, when Sport’s Illustrated came to shoot their magazine here about two months ago, someone from the Barbados Tourism Marketing Inc got in touch with me to assist with finding locations. Whilst Barbados is small, and we have these close networks, location variety is not something that we lack. They had asked for some options for shooting their video content and wanted recommendations for a beach. But when it comes to beaches, for example, you could go to the east coast for a rugged look, the west which is more polished, you could go north for cliffs, or you could head south which has a mixture of everything. You are never short of choices. It’s never a case of needing to find a special effects studio or something like that. You need a cave, we’ve got caves. Swamps? We’ve got that too. If you’re coming here, you just might rewrite your script to include what we have to offer. All in all, it’s just paradise.
Starting off as a sailor at nine years old, Drayton developed his sea skills over the years, eventually working with larger vessels on the island. Embarking on interisland trips, the young crew member found himself desiring a need for entertainment whilst bobbing in the expanse of blue ocean. With his GoPro3, Drayton made ad hoc boat racing videos and captured dreamy sunsets to pass the time. But, conscious of the sub-par quality of his camera, he sought out better gear. Moving from Barbados to the UK and sailing in between, Drayton continued developing his filming talents and investing in equipment to follow suit, snowballing into his career today.
Images courtesy of Alec Drayton
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