“I’m exhausted and I don’t even know where I am,” Gerald McCullouch says with a good laugh and soothing wipe of his brow. The actor-turned-director is in Greece as he speaks with us, still shaking off his jetlag yet enjoying the latest leg of the whirlwind tour promoting his feature directorial debut, Daddy.
A film about love, laughter, and the evolution of what it means to be family, Daddy is garnering applause from audiences worldwide. The film shares the story of Colin McCormack, a successful television journalist who figures he has everything he could ever want in life. That is, until a bright young intern starts working at Colin’s TV station…and works his way into Colin’s heart.
“It was a four or five year process,” explains McCullouch. “Daddy started as an off-Broadway play, but it was during the New York run that the story really hit its stride. This was the first story that really stuck with me.”
Shot over the course of 12 days in Los Angeles and a lightning fast 36 hours in Pittsburgh, the story is primarily set in Pittsburgh.
“I wish we had more time in Pittsburgh,” says the director. “The consequences of having such a limited budget required things to move very quickly. The morning after our LA wrap, my [Director of Photography] Svetlana Cvetko and I boarded a plane for Pittsburgh. I actually booked our hotel rooms for Pittsburgh while we were on the flight!”
He goes on to explain, “Pittsburgh’s architecture united the visual specificity of the story. It’s a visual city. That city is so universal, yet so important to this story. The rivers surrounding it and the bridges are so symbolic of what’s happening in Colin’s life…it makes the city a character in the story. I wish we had more time, but seasonality was very important to the film and we had to be there at the right time. In only 36 hours we caught snow, clouds, and bright sun.”
Gerald McCullouch is probably best known for his decade-long recurring role of Bobby Dawson in the hit TV series CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, as well as the loveable character of Roger in fellow director Doug Langway’s BearCity trilogy.
“When Doug and I collaborated, it allowed me to express a different aspect of myself,” explains McCullouch. “Bear City opened up a whole different fan base for me. I love what the whole cast created there. The stories of this gang of friends we’ve inhabited. It’s something I’m very proud of, and very thankful to Doug for trusting his ‘Roger’ to me.”
Daddy presented a new challenge for Gerald McCullouch, putting him in the precarious position of not only playing the lead, but also directing the entire feature film. With a full docket of shot lists, scouting, shooting 14 to 15 pages of script per day, and of course, acting the part of Colin perfectly, it’s no wonder McCullouch is unsure whether he is currently in Greece or Mike & Tony’s Gyro Shop on the South Side of Pittsburgh.
“’Challenging’ is the easiest way to say it,” says McCullouch. “We didn’t have time or money, so I knew a lot of my job was spending time with the crew and making sure everyone saw the story as I saw it. Svetlana Cvetko, my Director of Photography and I worked over a month on shot lists, camera movement. I had my 1st assistant director and 2nd assistant director all in my head. [Writer and co-star] Dan Via was on set every day, rewriting. All of us had to have our A-game on, but you know, even with the consequences that independent filmmaking creates, Dan’s story was still supported and accomplished by a very talented cast and crew.”
However, this actor-turned-director has talents that reach beyond motion picture and television. Before he got his start in acting, Gerald McCullouch actually turned down an opportunity to attend Savannah College of Art & Design, one of the premier visual arts programs in the country.
“Aw man, I’ve never told anyone about this in an interview before!” McCullouch says with a laugh. “I was a young, but prolific artist who worked all the time. One of my very early watercolors was entered into a contest and became a Hallmark greeting card.”
He goes on to say, “Visual art and music was how I first found a creative outlet. But I wanted to tell stories with more than just my hands. I feel like now, when I direct, it’s my way to reunite with my old visual artist self. And it’s a nice reunion every time.”
Despite having a whole month to himself in Greece, Gerald McCullouch does not plan on putting up his feet and relaxing anytime soon. The talented director is embracing the opportunity to work with the thousands of Syrian refugees currently encamped in Greece. He also intends to begin filming a documentary, with a particular focus on LGBT refugees in the midst of the crisis.
“It’s an amazing opportunity right here at my fingertips,” explains the director. “I’m here now, so I have to do this. I always love the theme of family and how it shows up in my films. Family is not just the blood. It’s your friends too. It’s whatever you want it to be. I think I’ll continue to tell stories like this.”
All pictures reproduced courtesy of Gerald McCullouch