Originally from the small town of Caronport, Saskatchewan, Tim Hildebrand always knew he wanted to be an actor. He remembers being just six years old, seeing the older children acting in the school play, waiting for his chance to step onto the stage. When he finally got his chance, he put everything he had into that first performance, singing a solo titled “When I Get a Flying Machine.” The applause he received was euphoric, and the rest, as they say, is history. Now, years later, Hildebrand is an internationally sought-after actor, acting coach, and writer.
With an esteemed resume, including roles in the crime series Deep Undercover, the film Embrace, and Lady Labyrinth, Hildebrand has shown the world how exceptional he truly is. He tells every story with a purpose, captivating audiences with his heartfelt performances. This was certainly the case with the film BID, which was released earlier this year. BID is an extremely timely film, addressing the scandal of billions of dollars stolen from the Brazilian government by illegal construction scams, which led to the recent impeachment of president Dilma Rousseff, and criminal investigations of eight ministers, 24 senators and 39 lawmakers in the lower house of Congress.
“This project is of such importance…. it’s a big deal. This film is the first, as far as I know, to really explore that event in a fictional format. It’s a grassroots film bursting with the heart of the Brazilian people who want reform and change,” Hildebrand described.
Hildebrand was the lead actor in this film, shot in Curitiba, Brazil. He played Bernard Leone, an American contractor who travels to Brazil to compete for building projects. He begins the film as a gruff but naïve businessman, but that soon changes as he finds himself caught up in a game he’s not prepared for, against people who will stop at nothing. Bernard’s wife and children are kidnapped, and he has to make frantic choices to secure their release.
To capture such a demanding role, he used Strasberg’s relaxation and visualization techniques to “help warm up his emotions and get them a little closer to the surface.” As cameras were being placed and lit to shoot the scene, he would sequester himself to imagine or remember scenarios that stirred similar emotions to what he would be called on to perform in the film. From there, he used a “Meisner technique” of performing a high-stakes activity (in his case, rebuilding a shredded airline ticket moments in an imagined life-and-death scenario, moments before takeoff), competing against a stopwatch. He timed the exercise to be able to take the resulting emotions straight into filming.
This kind of painstaking craftsmanship fit the urgent importance of the film, which producers called a “battle cry against corruption.” Hildebrand wanted to give the performance of a lifetime.
“It feels sometimes like democracy has become a spectator sport. We gripe and complain from our armchairs, but nobody does anything. This film is a call to action. It’s a protest. It’s a mirror held up by Brazilians to themselves and it asks the questions ‘Is this what we want? Is this the best we can do?’ And I believe it also answers that question,” said Hildebrand. “A lot of crewmembers were emotional on set. This is real life to them. Their country is at stake. And anytime you witness a strong person standing up for what’s right, there’s a domino effect. Courage begets courage.”
After shooting the film in fall of last year, BID premiered at Warner Brothers Studios to great acclaim, and is now being marketed to festivals around the world. It has so far been accepted to Festigious and the Palm Springs Film Festival, already winning two awards at Festigious. Undoubtedly, it will be accepted to many more. None of this could have been possible without Hildebrand’s honest portrayal of Leone.
“Tim was extremely committed to the character from the beginning. Since we had started working in Los Angeles way before travelling to the location in South America, and he was the only North American actor on a Brazilian movie set, he asked me for visual references from the Brazilian actors that he would be interacting with as family. Photos that he could create backstories with, etc. He also asked for the contacts of actors playing family members so he could start communicating with them and developing personal bonds. We used real facts, situations and feelings from Tim’s personal history to create several layers for his complex character,” said Raphael Bittencourt, the director of BID.
“Working with Tim is very rewarding. He’s very professional, very dedicated. He’s an actor in constant search of the truth of his characters…always intense, deeply intuitive, and yet very technical when the situation asks for it. At the same time, he’s kind and generous as a person. He really was there to help make a film, and not to perform, you know, on a catwalk with spotlights on himself. He was the consummate team player. I wondered sometimes if the naturalism of his interaction with his onscreen family came from me, as a director, and the efforts I made to create a comfortable working environment, or if it came from him being a truly great actor who simply made my life much easier. Probably more of the second,” Bittencourt continued.
Every person that worked on the film, like Hildebrand, knew the importance of the story they were telling. This led to a unifying rally against the unforeseeable problems that seemed to plague the film early on. At one point, a large shipment of film equipment that was flown to Brazil from Los Angeles was lost by the airline in Sao Paulo, causing shooting to be delayed. Lawyers had to be called in to fight with the airline, whom the producers suspected of confiscating the property for profit. After much back and forth the airline admitted it had indeed confiscated the equipment, claiming it had done so because it suspected the BID team of planning to illegally film the World Cup. The producers had to travel from Curitiba to Sao Paulo to get it all sorted out. Once they had finally had the equipment, they were informed that the main shooting location for the following two days had suddenly fallen through. While the producers scouted a new location, Hildebrand would not let the time be wasted, and used it to meet his cast-mates and rehearse some scenes that otherwise would have had to be performed cold. In terms of the quality of the performances, he thinks it all ended up actually working out for the best.
“We all had a sense when the film wrapped that we had been a part of something important, that the troubles had come to stop us in some cosmic way, but that we’d beaten them. It really brought everyone together,” he concluded.
Photo: Tim Hildebrand in the film ‘BID’ photo by Priscila Forone.