by David Milloy
Turning Tide is a beautifully evocative short film which tells the story of David, a young lad in a Scottish coastal town who witnesses a large aerial battle and comes face to face with an enemy airman.
Made for less than the price of a new car (and a modest one at that), Turning Tide is the creation of former Marr College pupils Andrew Muir and David Ross. Having each pursued a career in the film industry, Andrew and David decided to make a film together, with Andrew serving as writer/director and David taking on the roles of producer and visual effects supervisor.
Rather than make a film with a contemporary setting, the duo decided that their film should be set in wartime Scotland, a bold decision from budgetary, technical and artistic perspectives. That was one big decision; the other one was to set it in their home town of Troon and make use of the town’s pre-war architecture and striking vistas across the Firth of Clyde.
Auditions for the film’s key part, that of David, were held in Prestwick and led to the casting of 10-year-old Patrick McLaughlin. The other main role, that of the Luftwaffe airman, was filled by Neal Roxburgh, an aspiring actor who had played in the same school basketball team as Andrew. Indeed, all of the actors in Turning Tide were from Ayrshire, adding an extra layer to its sense of place and authenticity.
With a couple of minor exceptions, the exterior shots were all filmed in Troon, with scenes shot at the shorefront, the ballast bank, the cottages near the harbour, and the exterior of the sawmill offices on Harbour Road. And thanks to the magic of modern technology and the skillful choice of filming angles and visual depth of field, Troon looks like it’s been drawn through a portal back to 1940. Girvan also features in the film, with the home of Andrew’s grandmother being used for interior shots, again to great effect. Irvine, the subject of the Luftwaffe’s attention in the film, also got in on the act, with many of the visual effects shots being filmed on the former ice rink at the Magnum Centre.
Principal photography on the film began in the summer of 2014, when the cast, crew and equipment convened in Troon. Blue skies and sun had been expected but the weather gods decided to replace them with grey clouds and rain. Andrew and David, therefore, had little choice but to film what they could whenever the showers abated. This, unfortunately, meant that they were unable to shoot all of the necessary footage before their budget was exhausted.
Undeterred, they reconvened a few months later, and this time the weather was sufficiently cooperative to enable principal photography to be completed. Much work still needed to be done, though, including the addition of special effects and a musical score. With filming having consumed their budget (and then some), Andrew and David decided to raise the funds necessary to finish the film by means of a crowdfunding campaign. This proved to be a bigger success than they could have anticipated, as their Kickstarter campaign not only achieved its financial goals but also brought Turning Tide to the attention of someone who would become a very important part of the team, composer, Marco Cascone.
Marco was keen to provide the musical score for the film. That would, however, have to wait until the effects shots and visual editing had been completed. Visual effects, some generated by computer and others made using models, feature in almost every scene of the film, from the carefully choreographed aerial scenes to digitally removing 21st century artefacts such as satellite dishes. Even with the help of some friends, the task of transporting Troon back to 1940 was slow and demanding work, and two years would elapse before the film was ready to receive its musical score.
Andrew and David were keen that Turning Tide’s score should befit its period setting, and Marco’s compositions did not disappoint. Recorded by an orchestra in his native Italy, there’s an organic, analogue feel to Marco’s soundtrack for Turning Tide. It fits the film like a well-patinated glove.
With the soundtrack added and editing completed, Turning Tide was finally ready to show. Having first been shown at the Los Angeles Short Film Festival in 2018, it had its UK premiere at the Aesthetica Film Festival, winning the People’s Choice award. Further festivals and more awards followed before the film made its YouTube debut in 2020. A ‘making of’’ video that shows some of the hard work that went into creating the finished film can also be viewed online. Both Turning Tide and its ‘making of’ video have been hugely successful on YouTube, with Turning Tide alone having amassed almost four million views.
Both Andrew and David continue to work in the film industry. They’re currently employed on separate projects but with Andrew beavering away on a script for a feature film, hopefully it won’t be too long before they can once more weave their cinematic magic together.
Turning Tide: youtu.be/6eYOZNjUqp4
Making of Turning Tide: youtu.be/TlnLPMPdUk0
Marco Cascone’s website: