AN INSIDERS VIEW OF OUR FILMMAKING PROCESS
It's very rare for a film to be so openly accessible as when part of an online festival. The Festigious Film Festival, Roy Zafrani and the rest of the esteemed Judging Panel have given Filmmakers like myself the opportunity to reach wider audiences but also speak about our own processes of making our art. The list of thanks are endless and could be a blog in itself, so I would like to simply extend my eternal gratitude to everyone involved and for making this film so much more than the sum of its parts. For you the audience, I would like to share an insight into the film which has been the biggest part of my life for the last two years and hopefully the first of many : ' When The Tide Comes In '.
When The Tide Comes In: Official Trailer
Initially the idea for the story came to me while driving – I know, that sounds dangerous! I seem to get a lot of ideas on long stretches of road whilst listening to classical music or opera. I remember it being a somewhat linear 60 mile motorway drive so I had plenty time to allow the idea to ferment.
It must have been around November 2013, a competition came up looking for submissions of 5-minute shorts on the topic of “Family Business” and I started developing an idea to the brief. Little did we know that a year later that this idea, developed and completed, would have been screened in Loch Ness, Greece, Los Angeles and 2015 BAFTA New Talent Awards where our very own Alia E. Torrie was nominated for her stunning original music score. I could not be more proud.
From the outset I really wanted to do something ethereal with a moral centre to it that audiences could relate to, something far removed from the mainstream. So I wrote about two sons staying with their dying father until the end. But the 5 minute brief just didn’t feel right – this story, what ever it was in front of me, needed more room to breathe. I made the decision not to enter the competition, and instead further develop this idea into something more complete. Two weeks later, the first draft of “When The Tide Comes In” was ready.
There is definitely that moment after writing a script when you stop and think, “how the hell am I going to shoot this?!”. This was one of those. In terms of filmmaking, “When The Tide Comes In” is certainly the most ambitious production to date. I have always felt that you need to give it everything. Anyone who has ever made a film will know what I mean when I say that there are times when writing you stop mid-sentence and think "hmmmm, we won't be able to do that", or "jeez, I don't know if I will be able to shoot this". Your practical head finds ways to bring up these sorts of question, and your natural modesty can make you back away from anything even remotely elaborate. But something I realised when talking to fellow writer's is that you simply cannot make sacrifices like that at the writing stage. If you do, you will make sacrifices everywhere along the way and end up with a film that feels timid and less than your best. You owe it to yourself to make Your film the best film it can be, for your own confidence, and your soul. Admittedly, the idea was ambitious, it was daring and it was a tall order when you read it back. As time went on, I must admit I got a bit of a thrill watching the incredulous and occasionally shocked faces of people reading the script. While that sounds bold, I will state here and now I was always nervous that it could all fall flat on its face. Yes, it could have all gone wrong, but I desperately hoped not before we have at least attempted with all our hearts make it!
Certainly ambition is not without its fair share of butterflies. Once it was written and being circulated to crew, there is the combination of excitement, drive and intense apprehension as you realise the scale of daring and boldness the script demands. This is when you hear yourself saying 'I blame the writer for such an ambitious idea!' Talk about making a rod for your own back - but this is the challenge that you thrive on as a filmmaker, in a masochistic sort of way haha.
The first big decision was that this was to be a period film. With that in mind, you approach things very differently, because you have to consider the audience buying into the time and setting. It’s great because you can be so articulate in creating the world your story and characters exist in. The research and referencing was the biggest undertaking and really enjoyable. Being period accurate was vital, because as we know, if you settle for less, I kinda think you end up with a half-assed film. Alia (in addition to her performance, Co-Producing and Composing) has a fantastic eye for detail, history and a flare for colour, so when I asked her to oversee Costume, I already knew how shrewd she would be and not settle for anything less. To be working with her like this really raised my game as Designer, and in turn it brought out the best in each other. I really felt we were just very on top of the films subtext, tone and its authenticity.
Working with DoP Alan C. McLaughlin was a real education for me too, primarily because he got me to start looking at things in terms of ‘movements ‘ rather than shots. It really opened up possibilities and the fluidity to tell the story. With this in mind, we chose to used a Prosup Jib pretty exclusively so that we had the flexibility to shoot those movements. It was a totally fresh approach to me. The biggest reward in filmmaking is the continual evolution, growth and expansion to our learning as a storyteller.
Perhaps the most ambitious part of the production was it's second block of filming. There was so much hanging on the final scene’s emotional conclusion, which involved a boat and a particularly choppy Irish Sea. I had originally taken on the role of sole Producer too, but as time went on, I was struggling, and out of my depth. I needed help. Alia stepped in and Produced the second block and what a job she did. I am eternally grateful that she did so. This was a lesson for me: as filmmakers we should never be afraid to seek help when we are having difficulties. I hold this to my bussom to this day. As I discovered, asking for a helping hand from people not only saved the film but it brought us all together as colleagues . For the second block there were just so many variables to consider, it was pretty insane. Then we found out that due to changing weather we were really only going to get one day to shoot those scenes…
Many ask about what is the ideal approach to directing, it always seems like some sort of golden elixir combination which folk seem to desire or try to emulate. For what it is worth, I think it comes down to the individual director. There are those who seem to have every decision made in their head before they get anyone else involved, everything is predetermined and filmmaking becomes a process of carrying out a series of commands. This may be an extreme, but it does exist. It’s not really my way. Having a definitive vision is a real strength but I also like to think of myself as being open to trying out new things and exploring possibilities. Start with the script and work from there. The people you bring into the production process are such a great, unique and wonderful resource, and good people can bring so much to the table. Working with Donald, Cameron, my father Gordon and Alia as performers was one of the happiest, most enriching experiences. Directing them was always a two way street, and it is so important to value them as performers for the life experiences and interpretations they can, and continually do bring to your script. They in-turn helped further set the tone for the Music which Alia composed and performed.
For this film, I certainly felt that being open to ideas and making informed decisions was far more rewarding. Some may frown upon this, out of some preconceived belief about what a 'Leader' is, but I honestly feel we can never be arrogant and not listen to opinions. Quite often your colleagues see alternatives which has escaped your over taxed and under fed brain haha. While the final decisions were down to me, it was the discussions with cast, the considerations of costume design and the possibilities of cinematography etc. that really brought the film together. I don’t think I could ever regard this film as only one man’s triumph. It was just the most satisfying feeling of achievement to pull it off, and one I would gladly do it again and again.