Interview with director Melih Alsan

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

I covered numerous breaking news on the field in Turkey. Most of them were about suicide bombs, armed conflict or mass protests but I came to a point where I had to give live footage from a coup attempt in Istanbul than I realized I was doing nothing but to record. I need to dig, investigate and involve what is happening behind of the scene. That’s how I realized filmmaking is a best way to achieve that goal.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

I used film institute as a way of getting fund and a way to start over in another country so I cannot ignore its contribution however to become a successful filmmaker everyone of us need to watch, read and try new things. I guess, expanding our worlds is the key point here.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

The harder thing is always keep going for me. Like in my documentary, I think making a good film is equal to run a marathon. You need to keep your pace same or better everyday. I think building a good team and creating good contacts for my next movie is the biggest achievement for me. Because I realize you may find money, but you cannot find people who can make your dreams come true easily.

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

As a journalist I am used to contact people just for one piece of news which I would probably don’t think about later, don’t think about what will happen to those people after realizing this footage or article. Now I see how you can affect positively to someone’s life with your film. I spent 3 months with Avuyile, the young cyclist in my movie. When I finished the documentary, he wrote me and said, ‘I love this docie and it’s going to be a treasure in my life and my motivation for me to keep working hard to make it in cycling.’ So that’s my biggest reward.

  • How do you find or generate ideas for documentaries or is it a different process for every project?

I try to start from myself. What is my ambition or what is my main concern about ongoing events. When you start a journey from a place where you know very well it is always easy to create connections. I just start a project and it comes on my mind when I was watching an old Turkish movie. It is not easy to sit on your computer and create something everyday but a rewarding job when you discover yourself. 

  • Can you describe your approach to writing treatments?

This is my biggest challenge. It is always easy to visualize something for me but not to write but I realize that if you start a point where you know very well than you can easily develop that idea on the page.

  • Do you ever use the camera yourself?

I was short on budget and didn’t trust anyone to use the camera, so I shot the every single frame of my movie. Including drone and multi-camera sequences. It was a hard job and I’ll probably won’t do again.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

We are living in a crowded world, and I didn’t think about audiences when I started to shoot. However when I started to travel with my film I realized that every single movie has its own audience so it is crucial to find right one because it is always nice to see what  they see from your piece that you would never think.

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

Film festivals are the pillars of this industry, especially for independent film makers like me. You can not only show your movie in different places but also get some reward with your hard work. Making a movie is about production, post production and searching the right audience with festivals and searching the audience is one of the greatest journey I’ve ever been.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I think every filmmaker should know the classic cinema to be fresh and try something totally new. At the end we watch a movie to see something else from our lives, to be a part of a totally new experience so I think pushing your limits is always rewarding.