Interview with director Sezen Kayhan

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

Not particularly filmmaking but I remember some moments that I realized I was feeling so happy when people were listening to my stories. In my childhood I remember narrating endless stories to my grandparents and they did not look so bored as far as I remember. Then in elementary school my cousins started FRP (fantasy role playing) and were playing D&D (dungeons and dragons) all the time. Even without knowing the exact rules of the game, I soon became a DM (dungeon master) because I enjoyed writing and narrating the stories. Sometimes we were playing with 10-15 participants and I remember the moments that I became extremely excited when my stories scared, saddened or entertained my friends.  I was so curious about their reactions when I changed my stories. And with time, my interest in storytelling is connected to filmmaking, probably because I am more interested in visual storytelling.

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

I don’t think it is necessary. Especially in creative fields, it is possible to educate yourself with watching, reading, listening, observing.

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

It was hard to get started. And it is also hard to keep going. You deal with many obstacles; financial, creative, organizational. You endlessly need to re-prove yourself to producers, to film funds, to your crew, to the audience. I don’t think I really conquered them, but I realized that first you need to believe in your film and yourself for others to believe in you. So I started with believing in my film and then tried to convince others.

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

That everybody has different taste in films, including festival programmers. It is important to receive critics carefully and not taking rejections personally, keeping in mind that different backgrounds, cultures and geographies shape different tastes.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

Weather always challenges me. I often write too many exterior scenes and it is always a problem with the weather. When it supposed to be foggy and rainy, it is sunny, when it supposed to be sunny it is rainy. We always had to change our shooting schedule because of inappropriate weather conditions.   And of course there were obstacles about actors/actresses’ schedules, and also with the schedule of the crew. We tried to accommodate all of them for 3 days.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

Well, all choices are hard for me. I am not a person who can easily decide on things. So from script to casting, camera choice to color grading, every choice was hard for me.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

I met with the members of the cast and crew in different times and different places. I knew most of them long before the project. We previously worked in other projects, or met in festivals or other organizations. I think being kind, clear and specific are the key points of communication. It was easier to communicate with people you’ve already know and worked together. So it was an easy-going process on set.

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

Well, I think it is a tricky thing to always think about what do audiences want. But on the other hand, I don’t think it is ok to avoid the wishes of the audiences completely. So I think the best way is to focus on what you want both as an audience and as a filmmaker and create from the balance of that.

  • 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 helped my short films to reach the audience. I think they were necessary especially when the digital distribution and websites like youtube, vimeo etc. were not that common. Today you can also put your film on these site and meet with the audience through them. But I still care about the experience of watching a film in a movie theater and meeting with the audience after the screenings.

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

I think both options work in different projects. It is exciting to watch a filmmaker trying something new and original. But sometimes it is also nice watch a solid story with classical style. So I support variety here, I enjoy both ways of creating stories. 

  • What qualities or attributes do you look for in people you are looking to employ or work with?

Talent, integrity and discipline.

  • Would you recommend writers think like a producer when writing their script? Or, just write with reckless abandon and then worry about the cost, or whatever, after they’ve grabbed a producer’s attention.

I think it is better to be free while writing. The limit can be your imagination. Then your producer will bring it to reality anyway. And together you will find the midway.

  • How involved in the writing of a project do you get? Are you more involved in the initial development?

Until today, I have always involved in the writing phase.

  • If you had an unlimited budget at your disposal, what would be your dream production project?

It would be a feminist period drama.

  • What does the future of film look like?

It is hard to guess. With digital platforms effecting the ways we watch films and series, I find the future unpredictable.