Interview with director Umut Kayacan

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

I am feeling like “Wow! I should make a movie” after I exit from a good movie. I don’t remember the first time, but I always have this feeling. Putting someone to another world that you create, lock inside and make him/her live different experience. That is so much powerful. Watching good movies and pop-corn are my trigger.

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

Not really. Even I have graduated from a film school, I am not really side with it. I believe as master Alfred Hitchcock says: “Filmmaking can not be taught, it can be learned.” Surely, it is ridiculous reinventing the wheel, but it is important to make unique mistakes. Everyone should have their own path, own mistakes and own decisions. Experience is the best teacher. That makes the filmmaking and directors unique and successful.

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

 For me, it was keep going. Not because of mental blocks; but, production problems. What a pity, we are living in a world that working with the rule “money, talks; filmmaker, walks.” So main problem about me is always about economy. It doesn’t matter how good you calculate your production, you will always consume more money than you expect. So better find a good producer.

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

The most important lesson I have learned was from a master Terry Gilliam. In one interview he says : “You are more powerful with obstructions. Think about the gunpowder. If you burn it, it will just burn and go off. But if you put it inside a can, if you obstruct it with metal cover, it will transform itself to the bomb. It will explode more powerful.” That quote is always in my mind, whenever I see some problems; I am thinking about finding a creative solution.

  • 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?

When you are writing your story, your film is done in your mind with perfect condition. But then, when you start production, compromises make your film completely different than your mind; and you are losing half of your film.  In my film also; I had many problems. Main problem was about kids and guns. In the final scene; one of the children’s head had to explode with gun. So I had to explain to the kid: first, guns are dangerous; second, you will act as your head is exploded. It is already so hard to work with kids but also when you add guns and explosions inside your film; it is becoming totally mess. You can’t put a blood squib on kid’s head. It is hard but also dangerous. So I decided to shoot explosion as a plate. I exploded several things like; watermelon, tomatoes, latex head etc. But none of them was as I expected. Finally I found an idea; I bought a box of condoms, filled condoms with fake blood and turkey meat, taped each other and exploded. It was a fantastic explosion. Meats were flying, blood was everywhere. So I used that plate with compositing instead of using blood squib on kid’s head. It was way more enjoyable and safe. 

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

It was really hard to decide whether if I use professional camera or smartphone. I decided to shoot this film with smartphone, because it was making everything more realistic. But in another way it was more difficult because you can’t control everything like professional camera. It was hard but instructive decision.

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

It was the easiest part for me. Because they are all my close friends. So it was like playing a game together. But in cast, I have two kids in my film. 11 years old boy and 6 years old girl. It was quite  difficult to manage relationship with them. You have to adapt everything to their mood. You should direct them as a director, but also you should have a friendship. It is a really thin line. You should think like a kid, but act like an adult. That was one of my biggest challenge.

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

Whatever your genre is, audience will always be important. I find cinema so similar to tango. Filmmaker is a man and audience is a woman, you should know how to lead your partner. There should be a harmony between each other. You are giving information, establishing plans, shots; and they are responding you laughing, surprising, frightening. You are taking a step and they are taking a step depend where your step is. The challenge is; not to step your partner’s foot.

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

Festivals are main locomotives of independent filmmaking. Thanks to them, we are finding areas to show our films. If you are not in mainstream media, it is really hard to take place in movie theaters. Festivals are giving courage, right to speak and freedom to us. Hope to see more independent good quality film festivals in future.

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

There is nothing new under the sun. But it is important your perspective, your style. As I said before, we are all unique with our mistakes. I do not believe there are safe margins in cinema. Every frame is risky, every frame tells something about you and your point of view. So for me there is no originality or safe margins, for me there are unique mistakes that makes us ourselves.

The Wise Toucan
Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.