Acclaimed filmmaker funds next film via web
EMRAH GÜLER ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Through the popular US website Kickstarter, Kutluğ Ataman has collected 30,000 dollars from 153 backers, who each get a perk for donating something.
When “South Facing Wall,” the fifth feature film by globally recognized Turkish filmmaker and contemporary artist Kutluğ Ataman, hits the theaters some time next year, there will be at least 153 individual funders proudly watching the film, some who have contributed 2,000 dollars, others merely two dollars.
Ataman has chosen Kickstarter, the U.S. crowd funding website for creative projects, as a major source for his upcoming movie, which will be filmed in the eastern province of Erzincan. The contributions from individual film aficionados will go directly to funding development and pre-production, help the production team shape the project from rewriting and research and include other aspects like location scouting and production design.
When you check the Kickstarter page for the project, you won’t see much on the filming details, nor about the cast and the crew. What you will see is a detailed account of the film, the story, and how the funding will work, including a five-minute video of Ataman himself talking about what he wants to achieve with his film.
“I want to make a film that talks about the everyday lives of individuals who live here and have not found proper representation in Turkish cinema,” Ataman says in the video to the potential (and hopefully actual) funders, referring to the people of eastern Anatolia.
In “South Facing Wall,” Ataman returns to Erzincan, the setting of his previous feature of 2009, “Journey to the Moon.” The film is set to be an occasionally farcical and occasionally emotional look at eastern Turkey, its people and their everyday lives. Women will be at the center of Ataman’s film, people who are stuck between stoic traditions and modernizing dynamics of recent Turkey.
A ‘seemingly local story’
As put by Ataman himself, the film hopes to “shake and break old values, such as so-called family values and tradition.” “South Facing Wall” is the story of 27-year-old Medine, at first glance a prototype of an Anatolian woman whose expected duties are working the fields and taking care of the family. It’s her story and how she sets out to teach the community a lesson after they abandoned her to her own devices.
“When common values defended by a community cannot be realized for one reason or another, what happens to the individuals who are the building blocks of the community?” asks Ataman.
The story takes shape with Medine’s quest to throw a feast for the circumcision of her 5-year-old son, İsmail, in the hopes of impressing her community, the villagers. To understand more her desperation, in a side story, her husband gets too close with a prostitute. No thanks to the villagers, Medine manages to throw the feast. In a twisted sense of humor that sets the tone of the film, Medine tells the villagers that she has served İsmail as the lamb, a declaration that needs to be kept secret among the villagers.
This “seemingly local story” has a far deeper meaning in Ataman’s film, with storytelling becoming an integral part. “In this [region], storytelling does not solely have the function of entertainment, but is also able to answer other vital needs of the community. This story interrogates these values,” says Ataman.
The underdog, the underrepresented and the marginalized are not new to Ataman’s cinema, which spans two decades. His 1994 debut feature, “Karanlık Sular” (Serpent’s Tale), shot him to national and international fame with a murder story set in the underbellies of Istanbul that brought the old and the new together.His final film “Journey to the Moon” was a docu-drama about four villagers’ quest to journey to the moon in 1957.
Ataman is also a renowned contemporary artist, taking part in the Istanbul Biennial in 1997 with his first work “kutluğ ataman’s semiha b. unplugged.” Since then, he has been nominated for the Turner Prize, won a Carnegie Prize, and some of his works are in collections at the MoMA New York and the Tate.
Ataman is familiar with the intricate dynamics of funding films and art projects. If Kickstarter is used by Ataman for his next project, it might as well be the popular funding source of the future.
Contribution to arts
What do the contributors get aside from the mere satisfaction of backing an arts project? Well, those who pledged two dollars will get a shout out in Facebook and Twitter. The perks go up as the amount of contributions increase, from signed production and post-production diaries, along with a set of a signed script, poster, T-shirt and DVD for 300 dollars, and a one-on-one with Ataman himself talking about your own project for 2,000 dollars.
According to the rules of Kickstarter, once the preset amount of total contribution has been reached in a certain period of time, you cannot continue your pledge. Which means that no one is going to get Ataman’s personal video camera for the last seven years, as the asking price was 10,000 dollars. Let’s hope that Ataman will be an inspiration to Turkish filmmakers who are otherwise too timid about asking for money most of the time.