Cagan Irmak is a highly regarded Turkish director and screenwriter. A graduate of the Faculty of Communication, Department of Radio, TV and Cinema from Ege University, Irmak has been hugely successful with his films, series and short films. His best known project is the series “Çemberimde Gül Oya“, which narrates the complex, tense and political situation of the 1980s and the experiences of the next generation in the 2000s. He is also director and co-writer of Unutursam Fısılda, a movie that focuses on the life of a singer from the 1970s, starring Farah Zeynep Abdullah, Mehmet Gunsur and Kerem Bursin. The movie has been studied widely for its familiar structure of storytelling from the Yesilcam era. Apart from a couple of his projects, Mr. Irmak has been the scriptwriter for all his movies.
Recently he chatted with Episode Yerli magazine about BluTVs Yesilcam project, where Cagatay Ulusoy has the starring role as Semih Ates, and we get a rare glimpse into this amazing filmmaker who continues to contribute significantly to the growth of Turkish cinema.
Translated by CUNA
When it comes to the naivete, comedy and drama of Yesilcam movies, you are deemed as the most popular director among others who still has the traces of that phenomenon today. What does Yesilcam mean to you as an era and a series in terms of this fact?
Yesilcam is remembered as a combination of naivete, comedy and drama but to me, there is another face of it except for these ones. We can’t regard that period only as naivete, comedy and drama. During those years, due to the broadcast principles of TRT channel, only that face of Yesilcam has been reflected. However, there was also a time in Yesilcam when director’s movies were founded and political messages were involved. I look at it as a whole so to me, there are various beauties of Yesilcam. It would be unfair to remember Yesilcam only with the words we counted in the beginning. So it means a lot to me. The sources that I take advantage from, the movies that introduced me to the cinema, they all lie in that period – each having their own colors and variety. Yesilcam is a bigger frame for me.
You generally make movies out of the scripts you write yourself; it applies the same to the period dramas you made. But in Yesilcam, the script was written by Levent Cantek and Volkan Sumbul. As a know-how writer-director in Yesilcam period and movies, did you contribute to the script? Were there any changes you made on the script or any suggestions?
I generally shoot what I write. In this one, I didn’t really interfere with the script. It was a well-written one and it was already one of the biggest factors that made me accept the offer. I couldn’t be a part of the script writing process. I provided my own interpretation as a director and I did it while shooting. Honestly, I have no contributions in the script.
Starting from the midst of 2000s, there has been an increase in the number of series and movies made which are especially about our recent history. The audience seriously admired them and they are still being watched. Cemberimde Gul Oya, Dedemin Insanları… These are the projects that provide a critical perspective on the political events of recent history and on the other hand they make people argue about the official historical narratives. However, we can’t say that these types of projects can be made for tv today. Where do you think Yesilcam stands in this scale? Why do you think the channels and production companies are more distant than before to the projects that look at the history from different point of views?
Yesilcam stands right in the middle of them all actually. We didn’t claim that we are telling 100% of the reality with this story. There is another story here. Yesilcam has been affected by whatever the Turkey’s situation was back then. The effects of those situations on Yesilcam is being narrated in the series from time to time. Apart from this, I don’t think that channels or production companies are distant to this type of projects. It’s that they prefer to focus on particular periods. And it stems from the changing taste of the audience. For instance, there is a new trend that is running right now and five years ago there was a different one. When a craze is consumed, another one arrives, maybe a teen series or something else. I’m not underestimating anything. It’s just they can be seen as a reflection of the needs and current state of mind of the public. Cemberimde Gul Oya was a political series but it was my choice to do it and serve it. If somebody else wrote such a script, I don’t think people or the channels would say no to it.
Filming a series for a digital platform that has a drawn frame, with each episode having normal length and with an opportunity that was given to spend enough time to prepare prior to the shooting. And doing this for a period story. How was the time you spent with Blutv as a director? What were the advantages and disadvantages – if there were any?
You have already given the answer in your question. It has a drawn frame, each episode has a normal length, enough time is being spent on preparation. I worked with an amazing team. I worked happily and had my freedom while working. So I didn’t really see any disadvantages. Maybe the fact that digital platforms don’t have a big amount of viewers like tv channels can be a disadvantage. I hope one day these platforms can reach out to larger populations so that more people can watch what we do.
Interview: Ozlem Ozdemir, Episode Yerli. For digital copies of the magazine, you can buy on the stands and elsewhere. It is also available on Magzter.
Cagan Irmak & Cagatay Ulusoy Even though this is the first time Cagan Irmak and Cagatay Ulusoy are working together, it is not the first time that they are meeting. Both of them were in attendance at the 4th Turk Film Festival in Rome in 2015, along with other artistes such as Kenan Imirzalioglu, Ferzan Ozpetek, Mehmet Gunsor, and more. These are some photos from that event.
During his interview with ranini.tv, Cagatay said of Cagan, “Cagan is a very successful director who really loves his job, knows the period well, knows its textures, knows the lines between the lines, follows life in every aspect. His observation skills are very impressive.”
From a viewer’s perspective, and especially that of an international fan, this production has managed to pull the best of breed from all disciplines, and the love for their craft reflects in the final output. Yesilcam is an intelligent show that pays homage to the nostalgic era of Turkish cinema in many ways; as a historical account as well as the style of storytelling that presents social and family values through dramatic conflicts. If you do not have the show on your watchlist yet, please read our reviews and we hope you will be inspired to catch up soon!
Article (c) CUNA
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