Tuna Erturk has always loved film. It’s an easy conclusion that he has always loved the films of American cinema as well. As a producer, he is well suited for and seems determined to bring the best of his homeland Turkey and US films together. While the film industry of the US has a long rich history and the most established infrastructure in the world, the one thing it doesn’t have is the storytelling and perspective of Turkey. Having established himself as the driving force in numerous award-winning productions of his homeland that have achieved international acclaim, Erturk has been a conduit for cooperative film productions between these two cultures and industries. The increasing presence of creative individuals from around the planet in Hollywood films in addition to the prominence and success of global marketing is a strong indicator that Tinsletown understands the value of fresh and unique professionals like Tuna.
It’s a story familiar to many artists; Tuna’s family moved constantly during his young days (due to his father’s job) so he never stayed in one place for long enough to establish long lasting friendships. All of this led to his fascination with movies. Because Turkey’s government only offered one TV channel with a seasonal repetition of the same movies, Erturk became an unwitting student of film. Witnessing the same productions over and over gave him insight to how scenes were created, flow was conducted, lighting, etc. As he grew older and began a career as a producer he became aware of a major difference between the US and Turkish projects. He comments, “I began to realize that there is something in the restriction of having a smaller budget that forces you to dig very deep and cultivate your own creativity. I think it’s obvious that everyone in the world watches what Hollywood does and is inspired by it. The industry there often sets the standard that other imitate. We have a smaller film industry in Turkey. Film budgets are not comparable to the U.S. For example, our most expensive movie’s budget is ten million dollars. Ten million dollars is the budget of an independent movie in U.S. The market is so big in here. You can spend fifty million dollars for a single movie and then you can make more at the box office. You can’t get your money back from the box office in Turkey if you spend fifty million dollars for a single movie. The market is getting bigger in Turkey though, especially in the TV series business. The producers of these shows sell content and the series to the Middle East, South America, Middle Asia, China, Japan, and even to U.S.”
In 2013 Erturk produced the Turkish Film Cycle. The film received the Special Jury Prize at Turkey’s famed Istanbul International Film Festival. This quirky film is far from what you would see at your local Cineplex and yet it offers such a fresh idea and sentiment that it becomes undeniably attractive. After seeing a story about a shepherding contest, Dervis Zaim decided to write and create a film about it. At the end of every summer, the Hasanpasa village holds a shepherding contest. The traditional contest requires shepherds to herd their sheep one by one through a pool of water. The shepherd who crosses the pool with his flock fastest and with least hesitation wins the contest. Hasanpasa's seasoned champion for the past eight years is an elderly shepherd known as Takmaz. Takmaz is determined to teach the younger generation the finer points of being a good shepherd. The story offers humor, drama, and some life lessons to both the characters and the viewer. For Tuna, it offered up production challenges. He states, “We had two real challenges. First, it was a winter story and it was so cold. We shot this movie in snow. I was constantly sick and taking medicine to get through the shoot. Secondly, some actors were non-professionals. We were doing a lot of takes during the shoot. I learned from Dervis Zaim that he can get whatever he wants from non-professional actors if you work things properly.”
While here in the US, Erturk was contacted to bring his producing talents to the sequel of the massively successful Turkish Film Ah Luv Yu. The film Ah Luv Yu Tuu, directed by Sermiyan Midyat, is filmed in Sugarland (Houston, TX) and needed someone who was well versed in the American production style (including rules and regulations). For a producer such as Tuna who loves both US and Turkish films it was a perfect situation. He tells, “I grew up in Turkey and I know Turkish people. I worked as a producer in Turkey for many years. It was quite a different experience for me to make a movie with Turkish people in U.S. It was exciting to see these two cultures working together to create a story that also communicates what it’s like for people from Turkey to experience the US.” Sermiyan Midyat comments, “I sought out Tuna’s services because I was familiar with much of his past work. He has made an extremely impressive number of critically acclaimed films that have been screened and awarded accolades at film festivals around the world. Some of these include: Noah Tree (which screened at Cannes Film Festival and Sundance), the Istanbul International Film Festival Jury Prize-winner Cycle, and Golden Orange Film Festival Official Selections Uzun bir Gun and Nahos bir Mevzu (the Golden Orange Film Festival being the largest and most respected film festival in all of Turkey). Sevki Tuna’s value as a producer is phenomenal, rivaling that of Turkey’s top film producers.
Tuna Erturk has fully embraced the prospect of America and Turkish film industries cooperating. This led Erturk to cofound and produce the Los Angeles Turkish Film Festival. The festival helps to promote awareness of Turkish Cinema on the West Coast to provide future networking relations among young filmmakers and to give the creative crew members (Director, Writer, Producer, and Director of Photography) the opportunity to showcase their work in the heart of Los Angeles. His role in the festival sees Tuna renting theaters for the screenings, scheduling special guest filmmakers, organizing the festival’s screening schedule, and generally making sure that the entire event runs like clockwork.
Tuna Erturk has taken a young boy’s imagination and crafted a life that has become a realization of these dreams. From his early days in Instanbul to his adult life in the US, he continues to strive to realize the full extent of his aspirations. Tuna still longs to work with the iconic names like Bruckheimer, Spielberg, Nolan and Villeneuve. Considering how much he has achieved already, it’s likely he will get the opportunity.