Tag Archives: ATV

Changing for the Bitter

Showrunners Burak Sağyaşar and Timur Savcı tell DQ how they aimed to break the Turkish drama mould with their series Bitter Lands for ATV, and talk about the challenges that come with the rapid growth of a local scripted industry.

Ultra-long series runs, melodramatic romantic storylines and high production values have made Turkish drama a sought-after product across MENA, Latin America and parts of Europe in recent times. But Bitter Lands, a project for local broadcaster ATV, was created with a desire to turn the wheel rather than produce more of the same for the local market.

Burak Sağyaşar, from the show’s prodco Tims&B Productions, tells DQ: “It was a period where mainly action and cold, dark stories were being told on screen. Then our writer, Ayfer Tunç, told us a story we just loved – pure yet daring and grandiose at the same time. The structure was made up of a great love story at the core, along with appetising character stories. We were sure it would resonate with audiences.”

The story begins with seamstress Zuleyha (Hilal Altınbilek), madly in love with mechanic Yilmaz (Uğur Güneş) and preparing to be married, only for her cruel step brother to lose a big poker hand and sell her to mafiosa man Demir (Murat Ünalmış) to pay his debt. In an attempt to rescue her, Yilmaz kills his love rival and the pair have to flee.

Burak Sağyaşar (left) and Timur Savcı

The series was shot on location in the Çukurova region of southern Turkey, with many of the same team from Star TV’s similarly ambitious Magnificent Century involved in a lengthy set construction process to build the ranch and mansion where the plot unfolds.

Sağyaşar’s fellow producer Timur Savcı says: “We decided to design the story on the scale of a literary novel with a high level of production. Casting went on for months, and hundreds of actors were auditioned before the final selection. And after eight months of construction, the mansion and ranch that you see emerged.

“We are aware that every broadcaster has its own colour and audience following. Bitter Lands fitted ATV perfectly and instantly connected with its audience, so we met with the network and quickly came to an agreement. Usually we sit down with only one broadcaster, depending on the kind of series we are making. And most of the time, we reach an agreement without any second-guessing. We don’t shop our projects around. There are those who prefer that, but we do not find it right.”

Novelist Tunç was attached as screenwriter following her success on series including 1001 Nights, Love & Punishment and Broken Pieces. Faruk Teber directed the first two episodes, with Murat Saraçoğlu (Black Rose) taking over for the remainder. Inter Medya started shopping the project internationally at Mipcom in October.

Bitter Lands was filmed in the Çukurova region of southern Turkey

Bitter Lands’ record-breaking start to life in Turkey justifies Tims&B’s approach not to follow the crowd in a congested market. “Although the marketplace looks crowded, there are not many premium works out there,” Sağyaşar says.

“We always aim high but we do that by concentrating only on our projects. We do not make plans to destroy rival companies; we continue on our own path and aim to produce the most successful projects.

“We find that the key to cut through so many series is by producing content that can bring something different to the table or that discovers an innovation within a cliché. We currently have on air an action drama called The Oath, a period drama in Bitter Lands and a drama based on today’s conception of motherhood and family, Gülperi.”

But as the drama boom continues in Turkey, there are increasing challenges facing the local scripted market, according to Savcı. “The biggest challenge is unfortunately the long hours of labour and having to produce series with very long durations,” he says.

“This is entirely due to the irregular economic structure between the broadcaster and the advertiser. Some of the major advertising brands underestimate the significance of television. Since the low-budget commercials that the brands want to advertise do not financially satisfy the broadcaster, we all end up having to cater to the system where long-duration series and lots of commercials are broadcast in a slot. The conditions greatly strain everybody in front of and behind the camera.”

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The Heart of the matter

Turkish drama Bu Şehir Arkandan Gelecek (Heart of the City), which runs to more than 70 episodes, tells the story of Ali, a sailor brought up on a cargo ship after he witnessed his mother’s murder. Twenty years later, he is still terrified to confront his roots in Istanbul until he encounters enchanting ballet dancer Derin.

Speaking to DQ, stars Kerem Bursin (Ali) and Leyla Lydia Tugutlu (Derin) discuss their characters and the themes of the series.

They also reveal how they prepared for the show – including Bursin spending six months in LA learning to box and Tugutlu taking up dancing lessons – and the challenges of filming the equivalent of a movie a week.

Heart of the City is produced by Ay Yapim for ATV and distributed by Eccho Rights.

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Globo’s global goals

Globo TV’s Raphael Corrêa Netto explains the growing appeal of the network’s telenovelas outside its native Brazil.

The trend for watching telenovelas in Brazil is as strong as ever and it’s a habit that is spreading to the rest of the world.

That’s according to Raphael Corrêa Netto, Brazilian network Globo TV’s executive director of international business, who says investment in and support for new writers, on-screen talent and a willingness to take risks with stories keeps audiences tuning in week after week.

La-Fiesta---The-Party
La Fiesta (The Party) has sold well to broadcasters across the world

“Watching Globo telenovelas is a tradition in the Brazilian culture that remains strong to this day,” he says. “Our plots are audience leaders and are allocated throughout the programming schedule. We have three slots for original productions, another slot for a teen telenovela and a slot for popular reruns. And, a few years ago, we reopened the 23.00 slot for plots with more adult themes.

“We have just aired Verdades Secretas (Secret Truths), by Walcyr Carrasco (Trail of Lies), which explored the underworld hiding beneath the glamour of the fashion industry. It attracted a record 49% share during its broadcast. We are constantly investing in new talents such as authors, directors, actors and production staff to keep things fresh and to maintain our stories’ power of enchantment. The result is that, as well as being successful in Brazil, our telenovelas do very well in other countries.”

The success of Globo’s output at home continues to be repeated on the international stage through the network’s distribution arm, Globo TV International. Joia Rara (Precious Pearl), the story of two brothers fighting for control of their family’s empire, which won an International Emmy for Best Telenovela last year, recently aired in the US on Telemundo. It was also the second most watched show in Uruguay during its first week on air on Teledoce, and has sold to EPG in South Korea, Armenia Public TV and Mongolia’s TV5.

New series coming to the international market include serial-killer drama Dupla Identidade (Merciless), mystery La Fiesta (The Party) and romantic miniseries Amores Roubados (Doomed, pictured top). The Party has already been picked up by EPG, Ecuavisa in Ecuador, Peru’s ATV, Teledoce and Portugal’s SIC, while Doomed is heading to Telefe in Argentina and SIC.

Globo is also taking pre-orders for its latest telenovela A Regra do Jogo (Rules of the Game), which debuted in August. Written by João Emanuel Carneiro (Avenida Brasil, or Brazil Avenue), it centres on a former politician who precariously walks the line between good and evil. Brazil Avenue, which follows a woman’s bid for revenge against her cruel stepmother, currently holds Globo’s record for a licensed series, with broadcasting rights sold to more than 130 countries.

“Stories involving classic plots of love, betrayal, jealousy, revenge and big secrets remain strong,” says Netto. “What changes is the way in which they are told and the resources used in the scene. All our contemporary stories follow and record the evolution of society and use – as do our period stories and entertainment programmes – technological resources that tell the story in an innovative way. Filming and broadcasting in 4K, for instance, makes watching television even more exciting.

Rules-of-the-Game---A-Regra-do-Jogo
A Regra do Jogo (Rules of the Game)

“In Rules of the Game, we will debut a new method of shooting a telenovela, which has been studied for the last two years through the collaboration of different departments across Globo. It is the ‘Scenic Box’ (Caixa Cênica) – closed sets that are adapted to allow greater camera integration and to give actors more freedom to play, thus making dramaturgy closer to reality shows in the way images are captured and shown to the viewer.

“We have always had room in our programming grid for a telenovela made for younger audiences, with a very specific language, dealing with the life of teenagers. Humour, regardless of the central plot, is always represented by a core group of characters. Our experience shows that a good story, regardless of its main theme, needs to deal with other genres as well.”

Naturally, Brazilian drama fares best in Latin America, where output deals are in place with Telefe, Mexico’s Azteca, Teledoce, Ecuavisa and ATV, among others. Series also travel across the Atlantic to Portugal and Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa such as Angola, Mozambique and Cape Verde. But with global audiences now more welcoming to foreign-language series than ever, Globo is taking the initiative by targeting new territories further afield.

Part of this strategy involves setting up new channels. Netto explains: “In July in Angola and Mozambique, for example, we launched our second pay-per-view channel Globe ON, broadcasting telenovelas, series and comedies that have a place in the hearts of Africans. And we have already been told that the audience ratings registered are great.

“We have been gaining more space in the US, where we have had three blockbusters in primetime on MundoMax (formerly MundoFox) and we have telenovelas on air on Telemundo.

“We have also increased our presence in Asia, licensing the telenovela Lado a Lado (Side by Side) to China, a tough market for foreign products. And in 2014 we conquered new markets and licensed titles for Pakistan, Indonesia and the Philippines for the first time. Australia has also bet on our series, with Globo channels there and in New Zealand.”

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