Tag Archives: Inter Medya

Into The Pit

The writer and the executive producer behind Turkish crime drama Çukur (The Pit) tell DQ about the series, which mixes themes of love, family and community in the story of a man who returns to his old neighbourhood to become head of a criminal clan.

Turkish drama Çukur (The Pit) tells the story of Yamaç, a young man from the influential Koçova family that rules over Çukur, one of the most dangerous neighbourhoods in Istanbul. When he meets Sena, they fall in love and get married – but when the family he thought he had left behind comes between them, Sena follows Yamaç back to Çukur where he takes up his new role as head of the family.

Produced by Ay Yapim and distributed internationally by Inter Medya, the drama stars Aras Bulut Iynemli as Yamaç, with Dilan Çiçek Deniz as Sena. It is due to return for a second season on Turkey’s Show TV this autumn.

Following Çukur’s official international launch at MipTV this spring, Inter Medya has sold the series into Northern Iraq, Afghanistan and Georgia. It is also set to air in Chile.

Here, scriptwriter Gökhan Horzum and executive producer Yamac Okur tell DQ about making the series.

Gökhan Horzum

How would you describe the story?
Gökhan Horzum, scriptwriter: The Pit is basically the story of a family. This family does not just include the mother, father and children. It is a neighbourhood based on values such as fraternity, solidarity and unconditional commitment. The neighbourhood earns its money from crime. The focus is on a young man who is trying to protect his family; who does everything to protect his family. Although the genre is seen as crime, it is blended with romance, excitement, intrigue and a dose of comedy.

What are the key elements of the show?
Horzum: The story is based on a father whose past is full of conflict. He has paved his way through crime and is not afraid to commit acts of violence for his family and community. He raises his sons so that one day they can replace him. However, the youngest son refuses to be a part of this life, and leaves the house. But what happens if this son has to return to seize the inheritance?
A woman who comes from a traumatic family, all alone and dishevelled, meets a man who really loves her for the first time and falls in love. She has to leave behind the life she knows and go with the love of her life so he can become the leader of a criminal family.
A lonely man plans revenge on someone who has abandoned him all his life. As time matures, he takes action. But what happens when he finds out that everything he thought was right until today has a completely different background and, in addition, meets his childhood love?

Tell us about your writing process.
Horzum: At first, I searched for pictures of contrast. A modern figure who plays punk or rock on stage in a bar; and another, traditional, figure holding prayer beads, with a typical Turkish suit – a man who everyone calls the ‘father.’ Then I tried to find ‘injured’ characters. These are characters who still carry scars from various traumas.
Even if it seems that they are pursuing a common goal, they only pursue their own goals. I’ve tried to bring those who have wounds together with those who have misplaced them. Then I stepped into their shoes and tried to intervene as little as possible.

How are the storylines featuring the Koçova family and Yamaç and Sena intertwined?
Horzum: Initially, Yamaç was a man who was away from his family and played rock music in a bar at the weekend. He did not know what to expect from life. He met Sena. They fell in love and clung to each other. Sena has no roots, while Yamaç rejects his roots – until the day he finds out that his family is on the verge of disappearing, so Yamaç has to return, taking Sena with him. If all went well, they have would left, but that doesn’t happen. They both fall into the ‘pit.’

Yamac Okur

How did you work with the director to create the style of the series?
Yamac Okur, executive producer: We had worked with the director, Sinan Ozturk, previously on our TV series Insider. He was the director of the second unit. The Pit is his first TV series as a director. At the beginning, we had the general story of the first season and the scripts for four episodes. Each year there are more than 100 TV series produced in Turkey; only a dozen of them are successful enough to finish a season. The duration of one episode in Turkey is approximately 120 to 130 minutes. So our first aim is to attract the audience to the show and then make them to stay with it by having a fast rhythm and fast editing with lots of cuts. We watched more than 1,000 auditions and at the end we cast the most talented actors who would work best for the characters. Our team is also very talented. Composer Toygar Isikli, editor Serdar Cakular, DoP Tolga Kutluay and art director Oya Koseoglu, who we worked previously (The Insider, Karadayi, Ezel), contributed a lot towards making a unique style for The Pit.

Where was the series filmed and what do the locations bring to the show?
Okur: Our main locations are in Ayvansaray and Balat, some of the oldest and most authentic neighbourhoods in Istanbul. This location choice brings the feeling of reality to the show. But we also used various locations in different parts of Istanbul. Most of the locations are real locations.

What were the biggest challenges you faced and how did you overcome them?
Okur: The biggest challenge is to finish shooting on time. With two units, we shoot five or six days a week for one episode. Two editors also work simultaneously. With a high production quality for a show like The Pit, you have to work with the most talented actors and crew in order to meet deadlines.

The Pit will return for a second season on Turkey’s Show TV this autumn

How does The Pit offer a fresh take on the gangster genre?
Okur: The family is at the centre of our story. Gökhan created very strong characters that are very real. The characters and the story are all fictitious, but most of the audience thought the characters were real.

How does the series compare to other Turkish dramas? What new risks did you take for a local series?
Okur: Most Turkish series use a lot of music, and so do we. Our composer, Toygar Isıkli, composed great songs, but this time we also worked with different singers who also composed songs for us. Because of the content, we used a lot of Turkish rap music and also local folk songs. Throughout the year, our songs are always at the top of music lists.
We had a lot of action scenes. We continued our relationship with our action director Ugur Yildiran (who is also one of our actors, playing Kemal). He created a Turkish style of action. In particular, having youngsters running on the rooftops was a great idea, and that worked very well in the show.

Why does the series appeal to an international audience?
Okur: I believe that if a TV series is successful in Turkey, most of the time it will also appeal to a foreign audience. Our plan is simple: to be successful in the local market. The Turkish audience also represents a great portion of the foreign audience.

What are you working on next?
Okur: We are working on the second seasons of The Pit and Stiletto Vendetta, and new TV series are on their way. We will also produce more films next year.

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Rocky road to love

The path to romance proves bumpy in Turkish comedy-drama Hayat. DQ hears from producer Burak Sağyaşar about making a series for a younger audience and why fantasy shows could be on the increase in Turkey.

In a sign of the growing reach of Turkish series around the world, more than 20 million viewers in India have been watching clips of one romantic drama before it has even aired in the country.

The show in question is Hayat (Aşk Laftan Anlamaz), the story of an affair between the eponymous woman and a businessman named Murat. It airs on Show TV in Turkey.

Burak Sagyasar

Following her graduation, Hayat is struggling to find a job and her mother threatens her with an arranged marriage. As she runs from one interview to the next, she scolds a young man in a taxi line – who turns out to be her next interviewer, Murat. After a case of mistaken identity, she ends up working with him, and so begins a rollercoaster of events with their relationship at the centre.

The series, which runs to 102 episodes, is produced by Bi Yapim and distributed internationally by Inter Medya. The cast is led by Hande Ercel as Hayat and Burak Deniz as Murat.

Here, producer Burak Sağyaşar tells DQ about the unique origins of the series as he sought to make a show targeting younger viewers.

What are the origins of the show?
This show was based on our desire to create a series that could stand out among the many productions that have been unable to fully capture young audiences. Generation gaps were growing between young audiences and producers. Having observed that, I decided to produce Hayat. A lot of young stars in Turkey wanted to work with me when I founded my company, Bi Yapım. So in a way, Hayat was a perfect match for that – with the universe it created, its cast and the trendy love story it told.

How was the story developed for the Show TV?
There was close cooperation with the network. Even though this is the first TV series I have produced, they trusted me completely and only made minor suggestions along the way. The result was completely original and the idea belonged to me. I hear it’s attracting incredible interest in India right now and the sales are going well worldwide, which is all exciting for me.

How did you find the right balance of comedy and drama?
In Turkey, productions are usually one or the other. Any ‘romantic comedies’ are based on situational comedy with some sweet banter between couples. The biggest difference with Hayat is the intense dramatic journey. When the story was first designed, it was a drama, which was then adapted to comedy. Thus between Hayat and Murat, you actually watch a solid love story.

Hayat stars Hande Ercel as Hayat and Burak Deniz as Murat

How would you describe the writing process?
I shared my idea with our writers and creative teams, then the story was conceptualised with a projection of the plot line. Finally, the script drafts were created. The one thing I prefer to never follow is a ‘make it up as we go along’ rationale. It’s a different thing to make manoeuvres according to the ratings. But knowing what you will be shooting and watching without any surprises is another thing. I always want to be able to see ahead, even if those stories may change later on.

How do you find enough storylines to fill 102 episodes?
We first laid down the groundwork. In my system, stories are worked on in batches of 10 episodes – which can change afterwards – and five episodes are approved in advance. I built close relationships with our writers and sometimes I even attended script meetings for hours. We have even created more than 400 episodes on other projects working this way.

How did the writers and directors develop the visual style and tone of the series?
During pre-production, three months prior to broadcast, our director and writers met at the production company every day. They were accompanied by creative department heads. At those meetings they discussed all details regarding the colour, tone and visual style of the show, as well as what camera, lighting equipment and other materials were going to be used – anything you can think of. I have a motto that I always like to say: ‘Everyone will see the dream on the table the same way.’

The story comprises 102 episodes

What do the lead cast members bring to the series?
Hande Erçel and Burak Deniz are two very promising and talented actors. After many auditions, I decided they were the perfect couple. There was very meticulous styling work done and Hayat and Murat emerged as a result.
Hayat has probably contributed to many people’s careers, but with Hande and Burak, it gave their careers a quantum leap. Their dedication, discipline and acting contributed greatly to the show. I’m happy to have worked with them.

Where was the series filmed and how were locations used in the script?
The series was filmed in and around Istanbul. We decided where the story would take place and the writers wrote accordingly. Beautiful and romantic locations were selected for shooting.

What were the biggest challenges during production?
We did not have any major problems or challenges, from episode one right up to the finale. Working with professionals, we were able to quickly take care of all minor troubles among ourselves. That’s why it was a project I happily worked on.
But referring to my earlier comments on the writing process, I can say this: at the risk of ratings dropping, there were at least five sharp turns in the storyline of Hayat along the way. Thanks to the support and collaboration of the network, and being able to read the audience reactions well, we were successful. Still, that was quite a challenge and a risk.

Hayat was created with younger viewers in mind

How do you think Hayat stands out from other dramas on air in Turkey?
As a producer, I try to keep track of everything on screen. There are certain periods when the industry enters a vicious circle of ‘temporary blindness’ and you keep seeing similar works on TV. In the name of raising awareness, as I mentioned before, Hayat is a series that was built on a dramatic structure. Telling the charming and impossible love story of two young lovers embellished with the components of a youth series and a different narrative style, it has become successful and stood out from its rivals.

How are television dramas changing in Turkey and what new stories are being told?
Successful producers in Turkey are those that follow global trends as well as observing their local market. We also follow innovative and exciting stories but, sociologically speaking, in Turkey it is the female audience that drives ratings. We can include women from all categories in this segment. Then come the youth and male viewers. That is why love stories always attract the most interest.
I think the fantasy genre will be the rising trend in the near future in Turkey. The world is transitioning into a new dimension with futurism, with artificial intelligence, space technologies and visionaries like Elon Musk currently among the top trends.
With the proliferation of digital platforms such as Netflix, Hulu and others, more courageous and futuristic stories will be told.

What are you working on next?
Bi Yapım and Tims Productions recently merged in a major deal. Tims Productions is the creator and production company of Magnificent Century and a number of works that have become global hits. From now on, producer Timur Savcı and I will be continuing as partners under the new company name, Tims&B Productions. We are currently working on three new projects, which will be on air in the new season.
Our action series The Oath, which is on air now, has been one of the most talked about series in Turkey and around the world. It was featured on Fresh TV at the last MipTV in April. We are working hard to bring many more successful projects to life.

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