Tag Archives: Star TV

Walking tall

Ali Bilgin, the director of Turkish drama Ufak Tefek Cinayetler (Stiletto Vendetta), tells DQ about steering the Star TV series about revenge and rivalry between four old school friends.

Four women who were once childhood friends are reunited as adults with old scores to settle and new rivalries to emerge in Turkish drama Ufak Tefek Cinayetler (Stiletto Vendetta).

When they were teenagers, Arzu (Tülin Özen), Merve (Aslihan Gürbüz) and Pelin (Bade Iscil) played a cruel prank on their over-achieving best friend Oya (Gökçe Bahadir), leaving her shamed, devastated and suicidal. Years later, when fate brings the four back together, Oya plans revenge.

From Turkish production company Ay Yapim and distributor Eccho Rights, the series has been renewed for a second season on Star TV, which is due to begin in September. Deals for the show have already been struck in Israel, Greece, Lithuania, Estonia, Slovenia and Romania.

Speaking to DQ, director Ali Bilgin talks about how Stiletto Vendetta has broken new ground in Turkey, developing four unique lead characters and why local stories are the key to Turkish drama’s success.

Director Ali Bilgin on set

What was the appeal of working on Stiletto Vendetta?
What attracted me most about this project was that it was a genre that had never been tried in Turkey and the fact I hadn’t done such a thing in my career. It was presented to me by Ay Yapım in a period when I didn’t want to work on classic stories. The script attracted me because it contains humour, tension and drama. The opportunity of working with good actors, and the depth of the characters, was very precious. I was excited because it was a project with high potential to which a director could add different interpretations. Knowing women, working with them and interpreting their troubles made me feel curious.

How were you involved in the development of the series?
Although I felt excited that it wasn’t a typical Turkish series, the hardest part was to find a way to localise the project and elevate it to a level that general viewers would like. Together with our producers, our screenwriters and our team, we put a lot of thought into forming a realistic and convincing story. We paid extra attention to choosing the most realistic locations, styling and cast in order to avoid an unrealistic world. From the moment I got involved in the project, we shared the same excitement as the producers, which made the project work perfectly.

Stiletto Vendetta comprises 105 episodes

How would you describe the style and tone of the show?
Our priority was to create a location, a world where the characters made contact with each other for a long time. We created a neighbourhood called Sarmaşık and tried to narrate it in a believable way. We tried to design an environment with lots of shimmer, which was easy to watch and not depressing. Whatever happened in Sarmaşık had to remain there. It had to be isolated from the outside world but right in the middle of it. The clothes of the women, the design of their houses, their hair and make-up rituals had to serve this world. Eventually there’s a murder and we had to sprinkle tension among that shimmer.

Was it challenging to define the individual characters of the four women at the centre of the show?
The key part of the project was to set up the four characters as different from each other. Their acting and lifestyles wouldn’t be so different, but it was important to design their outfit and their choices properly. I can say that I worked with four different types of actress. At first it seemed to be a risk, but it’s bliss to see that I have made the right decisions. Our actors’ contribution to their characters has considerably helped the project and our screenwriters.

How did you work with the lead actors?
After rehearsals with the actors, we had long conversations about their characters. The language and acting rhythm was very important in this project, as it is in all projects. Although each character and their styles are different, we had to preserve the harmony with language integrity and credibility. It wasn’t easy but I think we succeeded.

The show centres on a woman seeking revenge against three former friends

How is the role of a director changing in Turkish drama?
With all of my projects, I try to reach a wide audience. I try to create moments and emotions that the audience can enter. My biggest aim was to break down the wall between the audience and make them feel as close to the story as possible. The hardest part was to appeal to both total individuals and the AB category of viewers. The actors have proven, with their discipline and compromises, that the right casting plays a very important role in star-focused projects.

What was your role across the entire 99-episode run?
I was always passionate about enjoying every aspect – the music, the editing, casting, styling and trying to do something new.

What is the international appeal of the series?
We believe it’s a universal story. We’re showing a form of relationship between women that can be seen all around the world. Since it has attracted attention in Turkey, although it’s a more conservative country compared with other European countries, I believe it will be successful in other countries as well.

How is the Turkish drama industry changing in an increasingly global market?
Unfortunately, the country’s political situation leads the drama industry to self-censorship and we often avoid focusing on universal stories. I think working on universal topics in the local atmosphere, receiving financial and technical support, will lead us to success in international markets. We’re a country with very talented actors, directors and screenwriters. We shouldn’t try to create projects that look like the Nordic shows or try to localise a series that’s very successful in America. I think we can gain momentum throughout international markets as long as we reflect the realities of our region.

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Buyers stick to the scripted in Mipcom

The sequel to Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit was screened in Cannes
The sequel to Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit was screened in Cannes

The Japanese have a good strike rate when it comes to exporting animation and entertainment formats. But they have struggled with drama. There are a few reasons for this but, when it comes down to it, the core problem is that scripted shows that work in Japanese primetime don’t travel that well.

The country’s leading players want to do something about this because the revenues they are generating from the domestic media market aren’t as strong as they used to be. So now they are looking at formats and coproductions as ways of building up their international profile and generating a new revenue stream. They are also starting to ask themselves if there is a way of making shows that can tap into the world drama zeitgeist that has propelled Korean, Turkish, Nordic and Israeli drama around the globe.

There were a couple of examples of the way Japan is seeking to shift its mindset at the Mipcom market in Cannes this week. One was a deal that will see Nippon TV drama Mother adapted for the Turkish market by MF Yapim & MEDYAPIM. The new show will be called Anne and will air on leading broadcaster Star TV. It’s the first time a Japanese company has struck this kind of deal in Turkey.

Also this week, Japanese public broadcaster NHK screened Moribito II: Guardian of the Spirit, an ambitious live-action fantasy series based on the novels of Nahoko Uehashi – likened by some to JRR Tolkien’s epic The Lord of the Rings.

Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria
Jenna Coleman as Queen Victoria

Produced in 4K and HDR, this is the second in a planned trilogy of TV series, the first of which consisted of four parts. The show has been attracting interest from channel buyers beyond Japan’s usual sphere of influence, suggesting the country may be starting to have the kind of international impact it wants.

Interestingly, NHK brought the actor Kento Hayashi to Cannes to help promote the Moribito franchise. Hayashi also starred in Netflix’s first Japanese original, Hibana, another scripted show that has captured the attention of audiences and critics around the world.

Away from Japanese activity, companies that had a good week in Cannes included ITV Studios Global Entertainment, which said its hit period drama series Victoria has now sold to more than 150 countries, including new deals with the likes of Sky Germany, VRT Belgium and Spanish pay TV platform Movistar+. It also sold comedy drama Cold Feet – renewed for a new season in 2017 – to the likes of NPO Netherlands, ITV Choice Africa, Yes in Israel, TV4 Sweden and NRK Norway.

Further evidence of the appeal of lavish period pieces came with the pre-sales buzz around Zodiak Rights’ Versailles, which is going into its second season. At Mipcom, the show was picked up by a range of broadcasters and platforms including BBC2 (UK), Amazon Prime (UK), C More (Sweden, Norway, Denmark and Finland), DirecTV (Latin America) and Movistar+.

Timeless
Timeless was picked up by Channel 4

Moving beyond period pieces, other shows that cut through the promotional clutter included Sony Pictures Television (SPT)’s time-travel drama Timeless, which sold to the UK’s Channel 4 to air on its youth-skewing E4 network. The show was also picked up by the likes of OSN in the Middle East, Fox in Italy, AXN in Japan, Viacom 18’s Colors Infinity in India and Sohu in China.

SPT also sold new sitcom Kevin Can Wait to Channel 4 in the UK, though perhaps the most interesting Sony-related story at Mipcom was the news that its international television network group AXN has joined forces with Pinewood Television to a develop a slate of six TV drama projects.

The series will be financed in partnership between Sony Pictures Television Networks and Pinewood Television. The plan is for them to air on AXN channels in Latin America, Asia, Africa and Europe, with a programming emphasis on high-impact action, crime and mystery. The deal was brokered by Marie Jacobson, executive VP of programming and production at SPTN, and Peter Gerwe, a director for Pinewood Television.

Midnight Sun
StudioCanal thriller Midnight Sun

Jacobson said: “As we look for alternative paths to expand original series development, Pinewood TV make for the ideal partners. We are look forward to developing projects with them that play both in the UK and on our channels around the world.”

Other high-profile dramas to attract buyer attention at the market this week included StudioCanal’s Swedish-French eight-hour drama Midnight Sun, picked up by ZDF in Germany, SBS in Australia, HOT in Israel and DR in Denmark.

Distributor FremantleMedia International licensed its big-budget series The Young Pope to Kadokawa Corporation in Japan, while Twentieth Century Fox Television Distribution licensed The People v OJ Simpson: American Crime Story to French pay TV operator Canal+.

Another show that enjoyed some success this week was DRG-distributed The Level, a six-part thriller that was picked up by ABC Australia, UTV in Ireland, TVNZ in New Zealand and DBS Satellite Services in Israel, among others. Produced by Kate Norrish and Polly Leys, joint MDs of Hillbilly Films, the show follows a reputable cop with a secret that is about to unravel. The show has previously been picked up by Acorn Media Enterprises for the US market.

Jude Law in The Young Pope
Jude Law in The Young Pope

Reiterating the growing interest in non-English drama, Global Screen enjoyed some success with Rivals Forever – The Sneaker Battle, which tells the true story of how brothers Adi and Rudi Dassler set up Adidas and Puma. France Télévisions acquired free TV rights and will air the series in early 2017 on France 3, while Just Entertainment in the Netherlands has landed video, pay TV and VoD rights. Other buyers included DR (Denmark), FTV Prima (Czech Republic), LRT (Lithuania) and HBO Europe (for Eastern Europe).

Turkish drama successes included Mistco’s sale of TRT period drama Resurrection to Kazakhstan Channel 31. Eccho Rights also sold four Turkish dramas to Chilean broadcaster Mega. The four shows were all produced by Ay Yapim and include the recent hit series Insider. This continues a good run of success for Turkish content in the Latin American region.

While Mipcom is fundamentally a sales market, its conference programme is also a useful way of tuning into international trends and opportunities in drama. There was an interesting keynote with showrunner Adi Hasak, who has managed to get two shows away with US networks (Shades of Blue, Eyewitness) in the last three years despite having no real track record with the US channel business. He believes the current voracious demand for ideas has made this possible: “This is a small business, where everyone knows everyone. If you create material that speaks to buyers, they will respond.”

Participant Media CEO David Linde also talked about the way his company is starting to extend its influence beyond film into TV and social media. Known for movies like An Inconvenient Truth, Food Inc, Snitch and Spotlight, the firm’s expansion into TV will see a new series about journalists breaking stories, developed by the team behind Oscar winner Spotlight.

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Turkish TV drama shows resilience

It has been a miserable year for Turkey – yet despite a military coup, suicide bombings and the fallout from the Syrian Civil War, the country has somehow kept on pumping out great TV drama in 2016.

Wings of Love
Wings of Love is doing well on Fox Turkey

A lot of this creativity will be on show at the Mipcom market in Cannes from October 17. For example, Sweden-based distributor Eccho Rights has just announced an exclusive deal that will see it bring a slate of shows from one of Turkey’s leading drama producers, Ay Yapim, which is behind Ezel, Fatmagul, Forbidden Love, Karadayi, The End and more.

One of the most high-profile titles is Wings of Love (Bana Sevmeyi Anlat), which is achieving very strong ratings on Fox Turkey. The series premiered on August 22 and is currently number one on Friday nights. Also in the line-up is Brave and Beautiful (Cesur ve Güzel), set to premiere on Star TV later on this fall, with Turkish megastars Kıvanç Tatlıtuğ and Tuba Büyüküstün in the lead roles.

Another title in Eccho’s line-up is Insider (İçerde), which is loosely based on US movie The Departed. It debuted on Show TV on September 19 and proved a big ratings hit, also becoming the top-rated Turkish drama on IMDb with a score of 9.4. Gaining an audience share of almost 12%, Insider beat everything except for Orphan Flowers (Kirgin Cicekler), a popular ATV series that was launched in 2015 to great acclaim.

Karadayi
Fellow Ay Yapim drama Karadayi

With two more winter launches from Ay Yapim on the slate, Fredrik af Malmborg, MD of Eccho Rights, is understandably in bullish mood.

“We have been working closely with Ay Yapim ever since the global breakthrough of Turkish drama,” he said, “and we are very proud of the contribution we have made together in pushing the genre forward. Turkish drama is stronger than ever and Ay Yapim has always been a leader.”

Ay Yapim’s success on the international market isn’t just limited to completed show sales. It has also had success getting some of its formats away. A good example is The End, which was piloted in the US last year. More recently, the show has been greenlit for adaptation in four markets including Russia, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain. The latter version will be produced by Globomedia for broadcast on Telecinco in early 2017.

From left: Broken Pieces director Cevdet Mercan and stars Erkan Petekkaya and Nurgul Yeşilçay
From left: Broken Pieces director Cevdet Mercan and stars Erkan Petekkaya and Nurgul Yeşilçay

Eccho has also had notable recent successes with dramas from outside the Ay Yapim stable. For example, it recently sold Broken Pieces (Paramparça) to Swedish public broadcaster SVT. An Endemol Shine Turkey production for Star TV, Broken Pieces follows other Turkish dramas like The End onto SVT.

Eccho isn’t the only company to be heading for Cannes with Turkish drama in tow. Fox Networks Group is hosting an event on October 18 to highlight its Turkish drama slate, which runs to more than 700 hours. Among key titles is Pastel Film Production’s That is My Life (O Hayat Benim), which has already been sold to broadcasters in Latin America, Eastern Europe and Asia.

As in many markets, September to October is an important time of year in terms of new title launches on domestic TV. Aside from the aforementioned Insider, shows attracting attention include Black White (Siyah Beyaz) and You Are My Country (Vatanim Sensin).

The latter, produced by O3 Medya, is a big-budget period drama set just after the First World War. It tells the story of an army officer who is torn between loyalty to his country and the welfare of his family. Already sold to Croatia (a big fan of Turkish drama), the show is expected to prove popular with Mipcom buyers.

In terms of trends in Turkish drama this year, it seems as though some Western influences are creeping in. While Turkish viewers still tend to favour action, romance and historical drama, one of the most intriguing shows of the year was psychological thriller 46 Yok Olan, which aired on Star TV earlier this year.

O Hayat Benim
That is My Life has sold across the world

The series focuses on a professor of molecular biology who is trying to find a cure for his comatose sister. After trying a new potion on himself first, he releases an alter-ego that he cannot control and that seeks revenge for his father’s death and his sister’s illness.

While 46 Yok Olan didn’t draw huge ratings for Star, it did attract a fair amount of critical acclaim. So it will be interesting to see if it appeals to international buyers. The show is being marketed by Global Agency under the simplified title 46.

While a lot of attention in the next few weeks will be focused on Turkish drama exports, another story of significance is that SVoD platform Netflix has just launched a dedicated service in Turkey, with a fully localised user interface and local programming.

Signalling the seriousness of its ambition for the market, Netflix has also signed a deal with mobile provider Vodafone and is already working with Turkish TV manufacturer Vestel.

46
46 Yok Olan met critical acclaim

Commenting on the news, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings said: “Turkish people are great storytellers with their hugely popular and internationally recognised Turkish dramas, and Netflix aims to become one of [the industry’s] most vocal ambassadors. We’re delighted to offer a more localised Netflix in Turkey that will continue to grow with both our Netflix Original titles and licensed content.”

Although it is too early to tell what kind of local uptake the service will get, it could provide a useful revenue source for creators of Turkish drama. Shows that will appear on Netflix in Turkey include Leyla and Mecnun, Suskunlar (Game of Silence), Karadayı, Ezel, Kurt Seyit & Şura, The Revival: Ertuğrul and Filinta.

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Behind the scenes of EST’s Broken Pieces

Spearheaded by its latest hit, Star TV drama Broken Pieces, Endemol Shine Turkey is successfully changing drama production models in the country. Gün Akyuz reports.

It’s early June and the final day of shooting is underway for the last episode of Broken Pieces (aka Paramparça), Endemol Shine Turkey (EST)’s hit drama production for Star TV. The location is an imposing Ottoman villa in Kandilli on the Asian side of the Bosphorus, one of three main sets used by the Istanbul-based production.

The family drama, in which two baby girls are mistakenly switched at birth in hospital and then unknowingly raised by each other’s families, develops into a tense romance between the wealthy father of one of the girls and the lower-class single mother of the other, as the girls’ real parentage is discovered following a DNA test.

From left: Broken Pieces director Cevdet Mercan and stars Erkan Petekkaya and Nurgul Yeşilçay
From left: Broken Pieces director Cevdet Mercan and stars Erkan Petekkaya and Nurgul Yeşilçay

It topped the Turkish 2014/15 television season, racking up impressive domestic audiences as well as stirring significant international interest. Launched on Star TV in December 2014, the drama overtook ATV’s hit series Karadayi – the country’s leading drama of the previous three seasons – increasing its ratings episode after episode. The season ended on June 29, averaging a 22.5% share and 9.2% rating of all viewers (five years-plus) across its run – more than double Star TV’s channel share average (10%). The series has been recommissioned for a second season.

Remarkably, it’s also EST’s first local Turkish drama production – the first of three to launch in 2014/15 – and with it the company has opened up a new path for production methods and business models in Turkey.

“Even though Endemol Shine Turkey was an established brand and production company, we had no track record in drama production. With the success of Broken Pieces we have been approached by more (as yet undisclosed) channels to work together on our upcoming projects,” say Gökhan Tatarer, EST MD and producer of the series.

EST entered into drama production in 2014 following the appointment of Hülya Vural to lead the company’s drama business, explains Tatarer. Vural was joined by Özlem Yurtsever, whom Tatarer describes as one of the best executive producers in Turkey.

“Marina Williams, COO of international operations at Endemol Shine Group, supported our ambitions and opened the door for us to have the financial support of the group,” he says. “We started to discuss our long-term projects with talent from different fields of the industry, optioning and licensing scripts. The belief Star TV had in the project has also been key in its genesis.

“We’ve had two other dramas launch this year – Sparrow Palace, for Star TV, and Overturn for ATV. But it was Broken Pieces’ story that appealed to viewers most and became a hit.”

Underscoring the singularly competitive nature of the TV market EST is navigating, ‘dizis’ (or Turkish dramas) dominate the primetime schedules, and the country’s eight main free-to-air nets launch around 100 titles between them every season. Up to 25% of these are cancelled within four weeks of launch. Around 50 new series launched in the 2014/15 season, between September and May, and more than half of them (28) were cancelled, explains Nilüfer Küyel, EST’s head of acquisitions and format development.

Tatarer: 'We’re working with high-calibre casts and directors who are not only successful in Turkey but are also acknowledged in other territories'
Tatarer: ‘We’re working with high-calibre casts and directors who are not only successful in Turkey but are also acknowledged in other territories’

Broken Pieces is a high-profile, big-budget production, starring leading Turkish actors Erkan Petekkaya (Dila, Time Goes By) and Nurgul Yeşilçay (Love and Punishment, Ivy Mansion) as central characters Cihan and Gulseren. The scriptwriter is Yıldız Tunç (1001 Nights) and Cevdet Mercan (Asi, Gönülçelen) is the director. EST producers for the drama include Tatarer, EST commercial director Hakan Eren, executive producer Özlem Yurtsever, EST head of drama Vural and line producer Selma Yücel.

A total of 130 people worked on the production, alongside 30 regular actors and a further 10 to 20 in supporting roles – plus up to 300 extras and 27 locations per episode, says Yurtsever. In addition to the three main locations, including Gulseren’s house and Cihan’s villa (the one on the Bosphorus), there are a further 14 fixed sets, plus locations from restaurants, parks, shops and hospitals to a jail. The season finale included 18 extra locations.

Vural says the drama’s success is down to the story’s “simple yet very universal dilemma encouraging the viewer to put themselves in the position of our protagonists, and question what they themselves would do.”

She continues: “It is a story about family, so all viewers can relate emotionally. The fast-paced story is a completely new approach, as Turkish dramas traditionally have a much slower tempo. In addition, our principal cast is very popular and has great on–screen chemistry. This, combined with a fantastically collaborative production, keeps everyone motivated.”

The development of Broken Pieces was initially funded by EST, and production began once the show was commissioned by Star TV. “Here in Turkey it is usual for production companies to finance initially, with remuneration from the broadcaster after the series has aired,” says Eren. Meanwhile, Turkish distributor Global Agency came on board early on with minimum guarantees.

However, EST’s international corporate structure and financial backing from the Endemol Shine Group gave the company a head start, allowing it to take a risk with a high-end production, which is unusual in Turkey, says Eren. “Being part of the larger group meant we were able to create long-term business plans, and our vision set an example for many others in the Turkish market,” he adds.

EST has not revealed the production’s budget, but per-episode costs for higher-end local Turkish drama can range from anything between €300,000 (US$333,460) and €500,000 per episode (as is the case with period drama).

Broken-Pieces-on-set-1With the production company bearing all the risk of funding at least three or four episodes before making a return, prodcos without financial backing – and whose productions could be cancelled after four weeks – struggle to survive, explains Küyel. “The upside in this business model comes from international distribution,” she notes.

Broken Pieces director Mercan, who joined the project once the script was developed, agrees, welcoming foreign investment in Turkish drama as an important development: “It has a pioneering effect. The Turkish production industry has done well so far and equals EST’s production values, but the fact that a global company is investing in our market will have an effect over the coming years.”

In another first, EST also signed exclusive deals with the leading talent involved, both on and off screen. “This was something completely new in the Turkish market as other companies only do project-based deals,” says Tatarer.

The drama was one of only a small crop of series produced in 2014/15 with a wide appeal across Turkey’s audience demographics. As well as its success among the overall audience, Broken Pieces pulled in ad-friendly ABC1 20-plus viewers (the main shoppers, generally higher educated and earning higher income), picking up a 23% share and 10% rating among this group.

It’s something that’s increasingly difficult to pull off nowadays, following changes to Turkey’s audience ratings system that have increased viewer representation in rural areas. It has been argued that content is increasingly reflecting the changes at the expense of being able to pull in more metropolitan ABC1 viewer and, by extension, international audiences.

Yet Global Agency had already sold Broken Pieces to 13-plus territories before the end of its first season, which “proves there is a market for locally produced high-quality drama with a high-end budget that can travel,” says Eren. “Ultimately it’s all about universal stories told with flair and passion.”

Broken-Pieces-on-set-11Mercan says the fact that the drama actually reflects Turkey’s diverse demography could also be a reason for its success: “The show portrays two different worlds: one the upper-middle-class milieu of the lead male character; the other the more down-to-earth, lower-class neighbourhood of the lead female, both embedded in the cosmopolitan city of Istanbul.

“They share similarities in terms of family life, parenthood and culture. The interaction and dialogue between these two worlds is what makes the series successful.

“The project ends touching the audience and asking the question, ‘What if it were me?’ That’s always in our minds, whether it’s for domestic or international broadcast, and perhaps that’s also a reason for its international success.”

What is less apparent to Turkish or international viewers is that Broken Pieces is adapted from the South Korean drama Autumn in My Heart, an early example of the now global Korean drama wave. The 16-parter ran for one season on KBS2 in 2000, giving rise to the drama trilogy Endless Love, which aired until 2006.

Broken Pieces scriptwriter Tunç says EST approached her to draft the script after it had acquired the adaptation rights of Autumn in My Heart. “I was on board from the very beginning, working closely with the executive producers at EST and Star TV, developing and modifying the story for the Turkish audience’s needs, tastes and expectations,” she says.

The story, Tunç continues, “explores a very universal dilemma over parenthood – is the parent the person who raised the child, or the one who gave birth? In terms of characters, the key element is that they come from totally different backgrounds.”

Tunç’s adaptation unfolds in a very different way to the original Korean version, which focused on the children who were switched at birth. “We explore the chaos that engulfs both families while also developing a love story,” she explains. “It’s an affair that, within Turkish culture, would typically be frowned upon as both characters were married and would never have met had their children not been mixed up at birth. Although theirs is a forbidden love, the characters’ authenticity, honesty and kindness have made them sympathetic to viewers, who can identify and empathise with their situation and the decisions they make.”

Broken-Pieces-on-set-5Like Vural, Tunç believes the atypically fast-paced script has contributed to the show’s success. “Broken Pieces is a family saga that leaves audiences gripped as the relationship between the father, mother and children develops. This fast-paced story is filled with an emotional conflict that keeps the audience enthralled at the end of each episode,” she says.

Turkish drama stands out for the length of its episodes – 90 to 120 minutes each – and the pace of production, with the average project pumping out the equivalent of a movie
a week.

With Broken Pieces episodes coming in at 120 minutes, “we decided to create and edit the story as if there were two episodes in one,” explains Tunç. “This was a huge challenge creatively, as we had to include several plots and storylines. It was especially tough at the beginning, as the characters did not know each other. We had to find the perfect sequence to intertwine the two families coming from very different social backgrounds.”

Mercan adds: “We’re doing something very different from the rest of the world. In one week we produce 120 minutes, which is something incredible. It’s very good practice, as you learn to be fast. That’s also true for the scriptwriters, who have to write around 100 pages a week.

“There is no way there won’t be some kind of slip or mistake in the acting, writing and directing at this pace. So what is important is the milieu we create on set, especially the harmony between the actors and directors, which makes our style different to the rest of the world. And we do it to a movie-quality level of production.”

From a scriptwriting perspective, Tunç says the main challenge for season one was the sheer volume of scripts required, with the opening run comprising 31 episodes. She adds: “When we began to shoot, we were already writing the fifth show, which is quite a luxury in Turkey and allowed us time to perfect each episode. We also have an extremely talented cast. All the actors are dedicated to the project and their belief has helped make it a success.”

The process of turning around scripts every week is supported by the production team, including two other writers and an assistant helping put together 90-page scripts each week. “The schedule allows us the opportunity to revise the story several times before filming,” says Tunç.

“In Turkey, programming is 70% dedicated to drama series, so it’s a priority to create and expand our local scripted projects,” observes Tatarer. “There is a high demand for drama programming, but it can be difficult to meet broadcasters’ demand for large volumes, as there is a limited pool of local writers, directors and actors. So we would like to focus on the very best projects. We value quality rather than quantity.”

EST’s main goal, says Tatarer, “is to produce local content that can travel because we are part of an international group. That is why we are working with high-calibre casts and directors who are not only successful in Turkey but are also acknowledged in other territories. We look for scriptwriters who can deliver stories for local audiences but with international appeal.”

Meanwhile, scriptwriting for the second season of Broken Pieces resumed in late July, and season two launched on Star TV in mid-September, returning to its Monday primetime slot. “We are focusing on a brand new story with different plots and huge surprises for the viewer,” says Tunç.

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