With the series Asansör (The Elevator) by young filmmaker Bora Omeroglu, Turkey becomes part, for the first time, of our Official Web-Series section. Asansör tells the story of a girl that has a moustache and lives in an elevator. Abandoned when she was a child, she is brought up by an extravagant superhero, Qushyman. With him, she will discover love, heartbreak and responsibility and he will be her guide on the path to fulfilling a prophecy written a thousand years ago. If Asansör’s plot sounds far-fetched, what is really shocking is the mix of references Bora Omeroglu manages to pull off. From Michael Jackson to Bonnie Tayler, everything can be a part of this fun and original comedy.
Asansör tells the story of a girl that lives in an elevator. Let see, why did you decide to give the girl a moustache? Where does this idea come from?
These last years I’ve become obsessed with how we are used to seeing everything with the serenity of knowing exactly how the stories will end. Series, romantic comedies, blockbusters, they all use a very similar formula; they show us different versions of the same story, again and again, with little or no unpredictability. I decided I wanted to create a satirical series that told a special story about these Hollywood clichés, but I also wanted the audience to stay alert, wondering what would happen next. I also wanted to point out a social issue that I am very passionate about: gender issues! So I opened the series with a girl with a moustache. Boom! Yes, I want the audience to wonder about this. And, although I intend to answer this question in twelve episodes, I want them to feel uncomfortable without knowing the answer… and to have to accept her for what she is. #LGTBI
The series mixes a lot of references: soap operas and pop culture (with the main song of Live Aid, We are the world, Bonnie Tayler, Whitney Houston). How did you come up with this explosive mix?
Soap operas are a great inspiration in my comedies. Addictive storylines, overacting, crocodile tears, corny surprise endings… I love them, I can’t get enough. I wanted to use all of these elements in the series, but I also didn’t want the audience to get used to anything, so I tried to constantly interrupt this rhythm with popular references and musical sequences to create the general exhilarating tempo of the series, that can go anywhere at any time.
Asansör has a very special, very surreal, type of humor. How did you decide upon it and how has the audience reacted to it?
From the beginning of my career I have focused on trying to create original series with their own voice and their own rhythm. And that is probably because, as a spectator, although I watch mostly everything, I have never followed a particular series. I’ve always liked different things from different programs. So, when writing, Asansör, I wondered what would happen if I could somehow mix the magical world of Wes Anderson with the pure innocence of Ally McBeal, adding a little parody to is. Would it become a special series? I didn’t know for sure, but once I did it, I was very excited to see the reactions. Up until now, we’ve done screenings in Los Angeles, New York and Miami, and the reactions were a lot better than I expected. Not only has it received the attention of industry professionals that are attracted to the original story and its visual world, which looks like a comic strip, but it is has also got a warm reception from the audience, mostly due to its comedy and satire of social and political issues. As a writer, being recognized internationally with my first series has been an important part of what I’ve been trying to prove to myself and the industry for many years. I couldn’t be any prouder!
Tell us about the casting.
As it intended to be a new type of comedy, we wanted to work with new names. Defne Koldas, the girl with the moustache, is a Turkish musical theatre actress that graduated from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama of London and she is the daughter of a well-known Turkish actress. She is currently starring as the character of Tzeitel in the musical The fiddler on the roof with one of the largest theatre companies in Istanbul. Adem Yilmaz, the Qushyman, is also a talented Turkish musical theatre actor, born in Belgium, and he has starred in over thee internationally-acclaimed feature films. He is currently at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama completing his Masters. Lastly, but as important, the a cappela group Patron Cildirdi creates our music and is our official Girl Next Door. All of our voice actors have been really amazing, I can’t praise them enough. It has been the best group of actors I have had the privilege to work with. With their effort the series ensued with very few changes.
Turkey is a great unknown for the general Spanish audience. How is the audiovisual industry in your country?
In Turkey we are very lucky to have many world-recognized filmmakers, such as Nuri Bilge Ceylan, that received the Golden Palm at the Cannes Film Festival in 2011, Fatih Akin, who just won the Best Movie Oscar, or Tolga Karaçelik, that just won at Sundance 2018. But in the industry, television and, over all, television series, are the motor of the main Turkish productions, with a production of about 50 series a year. Television is definitely the popular choice for Turkish families to spend their evenings.
The series has visited many festivals all over the world. How has the reception been? Has there been any problem with translating humor out of your country’s borders?
That is as great question. Not losing humor in the translation was one of my biggest worries. From the start of the project, I wanted to create a comedy that offered something new to the industry, not just in Turkey, but all over the world. To do this, when I was writing the script, I purposely avoided local jokes and always took into account how the references would be translated, including any type of musical pieces, to all different cultures of the world, in English, Spanish or French. So, if a joke didn’t fit into these patterns, it was discarded. And I discarded many! But, besides the feedback we received, I am happy to see that almost all those who have seen the series have recognized the world I tried to create in a small elevator, and how unique and pure it truly is. I think that is my greatest achievement.
You studied at the Polytechnic University of Valencia. What do you remember of that time in your life?
I remember everything! Yes, I studied Audiovisual Communication Design at Politécnica. I think we always cherish our student years, but my time at the Polytechnic University not only helped my try out my talents, but it also allowed me to explore myself culturally and socially in some of the most progressive institutions and cities of Spain. I have travelled to many cities, before and after my university studies, but I don’t know why, I still feel a special type of connection with the city of Valencia and the time I spent here. Perhaps it is because we mostly define the places where we’ve been through the quality of the time we’ve spent there. If that is true… Valencia… is the best city in the world!
How has your time in Spain and Valencia influenced your work?
Valencia was the first place where I got an award for my filmmaking. My first short-film, The Coil, was given the ‘Best Video’ award at Valencia Crea ’09 the 3rd prize at the Mostra Audiovisual of the Gandia Campus. Before arriving to Valencia, I was very shy about the responsibility of exposing myself and my work for people to see it. But my experience here not only validated me as a filmmaker, but it also showed me how art and different points of view were valued in life. I frankly think that my time here in Valencia and in Spain gave me the confidence that an artist desperately needs to create something new and challenge the mainstream.
Asansör is the first Turkish series that participates in Cinema Jove. As an ambassador for your country, how do you feel?
One of the many reasons I wanted to create this project was to show the world there are exciting things happening in Turkey. I am very happy to have been successful at this; thank you for this opportunity. I am very proud of being the first Turkish series creator at Cinema Jove. I hope more will visit future editions.
What do you expect of your visit here?
I don’t know what to expect! I just know Valencia has always been very nice to me. So, I’m not sure what will happen, but I’m sure that it will be what’s best for me! I’m really looking forward to returning to Valencia. I am very excited and thrilled to be part of Cinema Jove.