What was behind the decision to start working in Turkey?
ALEX SUTHERLAND The main potential here is the work ethic and the fact that people want to make things work out. What I found was great production leadership and overall production experience. One of my main abilities is to organize and distribute work so that no one is ever over burdened with too much of a workload. I thought that this would be a good place for me to work, as we also shared the same strong work ethics. Many of the productions, including Argo, didn't bring many UK or US citizens to the filming locations. On the productions we're working on currently, they have only brought around 18 people. The rest are all Turkish crew. That's unusual for international films, which tend to take large crews wherever they film. Personally, I prefer them to bring as few people over as possible and put local people in positions as they provide a positive influence.
How would you characterize the effect that Turkish dramas have had on tourism in Turkey?
İZZET PİNTO It is important to check the statistics and not rely just on how we feel. In the last four or five years, the number of people coming from the Middle East rose by 350%. This number speaks for itself. Also, from Central and Eastern Europe, Turkish Airlines used to have flights three times a week, now it offers 15 flights a week. This demonstrates an increase in demand. Luckily, in Turkish series, the producers show the beauty of our cities and towns. They generally show the Bosphorus and villas shot in the greatest locations, so when people watch it, they feel like they should see it. When foreigners watch a Turkish TV series, it is like a free advertisement for the country.
What are the advantages of Turkey as a film location?
AS Other than the amazing variety of locations, people are willing to listen to new ideas. People get excited when we come to them with a new project. We don't go there with an agenda, we go there with proposals for films, for what can be done, and they find it exciting. Turks are very business minded, and they see the potential of filmmaking here, as well as supporting foreign projects, knowing that Turkey as a whole will also benefit from these projects' success or exposure. We've reached a level of filmmaking where we now need the government to support us to take this to the next level. We need to diversify and be less dependent on the usual locations, such as the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, the Grand Bazaar, and so on. We need to discover new and exciting locations. For example, a village in southwest Turkey is being used by a German film company for the shooting of Pinocchio, which is set in an Italian village. For a BBC project, we are using the city of Bursa to double as the backdrop for a fictional city in Central Asia. It's much easier logistically and economically for UK production crews to work out of a city like Bursa than from, say, Kazakhstan, and it diversifies Turkey's potential as a filmmaking location.
What is the significance of your recent acquisition of Australian brand World Wide Entertainment?
İP A huge achievement has been the acquisition of the World Wide Entertainment brand from Australia. I enjoy entering different genres in the industry. It is interesting because when I started this business six years ago, World Wide Entertainment was a competitor packed with a large staff. They had 15-20 sales people and dozens of clients, and it was very impressive. In my second year, I approached them and asked to be their representative in Turkey. We were too small for them and they did not accept. Then, over the years, we became larger, and I wanted to get into factual entertainment distribution. This brand was one I really loved and they gave me a good impression, so I approached them. One of the reasons I felt like I could approach them was because one of the salespeople working there was Turkish, and she decided to move to Turkey and work for my company. I then sent a message to the boss of World Wide Entertainment and told himm I envied the brand and thought they did a good job and I wanted to acquire it. The talks took between six and eight months, but we finally closed the deal. Now, we own this brand and we sell ready-made programs to countries worldwide.