Conversation with Guclu Aydogdu, Director of The Short Film Hunger. By, I. Alev Degim
– Lets start with how you got into film making. Do you remember the first time you thought “I want to be a director?”
I always assumed I would become a semi-pro photographer following my grandfather, and actually wished to do a major in computer engineering. It all went as planned until someday I decided to drop out of engineering, which then one thing led to another and eventually I was graduating from Bilkent University’s Communication and Design department. I wasn’t so sure of myself when I first got enrolled in there but in a little while I knew I wanted to be a director, so much that I got my degree in 3 years as the highest ranked student of the class.
– How did Hunger’s story develop? Were you influenced by any directors, styles?
Although I never imagined myself as a director until school, I had the idea of Hunger long before. I even told a friend who used to study in the department I graduated from (back then I had no idea I would study there as well) and asked if we could shoot this story. She was interested, but apparently not enough. That was obviously my luck. So it stayed with me and became the debut of my career.
I can’t say that I got influenced directly by anything or anyone but there are some films which I feel like taking pieces off and using it in my own means. After all, I’m a big fan of the quote by Jean-Luc Godard; “It’s not where you take things from – it’s where you take them to”. Yet, this should not be misread. For example, my sound editor, who is pretty well known in anything regarding “sound” and also has been my instructor (which I suppose is why he accepted to work with me) Ufuk Önen, asked to make this film as silent as possible because the raws he watched reminded him of the tension he felt in the silence of “No Country For Old Men”. That was probably the best compliment I ever got because it is a film I love and an aspect I would love to use in my own films, a feeling I had wished to pass on while shooting. So then I knew “Hunger” turned out to be alright.
– Hunger got a lot of international awards and attention. How was it perceived in your home country, Turkey?
I wish I could say “everybody loved it”. But no. It’s not that kind of a film after all, so I don’t really mind. I even received comments as (spoiler) “they could have shared it” (spoiler). It’s just not for everyone, some don’t even try looking beyond and consider I’m just satisfying my sadistic needs. Needless to say, that is far from it. But what actually discouraged me from time to time was hearing my film was too short to consider. In the festivals it was already competing in! It didn’t make sense then, neither does it now. I questioned how long a short film would have to be. I doubt that would be a problem for audience. Only if they wanted to see more of it. Which already makes it good enough, I think.
However, Hunger was generally very well received in several prominent film festivals in Turkey. But I believe getting to compete in festivals such as Chicago International, Woodstock or Calgary beforehand gave me an advantage. A “courage” for the local festivals maybe I should say.
– I know you used unique locations for Hunger. How did you decide on the locations?
Initially, I imagined this story taking place in infinite white with only the necessary furniture and tools. I didn’t want to give a hint of time or space. But then we figured we could even strengthen that feeling achieved by infinity using a real location: Salt Lake. We went and tried to find the location with the furthest horizon, and no hills around. But there wasn’t such a place. So I decided to shoot at a point where a beautiful distant horizon could be seen between two hills. And on the day of shooting, we rotated the set to the camera and kept the same background for all the shots.
– What is your next project? Could you give us a hint?
I shot another short film following Hunger, and it also made me proud. Its name is Havva (Eva) and it even got a better festival streak than Hunger I guess. Not that I compare my works, but it feels good to see your voice grow in the community. It even gives confidence. So ultimately I decided it’s time to start working on a feature film. I have some projects in mind and already started to scribble some on paper. I am hoping to entertain the audience for a little longer next time.
– Which directors inspire you lately?
I’m always a big fan of many works by the great masters like Kurosawa, Kubrick, Hitchcock etc. and I believe those should be studied closely by anyone who wants to be a filmmaker. There are some masterpieces I always try to keep in mind and use to lead the way I imagine my works.
I also greatly enjoy works by Jarmusch, Tarantino and Cronenberg. I try to learn bits and pieces from anything I enjoy actually and have a pretty long list of whom I should get inspired by. The more you know!
There are also not many, but some Turkish directors who inspire me and Reha Erdem amongst these I think is my favorite. His mini scenes are totally fantastic.
– Do you have any advice for film students?
For film students; you might often hear “success without a film school” stories. Most might be true. But always keep in mind that there is a greater majority of failure stories that are not told. With or without school. You need to learn as much as possible. So value where you are and soak up any information and use any opportunity given. Things might seem irrelevant at times; trust me anything helps expand your vision.
For self-learning filmmakers; your road might be a bit bumpier if you are not born lucky but it just means you have to keep reading, searching and experimenting more. The information will not be served to you but you will have to go look for it yourself. Also, try to gain experience in real life but don’t be too bold thinking you already know everything. There will always be more to learn. For all of us.
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