In February 2016 Frightfest Glasgow was once again home to many outstanding horror/genre film but there was one that stood out from all others. This year we saw Turkish Director Can Evrenol gracing Glasgow with his presence with his debut feature BASKIN.
Like a little ray of light from the ordinary, Evrenol’s film is nothing but extraordinary. BASKIN pushes boundaries and really shows to the rest of the world what Turkey has to offer.
Scream caught up with Can Evrenol at FrighFest to discuss his feature, the Turkish horror scene and the life after BASKIN…….
Scream: So tell me how you got into filmmaking?
Can: I went to Canterbury and studied Film Studies and Art History. I then went to NYFA in LA for the summer on a practical working workshop. I shot one short film there and it was the first time I got my hands on a camera and I really enjoyed the process. So I thought I’m going to shoot another short film in my hometown. In Istanbul I shot the short film and went on line and typed international horror film festivals and Frightfest come up. So I sent it to them and they accepted! I was so happy and Frightfest was the first film festival to which I travelled and Paul (McEvoy) gave me this big hug! That is how it all started and now I am coming here with my first feature film.
Scream: So how many times have you been to Frightfest?
Can: 2008 with my short film, 2009 as a fan, 2010 with another short film ‘To my Mother and Father’. In 2011 I went back to Istanbul, so I didn’t get a chance to go again.
Scream: You are a man of many shorts. How did you find the transition of going from a short to a feature?
Can: I am a commercial director back home and a couple of times we have shot commercials over three or four days. So suddenly I had 28 nights of shoot ahead of me, so it was a bit daunting. I swear as soon as we started it was very natural. What is really interesting is that it becomes a journey; you are with your crew and with all those people it is like you are on a ship. The importance of a long-term shoot is managing human relations very carefully. Some of those people I was meeting for the first time. My DOP and my Art Director we had some common background but for others it was like an arranged marriage. In my case it was a bit of gorilla filmmaking I was just collecting people from here and there. We have a huge industry in Turkey, it is booming but it is all done with the TV mentality of two decades ago. It is very long production values; people don’t care about the philosophy. There isn’t this industry for genre films. So I had to make a makeshift a way of doing things.
Scream: Tell me about the Turkish horror scene.
Can: Last year there were about 22 Turkish horror films produced in Turkey. The thing is they are mostly like shallow TV spin off religious exploitation, which is mainly relying on jump scares. There are a couple of ones that have a cult following and Siccin is one of them. Some how making a horror film is a rare thing for people outside the big production companies. For lots of people it is like a weird thing. You need to have maybe a certain level of industry, a certain level of culture, a certain level of background to do this kind of film in that culture.
Scream: If there isn’t such a big industry in Turkey, what got you into horror films?
Can: Foreign horror was always big. Turkish horror films are always a matter of jokes. I don’t know why but people don’t take it seriously. Horror is always foreign to us. It is really weird. Like Arabian Nights, the whole Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe and fantasy of the west is all stemming from Arabian Nights. Turkish history has roots in Arabian Nights. When I was growing up VHS was huge and they had all these horror films everywhere, Stephen King is big in Turkey, so I grew up in it.
Scream: I suppose then it must feel great to make a film that represents your country?
Can: I am not nationalistic at all, but I am proud. It played in Toronto as well which was a big deal. I was expecting a backlash from the government because we have Turkish cops as the heroes and bad things happen to them. There is lots of profanity, which is unheard of in Turkish films. Our film played in over 45 cities in Turkey and many of those theatres have called our distributors complaining about people leaving half way through because of the profanity. It shows about the double face of our country. Turkey is one of places where people are swearing so much and people are swearing in a sexual or family context. I think my film in a way is about repressed sexuality and all my short films are dealing with family issues and Freudian matters. In that sense having these cops talking in a very sexist, macho and profanity way was very important to me. But I was also expecting a backlash from the government because of the profanity and gore and using the cops because 20 years or so ago, using Turkish cops in films had regulations. In the 70’s we have lots of super hero movies and all of them in finale the super hero saves the day with the cops. The law it says at the end of the movie the day should be saved by the cops. Stating that the Turkish government is above all. It is not old history, it is very recent. But I was also surprised when in Toronto the head of Turkish Ministry and Culture came by and shook my hand. They were so happy about it and they even wanted me to submit my next project to their funds.
Scream: You have made a couple of shorts, why did you choose BASKIN to be your first feature?
Can: Ever since my first short film, I was hoping that some producer would see this movie and throw me a bunch of money and say ‘ok son, do your feature film’. That didn’t happen, so I shot another short film and another short film. Then I had a feature script and for a long time, I tried and I tried. I was so disillusioned, so I said for my next project I am going to shoot the beginning of the film like a short film, if it doesn’t become a feature, I don’t care, I have another short film. So that was my intention for BASKIN. I was hoping for it to be leading to a feature film. After BASKIN screened in Sitges, Eli Roth watched it and he high fives me saying he loved it. He made me like sign something, which gave him the rights for six months to try and finance it for a feature film. It fell through but it was brought to the attention of other people. But everything eventually fell through and I had to then ask my family to self finance this movie. My mum being an architect and very arty, I pitched it to her like I was pitching to publishing company like XYZ. It was such a big risk because I had a rough cut, but other than that I had no back up from any other people except from my family. I put the rough cut in front of XYZ and if they didn’t like it, I was in lots of trouble. Luckily Todd Brown loved it.
Scream: Are you nervous about the audience response at Frightfest?
Can: No actually because even my short films have had haters. We have lots of fans and we have lots of people who say it is over rated. I think horror film festivals like Frightfest, Sitges, and Fantastic Fest, the films will always find their audience. Although I cannot watch BASKIN now, there are these little errors, which really bothers me. I want to do better in my next project but that aside, I am not saying it is like a perfect crazy film, but I am happy with how I present it. So I am not nervous but it is always exciting and before the film I always get the jitters.
Scream: I have been told it is very bloody and very messy.
Can: It is a very art house film. It is not bloody from beginning to end that is just how it is marketed. The gore scenes are of an intense nature, which is why I think people are saying that. I don’t think it is as gory as the trailer would suggest. There is this Vanguard section in Toronto film festival, which is for like art house and more ambiguous horror. I wanted it to be there but Colin Geddes of Toronto said no, it was to be in Midnight Madness. I asked if he was sure because this was like for Hostel and Green Room. So, it went in for Midnight Madness and it was a lot more popular than what I was expecting. I think it is better if you see it as an art house or Vanguard film.
Scream: So what are your plans now?
Can: We are to pitch our next project, which is about woman slowly losing her sanity. I think we are getting very close to getting it financed and we might as well be in pre–production as close as the summer. It is going to be in English because I want to do something, which is going to reach a wider audience. I want to do something different like a new challenge in every movie. All my films are slightly bigger than the previous. It will be filmed in Istanbul and it is going to be about a foreign woman living in Istanbul and she is going to be meeting someone who is internationally famous. It is going to be a 90% an English language movie.
Scream: That sounds fantastic. It has been great chatting to you.
Can: Thank you.
Words by Amanda Hunt @mand_ders11