SCREENING: “In Montauk” (dir. Kim Cummings)

(See below images for just the text of the release.)

June 2012  

For more information, contact

World premiere screening of IN MONTAUK at the VisionFest Film
Festival at Tribeca Cinemas on June 21 at 7 pm.

On June 21, 2012, at 7:00 pm, Siren’s Tale Productions’ IN MONTAUK will have its world premiere at VisionFest12 at Tribeca Cinemas, 54 Varick Street (corner of Laight St.) The film will be preceded by two shorts and followed by a Q&A with filmmaker Kim Cummings and actors Lukas Hassel and George Katt. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased online at For more information contact Kim Cummings at 917-922-3987 or


In Montauk (2012) (68 minutes)
Written and directed by Kim Cummings

The hardest choices in life are the ones we never think we’ll have to make

Julie Wagner has everything today’s young woman thinks she wants: a successful husband who adores her, a baby on the way, a close circle of family and friends, and a career as a photographer that is about to take off. So why is she alone in Montauk in the middle of December? During the cold, stark days, Julie throws herself into capturing her artistic vision for an upcoming solo show, yielding works of deep passion and instinct; at night, she restlessly taps away at her computer, plagued by uncertainty about the impending trajectories of her life.

When a prickly but brilliant composer-musician knocks on her door with an odd request, Julie ushers in a series of events that will bring her in contact with her buried hopes and fears, and force her to make choices she couldn’t have fathomed. At once shocking and wise, In Montauk is a now-familiar story turned inside-out by a main character who can’t help but put herself into the most uncomfortable position of all—confronting life’s imperfect choices in the hopes of grasping one through which she can be true to herself.

A composition of exquisite scenery and complex characters, In Montauk beautifully captures the quiet agony that arises when shoulds and wants collide, the conflict between cultural dictates and creative yearnings. It is a story for our times, the one that so many thoughtful, talented people of all ages live out in their drive for self-discovery and self-fulfillment.

~ ~ ~


In Montauk was shot on location in western Queens and Montauk, NY. The specific locales serve a critical function in the film—sweeping seascapes at the edge of the continent, Long Island City’s burgeoning arts scene, the promise held by the Queensboro Bridge—grounding the characters’ sense of place and informing their actions. See the trailer at

~ ~ ~

Kim Cummings’s award-winning short film Weeki Wachee Girls screened worldwide in more than 70 festivals and garnered three “Best of” awards. Her other films include the shorts Flower of a Girl (dir., screenwriter) and Kate Greer’s That’s What She Told Me (dir.). In Montauk is Cummings’s first feature film and derives from her experience as a filmmaker and parent, and the never-ending balancing act required to satisfy both roles in her life.

Nina Kaczorowski (Julie Wagner) has previously appeared in the films Austin Powers: Goldmember, Minority Report, and A Simple Plan.

Lukas Hassel (Christian Nygaard) was in the reality show SOAPSTAR, on SoapNet/ABC, and recently played a lead role in Denmark’s top-rated show Anna Pihl. He is a visual phenomenon in Norway, where his image can currently be seen in print ads and commercials as part of Norway’s ad campaign for milk.

George Katt (Josh Cohen) won the “Best Breakthrough Actor Award” at the NY International Independent Film Festival for his starring role in the independent feature film Valley of Angels, opposite Danny Trejo.

Siren’s Tale Productions is Kim Cummings’s independent film corporation. Feminist filmmaker Cummings’s goal is to present three-dimensional women and girls in nuanced storylines outside of the typical Hollywood roles of wives, girlfriends, mothers, and whores. Her hope is to depict women grappling with contemporary issues in entertaining but also thought-provoking ways.

~ ~ ~

In Montauk is made possible, in part, by the Queens Council on the Arts with public funding from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and by a grant from the Long Island Film Foundation.

Filmmaker Updates: Where are they now?

After two years of interviewing women filmmakers and having a few guest bloggers, I thought Her Film readers might be interested in seeing where some of the filmmakers have landed.  I wrote to a first wave of filmmakers who have been involved with the blog to see how things were panning out for them.  (I’ll solicit more updates from filmmakers not included here and will post them later this summer.)  Check out a few updates below from women filmmakers featured here on Her Film since 2010:

CROSSING THE RIVER (directed by Emilie McDonald)

After a very successful shoot in South Carolina in March, “Crossing
the River” is currently in post-production and preparing for a fall
and spring festival run.  Please read more at our film’s website.

Read Emilie’s guest post about this film by clicking here.

ANNA & MODERN DAY SLAVERY (directed by Magda M. Olchawska)

Principal photography for Anna & Modern Day Slavery was completed on May 29 after nine days of shooting.  The whole cast & crew were fantastic to work with & very dedicated to the project. We worked long hours & once even had a shoot for 24 hours.  Some of the stills taken on the set can be seen on our Facebook page, and anyone interested in supporting the film should visit our website.

Read a Spotlight feature about Magda’s new film by clicking here.

ALICE WALKER: BEAUTY IN TRUTH (directed by Pratibha Parmar)

We have finished shooting and are thrilled to have added Sonia Sanchez, Sapphire and Alexis Pauline Gumb as our final interviewees. We are currently editing the film in California and also fund raising for the final money to enable the finishing post production such as hiring a composer, archive clearances, sound mix, color grade and online.  Read more about the film by visiting our website, Facebook page and Twitter feed @alicewalkerfilm.

Read an interview with Pratibha done by Marian Evans of the Wellywood Woman blog.

METRUK (directed by Orkide Unsur)

Metruk has been screening in different countries, and its last screening was at Montreal (as a Canadian premiere).  Orkide will soon be focusing her attentions on a feature screenplay.  Find out more about the Montreal screening by visiting her website here.

Read an interview with Orkide by clicking here.

ALL THINGS HIDDEN (written by Persephone Vandegrift)

All Things Hidden is set to film this year August 25th-29th. We will be launching our Kickstarter mid July! To keep up to date on its metamorphosis, please join the All Things Hidden FB page.

Read a guest post by Persephone by clicking here.

BONESHAKER (directed by Frances Bodomo)

Boneshaker is currently raising money for post-production and will premiere at film festivals in 2013. View the trailer here. To donate and keep yourself updated, visit our blog here.

Read an interview with Frances by clicking here.

KATE KAMINSKI (Bluestocking Film Series)

The May 20, 2012 Bluestocking screening played to an enthusiastic crowd at the St. Lawrence Arts Center in Portland, Maine.  The biannual Bluestocking accepts rolling submissions through September 15, 2012 via Withoutabox and mail and the next screening is scheduled for Sunday, October 14, 2012. Visit the BFS website here.

Read an interview with Kate by clicking here.

MICHELLE LATIMER (director of Choke)

Choke was named by the Toronto Film Festival among Canada’s Top Ten for 2011, and was nominated for a 2012 Genie Award. It will be featured this summer as part of the First Peoples Cinema Retrospective at the Tiff Bell Lightbox. She begins shooting on her feature documentary Alias for the Independent Film Channel this falland she recently joined iThentic as the Director of Short Film Acquisitions for their digital channel.

Read an interview with Michelle by clicking here.

HOW TO LOSE YOUR VIRGINITY (directed by Therese Shechter)

After a successful Kickstarter campaign that raised over $36K, Therese and the Trixie Films crew will be spending the summer finishing the edit of her film.  She  just returned from the Reel Change Workshop, an audience engagement boot camp, and is putting all her new-found knowledge to use designing the film’s outreach strategy. She continues to write the blog, curate First Person, and figure out what the heck to do with Pinterest.

Read a 2012 interview with Therese by clicking here and a 2010 interview by clicking here.

NICE & ROUGH: BLACK WOMEN IN ROCK (directed by Sheila J. Hardy)

My documentary about black women in rock is building the audience while we complete production.  We recently launched, a global community for black women in rock and their fans, and now we are about to launch the concert tour.  You can join us at, follow us on Facebook and on Twitter.  To support this project, visit our Contribute page.

Read a guest post by Sheila by clicking here. (She was Her Film’s very first guest blogger!)

BIG VOICE (directed by Varda Hardy)

The film is in its last weeks of production and we are continuing to develop new relationships with various distribution companies, grantors, and donors who can propel us into post-production, which will begin in the second part of June.  We are in need of additional funds for our post production and are actively inviting sponsors/investors to come on board.  Read more about the film by clicking here and following @BigVoiceMovie.

Read an interview with Varda by clicking here.

INTERVIEW: Kim Cummings (“In Montauk”)

Director Kim Cummings
(Photo by Ken Nanus)


Kim Cummings wrote and directed the award-winning short “Weeki Wachee Girls.” It screened in 70 festivals worldwide, earning three “Best of” awards and a nomination for best short at Taos and is distributed by Other short films include “Flower Of A Girl” and Kate Greer’s “That’s What She Told Me.”  Cummings was a finalist for the Women In Film Foundation Post Production grant in 2010.  She received a finishing fund grant from the Long Island Film/TV Foundation and two separate grants from Queens Council on the Arts for “In Montauk,” which is her first feature.


Her Film:  Typically, short films are used as “calling cards” and stepping stones to work in features.  Can you describe your creative and professional jump from your work in shorts to making In Montauk, your first feature film?  Why was this film important for you to make?

Kim Cummings: 10 years ago I made a short film called “Weeki Wachee Girls” that was my calling card film.  I had a feature-length script that went with it, although the feature ended up being very different from the short.  Although the film played all over the world and won a few awards, I didn’t get any bites on the feature.  Shortly after that, I gave birth to twins, which forced me to take some time off.  As time went on, it seemed harder and harder to get a feature made despite having made a successful short and I kept reading that if you wanted to make a feature, you needed to make a feature. I made a few more shorts, “Flower of A Girl” and “That’s What She Told Me,” then felt that it was time to make a feature.  I look around at the resources I had available to me, especially locations and wrote a script to fit the resources that could be shot with very little money.  Before deciding to go ahead, I talked to my DP, Brian Dilg, and Co-Producer, Jeremiah Kipp, who are good friends that I’ve worked with for years and asked if they were willing to take the leap with me.  Lukas Hassel, who plays Christian is also a good friend, and I re-wrote the role of the composer after he signed on.  The script came out of my frustration out of trying to be a filmmaker while still being there for my kids. It’s important because I feel that the message we get from society is that there is nothing more important for a woman than being a mother and that we should put aside our own needs indefinitely for the sake of our children.  I know for myself, that if I hadn’t made a feature, I wouldn’t have been able to look at myself in the mirror, nor would I have been a very happy mother.

Josh, Julie & Christian have an uneasy lunch together.
(Photo by Aja Niesenson)

HF:  You’ve edited short films as well as written, directed and produced them.  How has the “editor as storyteller” experience impacted or informed your “director as storyteller” work?  Has being a mother and playing that storytelling role (reading stories and teaching about life, ethics, respect, empowerment, etc.) affected how you tell stories as a writer/director?

KC: Editing short films has taught me a lot about directing and had a big influence on the shots I plan for on set.  Editing “In Montauk” and then watching  my editor, Eleanor Burke, re-shaped the film, taught me a lot about the power of juxtaposing disparate images to create a feeling.  It was amazing to watch her.  That experience opened me up to a whole new way of writing.  It was difficult, since I’m an editor myself, to admit that I really needed someone with more experience to help me get the film to where I wanted it to be.  My kids have made me much more aware of what I’m writing, especially with respect to my daughter.  I see her looking for heroines that she can relate to and struggling to find any.  My son once asked me why girls in movies always seem to be on the side.  While they both understand that women are people, they don’t see that reflected in the majority of movies available to them.  It’s made me much more conscious of how I represent women in my stories.


HF:  Can you describe what the experience of balancing your film career and motherhood is like, particularly as you make your first foray into feature films?  How does your life as an artist and relationship with your children change over time, given that they are growing up throughout the filmmaking process?

KC: It never feels like I’m balancing it all very well, and I’ve only been able to manage it because my husband is incredibly supportive.  While I was in the process of getting the film made, especially pre-production and production, my kids dubbed me “Mount Cranky.”  My typical day went like this: get up at 6 & get the kids off to school, work, pick the kids up, help them out with homework or take them to after-school activities, hand them off to my husband for dinner, while I went back to work until mid-night.  My husband took a week off when I was shooting in Montauk.  When we shot in Queens, my kids ate breakfast with the crew.  They even had a scene in the film that eventually got cut.  It was all it a little crazy.  It was a little better when I was editing, as I could do that on my own schedule, more or less.  As the kids saw the film come together, they started to understand what filmmaking really meant and what it meant to me.  As they’ve gotten older, they’ve started rooting for me and were very excited when the film was accepted to it’s first festival.  And, of course, they’ve begun making their own films.  My daughter writes & directs, my son shoots & edits and they both act.  It’s been amazing to see what they can do.

Julie & Christian in adjoining rooms.
(Photo by Brian Dilg)

HF:  I think it’s fantastic that your daughter participated in your crowdfunding pitch video on RocketHub, and your first feature film must be a huge part of your children’s lives, as well.  Does being a mother actually help you as a creative professional?  Are there practices or lessons rooted in motherhood that you employ as a filmmaker?

KC: Being a mother has definitely made me more focused.  It’s also made me more ambitious.  Before I had kids, I felt like I had all the time in the world.  After, it felt like time passed so much more quickly, and I had to learn to say “no” to things that weren’t directly related to filmmaking or to raising my kids, which was very difficult for me.  My husband would tell you that I’m still not very good at saying “no.”  Being a mother has taught me patience, as well as the need to slow down and be in the moment every once in a while.  And kids are so naturally curious, that just talking to mine gives me a ton of story ideas.


HF:  The way you describe the production of In Montauk in your Women and Hollywood guest post, it sounds like a bare bones shoot.  You also talk about the re-shoot in one of your Facebook notes.  Is there anything you would change about the way you made the film, if you could?  Do you think that the circumstances actually helped the process?

KC: It was a very bare-bones shoot, by necessity.  I didn’t have a lot of money, but I wanted to pay everyone something for their time.  So that meant having a very small crew, where everyone did multiple jobs.  My cast & crew were terrific and very motivated which made for a wonderful working environment, despite the fact that no one had any down-time on the set.  I did re-shoot a scene that wasn’t working in the film and the re-shoot didn’t work either.  I was basically trying to make a scene work that had never worked in the script.  If I’d been able to hear that in the script stage, I could have avoided that.  I would also budget more for contingency. I learned things doing this film that I don’t think I would have learned if I hadn’t shot the film.  And working under-the-gun definitely made all of the crew think creatively at all times.  While I wouldn’t like to shoot that way again, it was definitely an invaluable experience


HF:  You are crowdfunding your film festival campaign through RocketHub.  Why did you decide to use that crowdfunding platform?  And can you update us on your festival status?

KC: I chose RocketHub, because a colleague knew one of the founders, Brian Mecce and suggested I meet with him.  Brian was terrific and gave me concise guidelines for running my campaign, as well as convincing me that I would get more personal attention by going with a smaller organization.  They also have an agreement in place with Fractured Atlas, my fiscal sponsor, so all donations would be tax-deductible for my donors.  They were terrific to work with and I would definitely recommend them.  Since then, my film has been selected to screen in four festivals this summer: VisionFest12 in Tribeca, Long Island International Film Expo, World Music and Independent Film Festival in DC and another that hasn’t been announced yet.

Director Kim Cummings, DP Brian Dilg and Gaffer Thomas Perry getting a long shot of the beach entrance. Needless to say, it was cold!  (Photo by Aja Niesenson)

HF:  Putting together financing for a film is an incredibly difficult process.  Can you give a brief overview of your general financing structure?  What are the benefits and drawbacks of fiscal sponsorship?

KC:  This film is essentially self-financed. I probably went about it a little backwards.  I had a fixed amount of money and I made a budget and shooting schedule and hired crew based on that budget. (I also had a fairly simple script with minimal characters.) I had enough to get through production.  I always assumed that I would do the final edit of the film, but when I got to what I thought was a final cut, it became clear that I needed to bring on an outside editor.  My husband and I made the decision to hire an editor, and while she edited, I wrote grants.  I was awarded a few grants, which helped defray those costs.  When it came time to finish the film, I needed more money for color-correction and sound mixing, so I launched the crowd-funding campaign.  I initially signed up for Fiscal Sponsorship to be able to apply for grants that required a fiscal sponsor.  I think Fractured Atlas is a terrific organization and it’s been great to be able to accept money through a fiscal sponsor and know that my donors can get a tax-deduction.


HF:  How important is professional strategy to you?  I don’t mean contrived, opportunistic networking (which I think is a mistake a lot of people make), but forming meaningful creative and professional relationships and moving forward on a particular plan of action.  Do you strategize your career at all?

KC: Setting goals and reviewing them periodically is very important to me.  You have to take yourself seriously as an artist and recognize that in addition to being a creative, you are also a small business owner, especially when you’re producing your own work. I find it sometimes difficult to know what the right next step is, especially as common wisdom changes about the best way to launch your career. There are a lot of established people who will tell you that cream eventually rises to the top.  I don’t think that’s true.  There are a lot of talented people who’s work is not being recognized because it doesn’t fit into current trends or the characters and/or filmmakers aren’t the right gender or race. But being unafraid to ask questions and treating everyone you meet with respect are crucial to being successful.  I work hard to forge long-lasting relationships with people in the business who’s work I respect and admire.  My DP, Brian Dilg, and Co-Producer, Jeremiah Kipp, are both people that I met in an ad hoc filmmaker’s group over 10 years ago and we all work together whenever we can.  We’ve learned how to make films together and have grown together and I love working with them because I know what to expect.  In the past few years, I’ve worked with several talented people who I hope to work with again and again.


To learn more about this filmmaker and her work, please check out these links:

Website (includes trailer for In Montauk):
Blog (“Filmmaking, Motherhood and Apple Pie”):
Facebook (In Montauk) (Sign up for the mailing list!!!)
Fractured Atlas (for tax-deductible donations to help fund the festival run for “In Montauk”):

SPOTLIGHT: Little Miss Jihad

Little Miss Jihad is a narrative short film written by Toronto-based writer and filmmaker, Stephanie Law.  Inspired by her experiences dealing with the September 11, 2001 attacks, she has nurtured and developed this project for many years.  This spring, she and filmmaker Jessica Wu moved into production and directed this film, and are currently in post-production. Stephanie is a vibrant and passionate filmmaker who has crafted an insightful and important film; she was a finalist at the 2011 Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival’s ‘So You Think You Can Pitch?’ competition.  Stephanie and her dedicated and talented team are currently raising funds for the film.

Stephanie Law (writer/producer/director)

Find a lot more information below, and please help spread the word about Little Miss Jihad!

Check the links at the bottom to connect with Stephanie and help support this important film.

Courtesy of S. Law

Teaser trailer:


Crowdfunding through: LMJ website (currently in post-production stage)

Campaign goal: $6,000 (currently 46% funded)

Campaign ends: August 2012


When 10-year-old, Afghani-American, Sally Khan, discovers that the father she never knew disappeared on September 11, 2001, she becomes convinced that he is a terrorist.  Now if she could only figure out what that means!

Production still. Jasmine Chan as “Sally Khan.” (Courtesy of S. Law)


LITTLE MISS JIHAD is a dark comedy, yes, comedy, about faith, tolerance, and a child’s imagination running away with her.

After her shocking declaration, Sally is not prepared for the backlash that follows.  I mean, who knew wanting to be a terrorist… would make people so mad?  Sally’s Aunt grounds her, leaving Sally cut off from her usual, reliable source of intel: Wikipedia.  So Sally enlists her best friend, Daniel, to help her prove that her Dad was a terrorist; it’s the only logical explanation why he hasn’t tried contacting her.  He obviously went into hiding.  So convinced of her belief, Sally ignores the impact of her Jihad for the truth on her paranoid community, friends, and family.   Nothing is going to get in her way, and if it does, she’ll just blow it up!  Kidding.  Sorta.  Sally has figured it out, and by becoming a terrorist too, her Dad has to come back for her.  But when mysterious men in black suits appear in her neighbourhood, Sally becomes even more convinced that she’s hit the truth…  She was so right! 

But then… where is her Dad?

Production still. Martin Lindquist, Lisa Robinson, Davis Ryan. (Courtesy of S. Law)

On the LMJ website, director Stephanie Law shares how this film came to be, and says:

“It comes out of my own memories of 9/11—where I was when we found out about the attacks (having our school photos taken)—and that clear loss of innocence.”

Read about the history of this film here

Production still. Melanie Leon as “Farah Khan.” (Courtesy of S. Law)

Production still. Rahim Hajee as “Agent Finch.” (Courtesy of S. Law)


Stephanie Law (Writer/Producer/Director)
Jessica Wu (Producer/Director)
Adam Crosby (Director of Photography)

(Complete crew credits are available on the LMJ website.)

Connect with this filmmaker and learn more about this new film:

Facebook: /LittleMissJihad

Twitter: @LittleMissJihad


Do you have a film you are trying to finance that you would like to feature here?  Send us an email with a website and social media page(s) for your film.

INTERVIEW: Turkish filmmaker Orkide Unsur

“I like to surprise the audience and make them reconsider ordinary or familiar subjects which they are used to seeing in their daily lives.”


Orkide Ünsür is an award-winning indie filmmaker from Istanbul, Turkey. She has worked as a TV reporter, assistant director, assistant producer, script writer, director and producer for national TV channels and production companies.  She has also directed promotional films as a freelance director, made two short documentaries as co-producer and executive producer, and worked on short movies as a production coordinator, art director and actress.

Filmmaker Orkide Unsur (Photo courtesy of the filmmaker)

As producer, director & screenwriter, she made the short documentary COASTLANDERS 8 to 8  (2009)  which won the 3rd Best Documentary Award in the 8th Istanbul International Environmental Short Films Festival in Turkey, and she made the short experimental documentary Metruk (The Abandoned) (2010) which  won  the Indie Fest Award of Merit in La Jolla, California, USA. Her screenplay Sitophobia, which has won the WILDsound FALL/WINTER 2011 1-page Screenplay Contest at the WILDsound Film Festival in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, will be made into a film by Canadian filmmakers in 2012.

Orkide Ünsür is in the process of looking for funds for her latest short fiction screenplay, The Scarlet Awakening, and at the same time is working on her other film projects.


Her Film: You are a screenwriter, director and producer who has worked in both television and film.  Can you describe the journey you’ve taken to become a filmmaker in terms of both training and personal/artistic motivations?

Orkide Unsur:  I have been passionately in love with cinema since the day my parents brought me to a movie theater. I was only two and a half years old. I was mesmerised by the screen…In my opinion, there is no such work which can give the same satisfaction of creating a new world as filmmaking.

I have been watching lots of movies and reading as much as I can about filmmaking since I can remember. I have always wanted to make films. Fortunately, working in TV gave me the chance to enter the industry. I’ve taken courses about on camera, interviewing and editing techniques. I worked as a reporter, assistant director/producer, script writer, producer and director for TV channels and production companies. My first short film experience was my brother’s school project. It was a short fiction film called “Journey to the End Of Life”. I was working as an assistant director on that project.

Learning the filmmaking process is an endless education; filmmakers have to train themselves continuously. I wish I had more opportunities since I have loads of projects which I would love to realize.

Still from Coastlanders 8 to 8 (Courtesy of O. Unsur)

HF: The logline for your latest project, Metruk, a short experimental documentary is “Condemned houses are like abandoned lovers” and the synopsis talks about themes of love and loss, passage of time and self-destruction.  With such a unique comparison of subjects, how do you approach the development of the story and what to visually represent on screen?

OU: I have always been attracted by the gothic souls of abandoned houses. I was very interested in playing with my friends around them when I was a child. We used to call them “Haunted Houses”. Although they scared me a bit, I loved them. I have wanted to film such abandoned houses. So, I have decided to film most of the abandoned houses which were in my present neighborhood. I considered it to be kind of a duty on my behalf to brighten the neighborhood and glorify something that has meaning as well as history. I guess some disappointments and sadnesses I have experienced in my private life gave the inspiration to me as a storyteller and they “pulled the trigger” to make me write my logline and produce Metruk at that time.

“Condemned houses are like abandoned lovers” was my road map and creative approach while I was making the film. I tried to observe them in their loneliness, sadness, and proudness. I also wanted to show their relationships and experiences with people, nature and animals. I didn’t create any fictional scenes or shots except my walk in front of the big wooden house.  We just followed our shooting plan as we enjoyed being eyewitnesses to some magic moments and lovely coincidences such as coming across a cut tail black cat, junkman or lonely mother and daughter.

I’d like to thank my cameraman/DOP Umut Can Sevindik again who collaborated with me very well and understood what I wanted. We also edited the film together. It was an enjoyable process.

Poster for the short film Metruk (Courtesy of O. Unsur)

HF:  Many of the films you have made are in the documentary genre.  What do you find most interesting and most challenging in presenting stories in a short format?  What attracts you to the documentary genre?

OU: I love fiction genre and feature length films as much as I love documentaries and short films. What attracts me to documentaries is recreating existence, reality, through my way of storytelling. I like to surprise the audience and make them reconsider ordinary or familiar subjects which they are used to seeing in their daily lives.

The documentaries I like to make are not about big issues such as wars or hungry children in Africa. I prefer to tell more specific, local, different or character-driven stories which give me the opportunity to use my artistic, emotional and experimental approaches as well as sense of humor (if the stories let me). And most importantly, for those kinds of documentaries, I need neither a big budget nor a large team.

Shooting the film Coastlanders 8 to 8. Burçin Ankara and Orkide Ünsür. (Courtesy of O. Unsur)

Short film is a genre that gives huge freedom to a director. It’s not only for students or emerging/young filmmakers, so I will always enjoy producing short movies. What I find most challenging with short films is being able to tell a story in a limited time. I find it alluring, indeed. Finding funds/sponsors as well as earning money is hard for shorts in general. Nowadays, I’m very excited about my latest project The Scarlet Awakening. It’s a short drama which combines domestic violence and flamenco music & dance. I have written the screenplay, found my main crew and actors. I’m in a process of finding financial support. I hope to bring it life as soon as possible.

In addition, it would be my pleasure to collaborate with other filmmakers, screenplay writers, producers, from not only Turkey but also around the world.

HF: This interview is the first in series I am working on this spring in order to share information about Turkish women filmmakers.  Can you talk a bit about your life as a woman filmmaker in Turkey and how you see women represented in the Turkish film industry?

OU: The general public has already pre-conceived ideas of film directors in their mind. If you ask the general public to make a drawing of somebody who works as a film director, their pre-conceived idea would be a man with beard, scarf, spectacles, a sort of bohemian character.

Although women filmmakers and writers, especially in the field of screenplay writing and directing for TV dramas, have been increasing in the Turkish film industry recently, there are not as many as people suppose. For instance, it is really hard to find women directors in the advertising sector.

As a short filmmaker, I would love to write & direct feature length films when the right time comes and when I find the opportunity. However, I wouldn’t prefer to be a new, or even older, filmmaker who has only been chasing her dreams or whose films are only being screened in some film festivals.  I’d like to make a film which reflects my vision, my artistic way as well as something that attracts many audiences across different platforms.  So it is important to find the balance and it’s really hard.

Still from short film Metruk (Courtesy of O. Unsur)

HF: What kind of audiences can you find within Turkey for film, either shorts, documentaries or feature-length films?  Is it reasonable to expect that you can license your work to television broadcasters, find DVD or online distribution agreements, or secure theatrical distribution?

OU: In Turkey, I don’t think we can mention independent filmmaking and self-distribution in real terms for feature length films, only for some shorts and documentaries. Turkish short filmmakers find their audiences mostly via festivals, special screenings or via the internet.  If they are lucky enough, their works may be broadcasted on a TV channel which shows short films and/or documentaries. However, TV channels do not pay for short films in any genre. There are some Turkish-oriented internet platforms which broadcast all genres of short films for free. I submitted my shorts to a UK-based VOD service and Metruk (The Abandoned) became the most popular short film among all the others within just five days. It was number one in the current Top 10 most-watched videos.

There are main professional distribution companies in Turkey and Turkish filmmakers mostly work with them for their theatrical or DVD distribution.  Among the other international and national VOD services and digital platforms, “Turkish Film Channel” is an online distributor especially for award-winning Turkish feature length films.

Shooting Metruk (The Abandoned). Orkide Ünsür with Umut Can Sevindik. (Courtesy of O. Unsur)

HF:   I have read in several news articles that Turkey has more working women filmmakers than Hollywood, though I have also been told that there are still woefully few women working in the Turkish film industry.  What do you see as the main challenges for Turkish women who work, or want to work, within their own country’s film industry?  

OU:  Filmmaking is still a male dominated field also in Turkey as well as all around the world. However, numbers of women filmmakers have been increasing in the Turkish film industry recently.

To quote from Sinemanin Disil Yuzu (by Semire Ruken Ozturk), “6,035 films were produced in the Turkish film industry between 1914-2002 and only 96 of them produced by women directors whose population is less than 25.  [Clarification: fewer than 25 women directors made the aforementioned 96 films.]  The first woman director in Turkey was Cahide Sonku who directed the film Vatan ve Namik Kemal as co-director in 1951. She was also the first star as a remarkable actress in Turkish Cinema.”  Antrakt Sinema [newspaper] (by Deniz Yavuz) states “seventy-three Turkish films were screened in movie theaters in Turkey in 2011” and seven of them directed by women.  Furthermore one of these films was a co-director project and three of them were women.

Besides experienced female directors such as Canan Gerede, Biket Ilhan, Tomris Giritlioglu, Handan Ipekci, and Yesim Ustaoglu, for the last 20 years, there have emerged some first or second time feature length filmmakers such as İlksen Basarir, Pelin Esmer, Belma Bas, Cigdem Vitrinel, and Belmin Soylemez recently.

The progress is good in Turkey yet we still need positive discrimination for women in the film industry. On the other hand, it doesn’t mean all the film projects by women have to be supported even if they are not good.  It’s not fair.  Finally, I would like to say that a “bad film” is a “bad film” whether directed by a woman or a man.

To connect with this filmmaker or to support her work, please check out these links:
Twitter: @orkideunsur 
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post edited 4-27-2012