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3rd July 2015
Teenage kicks
Title of film: A Day At The Mall
Director: Ayse Altinok, Biscuit Films
W+K creative-turned-director, Ayse Altinok translates A day at the Mall into visual poetry

The narrative in A Day At The Mall has a sinister sub plot. Did the poem intend this or is this your interpretation of the poem?

I think the poet is surprised and intrigued by youth culture. She is aware of the
absurdity of the new generation and she is celebrating that in an academic manner. My interpretation is doing the same thing, only I just wanted to create a parallel story in order to avoid the see-saw effect. There is one narrative, one story in the poem and that was the pregnant woman and her thoughts and her worries.

While listening to that I thought it would be interesting and rich from a storytelling point of view to watch the sister character instead. Of course there are some stylistic and casting choices we’ve made to describe these kids’ world, I don’t think in a sinister way though, to me it is to celebrate them in an authentic way. I always think it’s very important to like your subjects as a filmmaker, even if they are “off” characters. I liked to film the contrast between the world she is in versus the world she wants to be in. That observation was beautiful to me, without gimmicks and cliches.

What first drew you to this piece by Sarah Blake?

I’ve never read a poem with so many names dropped in it before. Sarah was talking
about Kanye, Hollister… all these giant brand names and I thought, is this a poem or some kind of a list of things she wants to talk about? Eventually I understood what she was doing with the words, and I saw an opportunity to make a very relevant film. I love youth culture, with its sexiness as well as its struggles and twisted bits. Writing a youth story for the sake of it wasn’t so intriguing but writing for a product (which was a poem) was refreshing. I thought I could have a lot of freedom with it, yet be restricted.

Please tell us about your creative process for making the film.

Coming from a communication background really taught me to be sharp and clear with ideas. I always try to describe the project in one line or some sort of a short paragraph in order to convince my collaborators.

I am also aware of how Hollywood and the film industry work. It’s not like every project sounds amazing with a 1-line pitch, but I still believe there is truth and some power in pitching. In my case, the hook to this project was to create a parallel story to the poem. Something independent yet related in order to create a whole piece.

After convincing producers I wanted to get to the end material right away, I didn’t write a long impressive script, it was a list of shots and a brief description of what was happening. I thought the poet already did the magic with her writing, I needed to be practical in order to get to the point of filming.

Did you think in words or did you sketch out the narrative in visuals?

I always think as ideas first. Once I have a frame of an idea, I love looking at images to see how this idea might look. Since I started full time directing, I am trying to stay in the more emotional, meaningful, creatively romantic zone rather than the rational place. The rational bit always comes later for me with words and the process of production.

I don’t mean production is technical and boring in any way. This whole process to me is like having a ‘birth plan’ if you have kids or are trying to have kids you know exactly what I mean. You have a birth plan before you go to the hospital but you never rely on that ‘cause you can’t know the circumstances of your labor. Anyway my point is, staying true to what inspired me initially is the key. I just want to make sure I don’t lose the idea during the romantic process of creating but I am also open to experimental solutions when it comes down to it.

Best thing for me when sketching out the narrative is to hold on to those key images or words or ideas which trigger the whole project.

This is your directing debut since being a creative at W+K Amsterdam and
Portland. What was behind your move to directing?

This is not my first directing project, but yes maybe the most significant since W+K. I always shot short films or experimental work during my years in advertising. I made short films on the side and sent them to festivals, got awarded and realised this was actually paying off in a way. I had my best creative years at Wieden and I learned so much about communication, but there was always something missing for me. The urge to execute my own ideas I think. I worked with so many well known, successful directors and I also took examples from them while I was being a creative for them. It was an interesting dynamic yet productive at the end. Once I started to get a great response for my own personal work, I was ready for a career change.

What would your ideal commission be?

I don’t think commercial directors just want to be commercial directors. I am one of them. I love short form film don’t get me wrong, it’s quick, can be impactful and pays well, but the ideal commission would be in any length really, could be a music video or a feature film as long as it has a potential to create an impact, a creative project that means something to people and makes a difference… then I am down.

It’s important to make all of your creative muscles work in order to stay useful and fresh today. For example, I don’t come from a writing background, but I am writing my first feature film project and I like that, it’s very hard, a painful process but it makes me grow and learn and fail, which is a very healthy thing for a creative person I think.

What mental state are you in when you have your best ideas? Is there anything in particular that inspires you?

People watching really inspires me. It’s like a little exercise in my head to imagine who a person is or who he wants to be, watching people teaches me how to assemble characters and how to make sense out of it all. It’s a harmless hobby yet exciting.

Music and photography are the other two things, I can get lost in them and keep
writing stories.

Where do you call home?

My home is where my son is definitely. My husband and I travel a lot for work but when they are around it’s home. Also when I am on set, weirdly, I wait for that day to come and when it does, besides all the excitement and the stress, it feels calm in my head.

Representation: Biscuit
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