Welcome to the second part of our interview with directors Esra Saydam and Nisan Dag who are discussing with us the making of their first feature film as a directing team.

You can find the first part of the interview HERE.

In this second part, we will be discussing the production process, lessons learned and what’s next for both directors.

Here is the podcast if you prefer listening, and don’t forget to subscribe!

And here are links to specific areas of the interview if you are interested in jumping around:


Lessons & Advice

What’s Next

FM: Esra, you have a producer credit on the film. You produced this with three other producers, Gerry Kim, Robert Lavenstein, and Alvaro Valente. At what point in the development of the project did you attach the other producers? And what did the process of directing and producing the film look like?

ES: Well, I would never have produced if I was the only producer. But I generally attach people from the very beginning because I wanna feel responsible to them. Also if someone’s energy is down, the other one’s energy is generally high, so we kind of balance it out. They were very much on board pretty fast. Gerry Kim was probably the first one then Robert Lavenstein, who is a friend of mine from Northwestern. He had great human relationships. He was the kindest person on the set, taking care of everyone, including the dog, and solving problems. And then Alvaro Valente, he was more like our line producer, he’s amazing. He fixed very crucial problems, we owe him so much because of that. We were like – Alvaro is a producer now because he fixed a lot. I don’t know if we wanna talk about the prosthetic belly, but yeah.

FM: It looks very real. Yeah, you guys did a great job. If that’s a fun anecdote,  you can talk about it.

ES: I don’t know if Nisan wants to talk about it, but…

ND: I don’t wanna talk about it. (Laughs)

FM: Alright. It’s a touchy subject.

ND: I wanna forget about it.

ES: Let’s say we found an amazing artist who could nail it off artistically, but we ran into issues with them because the artistic qualification was not paired with…

NS: Interpersonal communication.

ES Or let’s say punctuality.

ND: And Alvaro did great in crisis management and communication with people. When he speaks, he sort of sounds like he’s joking, but he’s actually “getting them in shape”. I think he has a great balance of putting people in order, but doing it in a super nice way. People are even baffled, they can’t figure out if they are being yelled at or if he is making a joke. And he avoids the crisis perfectly. I don’t know if this is what the industry is like in the US but in Turkey, when we are nice to people they take it as a sign not to take you seriously and they can be lazy. And if you’re really aggressive on set then everyone’s behaving and being more responsible. Unfortunately being nice doesn’t work. We usually, as a whole team, were on the nicer side and that created some problems on set and Alvaro was really doing a great job in balancing that.

ES: And saving money too. That’s so beautiful.

ND: Yes. Perfect businessman.

FM: That’s a great skill to have, to be able to actually balance the discipline with empathy and be able to get people to collaborate with you in that way.

ES: And so, in terms of producing, I mostly focused on packaging and gathering the crew. Because I was the only one with Nisan in Turkey who could get people on board. That was a lot of networking.

Cast & Crew on set in Turkey for “Across The Sea”

FM: So during the shoot, you’d say you took more of just the directing role and didn’t focus on producing?

ES: No. I mean, if we ran out of budget, they would come and find me and then we would need to find a solution. But other than that…

ND: Occasionally you had to go to some production meetings when we wrapped.

ES: That’s true.

ND: I was so jealous. I was like – Give me my co-director (laughs).

ES: That is so true.

ND: They took off the weight from you, the heavy lifting, but you were the only Turkish producer in the project. So still I remember maybe a couple nights you had to go into a meeting. And then I had to wait until the meeting was over because I also wanted to speak to her and I was always so upset that she had to be taken away by producers. Everyone was trying to share Esra on set. So poor you, I think you did a lot of heavy lifting on set, that’s a lot of work. Now in your next project, if you’re not producing and you’re directing only, I think you will feel more comfortable. That will feel luxurious now.

FM: And I would love to talk about that next project, but first, let’s talk about how the co-directing worked. Can you walk us through what it looked like on set and before with the preparation with the actors?

ES: For me, co-directing with Nisan was very easy because we were very honest with each other. We said – Okay, these are my strengths, these are my weaknesses. I mean, things that we can improve. And I wanna learn from you in this department, I wanna learn from you in this other department. So let’s say in pre-production, we would do everything together, but we would trust the other one’s opinions if they are more the experts in that area, you know what I mean? And then on set it is a little bit more of a rigid environment, so it cannot be like – Oh, all of us are working together on this. We divided the duties very clearly on set so that it would be easy for the crew to work with us. But the camera was our baby, so the shots were public domain, but other than that, we needed to have an order of workflow. 

The only thing about co-directing that is very tough, and I think Nisan is gonna agree, is that when you do your shotlist you can’t just write it down, first you need to pitch it to the other person. You need to do double shifts; you do one thing with the rest of the people and then, after hours, you need to share ideas all the time, which is very fun, but it does mean more hours. 

ND: The only downside I can think of is that on set you have to be quick and you get asked a lot of questions. That’s the nature of directing, a lot of departments want to hear from you on set. And normally in your mind, you would instantly think and instantly reply what you want. But then when you’re two people, you have to say – okay, turn to each other and discuss, and then give your answer. And this accumulates and it ends up wasting time. That’s really the only drawback for me though, especially in our first feature, I feel like it was great to have someone I trust with me. It was such a comfort zone.

I remember this specific anecdote, Esra speaks Italian and no one else on set really spoke Italian. So we decided to set up a panic keyword when I needed a moment alone with her. So it was, aiutami (laugh), which basically means help me. I feel like we could have been more creative, like strawberries or something. It was very straightforward, help me in Italian. But I remember on set saying a couple of times aiutami, and we would walk off to the corner and speak. So that comfort zone is really valuable and also the fact of combining forces. So overall, I think it was a really cool experience, I’m glad it happened that way. If I can go back in time and change the course of my filmography, I would still want it to go the same way.

Co-directors Nisan Dag and Esra Saydam shooting “Across The Sea” in NYC

FM: That’s great to hear, especially after all these years that you still feel the same way. I think I have a very clear picture of how you managed the crew and the relationship with each other. 

I’m curious to know how it worked with the actors during scenes when giving notes. What was the dynamic of that? Were you dividing the scenes? Were you talking to the actors together? They say so much without saying a single word. And I think that you really build their emotional lives through. It’s coming from the script, but there’s also a great deal in performance and direction. How do you manage to have the same line of directing for performances when you are two people? How does that work?

ES: We did quite a good amount of rehearsals based on intimacy both between Jacob and Damla, and then Rifat and Damla. It was important for us to build a past between Damla and Rifat. And it was not necessarily about rehearsing the pages, it was more about the past, always. So for example, the first time they met or this is the moment where Damla loses his father and Burak comes to comfort her so that they have…I think it’s called active memory or memory building, one of the two. Then they don’t need to be method acting and lose their mind over it. I used to love method acting. Now I don’t believe in it because it really exhausts you. My favorite actors are the ones who give the illusion of what’s going on versus the ones who really lived through that tragedy that the character went through. 

Since I love to work with actors, I would talk to them on set, but sometimes, for example, Rifat would get bored of me and he would be like – I wanna talk to Nisan, I don’t wanna talk to Esra (Laughs). So it’s all about knowing what your responsibility is, but also being flexible when the time calls for it.

We had one week, which was all night shoots. I think it’s very important information to share. Everyone, including actors, really have a difficult time and lose patience if one week is committed to night shoots. The stakes go high, the tensions go high.

ND: Make sure you don’t schedule your night shoot week on a full moon week.

ES: Yeah, definitely. Never do that (Laughs).

ND: Solid tested advice.

ES:  I used to work with two producers who are quite known right now, Jay Van Hoy and Lars Knudsen and they said that you should never schedule more than three nights in a row because people become zombies.

Still from Across The Sea

FM: Yeah, that’s great advice. I wanna talk a little bit about the camera language. It feels so natural and really allows the power of the performances to shine. You worked with JP Wakayama who you two met at Columbia, right? How did you develop the language of this film and what did that collaboration look like?

ES: Nisan, JP shot your thesis, right?

ND: Yeah. He shot my thesis film at Columbia and many other people’s. He shot like 45 short films, he was a super hardworking DP. And Esra really liked his work as well so we were really excited to bring him on board. It’s one thing to make frames aesthetically beautiful, but then there are these kinds of cinematographers who add soul to their shots. And I think JP also has this, especially when he does handheld as if there’s like a magnetic special, specific point that leads us directly into the eyes and the soul of the characters. And automatically his hands snap to that magnetic point. He has that kind of instinct. I love his cinematography. I feel like that spirit continues. His work added a lot to the spirit of the film.

Esra and I had long discussions partly during the Gezi park protests in Turkey, sitting at the Gezi park and brainstorming. I’m glad a part of our film memories also attaches to that historic moment in Turkey’s political landscape. 

I feel like Esra and I are the kind of directors who are not worried about showing off visually. We just trust in our scripts and we trust in our actors’ performances and we’re not afraid of letting those stand out in the film. So I feel like we never made these extreme efforts to showcase our directorial skills visually and cinematically. We were confident in what we had in our hands. That was our main starting point in building the shots for Across The Sea.

ES: Yeah, I agree. It’s always great to come with a plan, but then be open to what actors get to perform. And sometimes we said – Okay, JP, you just follow them. And if your DP has a good instinct, you are in good hands.

ND: And we had enough conversations with him so he knew the soul of the film. I feel like it’s the same thing when you work so long with your actors, they know their characters to the bone, then on set, you can say – Okay, improvise, and whatever comes out of their mouth will be correct to the character. I think it’s the same thing if your cinematographer knows the heart of your story then you can give them some freedom. It doesn’t mean you’re not directing if you just say – follow this person – because you had already done your directing in the prep work when you explain to them what you’re after, and then giving them the flexibility on set actually gives them some room to do what they’re so good at.

ES: And actually, the thing with JP is that he really wants to do what you tell him. Some DPs can be more directorial, but JP really wants to translate what you envision. So I think in that sense, we were a great team. And one thing to focus on when you’re picking a cinematographer which JP had, is that when we would watch test screenings with our actors you could tell his passion lies on the performance and how desperately he wants to show it, versus-  I’m gonna light this like that, and then we’re gonna have this as a depth of field, etc. So his passion lies with the performances, with the story. So if your DP, who happens to be very talented, keeps focusing on the performance, keeps talking about the performances and the actors’ faces, you are definitely in good hands. I just wanna say that.

FM: That’s a great piece of advice. Communicating the soul of the film and choosing well your people so that you are able to trust them on set and let them do their thing. And that’s why you bring them into the project, right? You want their thoughts, you want their input, and you’re trusting them as a creative part of this process.

ES: And also we have this scene that was not on the script which we decided to shoot after a production meeting. It’s the scene after the soccer game, Damla waits for Burak by his car. We were not afraid to go off script and we told the actors – We are gonna shoot this scene. And they’re like – What do you mean? (Laughs). What are the lines? It doesn’t matter. You wanna achieve this and he wants to achieve that in the scene. And it was a rollercoaster. But personally, I really liked that scene.

ND: By the way, I had a similar experience in my last feature. It was like 4am, almost sunrise and it was the last two hours on set. We had just this one shot, I had all the five characters from the slums. They were gonna cross a bridge with a car and we had these drone shots of the car driving by. So it was just this one shot. And we had a technical problem with the car, but then all the characters were already in their makeup and ready and we had these two hours. So I didn’t wanna call it a wrap and go home. Instead, I said, okay what we are missing is a celebrating scene. It was the highest moment in the script. All the actors knew their characters really well. I just told them the mood – It’s just celebrating hopes of making an album and you were hanging out all night, you are a little drunk and you are just walking home, crossing the bridge, and everyone’s super happy, high hopes, etc. This is all the info I gave and they just improvised and JP shot it. It’s actually one of my favorite scenes in the movie now. And I’m so glad that the car was broken. But I also give myself a little credit because I wasn’t hung up about the car being broken. I was like, okay, I have these actors, I have this time, what do I need in the script? What was the scene standing in place for? And I think sometimes actually doing that is a bit refreshing on set. So I made a note to myself for upcoming projects. If the project allows, if it’s not surrounded by a green screen, then I think it’s great to actually just give actors the main objectives. And I heard many people actually shoot films that way without a script. Maybe that’s a little wild for me. And if you’re not a big name, like I know Gaspar Noé did Vortex like that. Maybe it’s hard to finance that way. But at least planning a couple of improv scenes could be really fun and you still work for it, prep for it, but kind of let some magic happen on set.

FM: Yeah, for the actors that must have been so great. Just so fun to give them the trust and let them do what comes naturally to them.

ND: Same in Across The Sea. I think that scene is one of the strongest scenes we have. Do you think so, Esra? 

ED: I do think so because it was supposed to happen and therefore it happened, the story required that scene. So it was beautiful. I love those magical moments.

ND: And you know how they say writing never ends until you’re editing. Basically, the writing sometimes continues when you’re on set as well. And that’s a part of it for me.

FM: Even when you’re editing, right? You’re kind of rewriting as you edit for sure.

ES:  I love to put slow motion on an actor’s reaction, I just love it, to extend the moment, and elevate it.

FM: We talked a little bit about a couple of obstacles you found during production. I wanted to ask you specifically if as female directors you found some obstacles and how did you overcome them?

ES:  So I don’t know if it was a female thing, but it might also be a young director thing. Nissan touched on this a little bit before. At least in Turkey, and I’m pretty sure in many countries around the world, equality on set sometimes isn’t appreciated. So people wanna be higher than you or they are okay lower than you if you command the sets. They don’t understand if you are… maybe they changed, I don’t know, Nisan is more updated about Turkey sets she should talk more about that. But they know how to receive orders or how to give orders, but we cannot just be friends because if we are friends, we might not be heard as much as we want. So I can never tell if it was a woman thing or if it’s a young director thing. But I think this was one of the issues. And personally, if I insisted on something that made no sense for some of the crew members, I had to sometimes cry. I mean, I don’t recommend crying even though I understand crying. It’s not a technique that you have to adopt, but if you’re someone who cries, just get the best out of it, I guess. Why not?

ND: Maybe a year after we finished production, I heard someone confess that before the production, when people were teaming up and they heard we were two female directors, some people were like – Oh, it’s gonna be a catfight. Oh, let’s watch some catfight. They were making jokes like this. Which I’m laughing at, but it’s extremely annoying and offensive of course, because if it were two men, no jokes were going to be made and they would have been respected, probably. So I think there was some kind of prejudice for being two female directors and being young definitely didn’t help either, of course. But I think at the end of the day, we were just so focused on making good stuff and we were passionate and I think our passion did shine through. We were so positive and openhearted. and we weren’t receptive to the prejudices.

I have this theory that if you’re not looking for prejudices, on a basic level of course, I feel like they don’t get to you if you don’t perceive them. A really basic approach, but sometimes being a little naive really helps because if someone says something mean to you trying to hurt you and you don’t get it, you are not hurt by it. And because we were the directors, they could only do this in less obvious ways. No one questioned our position on set or anything. We didn’t have big problems. It was more like small gossip on set, people making this kind of catfight jokes, which we actually never did. 

ES: Yeah. We never experienced that.

ND: But we were lucky overall.

ES: If somebody challenged us in the middle of everyone saying – You guys don’t know what you’re doing. I don’t think  that they would have ever been said that because we were amazing. But I don’t know what my reaction would be. I would just tell them to drink water, go to the corner and drink water, and then go and find them. But it’s a tricky game. I guess the biggest lesson you can teach someone sometimes is ignoring that they exist if they do something wrong. And the set is a little bit a life and death situation so am I gonna focus on improving people’s moral values or make the film happen? I think that stuff can happen before production or after production. On a cultural and social level when you look back and if you feel like you have some feedback to share, you should share it. For example, there’s a great friend of mine called Sujit, she’s Indian American and she is doing her first feature in India this year. And before doing that, her feature project was at Berlinale and she got this fund to initiate a training for Indian women to become gaffers and grips because she wants to do an intimate film about a teenage girl living in India. And she wants to have women gaffers, I totally understand that need. So she got the fund and she’s doing this training program so that when she’s shooting the film, she can have female gaffers. We just have to be able to make our films happen, you know? Changing the system can be very tough, but maybe we can do modifications around our circle to continue whatever we wanna continue to do.

ND: I don’t wanna be misunderstood about the whole ignoring point. Of course, if some kind of injustice or some wrongdoing is happening on set, we shouldn’t ignore that for sure. But what I mean is that sometimes people do small things just to hurt you, like little nuances. I feel like most women are facing that even if it’s not in big cases, it still affects your energy. And what I mean by ignoring is just not picking up those small nuances because then it doesn’t let those people succeed. They do those things to hurt you. And if you’re not hurt by that, then they can’t stop you, they can’t take your energy away from what you’re trying to create and they’re not sabotaging you. Deep down, I think that’s what they’re trying to do. So try to maintain the focus on what you’re trying to do and not pick up on those little nasty energies.

ES: You mean like Michelle Obama, if they go low, we go high. That line works sometimes. And especially if they’re someone who’s able to see that, that you decided to go high, they actually respect you. We had someone who said things that she was not supposed to say on set and she found out that we heard, but we didn’t do anything about it and later on I got a job from her, a very good job. So sometimes it’s helpful. 

FM: If each of you had one piece of advice that you could give yourself before starting that you think would make the film better, or the experience easier, or in any way improve the experience of making this film, what would that be?

ND: Well, I know exactly: You’re not bad at directing actors. This is what I would say to myself because when Esra and I were talking about our strengths and we were dividing the work, I had this fear of not being good enough at directing the actors. So I was taking more responsibility on the camera work and Esra was doing the majority of the work with the performances. I think I would just encourage myself more because after Across The Sea when I did my second feature, I overcame that. And actually, I directed a couple of episodes for a Netflix series and now I hear people in the industry referring to me as a director whose strength is directing actors. That kind of became my stronger side. I’m not crazy about camera tricks, but really into getting good performances. So I would go back and say to myself – Don’t be so afraid of directing the actors. You can do it!

ES: Interesting. And I would say: Your way of directing is not the wrong way, it’s just a different way that they still have yet to experience and see that it works.

FM: All right, that’s great: give yourself more confidence for the things that you wanna do.

ES: Don’t compare yourself with others because the instincts and emotions that lead you to this route can have their own way of manifesting. It doesn’t have to fit every other director’s methods.

FM: You have both made other work as director and as producers. Esra, you’ve done podcast directing. Can you tell us a little bit about that world and how did you tailor your directing towards that platform?

ES: It’s a beautiful opportunity. I recommend everyone to do it because it gives you permission and the opportunity to work sometimes with very successful actors in a short time. You get to direct the actors more frequently, you don’t need to raise at least $1 million to work with a great actor. I was very lucky that I ran into this job posting by someone who graduated from Columbia. She was a very successful Hollywood executive and then she started her own company with her partner Thomas. Her name is Kendall and she started this podcast series company aiming for women stories directed by women. I met so many groups of actors thanks to that. And it’s lovely to share an afternoon with them. It requires a lot of technicalities. I need to operate, mute, play, make sure that the volumes are right, make sure that the mic is aiming right. Sometimes I’m like a mother – All right, make sure you drink your water now, etc. And then it’s also like a foley job. So besides narration, they also do weird sounds and we kind of imitate art in all areas, from super intimate scenes to super exotic tropical scenes. So it’s a lot of fun. I recommend it to everyone and you don’t need to have like 50 people around you to direct the actors. Beautiful, I’m grateful.

FM: That sounds fascinating for sure. And Nisan, you did your second feature as we’ve talked about “When I’m Done Dying” which premiered a couple of years ago at the beginning of the pandemic. 

How was it to shoot a second feature now as a solo director? And what was different about the experience? How did you come into the second feature as a director from the lessons learned from your first experience that we’ve discussed?

ND: Well, the second feature was much harder to finance and produce. So from the first draft, it took about three years to get the financing together. And the political backdrop changed in Turkey. For our first feature we had the Ministry of Culture funds which made things much easier. But in this second film, I didn’t have those funds. We had the Eurimages, Hamburg Film Fund and Visions Sud Est. But still, it wasn’t enough and we had to find seven other investors and keep all these investors excited and attached in the period of a couple of years. And there was an economic crisis going on. The Euro was peaking to numbers, which are actually lower than what it is today, but back then it was a high peak. And we lost a couple of investors. So the economic climate wasn’t ideal for private financing because these movies are films that investors know they’re not gonna make money from. So if people put in money, they know it’s only for prestige or they just want an Instagram post on a red carpet, basically.

Luckily we also had some visionary people who believed in the project and who had true passion for producing films and making them possible. So it was a combination of all kinds of investors. But that was a lot of effort. And it takes away from your concentration as a director because we didn’t have all the financing in place until a couple of weeks before production. And while doing the prep, still being on the phone with investors, and not being able to sleep comfortably at night with the fear of financing, it takes away from your creativity. So that was the biggest difference with the first feature. 

Only after making the second one, I realized how lucky we were in our first film. And we were sort of tricked by the experience because we thought it was gonna be easy like this in the next one. And that was the biggest difference with the second one.

Process-wise, directing two people versus solo is really the same. You have to do the same things. The only thing is you’re alone. So it’s a bit more of a lonely place than having someone hand in hand, that’s really a comfort zone when you have someone you like. So it was tougher in all aspects if I were comparing. But it went well in the end. Thank God.

ES: She’s doing very well.

FM: She’s doing great. When I’m Done Dying is also available on all different platforms for you to check out.

ND: It’s on Amazon and iTunes and Fandango and a couple of other platforms in the United States for anyone Interested in rap, drugs, and toxic love in the slums of Istanbul.

FM: Well finally, what are you working on right now and what’s next for each of you. Esra?

ES: I have maybe five or six projects floating in my brain and also in my Dropbox. But the most serious one is The Mesopotamian, it’s a romantic noir set in the EMS world of New York and it’s told through the eyes of a middle Eastern girl who went through war on a different level. It got a lot of attention and went to great programs like Gotham Week, Film Independent, Ontario Creates IFF at Toronto Film Festival. And it’s funny, we get love, but we cannot get fully financed. I feel like this stray cat at the door of a palace, like they let me be at the door, they give me milk sometimes, sometimes they give me food, but they don’t let me in. They don’t fully adopt me. Sometimes you go through these emotions. It was co-written with Ramata Sy who has done great films that went to Berlin, Locarno and her first feature film will be produced by the producer of Titane, the film that won last year at Cannes. So I know I’m always very lucky to be surrounded by amazing people. However, the project is taking more time than I anticipated so this summer I’m going to the east of Turkey to shoot an ultra-low-budget film. I’m gonna co-direct with another friend of mine from New York. His name is Malik Isasis and he has so much experience in guerilla filmmaking so I wanna use his low budget “I can do it all” spirit and we are gonna hopefully be a good team and have amazing co-directing memories like I had with Nisan, I hope. The film is about this black American backpacker woman who goes on a road trip in Turkey on her way to Armenia where she’s gonna meet her best friend and she spends some extra days in a guest house by the border between Armenia and Turkey because she meets a guy who manages the hotel and they go through a small love story.

I’m gonna shoot that and I’m gonna get one feature film out of my system so that I can reset and focus on my other projects. I developed a TV series called Double Dilemma based on a book that I wanted  to option for 10 years. I’m very excited to make it happen. We are talking to great streamers, however, I am the stray cat sometimes. It takes time, but I’m at peace with this because I think Robert Redford said that there are no people who fail. There are just people who give up. So I’m gonna stand at that palace door and we’ll see what happens. And hopefully, I wanna collaborate with Nisan again one day. 

FM: Absolutely. I think it’s very important for people to hear this, that it takes time for things to happen and you just keep at it, keep at it, and don’t give up. And then as you said, maybe go and shoot something else and just have different projects in different stages and everything will work out at the time that it needs to work out. Some things come out fast and some things come out slow. But I am very excited to see both and all of your projects. I’ve been waiting for The Mesopotamian since I heard about the story many years ago so I’ll be the first one there at the movie theater.

ND: I’ll be there with you.

FM: Great. Yes. I’m excited about this night. All right. What about you, Nisan?

ND: Oh yeah, a lot of projects developing, same story. This summer I’m shooting two episodes for a Miramax show. They’re doing it for Paramount +, it’s called The Turkish Detective. It’s gonna be in English for foreign audiences, but it’s filmed in Turkey. It’s a cop story, but not in a Nordic cold way, more like in a warm human way. And this actor who I really wanted to collaborate with for a really long time, Haluk Biligner, is starring. So that’s exciting for me. And then right after that, I’ll shoot a few more episodes for the second season of Midnight at the Pera Palace that will be available on Netflix worldwide. So this year is a bit piled up with some commercial work, but until I start to get busy in the summer, I’m developing this story with my producer, Müge Özen, whom I did When I’m Done Dying with. We got the rights to this book that I’m so excited about. I can’t wait for that to happen, but I guess it will be a couple of years because it’s an epic project. The translation of the name would be Amazons of Istanbul and it’s the unwritten story in history about the only female Sultan of the Ottoman empire. And she’s slashing Ottoman soldiers in a Tarantino kind of way, but it’s set in the Ottoman Empire. So it’s like a mixture of east and west kind of project, but it’s really a feminist project. I don’t wanna spoil it too much, but it’s really exciting to the point of like Ottoman sex toys. So you see the Ottoman Empire from a perspective that’s really fresh and really feminist, kind of like an alternative reality.

We’re trying to do that in a six-episode mini-series. But for me, I see these six-episode series, like a big, big-scale feature film. Sort of like “I Know This Much Is True”, I thought it was a fantastic show. It really felt like one big feature film where I had the chance to just dive into the sub characters’ lives a little better compared to a feature. So, we don’t see that project as just a  commercial series project, but more like an arthouse work that is in the form of a six-episode series. In today’s Turkish climate, it’s really tough to finance this as an art-house film, but there are so many resources, everyone wants to make a series, there’s a lot of resources if you want to call it a series and release it on a platform. And the story is so big that it makes that possible so that’s the kind of route that we would take.

ES: Wait, that sounds very commercial and nice to me. It’s a great story.

ND: It has a commercial appeal too, but we wanna do it really character-driven and not so much plot-heavy. We’ll see what the platforms will think. In Turkey, they tend to want a lot of plot. They see their audience as a low patience audience and we don’t want to spoil it, but we’ll see, we are just writing it at the moment. And I have another feature film, but that’s really raw right now. Hopefully, another feature film happens as well.

FM: Well, I am also very excited to watch that show. It’s great to see history through a feminine perspective, I think we need more of that. We have more and more females voices telling stories now, but it’s also interesting to look at the past and see how it looks through the female perspective. I can’t wait to see it. I wish you the best of luck with it. 

And both of you, Esra and Nisan, thank you so much for chatting with me today and for sharing your experience about Across the sea. Again, Across The Sea is available on Amazon Prime. So make sure to check it out. And we’ll keep you posted about the next steps for Esra and Nisan, best of luck. 

ES: Thank you. And also if there are people listening from Turkey, it’s also available on Mubi Turkey and Blue TV as well. But thank you so much, Thais. I really enjoyed it. It was lovely.

ND: Thank you for having us.

FM: Thank you for being here.

Poster for “Across The Sea”

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