T-Port Blog

Serhat Karaaslan is a Turkey-born emerging filmmaker, working on both short and feature-length projects. 

His latest short film, “The Criminals”, is a Turkish-language crime-drama which follows a young couple trying to find a hotel room to spend the night in together, but they are rejected from all hotels for not having a marriage certificate. Once they believe they’ve found a trick, the situation gets out of hand. 

The film has already impressed viewers at festivals such as Sundance, SXSW, Palm Springs ShortFest and more, and was recently shortlisted for the Best Live-Action Short Film at the 2022 Oscars. 

“The Criminals” is presented for professional viewing on T-Port by our recently joined partners, Lights On, a worldwide sales company of quality cinema based in Italy. 

We had a chance to talk to Serhat about his latest film, artistic vision and the influences the experience of growing up in a small Kurdish village in Turkey had on his career. 

Hi Serhat! Tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I’m 37 years old. I studied Pharmacy but decided to become a filmmaker. I started by making short films. I made several shorts and one feature film called ‘Passed by Censor’. I just recently started to write my second feature film.

While working on your latest short film, “The Criminals”, where did you draw your inspiration from? 

The film is based on a true story. It’s not easy to know precisely where inspiration comes from exactly. I think mostly from my personal experiences, my own stories, observations and stories I have been told. Literature, photographs, life and of course cinema itself. 

Tell us about a filmmaker that you admire and why? 

Paul Thomas Anderson. I love his sense of humor, the interesting and unusual universe he builds, interesting, strange and extraordinary characters he creates.

Next to filmmaking, what do you consider as your passions in life?

I like reading, travel, photography and painting.

Do these passions influence your filmmaking, are there any connections?

Yes, definitely. Especially literature.

Can you tell us about your first encounter with cinema – do you recall your first memory from watching a film?

I was born and raised in a remote Kurdish village in the East of Turkey where there were no cinemas. Electricity came to the region at the end of the ’80s and Television came just after electricity. I have seen my first films on TV. The first time I watched a black and white film on TV, I was around 6-7 years old I think. It was probably a videotape. I have some images of this movie in my mind, but I don’t remember the title of the movie or its story.

What is the best thing you recently watched or experienced?

The 2021 Romanian film, “Bad Luck Banging or Loony Porn”. 

Which film do you find overrated, and why?

“Don’t Look Up”, the new film by Adam McKay. It’s only teaching messages and giving lessons. 

How did you first start working on this film? What was the process like and what first sparked the idea to make this film? 

It’s based on a true story but the real story was quite simple. I didn’t want to just tell the story as it was. The idea stuck in my mind for a long time, matured over time, and when the mix of genres was involved, I became more excited to tell this story. And mixing genre idea came out with the security guard character.

Tell us a bit about your film and the filmmaking process – what were your main insights? 

The writing process for me is not only writing the script, but also research for finding the best way to tell the story I’m working on. I’m watching and read a lot during that process.

What were the biggest challenges you encountered during making your film? 

Finding actors. Some actors were very interested in the film however when they read the script they found some excuses and refused. Some of them said that they don’t have any problem acting in make love scenes but for their career, it will be too risky if they act in a sex scene they might not find a job on TV. Some actors negotiated with me how much we were going to show their bodies or how I’m going to shoot love scenes. I had to explain to too many actors how I’m going to shoot make love scenes which were the first time for me as well.

Also, finding locations. When we were looking for locations in Turkey, some hotels owner refused directly our request because they were thinking that we were going to shoot a porn film. After a few experiences with some hotels, we concelaed the act there is a lovemaking scene. 

How was it to collaborate with your cast and crew? Have you formed any particular meaningful connection from someone from the crew you would like to share? 

I like to spend time with actors, main crew and talk about general things first, to get to know each other a bit. And only afterwards do I talk about the script and the characters. It’s difficult for me to work with someone with whom I can’t spend time. So, I became friends almost with all actors in the film and main crew like the producer, DOP, Art director and editor.

Tell us about the sound choices in your film – what type of score did you use and why? What other types of sounds did you use (if any)? 

I wanted very subtle sound design and music. After editing we recorded some extra sounds that we needed. Sound design was like editing the film again. I had chance to work with a very good Sound Engineer and he did a great job. He also did the music for the film. I wanted very subtle music like a continuation of the sound design and he did perfectly.

Tell us about the visual choices in your film. What were your main goals and techniques in creating the visual style of your film? 

While creating the visual language, we tried to establish an atmosphere that would gradually increase the tension at every stage. The tension and fear were one of the most important factors determining the use of location, camera style and lighting.

If you had to summarize your film in three words, what would they be? 

Youth, sex, taboo.

What would you like people to take away from your film? 

I hope that people have a good cinematographic experience and leave the film with questions.

What did you find (or still find) as especially lacking in the process of distributing and promoting your film? What was especially challenging? 

For me, short films distribution and promotion are always very difficult. We can only reach audiences via festivals. Film critics don’t write much about short films. For promoting your film you need to work with PR and spend money which short filmmakers don’t have.

What do feel young film talents lack the most today, after graduating from film school? Where are the gaps in the film industry? 

I didn’t go to film school. 🙂 

What are your expectations from T-Port? Did T-Port already help your film in any way? 

Hope it will help for the visibility of the film and reach more audiences.

What are your plans and dreams for the future? 

I’m planning to write my second feature film.

Follow Serhat on social media! 

FB | IG | TW | The Criminals

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