Producer Tuna Erturk’s films and commercial work is widely recognized with awards and their prevalence in the industry. If you don’t know of him that’s likely because you don’t live in Turkey. Fame and recognition does not typically transfer internationally unless you are an actor with a marquee name. This doesn’t bother Tuna as he has always preferred creating behind the scenes. Still…he has been a part of some productions in the US which means it’s likely that you’ll start hearing his name more often, at least if you are in the industry. As the world’s communication becomes more immediate, our interest in different cultures and the stories we share cross international boundaries. Established and creative professionals like Erturk are increasingly becoming sought after to lend their skills and sensibilities to an entertainment thirsting public.
Erturk served as a producer on Dervis Zaim’s Fish which won a Crystal Apricot Award, a SIYAD Award, and was an official selection of the Istanbul International Film Festival. The film is an excellent example of the rich storytelling that is found outside of the US. Fish follows the story of a poor fisherman who, desperate to cure his daughter’s muteness, tries to catch a fabled magic fish. As the film’s producer, Tuna played a huge role in the creation and ultimately ensured their fantastic degrees of critical and commercial success. The film was shot in Golyazi/Bursa, Turkey (a peninsula) where the spectacular views and natural beauty complement the mythical hopes of the main character. Tuna concedes that coordinating a location shoot there was more than worth the effort. Having done only one feature project prior to Fish, Erturk was overwhelmed by Zaim’s insistence that he come aboard the project. He notes, “I was so busy with shooting T.V. commercials at the time. Dervis Zaim came to office one day to meet and asked me to work on Fish. I said that I really wanted to and then he replied to me with this Turkish idiom ‘There is no wedding without the orchestra. You must be there!’ He was stating that I was the orchestra in the wedding. With that kind of confidence, I found a way to make my schedule work and I’m glad I did.” As proof of the positive working relationship and Erturk’s work, Fish won multiple awards at the Malaysia International Film Festival and was nominated for Best Film at Nuremberg Film Festival.
Tuna was already in LA amongst the Hollywood industry and experiencing it firsthand when he was hired as producer for the film Uzun bir Gun or “A Long Day.” This film is about a sick father who is accompanied by his son to find the patriarch’s childhood home was filmed in Turkey. Having served as producer in both the US and Turkey, the difference in the two industries was redefined for Erturk. He states, “There is a very close connection between the film industry and school in LA. It’s not just directing or production, technically that is the way it is. Active people working in the sector give lectures on light, sound, visual effects, and many other topics. They share with you all their experiences on set. This makes it possible to educate qualified personnel in every way. There are university graduate set workers and assistants, production assistants, sound assistants in LA. Everyone is very professional and educated in their work. There is great support for students. You can rent the finest cameras, the best equipment, and the most amazing team almost for free. The working rules here are much stricter than in Turkey. For instance, the health and rest time of the team working on the set is very important. In the simplest case, you can call at least 12 hours after the last worker who left the set. I can count many other rules for protecting the workers like this. I think these rules make things work better quality. It was with great pride that I applied my experience here in Hollywood to producing in Turkish films.” “A Long Day” received awards from First Run Film Festival – Wasserman Award, Golden Orange Film Festival, and Tehran International Short Film Festival.
Most recently, Tuna was enlisted as the producer for Noah Tree. Set to be shot in Bursa (Turkey), it tells the story of a man named Omer who goes to his dying father’s childhood village to fulfill his last wish: to bury him under the Noah Tree which his father claims to have planted long ago. But the villagers believe the tree to be the first tree Noah planted after the Great Flood and they will do anything to stop Omer from debasing their sacred tree. The production has already received a Cannes Film Festival Residence invitation.
Choosing to focus on films these days, Erturk has a long history in producing with various formats. Every producer and director gets their start in commercials and Tuna is no exception. He has no disdain for them, in fact…he quite liked the work. What’s not to like when you’re working with international stars like Megan Fox and for massive brands like Coca Cola and Doritos? It does however not come without it’s challenges as he notes, “We shot the Doritos commercial with Megan Fox in Istanbul. When she arrived at the Istanbul International Airport all the paparazzi were waiting there for her. She was very famous in Turkey like the rest of the world. The commercial was about a celebration of new product of Doritos “Fritos Shots”. There was an academy in commercial that brings together the young bright brains. So one of the teachers was Megan Fox. We shot the commercials for 3 days in one studio. The most challenging part of the commercial was Megan’s fame. She was so famous and it was hard keep paparazzi and media attention away.” Erturk adds, “My tasks during these productions were: making budgets, hiring crew, and keep it running smoothly. I was reporting every process to the executive producer Emre Oskay. We were finding solutions together if we had a problem. He was a friend more than a boss. That positive working relationship grew into twenty-three commercials together and film work.” Oskay adds, “In addition to our commercial work together, I have also worked with Tuna on a pair of feature films, both of which he produced. These films, 2014’s Fish and 2013’s Cycle, have each accrued a fantastic degree of commercial success and have drawn the acclaim of audiences and critics. Neither film would have garnered such a significant degree of international acclaim if not for Tuna and his fantastic gifts as a producer. Tuna Erturk stands among the top tiers of Turkey’s film producers.”