Local Line Producer Serhan Nasirli talks about filming in Turkey
Due to its historical links with both Asia and Europe, Turkey has always been a melting pot of civilisation. This is reflected in its locations and people. Perhaps this is why 157 foreign productions chose to shoot here in 2017 with a record 3370 location shoot days. It is so rich in shooting and casting opportunities you can only do it justice by visiting and seeing it with your own eyes.
"Filmmakers can find quality crew at a sensible price."
The country’s industry is growing rapidly following the success of many Turkish TV series and feature films - in 2017, 71 million tickets were sold at its local box offices – which means there is plenty of talented crew and equipment available including the Russian Arm and Motion Control Rigs. Turkey also has some very cost-effective post production facilities.
With the increase in foreign productions shooting in Turkey over the past ten years, and with more foreign Directors and DOPs being hired for shooting Turkish TV commercials, crews are now more experienced and knowledgeable than ever before.
"In 2017, a total of 181 foreign shooting permits were approved."
International filmmakers can find quality crew at a sensible price. Compared to last year, due to the change in value of the Lira against the US Dollar and Euro, Turkey has become 30% cheaper to film in. An average weekly rate for a First Assistant Director is now 3000 Lira which is about 545 Euros.
One of the biggest studios in Turkey is the Maya Film Studios located in İzmit just an hour ride from Istanbul. The studio is widely used in period dramas with its standing sets having a 55,000 sqm indoor set facility. A new facility, Midwood Studios, is under construction and will be the biggest studio in Turkey when completed.
When it comes to locations, Turkey is a National Geographic album with bargain prices. It is a treasure for producers and directors seeking to add production value to their work. There are four real seasons and you have the ability to shoot on a beach and then a mountain just an hour apart.
"A new incentive scheme is waiting to be signed into law."
You can find any tone of green in the Black Sea region and any tone of blue on the Mediterranean. You can double most European, Asian and Middle Eastern locations as well as the Maldives and even Scandanavian locations in Turkey’s snowy mountain ranges. Cappadocia is already known for its unusual landscapes but there are still plenty of undiscovered locations to be found.
In 2017, a total of 181 foreign shooting permits were approved in Turkey and the permitting process is very simple. Filming permits are approved by General Directorate of Cinema and usually take about a week. The permit application form is accessible on their website. A foreign producer must fill in all the required fields like the project and crew details. You have to hire a local fixer/line producer to be able to get a permit and this person must assist you during your shoot in Turkey. After getting the permit, you should contact the local municipality for your shooting location to get their permission. This can take another two days to process.
Turkey offers an 18% cash back (VAT return) to foreign productions shooting in the country. Compared to other countries, it offers a fast payback to the producer which is usually 30 days after the CFA report is submitted. A new incentive scheme of around 25 to 30% is currently waiting to be signed into law. This will hopefully happen this year.
"We had to use cows to transport our equipment!"
My career is now mainly focused on feature films but the bulk of Turkey’s international industry is definitely TV commercials. In the past, I have worked on everything from a Donald Duck commercial for Creamm to an Adnan Menderes documentary for Al Jazeera Egypt.
With a population of over 80 million, with 20 million in Istanbul alone, Turkey is a huge creative content provider especially as many Turkish TV series are a global phenomenon. Turkey is busy with its domestic industry so always follow the permit process and get in touch with local fixers or line producers and listen to your local guys. Also try to avoid planning shoots during elections or national holidays.
It is important to remember that filming in Turkey can be challenging. One of my hardest location shoots was in 2010 when I was the line producer on a feature called White as Snow. We were shooting in a remote mountain village at 1900m above sea level. To reach it we had to travel on some very dangerous cliff paths. It got to a point that we could no longer use our cars so we had to use cows to transport our equipment!
Click here to contact Serhan.
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