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Burak Sağyaşar:“The better your story is, the more it’s viewed by people around the world.”

Successful actor-turned-producer Burak Sağyaşar is very happy to have embarked on his new journey. We talked about production and creativity with Sağyaşar who tries to channel all his experience, emotions, and creativity into his profession.

We know many people who switch from acting to directing, and most of them continue their acting career. However, we don’t see many actors becoming producers. What’s your biggest motivation in quitting acting? The first thing I could say is that switching to production is a choice, and both are completely opposite professions. Although I felt skilled in my abilities required for acting such as emotional intelligence, intuitive thinking, and empathy, I’ve also wanted to do business. For me, acting means maximum focus on your character and guiding that character’s ship throughout the journey without losing that concentration. However, this personal concentration didn’t really allow me to pursue or realise the ideas and dreams I’ve been collecting over the years. The transition from acting to directing is pretty horizontal. Both professions operate on the field. So, if an actor’s good at it, he can also direct or do both. But production is a completely different story. Producers have the final word of authority on how a TV series or a film will look the way it does. In my terms, production is not limited to this. For me, production is about forever dedicating my knowledge, experience, emotions, creativity, and financial means to making that work happen. To be able to multitask. This is why I wanted to quit acting. It is not possible to pursue both careers at the same time in a productive way. You can’t both be the boss and the employee. I chose the former. And I’m very happy about it.

We don’t have many creative producers like you in Turkey because it requires raising resources and funds during the project phase, and investment and networking on the business side. Are there any differences between your expectations and what you’ve experienced so far? It’s true. However, it’s not just about raising resources and funds or building the right team. In order to be a creative producer, you also need to be a source of inspiration with all your creative decisions to your scriptwriter, director, cast, artistic director, and filmmaker. To do this, you need creativity and lots of it. You need ideas about the language, tone, colours, emotion, music, visuals and, in short, the entire world of the work, and these ideas need to evoke something in the minds of your creative teammates. Creative people are smart and you cannot stall them or fool them just to keep the work going. Occasionally, they may lose their direction or get tunnel vision because they’re too focused on the work. Here, the creative producer plays a critical role in establishing the proper framework. Of course, the reality was largely different from what I imagined. TIMS&B celebrates its sixth year. We’ve filmed 12 TV shows in these six years and continue to air at least two or three new ones every year. I’ve experienced and am still experiencing the difference between theory and practice in a short while, mostly through pain and suffering. But the most important thing is that I’m happy. I and my dear partner and close friend, Timur Savcı, collaborate to produce these projects. He’s my biggest supporter and mentor throughout my journey as a producer.

Production is, without a doubt, an effort in the background. It’s the starting point where the content is created and many important decisions are made around a desk. It also requires selflessness in terms of timing and planning. How do you feel about beginning this process around a desk? Are you a patient person? I think those are my favourite moments. The preliminary phase of the project is where the excitement lies and that which re- motivates me about my profession. You sketch your idea on a white canvas and collaborate with the best in the field while doing so. Our teammates have many achievements in their track records. Then, this stops being a sketch and becomes a work that is exported to the rest of the world. This is an amazing thing. Our work schedule is busy and challenging. You need nerves like steel. Patience is also significant. People become more nervous as the filming or release date is closer. They tend to get sensitive. Producers are the only people managing this entire process. I try to make decisions without rushing. Those decisions could make or break a project. I care deeply about everyone sharing the same perspective about the project before filming. We must imagine the same series. The scriptwriter, director, cast, editor, composer, or producer—if even one of them differs from this vision, that work cannot be good.

We live in times when everything changes rapidly and we wake up to a new innovation every morning. What does time mean to you as a producer? It’s important for me to get the spirit of the times. Change is innate to the universe and the law of evolution. Humans evolve and change. So do their habits. But the essence remains the same. Humanity is the same. We become emotional; feel happy, sad, angry, excited, or curious. This is why sociology is highly relevant to what we do and to me personally. The audience must be able to connect with the characters in your story. So, you need to be able to properly portray the emotions of these characters. I try to follow what’s going on in the world in terms of change. I try to watch the first episode of other productions. The biggest mistake is to look at TV viewers in a patronising way. You cannot say, "They like this, this is what they understand." TV series reach approximately 56 million people every night. Which means that as a member of this country, you are one of those viewers. Time is important but, for me, it’s more important for me to catch the spirit of the times. But one fact remains true forever: the better your story is, the more it’s viewed by people around the world.

You develop projects both for TV and digital platforms. Do you have any favourites? Which medium do you prefer? All our projects have a special place in my heart. Each is a different experience and teaches me new lessons. I don’t care for the medium when creating something. The creative process is the same for digital platforms and TV. The difference is in the number and duration of episodes, financial resources, and responsibilities. To give a more specific example, one is a long marathon and the other is a thrilling, shorter sprint. They’re both enjoyable in their own ways. For TV, you need to keep an open mind and think long-term about your story. For digital, you can still keep an open mind but it’s a challenge to fit it into eight episodes. In the future, we plan to produce two projects for TV and two series for digital platforms.

Production is also a collective effort. Can you tell us how important you think collaboration is? It’s entirely collaborative. We’re talking about at least 120 people, both in front of and behind the camera. This doesn’t even include the office employees. It takes close collaboration to wake up every morning with the desire, belief, and motivation to work. It’s a difficult job. I’m being honest. Others may have time to themselves. We never do. I care deeply about my teammates feeling a part of our team and the project. I want to know about even the tiniest detail. All my colleagues know that I listen to them. I always hear their ideas. We may not always be in direct contact but when they ask if I know about something, I always do. When filming starts, their battle is on the set and ours is at the office.

Do you think creativity requires a free spirit? When was the last time you truly felt free? Of course, it does! Sometimes, I even have to force myself to think freely. You realise, even if it’s subconsciously, you limit or auto-censor yourself. I think true freedom is an open- ended concept. But I believe I’m being free in all the work we do. We especially want our writers to feel as free as possible during the creative process. It’s a part of our job to realise that imagined world within a certain framework and budget. Like Erich Fromm said, “Most people die before they are fully born. Creativeness means to be born before one dies.”


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