"Respite" (short film)

Ayse Altinok

Biscuit Filmworks

1) How did you get into directing? 
While working at Wieden I started to shoot short films on the side. Originally my background is in graphic design, but film was always with me as a side interest. I did a lot of acting when I was young and I knew that film was going to be part of my life always. My first commissioned short film, “A Day At The Mall Reminds Me Of America,” was after I left Wieden and it really kick-started everything. The advertising and design knowledge was a great foundation for me, combining that with film just made my creative world complete. After finding an agent it was easier to connect the dots. All I had to do was focus on what type of director I wanted to be and what my overall approach to film would be.

2) What is your most recent project?
I have two projects in the making at the moment. Working on a music video for Pigeon Horse Sex Tennis and a feature film project still in development. I also recently finished a campaign with Fallon Minneapolis for Larabar. It’s an exciting part of my job to keep a good variation of genres and types of projects going simultaneously.

3) What is the best part of being a director?
I like that the job itself, not necessarily a person, becomes the boss. I love that aspect of directing. I always try to see how I can serve the idea in the best way and how I can bring the potential of the story to the highest most impactful level. If I let the idea be my boss I feel like I am always going in the right direction. The other best thing is the collaboration, to be able to orchestrate a lot of other talented people and be part of their work as well. I find it very empowering yet humbling when I work with the right talent and the crew.

4) What is the worst part of being a director? 
Directing can be very isolating sometimes even if you are surrounded with great people. Not because you make decisions by yourself but because there is a lot of thinking and researching to do before jobs and it usually has to come from one brain in order to have a specific point of view. Self doubt and fear of failure can be poisonous in the long-term, which I am learning to stay away from. Just keep calm and enjoy the creative ride. Stay focus and enjoy what you are doing.

5) What is your current career focus: commercials & branded content, TV, movies? Do you plan to specialize in a particular genre—comedy, drama, visual effects, etc.? 
As long as there is a truthful idea attached to it I am open to many forms of film. Commercials have a great way of finding that quick smart idea or that touching and truthful story. When the idea is original and the execution is unique, it’s golden. Another focus for me is feature film and short film. In terms of genre, I have always been attracted to drama, but I see a lot of different sub-themes included in drama. I guess I am more interested in the truth. My short holiday films were comedies but I still tried to create a very dramatic scene even if the lines were hilariously funny. It felt like my interpretation of comedy.

6) Have you a mentor and if so, who is that person (or persons) and what has been the lesson learned from that mentoring which resonates with you?
I’ve had many mentors in my life. It’s hard to point to just one name. I feel like I took many different lessons from different directors in order to create my own way of seeing things. Also
I was trying to avoid being somebody’s protégé or their assistant because I knew I wouldn’t be a good one. I just wanted to dive into directing headfirst and I knew that was the only way to make a strong appearance with a clear conscious. I guess this will be an appropriate end line after working on Nike account for many years – I just had to DO IT!

7) Who is your favorite director and why? 
Lately I have been obsessed with Luca Guadagnino’s work. I find his films magical, effortlessly gorgeous and far away from gimmicks. He is one director who really understands design and the story always sits well in the world he creates. He is so spot on with his actors. He elevates normality into a very glamorous place and he tones down the real glamour to a very approachable place. The films are so well put together and so enjoyable that I never care how the endings are. He makes sure the whole ride is powerful and the ending is just an ending. The tension is always well distributed; it’s in the core part of the film as well as in the landscape.

8) What is your favorite movie? Your favorite television/online program? Your favorite commercial or branded content? 
My favorite film of all time is probably “Kes” from Ken Loach. It was a very simple story yet super powerful and touching; that film changed a lot of things for me. Recently though I really enjoyed watching “Youth” from Paolo Sorrentino.  A masterpiece. It’s going to be a funny switch but I am also a big fan of HBO’s “Doll and Em” right now. Those two characters make me cringe in a good way also in a bad way, which makes me keep watching.

9) Tell us about your background (i.e. where did you grow up? Past jobs?)
Born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey. Went to Art Academy (Mimar Sinan), studied graphic design and worked in advertising as an art director for many years. My first job was in a small agency in Istanbul, then I got hired by TBWA Istanbul to work on more global brands. Then I moved to Amsterdam; I freelanced for two years there for Nike and Wieden + Kennedy. Then W+K Amsterdam hired me. I worked there for five years before moving to the U.S. to work at W+K Portland, and started experimenting with short films. In 2014 I officially left the agency world and stepped into professional directing with Biscuit Filmworks.