Tugrul Sarıkaya

After completing his education in Political Science and Public Administration at Uludağ University, Tuğrul Sarıkaya started his master's degree at the same university. He moved to San Francisco in 2014 to study Web Development at City College of San Francisco and started his first e-Commerce venture, Recro Garage Inc. After selling his business to a Houston-based company, Tuğrul started to focus on video production. 35Video LLC, which he founded, quickly showed the expected success. He conducted the visual programs of ISS Guckenheimer, one of the largest food/beverage organization companies in the world. He designed illustrative visuals for Vizru, a multinational start-up in Silicon Valley. He carried out the visual promotion works of many restaurants and businesses. The "wedding videography" work he created with his team was awarded the best videographer of 2020 by theKnot, the world's largest wedding organization platform. Now he provides visual marketing services all around the globe and he produces documentaries.

Your project has entered in our festival. What is your project about?  
Balkancisco is a documentary that explores the powerful influence of Balkan music in San Francisco Bay Area. Through the personal stories of musicians from different cultural backgrounds, the film highlights how this music transcends borders and unites people from diverse backgrounds. While traditionally Eastern Europeans have disagreements, Balkan music connects them as a common heritage when they are abroad.

In "Balkancisco" we follow the story of a Turkish girl named Duygu, who moves to San Francisco in search of a feeling of home in her voluntary exile. While exploring the city, she stumbles upon the ever-growing Balkan music scene in San Francisco and is immediately drawn into this vibrant community. Fascinated by how Balkan music is appreciated in San Francisco, Duygu sets out on a quest to understand how this interest evolved over time. Along her journey, she interviews the old-school pioneers who brought Balkan music to the Bay Area and the new-generation bands like Balkan Bump and Beats Antique that have moved Balkan music to the national and international music festival scene. As she delves deeper into the world of Balkan music, Duygu discovers a vibrant community of musicians and fans who have made this music their own. She takes us to sold-out Balkan jam sessions and parties where a cosmopolitan group of San Francisco residents rave to the beats of Balkan music. Through her journey, Duygu discovers a sense of belonging and a new appreciation for the power of music to transcend cultural boundaries and create a sense of home, no matter where geographically we find ourselves in the world.

What are your ambitions with your project?  
I had done many commercials, explainers, and personal projects before Balkancisco. But Balkancisco is my first featured movie, my first kid. And it's a very special one, since it taught me a lot. So it means a lot to me. It's multinational since it appeals to more than 13 countries. It's about music and dance which makes it more appealing. So I want to make the audience feel some kind of awe inside. Because, in Balkancisco, those musicians are awesome. What they do is awesome. They are authentic. They should be embraced. I see the beauty in them and I want to show what I see to the other people. I hope I succeeded

Tell us something about your shooting? What pleasantly surprised you?  
As I said before, people in our documentary are in love with music. The music genre that they are so passionate about is not a very common genre in the US. What they do is not always rewarding socially and financially too. But they are so in love with it, that they enjoy Balkan Music regardless. They are a unique type of people who choose their way of existence in this world. But they insist on Balkan Music and dance. The whole story is pleasantly surprising.

For what group of spectators is your film targeted?  
Specifically, people from Balkan countries are targeted in our movie. People from 13 different countries can watch the movie and enjoy it in the same way. Because although we are divided into different countries, our cultures are common in the Balkans. We all meet on a cultural common ground in the Balkans. Music is a very significant way of expressing those commonalities.

Another targeted audience group is ethnic music followers. Because we see Balkancisco as an ethnomusicological essay. People who love universal music will love Balkancisco too.

Why should distributors buy your film?  
Our documentary is multinational. It's about a culture shared by many different countries like Turkey, Greece, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Serbia, Bosnia Herzegovina, Albania, Romenia, Croatia and more. People from all those countries can watch our documentary and enjoy it in the same way. People from Balkan countries share a very similar music and dance culture although they are from different ethnicities, religions, and states. So it's killing two birds with one stone for distributors.

How would you specify your work? What characterizes your film?  
I would categorize it as a music documentary. It's literally a music documentary. Balkan music love characterizes our film.

Why did you decided to become a filmmaker?  
I grew up in Turkey. When I was a child, I was a curious kid. I was a documentary junky. Back then,in Turkey there weren't very good documentary producers at all. I used to watch Discovery Channel and National Geographic on cable TV, which was a Luxury commodity at that time. I wasn't dreaming about being a documentary producer but today I ended up being one. :) I feel like I'm good at finding hidden stories and telling them. I believe I am good at putting those stories in a structure to tell people. Documentary filmmaking is a good way to do it. So I decided to be a filmmaker.

Who is your role model?  
Balkancisco's script is inspired by Fatih Akin's "Crossing the Bridge" documentary. In Fatih Akin's documentary, Alexander Hacke is discovering Istanbul's music diversity. In our documentary Duygu Gün is doing the same in San Francisco. She is exploring the Balkan music in the San Francisco Bay Area. Akin is one of my favorite directors. So I enjoy following his foot-steps in my documentary. But generally speaking I don't have a role model.

Which movies are your favorites? Why?  
I like Nuri Bilge Ceylan's movies a lot. Because they tell a lot about "human" without telling too much. I love movies that can show things to the audience with very small movements and silently. So Paul Thomas Anderson movies are like that too. I see Inarritu movies in the same category. I love Bahman Ghobadi and Abbas Kiarostami movies too.

Where do you look for inspiration for your films?  
There is no single point of inspiration in my films that I can say is this. I can be influenced by many things. But I care about what is "humane". I would like to explore the innocent fragilities of human and tell stories about them.

Which topics interest you the most?
As I said before, deeply "humane" topics interest me the most.

What do you consider your greatest achievement in your career?  
Producing and directing Balkancisco is a great achievement in my career since It's my first feature movie. There is an old saying: "What's important is to start." So Balkancisco will always be the cornerstone of my career. It taught me a lot. My next movie will be a child of Balkancisco.

What do you consider most important about filming?  
Everyone thinks that making a movie is an artistic activity. However, in addition to being an artistic activity, making a film is a job where project management and job completion skills are very important. In addition, marketing is also a very important part of this business. Artistic competence is not enough to make films. It is necessary to approach it with the meticulousness of an engineer or a businessman.

Which film technique of shooting do you consider the best?
I love the journalistic style in my documentaries. It gives me the structure I need for filmmaking. We've used cameras as a witness to our story in Balkancisco. We didn't choose to use artistic camera techniques. It's almost a very expensively made vlog-like documentary. The story flows very naturally. We wanted to keep it like that. But there are many distinguished shots in the documentary that professionals may appreciate our camera skills.

How would you rate/What is your opinion about current filmmaking?  
I believe digital platforms have changed everything about the industry. Production costs are dropped. Production quality is not very good. But I'm highly optimistic for the future. More and more people are interested in filmmaking nowadays. It democratizes the industry.

What can disappoint you in a movie?  
Over-acting disappoints me a lot. I can not watch a movie with actors over-acting.

Who supports you in your film career?  
My wife Hacer Sarıkaya supports me a lot. Her Support is very important to me. I love her so much. I couldn't be a filmmaker without her believing in me.