Photography: Claudia Hoag Efe Tuncay is a Turkish film director and scriptwriter currently based in Los Angeles. Here he talks about cinema as art, AI, and filmmaking.
Can you tell us about your background and experiences?
My artistic journey began with painting, which then led me to explore photography and graphic design before finding my true passion in cinema. Along the way, I showcased my photos and paintings in exhibitions, took part in international art events, and directed various commercial films, music videos, and even miniseries. Currently, I am actively developing my independent films within the American film industry.
As a film director and scriptwriter, do you think cinema is a tool of entertainment or a form of art?
I grew up with Hollywood movies, which shaped the way I see cinema. After a certain age, I realized there was more to discover. Now I find American cinema too entertainment-oriented, and European cinema too art-oriented. Most people make "Arthouse" films to chase film festival success, or they produce commercial projects to obtain box office revenues.
I think we don't need to decide between black and white. A grey area exists. A movie can be artistic and entertaining at the same time. Many movies that left a mark in world cinema history belong to both categories. "Artistic" doesn't have to be boring, and "entertaining" doesn't have to be shallow. They are just two puzzle pieces of a bigger picture.
I believe high-quality movies consist of multiple layers. Each layer reaches different audiences. While a child can only follow the surface-level entertaining narrative, a cinema critic can read the bottom layers and metaphors. With a multi-layered structure, everyone can find something, according to their intellectual level and the sophistication of their taste.
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What is going to be the impact of artificial intelligence on creative industries?
Each day, tech companies are releasing new AI tools. Photography and graphic design disciplines are already evolving at a great pace. The writer's strike also targets AI's involvement in the screenwriting process. Obviously, we are in a transformation period. It's very hard to catch up with all these developments and predict future trends. We are slowly discovering opportunities.
No doubt, with these developments, a lot of ethical and legal questions will emerge. AI is not sharing its source materials with the user yet. This is leading us to questions about authorship and ownership of AI-generated materials. Now slowly we are realizing that you can generate any image/video of any person without any consequences. It's possible because during the last years, the popularity of social media provided enough source materials open to public access.
Cinema is one of the most complex art disciplines. It's deeply related to technology. Since technology is evolving at a great pace, it's inevitable for cinema and filmmakers to adapt to these new developments. We saw some exciting news during the last few months. Wonder Dynamics launched a new AI tool that scans any footage, analyzes the characters, and replaces them with fictional characters. In the past, this was a very long and expensive process that requires the involvement of many industry professionals. We are expecting to see many similar tools that are going to unleash filmmakers' creative potential.
I think people are always going to be a part of the creative process. AI is a powerful tool to accelerate the process and give us a variety of options to decide. But at the end of the day, it is a tool. Like many tools, it's up to us how to use it, for ethical or unethical purposes. A lighter can start a campfire but also burn the forest.
What is your advice to first-time film directors?
When it comes to cinema, the learning process never ends because there are so many theoretical and practical skills to improve. Many of us make mistakes during our first projects, and we still make them on larger, more sophisticated scales. Based on my experience, I would like to offer the following advice to first-time filmmakers:
Keep the development and pre-production phases as long as possible. There is no such thing as being overly prepared.
Don't create a team that is bigger than you can handle. Sometimes a small crew can be much more flexible and efficient.
Be very selective when casting your actors. A bad decision made in that phase can change the destiny of your film.
Audio is as important as visuals. Invest in high-quality sound recording equipment.
Record room tone for each location. Your sound designer will be very grateful.
Always rehearse with your actors before the shooting day. Especially if it’s his/her first time in front of the camera.
First, find the locations, and then prepare your shot list. In small-scale projects, you don't have the luxury to customize your surroundings according to your shot list.
Always shoot a lot of coverage and b-roll. These materials will be very helpful during the post-production phase.
Even if it's a very small no-budget project, sign agreements with your crew and actors to control the intellectual property.
Strive to be unique before being good.
If you want to break the rules, first learn them.
Don't shoot for success. Success should be an outcome, not the goal.
Don't be too much of a perfectionist. There will always be some mistakes and possible improvements. Just do your best, but be aware of your limits.
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