AN INTERVIEW WITH SADI ELIYESIL, DIRECTOR & WRITER OF "JESTERS PARADISE"
Best American Film - July 2021 Edition
Nice to meet you, Sadi Eliyesil. As a filmmaker who studied film and lived both in New York and Los Angeles, what are the differences, in your opinion, between these two cities, in terms of the film industry, and when it comes to the daily life of a creating artist?
Nice to meet you as well, thank you for having me. The film industry in L.A. is woven into the very fabric of the city. It has been touched and molded by the industry —either because it has been featured in film or television, or because it is a central hub for casting and filming.
People come to L.A. from around the world to pursue a career in film, so many of the people you meet are also in the race with you. You can either see this as competition and get better at what you do, or as an opportunity and seek out potential collaborations. Also, the resources that you have in L.A. are just endless when it comes to filmmaking. So, it ultimately comes down to how you manage what is in front of you.
New York is a great city, very diverse and compact. Definitely more convenient to live in if you don't mind the cold winters. There is a significant TV and indie film industry there; however, it is not as visible as it is in L.A.. Nevertheless, opportunities abound in this city because it has a far less saturated market. This also can mean you find gigs as a filmmaker that would be harder to land in the L.A. market.
In my opinion, New York was a better place to focus and learn. However, as far as pursuing a career in film, Los Angeles does have more opportunities and room for growth. In New York, you might be the sole videographer on a project, but in L.A. more people come together to produce bigger projects, and often you can meet someone who can help you get involved in gigs in the film industry.
It would be wrong to say that one is better than the other as each has unique benefits. Ultimately, it comes down to how far you want to go in the industry and what your priorities are.
How did the story come about, what gave you the idea of this plot?
As a fan of organized crime movies, I wanted to shoot something that demonstrated my current understanding of the genre. The personal part in the movie is the relationship in my life with my mother, who had expectations of me being successful and achieving. As a son you always want to say what makes them happy. I mixed this personal experience with my fascination with the intricate world of the crime genre. Maximized the dangerous sacrifices that had to be made to become a successful, achieving person.
In our case, the characters are betting their lives in a death-match to achieve this ultimate success. On the flip side they are being bought out to be gladiators, or in this case Jesters, for entertainment. I wanted to make this story about how these individuals deal and tell their loved ones. I found it interesting to show three unique characters with three different moms, each with their own unique approach and reaction to this bout that can end their lives.
How did you choose your Producer, and how was this first film funded?
My producer was a classmate from film school - Tancy Karat. She was the Producer in almost all of my commercial and narrative work. Knowing me well over the years, she helped me scout the right locations and crew that really added to the overall quality of the movie. The funding for the film came from myself, my family, and some close friends that believed in the project and its likely success at festivals.
Do you have a preferred genre in film, and who are your favorite Directors?
As mentioned before I am a fan of the crime genre. A subtle mystery with a twist of violence. I would say Tarantino, Nolan and Scorsese had the most influence on me while growing up. Each has taken hold of a genre, deconstructed it and built it in their own vision. I also plan to someday achieve a symbolic style that is recognizable by my audiences.
Do you believe that "survival of the fittest" is an exclusively western idea or value, or do you see it as profoundly embedded in the basic human psyche?
I believe the idea of survival of the fittest has always existed. While its formal definition is attributed to Darwin in the 19th century, it is a common element found in the rise and fall of civilizations throughout history. What is different in our time is that the modern definition of “the fittest” has shifted and changes depending on the culture.
I wouldn’t say it is exclusive to the western world but more prominent. We are taught to become fit whether in our health, careers, or social lives. Typically this notion creates conflict in stories so to explore this in my film, I pitted a person with nothing to lose, a rich man, and a dangerous man against one another to determine whose value would be “fittest”.
What challenges did you have to face as a first time Director, what did your first shoot teach you that you know you'll always bear in mind, throughout your career?
Taking risks and aiming higher, or being a bit ambitious is a dangerous practice in filmmaking. One miscalculation can ruin a scene and disturb the entire balance of the movie. The challenge is to overcome that and adapt, how do you pick up the pieces and protect the integrity of your story.
I paid for my mistakes in production in post. I was patient and worked with the right people, which led me to win awards in the respected post-production categories. It comes down to the pen and paper when writing the script. Are you capable of making this happen? If you lose the bet, are you ready to face the consequences? As a director you must be ready to face unexpected results. Knowing your capacity is key. Being patient and consistently working on the project ultimately leads to improved outcomes and successes.
Is your next project in the works already? Care to leak something about it to your audience?
I actually have a couple projects running simultaneously. I’m working on a true crime scripted podcast with a very promising company here in L.A., Rebel Way Entertainment. It will hopefully be released some time at the end of the year. I also began writing a TV show, and I am evaluating the feature films I wrote last year. I plan to reenter the festival scene with new projects some time at the end of this year.
Short statement describing your vision of the post-covid cinema
I believe Covid already had a huge impact on the film industry. With the theaters closing down and new regulation the studios have slowed down in producing new movies. This led way for new content to pour in from independent filmmakers that were not held back by these regulations to streaming platforms that boomed as more people turned to in-home entertainment.
Covid may be temporary and you can already see the big studios picking up from where they left off and theaters reopening. The notable change or awareness for me was that we saw in these times, no matter what happens in the world the film industry will always adapt and improve.
DIRECTOR & WRITER
Turkish-Colombian filmmaker Sadi Eliyesil was born on October 10, 1988 in Istanbul, Turkey. He has lived and studied in Turkey, Switzerland and the United States. After graduating from Bryant University in Rhode Island, he returned home to Turkey to pursue a corporate career.
After 4 years in corporate life, he decided to change professions and pursue a career as a filmmaker in the U.S.. He enrolled and completed his masters in Feature film development at New York Film Academy, where he was trained to write, direct and produce feature films.
He then began working full time as a video producer for Porsche Downtown L.A.. Alongside his commercial work, Sadi wrote and directed an independent short, Jesters Paradise, that won 51 awards in film festivals around the globe. Upon his success in festivals, he was hired as a consultant for Rebel Way Entertainment, a Los Angeles based production company that focuses on producing features, TV shows and scripted podcasts.