The vision of “Jakob’s Ladder” or first-time director debut movie journey

How many little rocks did you collect in your life? Those little ones scattered on a beach or some bigger ones maybe on arid land out there somewhere where you left everything behind? Did you ever put your head to one of them, or maybe onto a collection of them, just to take a little rest on a long long walk you didn’t know where and when it will end? Did you know that, according to the Scriptures, this selfless act of collecting some rocks – like the way Jakob did before dreaming of his Ascension to Heavens on a ladder – means the challenge we face as responsible and conscious human beings to bring order both to our own chaos inside and the earth around – “formless and empty”, and “darkness… over the surface of the deep”? A series of selfless or arbitrary acts made in this fashion are called “the first-time director debut movie journey”: the divine vision and impulse the debutant filmmaker gets at the initiation of his craft to bring order to his/her life and times!

These ideas may sound abstract or far-fetched to some, but then I ask:

“How truthful are you to yourself while prepping for your directorial debut?”

Did you ever think of your unique call being a spin off from the Universal Mind to this material world?  What is your take as a first-time director to offer an answer to bring order to the chaos you are put into?

If you are born in the 60s and have lived your childhood and adolescent times in the 70s and 80s, you must have a vision by now that once existed a world that was actually flat!! I mean, how did we get so much disillusioned? The answer is simple: because we never asked the above questions to ourselves in a truthful way or, we always made ourselves think that we are either useless, shapeless pieces of little rocks thrown in a desert or, left to our own devices, we have successfully created a grand illusion of being just great in our own comfort zones that we are so afraid to leave it for that very reason.

How about a sleep under a billion stars in that desert of yours having nothing but those little rocks to put under your head for a pillow!? Did you ever wonder what amazing initial vision you might have had, i.e your “call”,  if you made that first step out of your comfort (chaotic) zone? Could that vision have some signs to your actual essence? Would you bless those little pieces of rocks now? Gosh, thanks to which you had this initiating vision, no?!  How would you call that place? Betlehem? House of God? Well, I called it “Love in Seven Letters“. A love which was more than 4 characters long, a truth that was much larger than we thought we knew.

We need to realise that at the beginning of things our inside is in chaos, i.e. we are born into the material world – and that we have to reform it to a “living rock” – a temple inside – we need to get on a journey with that vision which we receive at the first step that we take out there. Now we have some raw rocks that we have to carve and polish until they become a cube, a cornerstone, something useful to construct the temple inside.

The first-time filmmaker’s journey to his directorial debut is a walk to “The Ascension”.

My journey had started in an antique, 5 meter high ceiling apartment that I had rented to film my first debut feature hybrid “Lifeguard Istanbul” in the artsy district of Istanbul, Galata/Taksim some 14 years ago.  The house was exactly located between a sufi shrine and a tiny chapel in the backyard of the Swedish consulate, surrounded by gardens and meandering streets on the hillside of Galata tower. After staying 2 years in that house developing a script, making a field research and shooting camera tests and pilots with actors and non-actors, I came to a point of catharsis that I needed to ascend above the chaos of my life then; a bitter divorce and a sudden loss of inspiration of making more and more TV commercials and alike. I wanted something else, but didn’t know what. Then I said to myself: “it’s time to make my directorial debut movie out of what I have”.

I remember feeling myself the crazy scientist trying to find a cure for an illness to save humanity while making experiments on his own skin with exotic plants with the medicine man of an indigenous tribe in the far edges of the Amazon.

That’s where an angel came to my help giving me a vision akin to the one of Jakob – “his head reaching to Heavens above”. Literally one of the world’s top cinematographers was interested in my directorial debut to be my DOP. I had met him in the Istanbul Film Festival in 2004. Receiving an email from him just as he had promised back in the festival 2 years ago, made me feel like I was “the chosen one”! 🙂

The “spirited house” where I filmed my debut some 14 years ago in Galata/Istanbul

This was the time I learnt how to really pray for something which was so dear to my heart then that I wanted to accomplish a vision of biblical proportions. I, indeed, had to make a “walk to the Ascension” to reach such heights, the inclusion of the name of that DOP in my directorial debut really implied. But was such a great hand really necessary? I didn’t know and I didn’t ask to myself. But there was a calling indeed. I had written something powerful! And my “desert walk” started just there by paying the dues of my past decisions: to make my debut with what I already had then.

So came my debut hybrid feature “Lifeguard Istanbul”, a side project made of little chunks of stories filmed over a period of 2 years of project development of the script, my then new DOP, Chris Doyle, was interested of, namely “Zahiristan-bul“.  That script has now evolved and has almost become a new project over the passing years of many re-writes, translations from Turkish to English and now to Spanish and adaptations into becoming “Love in Seven Letters”.  I think the script now merits its name. But at the initial stages of re-writes I was able to come up collecting plenty of little shapeless rocks “to put my head onto” during a 14 year “desert walk” which brought me all the way to Mexico and during which time I made three hybrid films of similar formats traveling through the Mediterranean and South America.

Now recently moving to a house in Mexico City with quite similar characteristics like the one back in Istanbul where I am now prepping for “Love in Seven Letters” (this time a complete fiction – “the cubic rock” that I finally was able to carve out of many raw stones!) made me realise the other day that indeed, this 14 year cycle has now come to a completion and that I am ready to move onto the next level in this spiraling journey, thus filming it.

An aspiring first-time director’s journey to his debut movie must be a vision of this dimensions, I think, because he/she no longer will have this kind of freedom again in his/her life.

If you don’t dig deep enough until you find your cornerstone, you will be doomed to create illusions unable to break the vicious circle of become just a movie director.

We, filmmakers, are more than who we think we are. The first-time directors are actually missionaries of a grand vision few people are gifted to receive it.

Coming from a giant megapol like Istanbul to the world’s largest city, Mexico City, to make your dream come true was indeed a vision of biblical proportions. Why so big a vision I was trusted with you will see in “Love in Seven Letters”.

My new house in Mexico City where I am prepping for my next feature

This tedious process of making just debut fiction extending over such a long period of time makes me think now what will I then become after making my debut movie? Then another movie and yet another. So what will I become in the end? I mean, am I stuck in a vicious circle of becoming just a big film director? Or am I on a spiral ascension to become who I really am called for? Better put, did I really pass the test in my own desert to seeing things in its original context, i.e in the original desire of the Creation which is obviously beyond our own human logic?  Finally, I don’t feel overwhelmed with the secret symbolisms and connotations the collection of objects in my new house. I now know why I came back here where I left it 14 years ago. It’s my rock and it has a shape now on which I can build something.

Once we leave that old self behind, we can see the place with almost same features where we once left and now return to, on a different level, a level beyond us, but yet is within our reach now, because it will only be made visible thanks to us. That’s what the mission of an artist is all about: fighting with darkness until “night breaks into day”, isn’t it?

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