A Star is Born. Then Shot. (Part 2) “I’m ready for my close up.”

Posted on July 10, 2012


The sun was mercifully sinking closer to the horizon. My lungs were scratchy from inhaling hay smoke all day. We had been shooting since early morning, and in spite of my tenacious effort, I hadn’t made front and center in any scene. I’d spent all day out there in the hot sun, and, by God, I was going to have my face in a Turkish movie.

The two assistant directors calling the shots had been friendly and business-like. They told us to take five, so I went to hunt for some water. Looking around the complex, I saw the towering and derelict water slide. I know that this complex is home to a Turkish film collective for aspiring artists. It was started by the famous Turkish director Sinan Çetin. It would be a dream for a film student to work here. They have so much freedom. However, the ivy covered water slide made me think of Xanadu from Citizen Kane.

I returned to the set to find that a tent had been assembled just off to the left of the trench where we had been filming. Under the canopy sat a man with impressively white long hair and a beard. Perhaps it was the fact that he was dressed all in black that made his white hair glow so much. I was surprised to see him wearing a long sleeve shirt in this God-awful heat. Who would wear all black with long sleeves right now, I asked myself. Ah! It must be the big time director at last.

At first, Mr. Sinan had nothing to do with what was happening on set. The assistant directors kept running through the scene which was of a very young Australian radio operator relaying messages to his commander from the trenches. The young soldier was being played by a British chap recruited just that day. He had been vacationing in Turkey for a few weeks and apparently had nothing to do today. The commander was being played by an older Turkish gentleman who was a personal friend of the director and conveniently lived in the area. I’d say he was quite good, but definitely had a Turkish accent. For some unknown reason, the two were having this battlefield conversation standing on top of the trench rather than in it where I would have chosen to be. As the scene evolved, we realized that the commander gets shot and the radio boy has to react. How would I react to it? I would probably dive straight into the trench where I should’ve been in the first place. I’d consider it a wake up call. They ran through this scene over and over. Each time the poor Brit tried his darndest to look shocked as the commander fell. He gasped, “Oh!”

Suddenly, all was interrupted by a loud and confident –“Is that how you say it?”—


Sinan Çetin had spoken.

And the whole time I thought that he wasn’t listening to a thing going on. He had been having what looked like a nostalgic conversation over a glass of whiskey and finger foods with some VIP friends under the pavilion. Now, he chose to chime in and he didn’t sound pleased.

The smallish Brit now actually looked pretty shocked. “Your commander is shot right next to you and that is what you do?” begged Mr. Çetin. He was on his feet now, striding over the battlefield debris. “Ok, do it again. Bam! He’s dead!”…

…(Look of disappointment) “Bang! He’s died!”

…(Look of disappointment and anger) “Say something. Do SOMETHING… Bang!”

“OH SHIT!” shouted the skinny Brit.

That was my first taste of Sinan Çetin and his directorial technique. I admit it was quite hilarious watching someone put on the spot like that. I certainly didn’t envy that poor tourist. I doubt he had any acting ambitions, but I bet he still didn’t want to feel that his poor performance was the cause of such sorrow and hopelessness. I took another water break and walked away to the Sinan’s shouting of “Bang!” growing softer in the distance.

The sun had set and I gratefully scarfed down the free dinner. I began thinking of when they were going to call it a day. The light was gone after all. That’s when Volkan came running up to me. Volkan is an Austrailian-Turk whose accent made him ideal for this movie. He started as an extra, but his role grew larger and larger with each successful performance.

“Hey mate! He needs someone for this next scene and I chose you.”

“What?” I said.

“I have to get someone for this next scene, and I chose you. You gotta come now mate. It’s your big moment.”

Tentatively, I put down my dinner and walked into the twilight with Volkan. “I don’t have to say anything right? I just can’t do an Australian accent.”

“It’s a firing squad scene. It’s a really important moment in the movie. I’m sorry mate, but you’ve gotta die”

“OK, so I don’t have to speak, do I?”

“Of course you’ve gotta speak mate. It’ll be fine. Just role with it.”

“No! Seriously, I’m not going to do an accent.”

“You can’t do an accent?”


“Well, talk to William quick. He’ll teach real fast.”

William was the main non-Turk actor in the film. They flew him back and forth from Abu Dhabi, where he is an engineer on a multimillion dollar yacht, to shoot his scenes. He happened into his new calling by chance. In fact, I was here because of William in the first place. He is the fiance of the high school principal of the school where I work. Volkan shouted, “Hey, teach him to speak ‘strailian!”

“What?” said William

Out on the battlefield in the dark, the look of confusion on William’s face was almost scary. Just then, I turned and was face to face with Sinan Çetin himself. “Is this the ANZAC?” he said. Volkan gave a nod. He studied my face for a moment and asked, “What is your name?”


He gave a quick look to Volkan. “Can he speak Austrailian?”

“Yeah yeah yeah. Sure sure sure.” Volkan quickly spat.

And that my friends is how my Turkish acting career was born.

(Stay tuned for part three. I’m shot repeatedly and steal beer from an famous director. Also, girls catch on fire)

Posted in: Istanbul, Me