Tuğrul 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.

What is the story behind your film?
We’re three friends who enjoy Balkan Music and videography. I'm Tuğrul Sarıkaya, the director of Balkancisco. I studied Political Science in Turkey then moved to San Francisco to experience the USA. I’m an entrepreneur. I did e-commerce and digital marketing in the US. With Ozgen Göksoy (co-producer), we conducted many visual marketing projects together. We produced visuals for international companies, and Silicon Valley startups. We used to go to Balkan Parties all around the Bay Area because we got homesick sometimes. Since Balkan Music is very familiar to our culture, we enjoy dancing and singing along with the people there. We’re always amazed why people loved Balkan Music so much in the US. Being so far from the Balkans, people are so into this music. We met with Duygu Gün (the other co-producer) at one of the Balkan Party venues. We shared the same vision about the Balkan scene in the San Francisco Bay Area. Then we decided to capture this awesomeness by producing a documentary about it. Duygu is a Turkish expat in San Francisco who is very well educated, very multicultural, free spirited music and dance lover. As well as being in the lead role of the Balkancisco, Duygu also conducted communications and project management. She co-produced Balkancisco with me and Özgen Göksoy.


What should people take away, gain, realize after watching your film?
I want to make the audience feel some kind of awe inside. Because, in Balkancisco, those musicians are awesome. What they do is awesome. In this digital age their occupation can be considered as very old-fashioned. But they don't mind it. They love Balkan Music and they enjoy their life with it. I hope I was able to explain their awesomeness in the documentary. Those people are very far from the Balkans and most of them had no ancestral ties with the Balkans. But they are singing songs together in a language they don’t understand and they don’t speak. Nothing pushes them to do so. That means there is a kind of magic in Balkan music and dance which draws people to it.

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Do you think that films can change people for the better or for the worse?
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. 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 it. If I told it successfully, people would open their minds to other possibilities in the world.

What creation style did you use in the production of your project? What cameraman elements did you use?
First of all, Balkancisco's script is influenced 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.

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We’ve used cameras as a witness to our story. We didn’t choose to use artistic camera techniques. Because, Balkanciso is a documentary and its story structure is a simple, linear story structure. 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 did you select the actors for your project?
Duygu is the lead actress in Balkancisco. We met with Duygu at one of the Balkan Party venues. We shared the same vision about the Balkan scene in San Francisco Bay Area. Then we decided to produce a documentary about it. Duygu is a Turkish expat in San Francisco who is very well educated, very multicultural, free spirited music and dance lover. Other actors/actresses were already there. They are people who love Balkan Music and dance as much as we do. Maybe even more than we do.

Why do you think your film should appeal to distributors?
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.

At which festival has your film been screened?
Although there are a lot of invitations from all around the world, we prefer to be a little bit choosy about screening it.

How did your acquaintances react when they first saw the film?
They generally tell us that the way we told the story and the quality of the result was way beyond their imagination. Everyone is impressed.

If you could change something in your film, what would it be?
Nothing. It’s beautiful as it is.

Which movies are your favorites and why?
There Will Be Blood, Matrix (The First one), The Green Line

What topics do you like to address in your stories?
I like to address simple but deep stories. I like the stories that you need to come closer in order to appreciate it.

What is your motivation in making films?
I believe that I have a skill to create structured texts to tell things. Making a documentary is my favorite way to create a text.

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Which contemporary filmmakers motivate you the most?
I have my favorite filmmakers list. I like to watch their products. None of them motivates me to produce more. They are not a source of motivation for me. I just like to watch them.

What projects do you plan to shoot in the future?
I’m working on a project about a specific type of medical drug abuse in Turkey now. Let’s see how it goes. ????

More about the project: https://www.balkancisco.com/