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  • Writer's pictureEcem Lawton

L'Officiel Magazine September 2021 Issue Chaos at its best

Ecem Lawton, who met with camera at a very young age, quickly started making a name for herself that goes beyond the borders of her country in her directorial career.

Creative Director / Producer: Guvanch

Photographer: Brendan Wixted

Makeup Artist: Ryan Burke

Hair Stylist: Koji Ichikawa

Fashion Producer: Alfredo Mineo

Fashion Assistant: Joao Pedro Assis

Videographer: Philipp Cherichenko


How did your adventure of meeting the camera and passion for cinema develop?


When I was in high school, I discovered my interest in film while filming and editing the surgery videos of my surgeon parents to be shown at international conferences. On the one hand, filming, editing and preparing presentations of my father's numerous nose jobs, tummy tucks, liposuction and organ reconstruction surgeries, as well as my mother's destruction of cancerous tumors, revealed to me very sensitive and magical things about the human mind, body and psychology. Recording gore images that most people can't stand for long hours, not interrupting the shooting of the camera no matter how difficult the operations were to watch, and creating beautiful and inspiring visuals from real life and the building blocks that make up us, led me to study and explore the branches of film and psychology simultaneously.


The concept of being able to manipulate an image without limits with montage fascinated me and I started pushing all the limits in every video project given in high school. For as long as I can remember, I've loved entertaining people, creating content, harmlessly ridiculing life because I take it seriously– I've realized that only through film can my creative and crazy spirit be satisfied.


Double majoring Film and Psychology at Columbia University with a business concentration, I combined my passion for understanding human physiology and behavior with my desire to entertain them. In addition to a very comprehensive and theoretical film curriculum that began with Georges Méliès and spanned to present times, I had the opportunity to take many practical courses such as editing, production and screenwriting. By joining a film society at Columbia called DKA, we have produced countless projects with my fellow filmmakers from all over the States. I moved to Los Angeles after graduation and started making movie trailers and working on sets in various positions. Editing movie trailers, I realized how properly edited visuals that consisted of the most striking images from a movie can impress the audiences. Now, when I look back as a music video director, I have actually shot hundreds of videos that can be labeled as video clips in my lifetime!


As I participated in award ceremonies such as the Golden Globes, Oscars, Cannes Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival and Film Independent Spirit Awards with the productions I was in and our films received awards, I decided that I belonged to this world and that I wanted to continue my career in this direction.


Are there any directors whose work you admire and consider as your idols?


As a filmmaker, while watching a movie, you can get stuck in the production details, not being able to concentrate fully on the movie, thinking about the reality of the set until the end of the movie, by thinking 'they montaged it wrong here, there is a reflection of the crew here'. That's why I admire the directors of films who can tear me away from my own reality while watching it, forget where I am, who I am, what year I am in, and teleport me to another realm. Watching these kinds of movies feels like falling asleep to me, I suddenly forget myself and turn into a fantastic main character. My idols are the directors who made me think about life in 90 minutes, gave me brand new perspectives, touch me deeply, whose effects I can't get out of for a long time after watching their films, who equipped their visual world with art, history and mythology. Among these are Lars von Trier, Gaspar Noe, David Lynch, Yorgos Lanthimos, Harmony Korine, Luca Guadagnino, Robert Eggers and Nicolas Winding Refn. My favorite current movies list includes Climax, Enter the Void, Melancholia, Antichrist, The Lighthouse, The Killing of a Sacred Deer and Uncut Gems.


Kerimcan Durmaz's single "Pesimde" (After Me) made huge waves in society both as a song and a music video. How did it feel to sit in the director's chair for the first time? How did you get involved in the project?


Kerimcan and I crossed paths in New York in 2017, and we have been friends ever since. When he finished his song he sent it to me, and told me he wanted to gather a team in Los Angeles to shoot the music video. When I heard the song, I got very excited and started brainstorming from that moment on. I studied every word of the song and brought out the existing subtexts with visual images. Kerimcan's unconventional song and starlight combined my experiences in conceptualizing, story writing, and filmmaking, resulted in the iconic video that broke the internet in Turkey!


I knew that I could assemble a great team with the network I gained through my set experiences in Los Angeles, but I had to convince them of the value of the project, to take part in the video of a Turkish song. I prepared a very comprehensive presentation for 'Pesimde', both introducing Kerimcan and describing the story, meaning and purpose of the video, and I reached out to hundreds of people. The people I contacted got very excited both for the message Kerimcan wanted to convey and the visual world of the clip. Within a month, our all-star team consisting of people who danced in, choreographed, shot, art directed, and produced the music videos of names such as Beyonce, Rihanna, Ariana Grande was ready to go.


Although it was my first major directing experience, it was never my first production experience, so I was very confident in myself and that we could achieve the best. I was the one who offered Kerimcan to be the director of 'Pesimde'. I also edited and co-produced the video in order to realize my vision the way I envisioned. The 'Pesimde' adventure was a turning point in my life, everything I had done until that day seemed to have prepared me for this moment. Every moment we went to rehearsals, held meetings, scouted locations and filmed with our team was magical and surreal. It was an honor for me to be the Turkish female director of our 80-people international team, working closely with the greatest artists the world has ever known. We have established great friendship bonds with each member of the team, and thanks to these relationships, I have had the chance to work with them on many other projects after 'Pesimde'.


It makes me very happy to get such amazing feedback on my first major directing experience and that the viewers realize the effort, time and teamwork behind my videos. I feel like I finally found my calling in life!


You also directed two music videos for Zeynep Bastik, one of the most popular young stars of our time. How did you meet with Zeynep?


When I was in New York, Zeynep reached out to me and said that she wanted to bring a director from America and gather a team for her debut disco album. Since I found Zeynep to be very talented and I liked the disco songs she made for her first album, I accepted it with excitement. I flew to Los Angeles, and we rolled up our sleeves with my partner, Marvin Brown, who choreographed and creative produced 'Pesimde'. We gathered a great team of LA's best disco dancers, who had just danced in the Super Bowl and worked with names like Lady Gaga, Beyonce and Dua Lipa, and determined the concepts of the videos. After rehearsals were held in Los Angeles, I brought this team to Istanbul with assistant choreographer Alekz Samone and four suitcases filled with costumes. Hair stylist Andrew Fitzsimons prepared the hair moodboard. For a month, we held logistical meetings with the production team in Turkey to realize my vision via Zoom. When we came to Istanbul, choreographies were taught to Elements of Dance dancers and Zeynep, and ZeynoDisco's colorful disco universe was formed. The two VIDEOS became projects that reflect very different worlds and Zeynep.


You also undertook the shooting of the National Football Team music video, the song of which was composed by megastar Mustafa Sandal. What was it like to be involved in a project where millions were beating with one heart?


We shot three commercials that I directed with Musti, whom I love so much, and I even acted with him in one! Our energies matched very well and the ads were very well received by the viewers, our ads were number one in Youtube Trending while normally while ads are skipped on Youtube! When the filming was over, Musti played the song 'Inat' (Persistency) and asked me to direct the music video for the national team. I was honored to be involved in a project that represents Turkey. The clip was choreographed by my partner Marvin Brown. I fell in love with the song from the first moment I heard it, Eypio and Derya Uluğ were included in the team and we shot together at the facilities of our National Team in Riva. The most exciting part of the project was going to the national team camp in Antalya, meeting 30 of the greatest football players one-on-one for one day, teaching each of them, including technical director Şenol Güneş, the dance choreography of Marvin, and getting old together with them in that moment :) It was an experience full of pride and hope.


Your social media account has a great following. How does reaching audiences by producing original content in the digital environment affect you in terms of your career?


The artists who reach me are impressed by the work I do, I don't think my Instagram affects my career– maybe it affects me negatively because people see how crazy I am through my Instagram account :)– especially my stories! Sometimes brands think that I am an influencer and send offers, I regretfully turn them down, I know that if I ask those who know and follow me to 'swipe up' to buy products, I know that I will be lynched! One day, because it was asked a lot, I spent hours and swiped up for a Zara cardigan, they didn't stop saying 'You too, Brutus?'


My followers know me as well as my family does, even my family knows me better thanks to Instagram! In a very strange way, I do things I wouldn't do in public to my followers in front of the screen. In the first period of the pandemic, I broadcasted a live cooking show for 50 consecutive days, did cooking-dancing reels, did my tribal dances with zero make-up and in pajamas, the songs I sing with my non-existent voice, and my lifestyle. Maybe the artists who check out my account want me to shoot their music videos so they can shoot cooking videos with me, who knows!


It must be a wonderful experience to be together with people from different cultures and different characters from all over the world and working on the same projects. What do these experiences add to you?


At the beginning of 2021, I founded a production company called Cinoci Productions (Iconic spelled backwards, because I reinvent and iconify the people I work with hehe!) and since then, the projects I've done in America come out of my company, so in all my works, I am producer, director and also the editor. It is a very surreal feeling to hire people who have worked with America's most famous artists for my projects through my own company, and working with them is an endless source of admiration and inspiration.


In order to make it in New York and Los Angeles, you really need to work hard and tirelessly, and prove that you can add value to the country. The creative and inspiring people I work with in the entertainment industry in the States have one thing in common: no matter where they were born or under what conditions they grew up, they got to where they are with their own efforts, they are all 'self made'. Although they have worked hard, they are surprisingly humble – they always have a great respect for effort, time and people's rights. I see this as the biggest difference between Turkey and the United States and that's why I love doing business in America, it gives you a global perspective, it allows you to see the big picture, not through the filter of a country's citizen, but through the glasses of a world citizen.


Is there a moment when you say that your life has completely changed at this point?


the moment i was born :)


You go back and forth between Los Angeles, New York, and Turkey. How do you manage to maintain work, family and friendship ties at this intense pace?


I don't! But I'm not complaining either. I feel like my life is going through a big change and it's actually costing my personal life and self-care, I don't even have time to put on a face mask for fun right now. I am a person who is in love with chaos and who thrives in chaos– my husband Max describes me with the word 'beautiful chaos'. The people around me, my family and friends are very happy and excited about the way my life is going. I try to make them a part of this adventure as much as possible. I always include my friends, whom I find talented and who deserve this chance, in my projects, and I want to develop with them. Or my friends think that the only way they can spend time with me is to work with me, so they get involved in my projects :) I have completely devoted the last couple of formative years to my work, but my work is very personal to me – I was able to collect dozens of new friends, hundreds of new colleagues, and thousands of memories in this process.



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