Caner Malkarali, Manager at EY on Filmmaking & Novel Writing

I believe that films have a special purpose: captivating and uplifting its audience and leaving them in a better place when the credits are rolling. I usually think about my audience and their journey while I try to capture my story on camera. From writing the script to choosing the soundtrack, it is fascinating to think about what my audience would feel while watching that particular scene. This is what excites me the most about filmmaking – the ability to guide people on many levels: story, pacing, colour, dialogue, gesture, atmosphere, sound, music, etc.

My name Caner Malkarali, and I work as a Manager at EY, providing management consulting services to our clients – mainly focusing on Finance and Digital Transformation. We believe that digital transformation is there to unlock human potential and accelerate new and better ways of working. We help our clients to meet the needs of today’s quickly evolving business and digital standards.

I chose my job at EY because I dreamed about changing the way we work with more accessible tools to create value. I believed that this could be possible through innovation – more specifically, with the help of digital transformation. This was 5 years ago; I imagined becoming a consultant with the right resources, tools, and people at an organization that increasingly focuses on the digital trends that align with my values and goals. To this day, I am happy that I did so by joining EY.

I departed home at the age of 13. With a full scholarship, I studied at Robert College in Istanbul as a boarding student from a smaller town in Turkey. This story would repeat itself five years later at Vassar College in New York. Afterwards, I returned to Istanbul to start my professional career. I was also lucky to meet my spouse during that period. When she got a job offer in Dublin, we decided to move here. However, Dublin was not a “I’m feeling lucky” option. We specifically chose here because it was one of the very few English speaking countries in Europe where we could understand people easily, its people were really nice and welcoming, it was a hub for international tech companies, and it was famous for its good weather (just kidding about the last one).

Outside of my job, I am a short filmmaker and I have written a novel called Keskin Faik. I realised that I really enjoy writing after completing a short story assignment in high school. I remember that the assignment was just coming up with a one-page simple story. However, I enjoyed writing so much that I could not stop at one page. Then, I realised that I could actually do much more – and not as a burden either – just for the sake of writing.

I am lucky that I was born into such a rich culture that brought up so many talented authors. At an early age, I had the chance to read many renowned Turkish authors: Sait Faik Abasiyanik, Sabahattin Ali, Yusuf Atilgan, and the Nobel winner Orhan Pamuk. I also read all the other international authors, such as Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Gogol, Chekhov, and Marquez. I believe all these great writers and many more inspired me as an aspiring storyteller.

Similar to any other activity, I find myself most productive when I make a habit out of writing. For example, setting myself a block of time after work or on the weekends would be the best way to set a routine; I would try to follow it as much as I can. I have come to realise that at least 2-hour blocks work best for a given day – most of the time, even if I start writing immediately, the first hour only prepares me for the next hour during which I start producing actual content. Writing, or perhaps sitting down to write, is the hardest part of the process.

My first novel, Keskin Faik, was inspired by the childhood stories of my grandfather, to whom the book is dedicated. Keskin Faik is the name of my grandfather’s grandfather. The book itself tells the fictional story of Keskin Faik, who takes shelter in a small town close to Istanbul in the early 1900s. After the book was published, it was available at notable Turkish book stores, and its income was donated to community involvement project funds.

Holding Keskin Faik as a published book in my hand was one of the most significant instances in my life to remind me that persistent effort and believing in yourself pays off in one way or another. However, it is not an easy job – the whole process of writing takes a lot of time, effort and dedication.

Looking at my other passion, I became interested in filmmaking during my first year at Vassar College in New York, when I attended an intro course to film studies. After this first seminar, I was captivated by the idea of filmmaking. I ended up majoring in film studies for four years.

During college, I had access to many cameras that used 16mm film, such as Bolex and ARRI. They were fun to use, but there was no sound, unfortunately. We had to record our sound separately and merge it with visuals during post-production. Using real film was a bit stressful as well – you are never really sure if you got the shot you wanted until your film reel comes back from the lab a couple of days later. In addition, you have limited film reels, so it is not possible to take as many shots as you can and decide which one to use afterwards.

Since I am not a professional, I would not think about investing in an expensive camera or film reels for my personal projects. Being able to use an iPhone with a decent tripod removes some of the stress. In fact, the convenience of digital is relieving. However, 16mm films taught me quite a few things that I would still apply for all future scenarios. Time is more expensive than any film reel, especially when I think about how many times I woke up at 5 a.m. just to catch the golden hour, or the only 2-hour slot in a whole week I was able to get all my actors on the set together at the same time. With these time constraints, it is not ever possible to have a lot of takes, even if you have a digital camera.

I wrote, directed, and (to my surprise) even acted in a few short movies. I also produced a couple of personal projects as well. One of my favourite short films is a black and white movie with no sound: The Backgammon Fiddle. It has a light tone, good music, and it captures the Chaplin era – it breaks the 4th wall and even has con men! We had a great time shooting the movie; I wish we also had a behind-the-scenes special.

Even though I was more interested in writing comedy at the time, my first stab at drama has a special place in my heart: The Gift. It was full of firsts – drama, colour, sound, and acting. This project took some serious planning and post-production work in addition to all the hours we put in at the set. I also like how the tone slowly changes throughout the movie, even though it is just under 9 minutes. When I started off filming this story, its tone was not my primary focus. However, as the pieces started to come together, I realised that it had the potential to progress naturally. You can watch the entire film below:

I do see similarities between writing & filmmaking and my current occupation. My background as a novelist with a double major in Economics and Film puts me in the spotlight when it comes to creativity at the workplace. I naturally provide insight into the story-flow of crucial presentations and influence their design at the conception stage. I see consulting as a way of utilising structured thinking to find solutions and presenting them to an audience. Both writing and filmmaking embrace the same principle. In a fictional story, we disrupt our main characters’ lives with a problem and then build their arc along the way as they finally solve their problem at the end.

My passions have definitely been a benefit to my technological career. Being a published author and filmmaker is great at the workplace – I love that I never run out of fun facts during social gatherings or ice breakers. On a more serious note, the role of a director thought me so much about project management. After college, during my early job interviews, I realised that filmmaking was one of the most challenging tasks I took on at an early age: it involved managing people, tight deadlines, budget constraints, and dealing with unimaginable risks and issues. Once, while shooting a scene, we almost flooded a house that we used as our set while trying to move a fridge and breaking a pipe – this ate away half of our budget due to the emergency plumber fee (I am sure some project managers are already nodding their heads as they read this mini-crisis scenario).

In terms of future goals, I have re-started working on my second novel. Even though I had a good first chapter ready a couple of years ago, I had to take a break due to work commitments and never fully got around to come back to it until now. When I recently read the first chapter, I decided to continue where I left off. It is in Turkish again – this time it is about Istanbul, an apocalyptic one indeed.

At this point in my life, even if I do not see myself in the film industry, I will continue working on small, meaningful projects that I really care about. One thing I know is that I will never stop thinking about the perfect pilot episode of a TV series, and I will hopefully write it and perhaps see it come true.

I believe that filmmaking and writing fiction are both very personal forms of art. They require us to create something that only we can think about. All of us have the basic knowledge to just get up (or sit down) and start without any formal training. Of course, the end result does not necessarily have to be good (and I cannot even insinuate that it would be comparable to the work of talented artists who spend years or a lifetime for their art), but there would be something at the end – a creation of your own.

After you start, it is much easier to identify your weak spots and focus on them to improve. If you are not confident about your technique, you could enroll in a course. If you need more ideas, you could research and try to imitate your favorite artists until you find your voice. If you are not sure about how to transition from one shot to another, just read about it or try to observe how it is done in a masterpiece.

I think the hardest part of the journey is to dedicate yourself, find the time despite all the distractions of the modern world, and keep on the persistent effort and energy to create.

To see some more of Caner’s short films, be sure to check his YouTube channel: www.youtube.com/cmalkarali.

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