Interview with “Rabbit blood” director -Yagmur Altan

Yagmur Altan is a 3D artist, born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey and currently working as a principal designer at AOL, Inc in NYC, focusing on digital production on face and facial feature tracking. He wrote and directed his first animated short film Rabbit Blood during his MFA 3D Animation degree at SVA, shown in more than 100 film festivals in 30 countries in 2016. Official selections include Montreal World Film Festival, Morbido Film Fest and New Orleans Film Festival.

His short animation, Rabbit blood (2016) tells a story about an ordinary day at an old mysterious Turkish country house where its residents have an extraordinary way of brewing tea.

For Turkish people, tea drinking is a tradition which reveals Turkish philosophy and a value system. How would you explain to a foreigner what tavşan kanıis? 

Tea plays a big role on the every day life of Turkish citizen and has a great cultural value. Although today it is not as common as before, “Tavşan Kanı” is an old Turkish expression. People usually use it to describe their enjoyment of a well-steeped tea and its dark red color. The background of the saying comes from the richness of rabbits’ blood. The story is that if you cut a rabbit, its blood is so rich, it keeps flowing for a long time. People then started to use “Tavşan Kanı” to refer to the fruitfulness of tea and later the resemblance of its color gave it a slightly different perspective.

Your film is a tender, bitter story which also alludes to political events. Is Rabbit blood a metaphor for the political situation in Turkey? 

It is definitely a tender, bitter story. I did not specifically think about political situations in Turkey while I was working on the film and in my opinion basing the film on a certain metaphor narrows the creative thinking of the audience as well. However I tried to capture the true essence of Ottoman society with character designs, personalities and their hierarchical relationships to another. I like how art can be interpreted in many different ways by different people.

What challenges do you face as a young Turkish filmmaker? 

The animation industry in Turkey is mostly based on advertising and gaming. That makes finding an independent Turkish artist to collaborate with difficult. Making an international team of artists and animators to relate to the story was challenging since “Tavşan Kanı” is a Turkish-oriented cultural film.

Is there a tradition of animation in Turkey? 

Technically motion graphics is more preferred than 3D computer animation or stop-motion. Topics of animated films from Turkey generally cover socio-economy, women or human rights and politics. The films about Turkish culture such as “Tavşan Kanı” are highly appreciated as well.

Even though Rabbit bloodis your very first short animation, it won a series of awards. Can you tell us more about the creative process behind it?

“Tavşan Kanı” started as my MFA thesis film at SVA New York, however, I completed it after graduation. It was the first time I moved away from Turkey and I wanted to create something about my culture. I always thought many Turkish expressions sound a bit extreme and would be oddly funny yet dark if they actually happened. I wrote several narrative stories using different Turkish expressions and “Tavşan Kanı” stood out more. I designed, animated and edited the film mainly myself. I worked with very talented technical artists to create character rigs and some amazing character animators to make the animation process go faster. I was also lucky to find a brilliant Turkish composer since the music had to be very traditional.

You are an animator during the day and an independent filmmaker at night. What artistic projects are you currently working on?

At work I am more of an art director. I specialize in developing facial feature tracking for social media and creating original animated content using our technology. Outside of work, I am working on a new short animated film whenever I find some time. It is still at its very early production stage. This one tells a more universal, narrative story and it covers a longer period of time than “Tavşan Kanı”. It will be a different challenge since it won’t be a student film but I’m very much looking forward to it.

 author: Teia Brînză