Recently, Asli Baykal has been traipsing around with the likes of Gia Coppola and Tracy Antonopoulos, capturing moments from their Florida road trip all for the sake of film. She loves 16-mm cameras and exclaims the peak of music videos was the 90s. Her style and aesthetic is about re-creating her upbringing in Istanbul with the misspelled Adidas knockoff t-shirts sold in Eminönü, encapsulated within her work with artists such as Destiny and Karen O. Baykal gives us her opinions on Kodak and 16-mm.
When did you start shooting films?
I started at NYU Tisch School’s Summer Film Workshop in my senior year in high school. That was my first real experience working with a group of film nerds, like myself, to try and tell a story with visuals.
You studied in NYU where you were more or less the last generation to use 16-mm cameras. How did the 16-mm change your style of filming, especially when looking at your music videos for Karen O and Destiny?
I feel so lucky that I got to learn everything on film. In school, we worked with 16mm cameras that were used during World War II. You need someone who can load these machines with film and that needs it’s own expertise. My roommate Ferhan Şensoy was great at it! That made me respect the process and feel closer to its invention and history. Aesthetically, I like the texture and detail of it. Holding what I shot in my hand physically is another great feeling. So all these reasons made me want to use film and continue.
For Destiny’s video, I had to call Kodak for them to overnight 6 rolls of 16mm film for us to use for the video. That’s how they deliver film now because their office is closed in NY and many other places. It’s the same with developing them after the shoot. I had to FedEx box rolls with “do not xray” labels on it to LA. There are no labs in NY anymore. All of them closed last year. That just makes you care more about your precious Kodak rolls! In my fridge, I only keep expired food and left over Kodak films from previous projects.
I grew up in the 90s. The peak of televised music videos!
Tank Productions sizin bağımsız olmanız için bir yol muydu?
Film yapımcılığı solo bir iş değil. Dört yıl boyunca ekipler ve arkadaşlarla projeler yaptığınız okuldan ayrılınca o yoldaşlığı özlüyorsunuz ve benzer bir ortam arıyorsunuz.
Tank Productions, was it your way of being independent?
Filmmaking is not a solo job. When you leave school after spending four years doing projects with crews and friends, you miss that camaraderie and look for a similar environment.
So Tank happened out of that need?
Yes. My close friend, Tracy Antonopoulos and I wanted to help our friends with their projects, play matchmaker for people looking for crews and of course have fun while being creative together. It’s more like a collective.
Romain Gavras once said that; “We needed only a video camera and motivated friends.” What do you say to this?
I agree with Mr Gavras. That’s my experience living in NYC too and the way it should be. Although now we reached an age in our lives where we need to turn it into something a bit lucrative to survive in NYC.
You grew up in Istanbul. How has this played to your aesthetic?
I grew up in Istanbul and it definitely affected my aesthetic more than I realized. I love mixing Western and Eastern elements. I love documentary style because growing up in an over populated city like Istanbul made me familiar with all kinds of people and lives. I think that is also why I’m interested in portraying underdogs in my work. My aesthetic is best encapsulated by a misspelled Adidas knockoff t-shirts sold in Eminönü.
What is the one music video from your teenage years that you remember the most? How did this develop your future artistic style?
I grew up in the 90s. It’s the peak for televised music videos! (If you rearrange these words it spells MTV!) If I have to choose one, it’s Daft Punk’s “Revolution 909” by Roman Coppola. I still reference it nonstop. It’s a simple smart idea but also has elements of documentary, art video, a spaghetti recipe, cop drama, comedy and youth culture. Perfect combo.
Your music videos are also fixated on social portraits of reflecting various “cultures.” So what do you think of the latest video to come from musicians such as Beyonce with Lemonade? What do you think of the current state of music and its visual aesthetic?
I’m a big fan of Beyonce. I watched Lemonade two times already. With Beyonce, it doesn’t matter what she does – the whole world is going to be interested. But the fact that she is using her art to highlight troubling issues is amazing. Even if you’re from a remote part of the world and not familiar with racial injustices in the States, you can still get empowered by this woman. That’s what makes her universal. There is a really funny sketch on SNL called “The Day Beyonce Turned Black”.
What Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus and MIA did with their videos is iconic, as well. That’s how it should be. These people need to put their points of views in their videos and not be afraid to scare away potential fans. I don’t like it when record labels try to sell music and musicians with factory made videos and sound. I like to see artist’s personality in the videos he/she chooses to make.
So what is currently your all time favourite short film and music video?
My all time favourite short films are “The Temptation of Dr. Antonio” by Fellini, “About a Girl” by Brian Percival and short documentaries by Les Blank. Also most short films by Andrea Arnold, Lynn Ramsay, Agnes Varda, Jane Campion. Their early work is inspirational to me.
When it comes to music videos, to name a few… whole Beastie Boys anthology, Crush on You by Lil Kim, The Drop by Pharcyde (any Spike Jonze video), Across the Universe by Fiona Apple, House by Kindness, Alright by Kendrick Lamar, She’s a Bitch by Missy Elliot, Hangi Ask Adil Ki by Candan Ercetin , Canal by Ratking ( directed by my friend Eric Yue) and many more. This question doesn’t have one answer, I really tried.
Will you produce another short film anytime in the future?
By the end of this year, I want to finish three new music videos and start a commissioned short documentary. Hopefully one of these projects will be in Istanbul. I want to wait a little bit more for a short film since it can get expensive!
Photography: Tracy Antonopoulos