Mehmet Günsür – does this name put a smile on your face? I know it does for most of us. He’s so confident and self-aware. I begin our conversation thinking how utopic it sounds in this day and age for someone to be so free from the ego and ambition that lessen one’s self.
Contrary to general experience, the Advertising and Public Relations Department, which he chose for his undergraduate education but was never a part of it except for his diploma, doesn’t signify a forced decision for Günsür but a difference in expectations. “I guess I didn’t understand what advertising was. I was more interested in the creative aspect,” he explains it. “When I had a better understanding of the whole concept, I decided that it wasn’t my cup of tea.” Though he was only 18, he had his feet on the ground, I’m sure. “What was it that disappointed you in advertising?” I ask him. His answer is straightforward and clear: “Everything was done to have someone purchase something. I also saw that creativity wasn’t that unique a thing.” When he started managing a restaurant, his focus shifted in another direction. “When I enrolled in college, I started to manage a restaurant in Roxy. It was a small restaurant named Roxane with just nine tables. I was in charge of the menu, the service and the hosting. The college was still present but I was also earning money.” I ask whether the roll was a problem but it seems that he doesn’t have much place for problems in his life. He cares very deeply about staying positive. “It was an evening college anyway. I especially preferred it since I find it really hard to wake up early. I love morning sleep. I moved to Italy while I was still a college student. I’d come back here to take the exams.” We leave this milestone of a story of his life aside for a moment and continue with his passion for music which was featured in our photo story.
T-shirt: Prada , Kolyeler / Neclaces: Louis Vuitton
Mehmet Günsür says music has always been the focus of his life since he first held The Sweet vinyl in his hand. “Have you never considered taking up music as a profession?” I ask him. He replies, “We had a band until ’96. It was going great but then came a moment when we had to disband. I was playing the drums first. But when our singer moved to Los Angeles, I had to start singing when we found a better drummer.” Mehmet Günsür’s band Dawn fell apart when the guitarist moved to London, their bassist to Boston, and Günsür to Italy. However, this was when Günsür’s acting career began. How? He played in the TV series Geçmiş Bahar Mimozaları (Mimosas of Times Past) along with many notable figures including Rutkay Aziz and Müşfik Kenter on TRT. Considering the times, it was a great endeavor of 60 minutes an episode filmed with a 35-mm camera. Though he featured in a few TV commercials after that, acting never played the lead in Günsür’s life due to music’s domination and his work life. As I try to understand whether this fast tempo drives from over- socializing or being hardworking, he says, “I never feared being idle. I can be idle really good if you let me.” But this idleness is not of the ordinary kind. “Idleness is one of my favorite things. I spend my energy to the last molecule when there’s something to do. I’m a man of duty but if I don’t have one, I’d be just as fine. I’d listen to music on my own. I never listen to music as background noise. For instance, I could never listen to music when I study because I’d be caught up in listening!”
We go back to his first movie, Steam: The Turkish Bath. “When I was working at Roxy, a young man from Sefahathane, Roxy’s sibling bar, was responsible for the figurants for the movie Steam. But they were also looking for a lead. He knew that I graduated from an Italian High School. He told me about the situation. I went for an audition and met Ferzan (Özpetek, director). There’s even a story I love telling. I said, ‘Hello. I’m Mehmet but call me Memo.’ Ferzan’s eyes sparked. First, I didn’t understand but then when he gave me the role and sent me the screenplay, I saw that my character’s name was Mehmet as well and it was his first line in the movie! Then I understood why he was so surprised; I was actually quoting his line. My hair was really long back then but I had to cut it for the role. I thought about it for like a week. I talked to myself ‘You’re on stage, singing. The hair is important.’ or ‘It’ll grow back.’” He continues smiling, “It took 20 years to have it that long,” and adds, “20 years later, I played in his movie İstanbul Kırmızısı (Rosso Istanbul) with long hair and got my revenge for the first time.” Jokes aside, with the beginning of his professional acting career, there’s been a change. “For 20 years, it hasn’t been my hair but the characters’ I play. They always play with my hair on the set.” Let’s make a quick note for the younger generation who hasn’t seen Steam to better explain its success; Madonna even wrote a letter of congratulations to director Ferzan Özpetek after seeing the movie!
An Italian director was impressed by Günsür’s performance in Steam and invited him to Italy for a theater performance. And that was it! It’s a brave thing to take this step without any experience in theater. “I was confident but it wasn’t unfounded. I knew I could do it,” he says. He graduated from an Italian High School but it had been four years since his graduation, and theater was no genre to take lightly. “I had to speak perfect Italian. I worked very hard on the text. There were sentences even an Italian couldn’t easily pronounce. My character talked really fast. It was a highly emotional role from beginning to end.” His acting career began with a Ferzan Özpetek movie 20 years ago, and continues with one today. And it’s not an ordinary thing for Özpetek. “During those 20 years, we came together once again for the movie The Ignorant Fairies but our schedules didn’t sync. To be honest, mine wasn’t available. Ferzan usually enjoys working with new actors; he’s not a director to stick with similar names. Maybe that’s why we had the opportunity to work together again after many years.”
When I ask whether he has a character that left a trace in him throughout his career in acting (which he defines as “professional schizophrenia”), he immediately replies, “Yes. My character in the movie O Şimdi Asker (He’s in the Army Now). It was a very physical character. I still have some twitches left from him. Like the uneven chin. I catch myself doing that sometimes. It’s muscle memory; some things stay with you.” “Anything psychological?” I ask but it’s not even a question for him. “There’s nothing like ‘I am the character, I cannot let go.’ You have to learn that too.” He currently features in the trilogy Fi-Çi-Pi, which represents the Turkish series’ transition from TV to the Internet. We’re very curious about how he sees this project and whether it’ll be successful to achieve its goal. “This is a precious project because it’s a first. It runs 60 minutes. The writer and the director has to relay his/her thoughts in 60 minutes. As an actor, you don’t have 30 takes to express a feeling. There’s a scene and you have to make good choices. So it forces people to think more and to be smarter. The audience too; they rewind the scene because everything moves really fast. the viewers are used to not having any incidents for 30 minutes. So it’s a special project.” He adds, “It opens an important door.” This is a transformation where people can watch TV online, independent of channels, and change their habits; and Günsür defines it as “Freedom.” “The beauty of the Internet is that it lets you watch whatever you want whenever you want. I think this is a great freedom to have.” But what’s included in this space of freedom? Is he a good series viewer? “Sure!” he says and starts counting, “Taboo, The Young Pope, Mars, Black Mirror, Mozart in the Jungle…” We ask his thoughts on futuristic projects like Black Mirror. “It’s wonderful! It’s British, which I love very much. Both in music and cinema.” Though I was surprised to hear his choice because Italian cinema takes on a more realistic approach but he replies, “The golden age of the ‘70s is over but we still feed on its heritage. For instance, the Americans learned from Italians how to use the light.” Though the whole world learned art from Italians, we focus on their incredible contribution to cinema. “Today we still see the influence of movies by Fellini, Antonioni and Pasolini; they’re precious.” Observing his respect for the masters, I cannot help but ask about his new explorations and who has been on his radar lately. His first answer is “Duncan Jones, David Bowie’s son. I went crazy watching Moon. He also filmed the movie Warcraft: The Beginning based on the game World of Warcraft. He had a sci-fi in between the two,” he excitedly drops titles one after the other and also mentions a Brazilian production he recently watched called The Second Mother. We ask him how he came to learn about these names. “I’m not actually following them closely. I just look at IMDB when they come to my mind and then continue following their works. I often watch documentaries. My wife is a documentarist. For instance, I watched one called The Wolfpack; it was perfect.”
During times he reserves for himself, music is always at the top, followed by playing games. “I used to play a lot more. I enjoy adventure games with lovely stories. I played No Man’s Sky. You walk around the universe among thousands of planets, solar systems and creatures… You get to hang around in space. Adventure games, especially those from the indie genre, are spectacular. Actually, indie is always magnificent in every field. You put your heart into it. Which one is better: the one released by Electronic Arts, or an indie game made by two guys? The independent one has much more spirit.”
And back to music. He emphasizes that the ’68 generation, which inspired our story, is a wonderful period in time. “One can argue what it serves or wishes to serve but it’s an era when some big and strong taboos. The sense of freedom back then is odd. There were many new things emerging. No one played guitar the same after they hear Hendrix play it. It was him and Led Zeppelin. I think it’s the greatest band of all times! It’s a pretty strange time to live in. Lou Reed, Andy Warhol, Iggy Pop…” He counts many but adds before finishing. “There’s a fake side to it of course but there’s also a real side.” Art is a form with depth in which humanity expresses itself, and we don’t know when it’ll carry us to complete satisfaction. But unfortunately, that depth gradually fades away… “The depth was forceful back then,”
And tells the sentence he uses a few times throughout the day. “It always comes down to this: ‘Tomatoes would taste better back then.’” Yes, time wears down the beauty but what’s more important is that “We were more innocent. Everything felt more real. So the times we were talking about were richer in depth.” He adds, “It’s the same with art; new movements and genres. It was an experiment, and everyone had the courage and freedom to try something that was never done before.” When we switch to technology, a modern- day field for bravery, Günsür says that it’s hard to interpret those times with today’s minds and that technology is also a process. “What do you love a song? Yes, it has a catchy chorus but after some time, you understand what it has to say and head towards values that make music what it is. People are directed to those values because everything’s so shallow.” Yes, we feel excitement for an era we’re not living in. “Jimi Hendrix changed everything for us while Chuck Berry inspired many from Elvis to Led Zeppelin. But Led Zeppelin’s chemistry is unique. They come from a very dark, British working class segment. Their roots are reflected in their music. Led Zeppelin, Rolling Stones, Beatles; they’re all very different. For instance, Beatles has a wonderful musical heritage that we can see in many of the things we listen today.” Thinking that what makes those times special is their courage and decision not to take the easy road, Mehmet Günsür reminds us that the age we live in raises people “that take the easy, short and fast route.”
Mehmet Günsür tarafında oldukça heyecan veren bir diğer haber ise tamamen kendi kurduğu bağımsız ekiple yarattıkları internet dizisi Kanaga! “Dizide 38 yaşında kuantum fizikçisi olan Mardin Tamay’ın yaşam yolculuğunu takip ederken karşılaştığı doğaüstü ve insan bilincinin sınırlarını aşan dünyayı keşfe çıkıyoruz. Dünyaca ünlü bir arkeolog olan ve 30 sene önce öldüğü sanılan babasını ararken, kendisini ve güçlerini bulacaktır. Gittiği her yerde açıklanması güç olan ezoterik ve büyülü yaşantıları deneyimlerken ve aynı zamanda aşk ve gerçekle karşılaşacaktır.” Projeyi heyecanla dinlerken, Mehmet Günsür’ün da dahil olduğu 5 kişilik ekibin projenin her aşamasında var olduğunu öğreniyoruz, Mehmet, hem yazıyor hem oynuyor ama hem de birçok bambaşka şeyden de sorumlu… Hem küçük bir ekipler hem de çok da fazlalar çünkü bu projeye gönülden bağlı olup onlara yardım eden birçok insan var. “Onların destekleri olmasa zaten bu proje olmazdı, çok zor bir şey yaptık.
Another exciting news about Mehmet Günsür is Kanaga, the online series he created with an independent team. “The series follows the life of Mardin Tamay, a 38-year-old quantum physician, and takes us on a journey into a supernatural world that goes beyond human consciousness. While searching for his father who is a world-renowned archeologist and died 30 years ago, Tamay will come to find himself and his powers. He observes esoteric and magical lives, and will find love and reality.” Excitedly listening to this project, we learn that the team of five (of
which Günsür is a member) is involved in every step of the project. Mehmet both writes and acts, and is responsible for many other things. They’re a small team but also really crowded because there are many people who feel a connection to this project and help them voluntarily. “This wouldn’t be realized without their support; we’ve achieved a challenging goal. There’s too much archaeology, mythology, and esoteric worlds. One way or other, Kanaga tells the stories of people who save the world. Our protagonist tells the story of people who save the world through his adventures. Therefore, we tried to find actual people who save the world everywhere we went. This could
be an eco-architect, or a farmer who resists organic agriculture, or an engineer who invented equipment that produces drinking water from seawater. We’ve found these people. It’s been a pleasant project for us, and we cannot wait to share it with everyone.” Hearing that the first season of the series will soon be released, we’re pleased to hear that they’ve been contacting festivals. With all this in mind, we’re as impatient as they are because we know each independent and candid project is kept alive with the presence of people who believe in it.