All seemed right with the world, but still I couldn’t help but ask if there were any downsides to living here. Having huffed and puffed my way uphill to her door I fully expected a complaint about the geography. Instead what I got was a diatribe about the television and film crews who have fallen in love with Balat recently. They block the streets apparently and regard those who live in them as a nuisance to be waved aside rather than as living heritage, which should be treated with as much respect as the ancient buildings.
I seem to remember similar complaints a few years ago from residents of Kuzguncuk on the Asian side of the city who also became mighty tired of emerging from their houses to be shooed out of the way by film crews. For a couple of weeks I’ve been staying in Kocamustafapaşa, the old Samatya, and on my very first morning there I, too, stumbled unwittingly into a street that was being filmed. “What dizi [series] are you making?” I asked one of the men who appeared to be on his tea break.
“Öyle Bir Geçer Zaman Ki” (As Time Goes By), he answered in a tone of voice that suggested that I would have been much better off not asking.
On the whole I like the idea of real locations in Turkey being used for films. I mean, come on, which of us won’t be rushing to see Skyfall, the new James Bond film, not just because it stars the dishy Daniel Craig but also because we’ll be wanting to name-check all the places in İstanbul that we recognize? Even so methinks the film crews are long overdue for a lesson in how to treat the locals. Yes, they’re important. Yes, the timing matters. Yes, they have to get it just right, but shouldn’t this be a two-way street with them putting in the time to understand the needs of the locals, too?
Recently I was visiting a hotel in Ürgüp owned by a man who is renowned for his meticulous attention to detail. Imagine my shock, then, to see huge black graffiti letters on the stone walls. I assumed they were marks left by miscreant youths who had sneaked up on the hotel while he was sleeping, but, no, it turns out that a film crew had scrawled the letters there for a scene in their latest television show. Why, then, had they not removed them at the first possible opportunity? They were hardly what a guest would expect to find greeting them on arrival.
My own house has also starred in some film or another, although I wasn’t there at the time to witness it; my neighbors reported the news back to me. Huge floodlights were erected to facilitate night filming, and at one point my then house sitter wandered outside to see what was going on. Let’s just say that he was down on his luck at the time. What the crew made of an unshaven, middle-aged man in his pajamas suddenly popping up in front of their cameras is probably best left unrecorded.
Pat Yale lives in a restored cave-house in Göreme in Cappadocia.