The children of Meram Yeşildere, for example, all acted in an advertisement recently shot by Konya Şeker. The main actor of that particular ad, Fahri Embel, who is also the muhtar (village headman) says, “We warmly accept all filming offers, especially if they mean the village will reap some benefit.”
Yeşildere is one of Konya's mountainous villages. Embel was sitting in the village square, talking with others from the village one day when a car passed through, kicking up dust everywhere. The people in the car got out, tired and thirsty from their long drive, and after being offered glasses of cold water, it happened that Embel invited them to his home for some food. Embel's wife set the table and the guests began to eat with Embel. As they ate, he talked about the village, which was actually one of Konya's two poorest villages. But as he talked, the eyes of his guests began to shine in excitement; this was exactly the sort of village they had been looking for! The guests were in fact a producer from a film agency and several directors. They had been on the road for days looking for the perfect spot in which to film near Konya. And they had found it in this little village, finally.
Some head to fields, others to film sets
The following day, a large group arrived in the village to prepare for the filming. Sets were arranged and photographs taken of those who had agreed to act in the ad. A new way of life had arrived in the village for the time being; some would head off to the fields in the morning to work, while others would head off to act in an ad. The roles were very clearly defined for all the village actors: The children were to run in the streets, the women were to work in their gardens or hit rugs on their balconies and the men were to carry wood and tend to herds. In other words, everyone was to do pretty much what they really do in daily life, except in front of cameras. And those getting this first acting experience were to be paid for it, TL 30-40 a day. For a little over a week, the village was a stage for much activity. It's all over now, but the villagers are still waiting excitedly for that advertisement to air on TV.
The villagers view Konya Şeker much as their own company, which it kind of is. And actually, Konya Şeker is a cooperative company that was formed by farmers whose crops were mostly sugar beets. The company has two large sugar factories in Konya and Çumra as well as a potato factory, a milk factory and an angus steer farm in Seydişehir. This joint project by farmers, the Konya Şeker cooperative, has become Turkey's 34th largest of its kind.
In order to create an advertisement showing children from Konya in the 1960s forming a musical band with the limited supplies available at the time -- making instruments from things like old pots and pans, tires and pieces of wooden chalkboard -- the film crew had to look for a village with the flavor and character of one from the 1960s. They had had some problems finding such a village because many villages in Konya these days seem no different from cities, with two or three story villas and very few traditional stone homes left.
Village's fate has shifted, says muhtar
Village muhtar Fahri Embel said that his village of Yeşildere had become poorer than other villages because of the relative absence of farmable land, but that the advertisement for Konya Şeker has changed the fate of the village. He believes that tourists might even visit the village now, where there are many traditional homes, the natural fabric of things has not been ruined and there are even structures left standing from the time of the Selçuks and even before then. Embel is very excited about what all this could all mean for the future of his village.
The series “Tek Türkiye” was actually the first production to introduce Konya's villages to acting and film sets. With this series, some villagers who normally made their livings by tending animals and working their fields had the opportunity to work on sets and act as extras in the series. After “Tek Türkiye” ended, the series “Şefkat Tepe” began filming in Tatköy. This village, which lived for six years in front of film cameras, became used to hosting not only film crews but fans as well. As “Şefkat Tepe” was full of action, there were many scene changes necessary during filming. In other words, a call from the mosque's minarets that asked “neighbors who would like to play a part in the series please gather in the village square” has really become a pretty ordinary thing in this region. Those who hear this announcement might well choose to drop their daily work and run to join the filming.
We are open to new film proposals
Yeşildere village muhtar Fahri Embel says: “In Yeşildere there are some old cave homes, secret ones, left from long ago. These draw the attention of historians and researchers. But these days, we get the most visits from film producers. First of all, the ad for Konya Şeker was shot here.” Embel was the one who negotiated the deal when the directors and producer of this commercial visited the village. He acts almost like the village's manager. He fully admits, "We are open to all new film proposals," and he adds, "Why not, if it brings in profit for our homes?" In fact, it was Embel's extremely social nature that really caused the advertisement for Konya Şeker to be filmed in Yeşildere; there is a very similar village down the road whose muhtar was so disinterested that it drove the crew to keep looking, which is how they ended up in Yeşildere. Now, other muhtars from surrounding villages press Embel to teach them the secret behind getting an ad filmed in their villages. As for Embel, he simply states, “The secret to this business is a desire to serve the public.”
Summer is for constructing minarets, winter is for shooting ads
Ali Gönen (28) is from Tatköy, where the STV “Şefkat Tepe” series is filmed. He works on the set for this series and sometimes acts as an extra. However, he is a minaret construction expert. He had watched in interest as the “Tek Türkiye” series was shot, then found himself working on the set of “Şefkat Tepe.” He goes back to working on minarets when filming for the series is on hiatus. However, he finds his heart is really in working on film sets. He says his village has developed a lot because of its experience with filming. The bakkal (small local market) has grown larger and become a real market. The small tea place has become a cafe, selling cheese toast and other items. And while the village used to live a more isolated, inward-looking life, it now hosts visitors from all over Turkey.