Sometimes the component parts of a program are as valuable as the program in its entirety. At least, that’s what Istanbul-based Sera Film Services is hoping. The Turkish distribution company recently established an archive based on footage from one documentary series – Haberci (Reporter), a long-running current affairs show produced by war photographer and reporter Coskun Aral. Says Bugda Savasir, Sera’s managing director, ‘We wanted to take this valuable program [beyond] Turkey’s borders and decided that the best way would be to present it as footage, to give flexibility to producers.’
The collection currently consists of only 65 hours of footage (owned by Aral), but the number will increase as more programs in the ongoing series are completed. Topics already in the vault range from skull hunters in Borneo to Zapatista freedom fighters in Mexico. Savasir notes that Aral and his crew have traveled to more than 100 countries and covered almost two million kilometers since Haberci first went to air on Turkish commercial channel ATV in 1995. Among the rarest pieces, in her estimation, are an interview with Afghanistan’s Northern Alliance leader Mesut shortly before his death, and footage of the Uygur Turks, who live in China’s East Turkistan region.
In a written description of Haberci, Sera asserts that the series ‘aims to show the different cultural patterns of various regions around the world and to provide information about the geography, history, popular sites and wildlife of a particular country, within the framework of contemporary events that influence the daily life of the region.’
Commenting on Haberci’s longevity, Savasir says, ‘This is a big success for a documentary series, in our market at least. This success is due to both the technical quality and perspective of a photojournalist who reflects his excitement in pictures that tell stories very well.’
While Haberci is well regarded and well recognized at home, it’s Aral’s name that carries weight internationally. Aral began his career as a press photographer in the mid-1970s, working for local papers Günaydin and Gün. He first established an international reputation in the 1980s as a photojournalist, reporting from conflict zones such as Lebanon and Northern Ireland. His images made their way onto the pages of Time, Newsweek, Paris Match and Stern, among others. In 1986, he transitioned to television as a war correspondent for a program called 32nd Day; 10 years later he launched Haberci.
Footage from the program has already attracted the interest of international buyers. Sevasir says Martin Thoma Productions in Germany, for example, licensed 14 clips – each clip seven to eight minutes long and dealing with a different subject – and used them to make a program called Go East Go West for ARD. In addition to this, she notes, ‘the interview with the 14th Dalai Lama and Buddhist actor Richard Gere has attracted great attention in the world media. The visual material from the wars in Afghanistan and Liberia have also been used by several international television channels.’
Like all libraries, Sera has negotiable rates. But, says Savasir, on average the archive charges US$15 to $35 per second for TV rights; $30 to $70 per second for theatrical or commercial use; and $10 to $20 per second for the educational market, home video, music clips or corporate video use. A 20-second minimum purchase is generally required. All of the footage is available in Beta SP.
Although Sera represents several other Turkish filmmakers (both fiction and non-fiction) as a distributor, the company has no plans to expand its archive to include footage other than that from Haberci. Nevertheless, Sera claims to be one of very few commercial footage houses in the Middle East and is, therefore, relatively substantial. Sera Film Services was established 16 years ago as an agent/distribution company. As the Turkish filmmaking industry has matured, the distrib has increasingly invested in local producers, with the goal of promoting their work to buyers around the world. International players with whom Sera has worked over the years include Granada in the U.K., Australia’s Southern Star, Japan’s MICO and MTV International. In addition to its distribution and library activities, Sera offers its services as a facilitator/fixer to foreign producers who wish to film in Turkey.
At press time, Sera’s website – www.serafilm.com – was under construction, but it is expected to be up some time this month. The site will include a list of film clips from the library and a few images, but ordering online will not be feasible in the short term.