Esther Turan is a force to be reckoned with. She proves this time and again through her roles as a creative producer, director, and the founder of Moviebar Productions. When she’s not directing or producing, you can find her empowering and teaching other females in the industry who are inspired to become filmmakers, directors, or producers. We chatted with Esther about her experience making her directorial debut with BP Underground, the challenges that she faced starting her own film production company, and the ways she is helping to empower women in the industry.
Cliché: What inspired you to get involved in the entertainment industry as a director and producer?
Esther Turan: I kind of journeyed into it because my father is a playwright and my aunt is a famous actress. I fell in love with the atmosphere that I found on the set. I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to be, but I knew this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.
Being born and raised in Budapest, what was the vibe that you got once you came to the US? How did you manage to adjust to a new culture?
The first time I visited the United States I was 11 years old, since I have family in Chicago. I have always been Americanized in a way and I have always been interested in American culture. As a filmmaker, I think we all have to admit that at some point you start to dream about Hollywood, and as you know, once you make it in Hollywood then you can make it anywhere. So when I was a trainee in film school in between my freshman and sophomore year, I did an American production for a huge NBC drama and I had the chance to meet some big names. I also had the chance to witness how to make movies in America and I just really enjoyed it.
I use to work a lot with Americans before moving to the U.S. so there was nothing new for me. It’s not like I come from a completely different world, and you and I are probably similar age and listen to the same bands. The only thing I needed to do was adjust myself to American standards.
What was the experience like making your directorial debut with BP Underground?
My journey as a filmmaker started when I majored in TV directing, and then I focused on becoming a creative producer and I was very involved in the creative process of every project that I was working on. After some point of being a producer, I just had a burnout and thought instead of checking on other people’s projects that I wanted my voice to be heard with a message, and I should get it out.
What inspired you to establish Moviebar Productions? What challenges did you face in starting your own film production company?
Moviebar Productions is not a new thing as I established Moviebar Productions 14 years ago back in Hungary and it’s still a running company. Back in Hungary most of the producers were middle-aged men and I felt that it would be an interesting twist if a young woman under the age of 25 established a film production company and let’s see how it’s going to continue. My parents always taught me not to be afraid and have always encouraged me to dream. Eventually, I teamed up with the best production manager in town named Viktoria Trepper because I knew her and she gave me the expertise of physical production.
I always needed to find ways for people to take me seriously. When I first started out as a producer in the film production company, I found that creating strategies was challenging since you always have to adjust your strategies towards trends and what your goals are for the company. For instance, we started out producing television commercials, and then from the local market we created strategies for the worldwide market and then we reached a certain success.
How involved do you try and be in the creative process of films as a producer?
It depends on the project because every project is an individual project. It also depends on how I resonate with the specific director, producers or co-producers.
As a supporter of female empowerment and an advocate leader of women, can you describe your overall relationship with some other female filmmakers? In what ways are you helping to empower women in the industry?
I am very proud of the fact that my film production company is led by women, and I am also proud that I found a woman named Anna Koltay who would later become my co-director for the BP Underground series. However, I still feel that it’s a man’s world.
I am trying to surround myself with younger female colleagues who I can teach. Since the establishment of Moviebar Productions, we raised dozens of female filmmakers in the industry who started out as a trainee or as an assistant and then moved up to being a producer or production manager or line producer.
What’s the assumption or misconception that you’ve heard most often as a woman in Hollywood?
It’s not just my gender but it’s also me being from Central-Eastern Europe. In some cases, I did witness that some men from Hollywood and Western Europe think that women are easy to get and sometimes things get disturbing on set. I have learned to deal with it and if you’re pretty straightforward about your reaction then they will stop.
What has been the most memorable moment in your career?
The most memorable moment for me as a director was when we recently won a prestigious award for our documentary series BP Underground called Highlights of Hungary where the most creative causes and projects of our country are selected each year. The recognition of our work after investing so much energy and time was definitely a sweet moment. As a producer, there is no single moment but many moments of collaborating with some of the best filmmakers in the world. We’ve just finished a feature film with composer Nathaniel Mechaly and directors Björn Stein and Mans Marlind. I also had the chance to work with superb cinematographers such as Hoyte van Hoytema, Anthony Dod Mantle and John Mathieson.
At this point in your life, who was the person who helped guide you to get you to where you are now?
I think it would be my father, Robert Turan, and he is a playwright. He always has a huge interest in my taste and love for art, theater, and movies since I was a child.
What is your number one goal in 2019?
I’d love to continue growing our presence in Hollywood and collaborate with more great filmmakers. My dream would be to sell some of my ideas to the biggest T.V. platforms and creatively being involved in television.
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Director and Producer Esther Turan Talks About Her Inspiration Behind Starting Moviebar Productions and Hollywood’s ‘Ugly’ Problems. Image Credits: Adam Nagy and Bernadett Fejer