Renan Ozturk is a visual artist in a true sense of the term. He began as a painter, but it’s his work behind the lens as both cinematographer and director that has brought him on extended shooting expeditions that have taken him from Antarctica to Nepal. As a founding member of the Camp 4 Collective production company with Jimmy Chin, Tim Kemple and Anson Fogel, Ozturk has been fervently producing a visually stunning series of sporting videos, narrative shorts, feature documentaries and indie features, as well as high-profile and viral advertising spots for clients like Nissan, Pirelli, National Geographic, ABC, NBC, Outside magazine and many more. The Camp 4 Collective is currently in the final editing stages of their first full-length feature documentary MERU (www.merufilm.com), a very personal film for the group about high-stakes Himalayan climbing and the sacrifices they have made in regards to friends and family. They’re also putting together a feature film centered on snow sports with Sherpas Cinema called Into The Mind (www.intothemindmovie.com), which is slated for release this coming fall.
"For me," explains Renan Ozturk about his work, "digging deep into personal stories and tackling subject matter that I’m passionate about help spark this creativity to make something special."
I’ve been making films since 2008, at the same time I started traveling globally for expedition climbing. Originally, my main visual medium was canvas landscape art. By the time I realized the power of telling bigger stories through filmmaking, the trend was already heading digital. Bigger film cameras weren’t possible to utilize on our remote locations. My first big adventure story shoot was with one of the first-generation pocket HD camcorders that shot interlaced footage to SD cards.
How are the worlds of still and motion similar or different to you?
I mainly shoot video, but really appreciate both mediums. It can be really hard to shift mind-sets between motion and stills. For motion, I’m often looking for shots that build a sequence when edited together or a camera movement that reveals layers of the story we’re telling. On the other hand, for stills, you have to think of telling as much of the story as possible in a single meaningful frame. It can be a totally different head space from one to the other. Most of our shoots have still and video deliverables, and I’m often shooting side by side with a still photographer during the best light or key story moments. As a National Geographic photo editor told me in a recent email, "If you could pull off both, well, you’d be on the short list of quite accomplished storytellers. Quite a juggling act."
What gear do you use?
This really depends on the adventure since the spectrum of my assignments requires everything from going light and keeping up with world-class athletes in the mountains to full-blown commercial work with big crews on a set. My favorite cameras from "fast and light" to "slow and steady" are the Sony NEX-7 with a 16mm ƒ/2.8 pancake lens and a RØDE VideoMic Pro, Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon L-series glass, and then the RED EPIC with Zeiss lenses. I’ve really been digging the new Distagon T* Zeiss 15mm ƒ/2.8 for a wide lens for everything from aerials to time-lapse. As far as camera support, I’ve been a Kessler shooter for a number of years and love their CineSlider, their cranes and also the new CineDrive system for complex motion-control time-lapses. The tech can be pretty overwhelming and hard to keep up; it’s nice to have gear you know well and trust so when in the field you can focus on the story and light.
What would you say to an independent filmmaker looking to create the look and image quality of bigger-budget productions?
Where there’s a will, there’s a way. A single DSLR and a few lenses can produce an amazing result with the right idea and right team. Filmmaking is more of a team sport than most realize, so having talented folks working with you who are invested creatively to push things to the next level will help to push your project forward. Also, for me, building a social media following and a Vimeo audience in an organic way from the ground up was a great way to build buzz for my work and helped immensely in getting the initial support and funding to get projects off the ground. When you approach a sponsor to take your project, they will often want to see this following and a lot of views of your trailer. Also, Kickstarter is an amazing resource and outlet to look into if it’s not on your radar. Distribution is a tricky,
constantly changing beast. Getting your work in festivals and networking at such events is always a good idea and will open doors to learning more.
What single piece of advice would you give to a young filmmaker trying to break in?
I guess I can say it again like a broken record: Story, story, story.