In 2019, Turkish producer Onur Güvenatam established OGM Pictures, and since then, the company has been at the forefront of producing a series of successful TV series and movies, including “The Red Room,” the widely-distributed “Golden Boy,” and “One Way for Tomorrow,” which became the first Netflix original film from Turkey.
In addition to these, OGM has also contributed to Netflix with the Turkish original film “Paper Lives” and the series “The Gift.” Presently, OGM is showcasing new shows such as “Stickman” (Çöp Adam), “Miracle of Love” (Yüz Yıllık Mucize), and “Broken Destiny” (Toprak ile Fidan) at Mipcom, with the sales being managed by their recently established in-house sales company, OGM Universe.
In an interview with Variety, Güvenatam discussed the factors behind OGM’s success and shared his concerns about the business model enforced by U.S. streaming platforms.
“Golden Boy” was a major hit in Turkey last year and was sold to over 100 countries. Why do you think it resonated so well with audiences?
The success of “Golden Boy” is rooted in its portrayal of two young sisters affected by marriage. This is a universal theme that resonates with younger generations all around the world. People either have firsthand experience with such situations or have seen women facing similar challenges. This relatability is a major factor behind its success. Our approach from the outset is to understand our audience better. We consider what kind of show will appeal to various target demographics, including men, families, and women. We strive to touch people’s emotions and convey meaningful messages about human relationships and emotions. All our shows and characters are designed with these criteria in mind.
In addition to conventional TV successes, OGM has also been involved in creating popular content for Netflix. Can you discuss the advantages and disadvantages of working with local TV networks compared to U.S. streaming services?
There are pros and cons to both options. When you produce content for streaming platforms, you face minimal risk because they pay you upfront, regardless of a show’s success. However, in traditional television, there’s greater risk because a show that doesn’t perform well can be canceled. On the other hand, with a show like “Golden Boy,” you can achieve substantial rewards if it becomes an international hit. While it entails risk, the potential returns can be significant. I often tell streaming platforms that I’m willing to take that risk. I don’t want to receive the same payment whether the show succeeds or not. I want to have a stake in my production. In my opinion, streaming platforms should operate differently than U.S. studios in Turkey because the current approach dampens our creative spirit. When there’s no risk, it becomes merely a business transaction, and there’s little consequence if a show doesn’t perform well, even if it does, you might get a 15-minute call telling you that the numbers look good, and that’s it.
From a creative perspective, there’s been a perception that streaming services in Turkey are pushing boundaries with edgier content. Aren’t the streaming platforms the ones allowing you to explore that?
As a content creator in Turkey, I believe that our audiences are accustomed to conservative content, which is reflected in the ratings. We’ve been working within this conservative framework, which adds to a show’s potential. When we produce content for streaming platforms, we do have the flexibility to be more provocative and edgy. Initially, we thought that being free from restrictions would be appealing, but once we had that freedom, we discovered that our strengths lie in creating more conservative content. We are more skilled at producing these types of stories.
Tell me about adapting “Shtisel” and its portrayal of an ultra-Orthodox community in Israel into a Turkish series.
I have immense respect for people who have strong religious beliefs and whose lifestyles are shaped by them. When I first watched “Shtisel” and “Unorthodox,” I felt that these shows also reflect the lives of other people. I was drawn to their world, the close-knit communities they depicted, and most of all, their happiness. When I watch these shows, especially “Shtisel,” I’m overwhelmed by a sense of joy. Their world is simple, with straightforward rules. People know what they’re supposed to do, when, and how. I realized that I missed that simplicity because the world has evolved and become more complex, people have changed, technology is expanding, and social media is pervasive. So, when we created “Ömer,” we aimed to capture the same essence. It’s set in the present, but it feels like a throwback to the past. There are no smartphones, love is genuine, and everything is clear. With other TV shows, you get caught up in everything else, but with “Ömer,” you’re witnessing direct emotions, the emotions that we’ve missed due to the modern world.
How has “Ömer” performed on Star TV in Turkey?
It has done remarkably well, and Eccho Rights is also selling the Turkish version of “Shtisel” worldwide.
Speaking of Eccho, you’ve now launched your own sales company. Why did you make this move?
When I initially launched OGM Pictures, we partnered with Eccho for the first five shows. We’ve successfully completed those projects, which is why we’ve established our own sales company, OGM Universe. I’ve been planning this move for the past year and a half. The primary reason for this is that external distribution companies often bundle our titles with others, and sometimes we’re told that to acquire a show like “Golden Boy,” we also need to take another less appealing title. I don’t want to put buyers in that situation.
So, does this mean you will exclusively sell your own content?
We aim to offer only top-quality content under our banner, with my name associated with it. We may consider co-productions, but any such projects will need our approval.