Emerging Filmmaker: Dana Turken

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“It’s a battle of attrition…” – @DanaTurken, on saying #HelloAgain to film.

When she’s not directing films, Dana Turken does a few different things: she reads, writes, and works on sets in other production roles. And sometimes, she teaches an English-as-a-second-language class in Los Angeles’s Koreatown.

“I was in a class and I had to explain the word ‘how.’ How do you explain the word ‘how’ to someone who doesn’t know the word ‘adverb?’” asks Turken. Teaching English intrigues Turken. She describes it as a “very interesting brain exercise” and “a real privilege” to be able to explain certain words to someone with a limited English vocabulary. So, how does she explain the word ‘how?’ “Well,” says Turken, “I use a lot of physicality to explain things.”

Turken, a former ballerina, has a sixth sense when it comes to movement and choreography. She was born and raised outside of Detroit to a family that encouraged performance – her mother was a local television talk show producer – and since her siblings were much older than her, she lived the life of a somewhat only-child. Turken says this upbringing allowed her to spend “a lot of time speaking to adults, and being treated like an adult.” In her early teens she made her own decision to give up dancing because she thought she was too short to have a professional career. She spent the rest of her teenage years trying to fill that creative void.

“I did everything I could possibly think of to try and fill that hole,” says Turken.  “Poetry, visual art. All of it was great, and I think writing was the thing that was most important to me.”

It was through a routine lighting instruction in a film class during a college semester in Prague that Turken realized she was destined to marry her two loves, language and movement, and begin a career in filmmaking. “The class wasn’t supposed to be about directing at all; it was about like, some lighting changes,” says Turken. “But all of a sudden, it was just, ‘Oh my God, I feel it.’ It just felt like ‘I want to do this forever.’” After college, Turken moved to New York and found work as a camera assistant. A few years and one graduate degree later, Turken now lives in Los Angeles as a writer and director of several short and feature-length films.

“I want to do this forever.” @DanaTurken, on filmmaking

It wasn’t until recently that Turken started experimenting with writing and directing comedy. “I don’t think I’m a super-funny person, but I like physical comedy a lot,” says Turken. The former ballerina says, “In my own life I practice a lot of physical comedy, not intentionally. I walk into walls, I fall down stairs – I make funny entrances.” Perfectly timed, one can presume.

For Turken, experimenting is part of the filmmaking process. She continues to write, but also plans on making visual works like fashion films and maybe even a music video. She still explores the things that inspire her – poetry, visual art, and teaching English words to those who have never heard them before. “To teach the word ‘glimmer’ to someone, that’s such a huge privilege,” says Turken. “That’s why I find it really exciting.”

Turken has reimagined the screwball comedy in her film “A Likely Story” for The Lincoln Reimagine Project™. The undertaking couldn’t have been more perfect for Turken; the best screwball comedies have characters with razor-sharp one-liners, nonstop action, and characters that can keep up with each other both physically and verbally. Watch her take on the genre on www.hello-again.com or by clicking here.

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