EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Tims&B Productions' Timur Savcı and Burak Sağyaşar, The Masterminds of the Phenomenon, “Bitter Lands”

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Tims&B Productions' Timur Savcı and Burak Sağyaşar, The Masterminds of the Phenomenon, “Bitter Lands”
As Bitter Lands, known as Terra Amara to Italian audiences, approaches its highly anticipated grand finale in Italy on June 8, Formatbiz had the opportunity to speak with the visionary creators behind this phenomenal series. Here, we present our exclusive interview with Tims&B Productions’ Timur Savcı and Burak Sağyaşar.

1) Can you tell us about the inspiration behind "Bitter Lands,” ‘Terra Amara’ in Italy, (Original Title: Bir Zamanlar Çukurova) and how the concept for the series came about?

T.S : During our meeting with our beloved writer Ayfer Tunç about our new projects, she told us that she had in mind a love and family drama with a strong conflict at its core. When we read the synopsis, we were immediately captivated by it and decided to quickly realize this project, which we strongly believed would find a resonance on television.
At that time, there were no major epic productions on TV, and the location and period for this story were still undefined. We didn't want to miss this opportunity and decided to set the narrative in Cukurova, which has really fertile lands, where loves and fights are fierce. And the name of the series was a great source of inspiration for us about the project.

B.S : We thought that it had to be a period drama and should be set in the 70s, which is one of the most vibrant and colorful eras in Turkiye. Altogether we got so excited and moved by these ideas, and thus, the journey of Bitter Lands began.

The series, where love knows no bounds, fights are to death, and hope is unyielding, embarked on its journey with a whole year of preparation. This included countless casting calls and auditions, the construction of a grand mansion in Adana, meticulous production design, and the commencement of shooting much in advance. On September 13, 2018, it premiered on ATV in Turkiye. Following the first episode, it quickly became the most-watched series on ATV and dominated Thursday evenings for four consecutive years with record-breaking viewership.

2) How can the phenomenon of Bitter Lands set in a distant period like the 70s and 80s, be explained? Do you have any recipes? You have been known for many successes so far, what are the ingredients of a hit?

B.S : The time period and atmosphere in which a story is set are crucial to its success. Would Bitter Lands have been as successful if it were an urban love and family drama set in the present day? I doubt it…

The 1970s was a period of rapid industrialization in Turkiye, and Çukurova was at the peak of its agricultural prosperity due to its fertile soil. Communication was not as instantaneous as it is today—people had to meet face to face rather than by phone, which strengthens the internal dynamics of the scenes tremendously. Moreover, filming in Adana added significant depth to the story, as its people are both warm-hearted and courageous. It created a world reminiscent of a Western movie.
We can't call it a recipe because I don't believe there's a formula for production. If there were, everyone could learn and apply it ☺. However, the components of this hit included accurately depicting the period and atmosphere I mentioned and integrating them into the story.

3) What kind of production effort was required for the making of this series?

B.S : A team of 300 people worked tirelessly for eight months to construct a settlement and a mansion. The street where the bazaar scenes are set was completely built from scratch, including all its shops.
The actors underwent about a year of horseback riding training. Murat Ünalmış, who plays the character of Demir, received training to fly an airplane. We utilized a wide range of 1970s Turkish music, including Classical Turkish Music, Pop, and Arabesque styles, as part of the soundtrack. Our composer Aytekin Ataş recorded all the pieces live with an orchestra the size of a philharmonic.
Additionally, a special steam train from Izmir State Railways was transported to Adana for filming.
For six months, we, as producers, re-edited the episodes with our editor and director to ensure the highest quality.

4) What do you think are the key elements that have contributed to the series' phenomenal success in Italy?

B.S : I believe the reason “Bitter Lands" resonates not only in Italy but all over the world is because it is a universally relatable love and family drama with a strong conflict at its core. The series appeals to what we call “common sense”—universal and sincere emotions that are common to every human being.
To give an example, even though it's quite different, the global audience believed in the family pain and revenge of Maximus in the movie, Gladiator. Similarly, viewers around the world, including in Italy, have connected with the journeys of the characters in Bitter Lands. I believe this universality and emotional depth are key to its success and the strong connection felt by the Italian audience.

T.S : In addition to its universality, Bitter Lands is a true Mediterranean story at its core. Sometimes people might forget that Adana is the Mediterranean too. It’s a true Mediterranean family story and it also tells a magnificent love. Adding all the production details that Burak mentioned, the result was a truly authentic and special project.

5) Are there any other international markets where “Bitter Lands“ has performed exceptionally well or where you see significant potential?

T.S : Bitter Lands has been successful in all territories it has entered so far. We’re about to renew the licenses with Romania and a couple of other countries soon. In addition to the phenomenal success in Italy, the series has also performed especially well in Spain, Latin America, Angola&Mozambique and the Middle East. We expect similar results in the US Hispanic market. Also, the exceptional success of the Greek remake has sparked interest in the format sales as well.

6) As the series nears its grand finale in Italy, what lessons have you learned from this production that will influence your future projects?

T.S : We have realized once again the importance of never giving up on sincere, real, and thoroughly developed character stories. This has been a cornerstone of our success and will continue to guide our future projects.
In the upcoming season, we will be creating new series that we believe will achieve great success worldwide, especially in Italy.

B.S : Also, we would like to take this opportunity to convey our most sincere regards to all the people of Italy and their esteemed viewers.

7) What upcoming projects can we expect from Tims&B Productions, and how are you positioning these for international success?

B.S : In the upcoming 2024-2025 TV season, alongside our ongoing espionage series, The Shadow Team, now on the brink of its 5th season, we are preparing to debut 3 new female-centered love and family dramas, first in our country and then all over the world. Each of these projects is crafted with the aim of finding success on the international stage. We remain hopeful that our efforts will be well-received.

T.S : We are committed to bringing new series that our devoted viewers worldwide can enjoy watching with their family, and we look forward to sharing them with you.