• Photo: LAIFF (2020)

  • Photo: LAIFF (2020)

  • Photo: LAIFF (2020)

As the pandemic halts global movie production, filmmakers are adapting to new protocols and embracing more opportunities for Indonesian voices.

By Kitty Hu (UCLA, 2020)

Bigger Budgets, More Responsibilities

It has been five months since the global pandemic stopped production on film sets across the world. In the virtual panel on August 6, 2020 hosted by the Los Angeles Indonesian Film Festival and sponsored by the UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies, filmmakers gathered to discuss guidelines in the "new normal" and how the industry has changed.

The event was co-sponsored by the Indonesian Consulate in Los Angeles, USC School of Cinematic Arts, Indonesian Bruins Student Association at UCLA and Permias Nasional.

"We’re trying hard not to compromise the quality, which means having a bigger budget. We are strictly limiting the working hours because in this pandemic, we need to keep everyone healthy," said Ernest Prakasa, a film director, writer, stand-up comedian and actor. "This means longer production periods and more work for the producers."

Producers have been preparing for this and understand the need to prioritize the health of the crew and talent. Susanti Dewi, the producer and head of IDN Pictures, acknowledged that a higher budget is evitable in this case. "For me, quality is not something to compromise," she said. "We have to find a solution to continue executing production, but be more responsible."

That called for more space and time on set for the horror comedy Ghost Writer II, which Prakasa is currently producing. While it is difficult to drastically reduce the number of crew, it is possible to minimize the number of people in one space, especially when indoors. Prior to the pandemic, the art department and camera crew may be working simultaneously on the set, but now, Prakasa has enforced rotations, which takes longer, but ideally keeps the crew safer.

Shifting Storylines

Storylines are adjusting as well. "There’s a film about a group of people doing Zoom meetings," shared Joko Anwar, a film director, writer and actor.  "It’s very relatable to a lot of people, so the content itself is relevant. The way the film was made has also adapted to this situation."

In his own scenes, Anwar is reducing the amount of skin to skin contact on screen. He has also considered asking actors to form a quarantine bubble and get tested prior to filming. 

Riri Riza, the director and writer for production company Miles Film, has been strategizing around locations because flying hundreds of people out seems complicated and unsafe. In the meantime, he has hosted several online readings for his actors. "It’s a new experience," Riza commented. "In a way, it’s very environmentally friendly and efficient."

New Opportunities for Indonesian Filmmakers

Even though it is uncertain when cinemas will reopen in Indonesia and globally, Prakasa anticipates more opportunities for filmmakers and media creators, especially with the growth of OTT (over-the-top) content that is streaming over the internet. "With companies like Disney entering the Indonesian market, it’s a breath of fresh air. There will be new opportunities to create," said Prakasa. "It’s interesting to see what will happen."

For younger filmmakers or those who look to start creating, Riza recommends tapping into the existing Indonesian film network. "Webinars and discussions are happening every week now." he said. "Make your short films. Show your sensibilities."

"It’s always about story to me," added UCLA alum, Scott Sakamoto, story and community outreach production supervisor for Walt Disney Animation Studios, who is currently working on Raya and the Last Dragon, an animated fantasy film set in a world inspired by Southeast Asia.

"Indonesian voices are so diverse and expansive. Lean into that specificity in your experience and your voice," advised Sakamoto. "See what kind of story you can tell from a lens that hasn’t been told yet."

To watch the entire panel:




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Published: Wednesday, August 19, 2020