• Photo: LAIFF (2020)

In a panel discussion, filmmakers discuss the future of marketing and viewership in Indonesia as the pandemic halted film production, forcing new approaches to distribution to emerge.

By Kitty Hu (UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies)

Digital paves the way

In the new normal, COVID-19 has disrupted almost every field and the entertainment industry is no exception. Panelists for the live discussion on September 17, 2020 hosted by the Los Angeles Indonesian Film Festival debated how these changes would impact movie marketing strategies and what the future might hold for Indonesian cinema. This virtual panel brought together filmmakers and audience members from across the globe to highlight some of the opportunities in Indonesia that might look different than those in the United States.

The event was co-sponsored by UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies, the Indonesian Consulate in Los Angeles, USC School of Cinematic Arts, Indonesian Bruins Student Association at UCLA and Permias Santa Monica College, Permias Los Angeles, and Permias Nasional.

"This is a particular moment where there is so much happening. We’re in a crisis; there’s no doubt about it,” said Akira Mizuta Lippit, Vice Dean of Faculty at USC School of Cinematic Arts. "The history of film and television has moved forward through moments of crisis. The demand for creative work is unprecedented."

With audiences looking for new forms of entertainment, stimulation, and knowledge, Lippit believes there is opportunity for an even more global film community. Ivan Makhsara, co-founder and head of content at Poplicist Publicist, argues that digital platforms are the way forward. The pandemic has changed how the industry is viewed on a large scale, but one thing is undoubtedly clear: streaming services have changed viewer behavior.

The growth of streaming

For several years, Manoj Punjabi, CEO of MD Pictures, has been waiting for OTT, or over-the-top media streaming services, to come to Indonesia. COVID-19 has accelerated that process, disrupting the market.

"There will be standard marketing, such as on social media, but the idea is now: how can we create attention from the digital side?" asked Punjabi. "Nobody knows what will happen, but we have to strategize. How we market will shift case by case."

For Winston Utomo, founder and CEO of IDN Media, this is a time to gather more audience insight to understand what people want and enjoy watching. OTT is good for the film industry in that it brings in new profits and democratizes media consumption. People no longer have to rely on theaters, which were more costly, to watch new films.

"There will be a place for theatrical releases, but probably not in the way it has existed in the past," suggested Lippit. "The rethinking of the terms by which we recognize films, not only the ways in which we produce, market, and distribute them…the entire process of how we recognize and consume cinema is being rethought at this moment. But this transformation has been happening before the pandemic."

What will viewing patterns look like in the future? Will theaters only be for special occasions?

Opportunities are converging

When moderator Yafi Fayruz brought up the concept of drive-in theaters, panelists agreed that drive-ins work as a form of short-term relief, but are not economically viable in the long run. In Indonesia, there is not a strong culture around drive-ins, according to Makhsara. However, because Indonesia’s film industry is still an emerging market, change can happen quickly. Punjabi estimates that the limited number of screens in Indonesia will allow for theaters to come back faster than those in the United States.

Despite the discussion around streaming and theatrical releases, there is a consensus that previously separate areas of entertainment are increasingly overlapping with animation, game design, production, visual effects, and other departments collaborating more often. Lippit encourages younger filmmakers and creators to take advantage of this time and imagine new modes of production and methods of distribution that would not have been possible a decade before.

"This is a time for learning, experimenting, and even inventing things," stated Makhsara. "We are challenging ourselves everyday."

To watch the full panel:





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Published: Monday, September 21, 2020