The team behind Netflix's Crazy Awesome Teachers share their insights and experiences from production in the final event for the 2020 Los Angeles Indonesian Film Festival.

By Kitty Hu (UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies)

Crazy Awesome Program

In the final program of the Los Angeles Indonesian Film Festival (LAIFF), actor Gading Marten and actor-producer Dian Sastrowardoyo discuss the filmmaking process behind Crazy Awesome Teachers (Guru-Guru Gokil), a comedic drama on Netflix. The film follows a team of teachers as they chase after a gangster who stole money which would have paid their salaries.

Moderated by Yafi Fayruz and supported by Indonesian Consulate in Los Angeles, UCLA Center for Southeast Asian Studies, Indonesian Bruins Student Association, PERMIAS Nasional, PERMIAS Los Angeles, and PERMIAS Santa Monica College, this panel covered the conception of the film to the future of Indonesian filmmaking.

Participants from all over the world were able to interact directly with the actors and asks questions via Zoom as the virtual event was broadcasted to a wider audience on YouTube and Facebook livestream. 

An Homage to Teachers

Sastrowardoyo shared that the film was originally intended for a wide theatrical release, but through a series of events, is now the second-ever Indonesian film to be a Netflix original.

"We wanted to make a story that teachers could relate to. It’s an homage to their dedication and calling to become a teacher," Sastrowardoyo said. "We can now share the localness of this story to a more global audience."

In Indonesia, many teachers are still paid in cash, Sastrowardoyo explained. "Imagine how dangerous and vulnerable that situation is," Sastrowardoyo added. "It’s not prioritizing the teachers so that’s why through the film, even in a comedy, we are trying to raise awareness and pressure the government to change this system."

In preparation for his character, Taat Pribadi who involuntarily becomes a teacher, Marten reflected on his former teachers and worked with an organization to meet part-time teachers in a village. He learned about issues such as extremely low teacher wages and irregular student attendance, proving that "teaching is a calling" and teachers must "really want to dedicate their lives." He urged, "I want people to respect teachers."

Marten said he also learned from his father, who is like a teacher to him. "We can learn from anywhere," he shared.

Shifting roles

Coming from a background in acting, Sastrowardoyo shared how she wanted to move into a producer role to shape the types of films that are made and show how different stories can shift culture. She hopes that through films about Indonesia, people globally will learn more about the country and see it as a place to travel to in the future.

"I made a promise to myself to never limit what I can do and learn," she said. "I still enjoy acting and am waiting for my favorite directors and writers to pitch me."

Marten would also love to produce his own film one day. As a comedian-actor, he fell in love with the film industry and felt that it was important for crew and cast members to work in sync. He said it is critical to understand his position in each role and not overdo any character, which ultimately takes away from the story.

Sastrowardoyo’s advice for emerging actors is to sustain your stamina. Even if she is doing takes over and over again or enduring long days, she remembers that audiences only see your performance once and a professional attitude can heavily impact future potential projects.

"It’s about commitment," Marten added. "Actors are that crazy."

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Published: Monday, December 14, 2020