‘Indonesians Are Among the Most Innovative Filmmakers in the World’

Bali’s global image is about to get a major boost, with the release in August of Julia Roberts movie Eat, Pray, Love, which was part-filmed around the island. This proves, says Deborah Gabinetti of the Bali Film Centre, that Bali has strong potential for further movie locations. The Springfield, Massachusetts, native moved to Bali in 1998, after living several years in Jakarta, and founded the BALINALE International Film Festival. Gabinetti, 50, spoke with Carla Albertí de la Rosa about Indonesia’s budding film prospects.

 

Deborah Gabinetti: A large expatriate population from across the globe adds to a film destination.

 

Eat, Pray, Love is released next month. Do you think it will inspire more filmmakers to shoot in Bali?

With Eat, Pray, Love we proved our ability to successfully service a major studio production – Sony Pictures Entertainment – which is key when trying to attract film projects to a mostly uncharted location. We have now put Indonesia, not just Bali, on the global list of potential film locations.

Eat, Pray, Love’s cinematographer is two-time Academy Award-winning Bob Richardson, whose style and use of light will certainly add to the beauty and magic of the film’s locations. 

The film will also expose the talented local workforce, both in front of and behind the camera.

Asia seems to represent a particularly diverse range of options for international productions and there also is a sense that standards across Asia are being raised. What are Asia’s most popular locations and why are they in demand?

Thailand has been booming with foreign films for many years with a strong local film environment, but industry insiders say their locations have been over-exposed. Hong Kong and India also have a healthy local film industry. Story ideas and remakes from Korea, China and Japan have all been successfully translated to the big screen.

We were fortunate that Eat, Pray, Love was (part) set in Bali and that director Ryan Murphy wanted to stay true to the book in featuring the original locations in the story.

Incentives, film funds and grants are all major factors when deciding where to film.

What are Bali’s outstanding features when promoting the island to filmmakers around the world?

Colourful, living culture; elaborate ceremonies; temples; extinct and active volcanoes; terraced ricefields; palatial ruins; royal water gardens; gold- and black-sand beaches; traditional villages; waterfalls; ocean cliffs; diverse underwater scenery; and stone cities are all located here.

This along with an international airport, world-class hotel facilities and a friendly and accommodating population makes Bali an attractive location for filming.

What, if any, facilities have been developed for Bali’s film industry over the past few years to make the island a more competitive location?

We are presently in serious discussions to develop facilities in Bali to support and expand our capabilities and services to meet the growing needs of the industry.

Some complexities, such as the difficulty of navigating local regulations and customs, might put off foreign filmmakers when choosing Bali as their location.

What are other common obstacles filmmakers encounter and is there a body that helps them overcome these barriers?

Bali Film Center acts as a one-stop shop, streamlining the filming process for visiting production companies. We are the only internationally recognised office of its kind in Indonesia.

We actively participate in industry events, offer professional assistance with permit facilitation, customs and immigration clearance, crew/talent and equipment hire and provide research and information in a timely manner.

To what extent is terrorism an impediment in attracting filmmakers to Indonesia?

Unfortunately terrorist attacks occur around the world. This is just one of the tough questions we get when presenting the country, but we have been able to address their concerns and extend an invitation for them to come and see the situation firsthand. 

This is what we did when we learned that Plan B Entertainment bought the rights to Eat, Pray, Love. We flew to LA to invite the executive producer, Stan Wlodkowski, to Bali. We scheduled his trip to coincide with the BALINALE International Film Festival, where he had an opportunity to meet the local film industry, see quality Indonesian films and visit the locations featured in the book. We knew that once we got him here we had him hooked, but it meant us taking the first step.

The fourth annual BALINALE, from October 12 to 17, gives Indonesian filmmakers an opportunity to present their work to a global audience while networking with international filmmakers. How are Indonesian filmmakers regarded and how do you see the festival developing?

Firstly, a successful festival depends almost entirely on the generous support of our sponsors, partners and the enthusiastic support of the community. We sincerely appreciate the confidence shown in the growth of the festival.

Indonesians are some of the most creatively diverse, technically skilled and innovative filmmakers in the world, winning awards internationally and being recognised globally.

Of the 24 sold-out and standing-room-only films screened during last year, five were Indonesian productions with one winning the BALINALE 2009 Audience Choice Award. We hope to have many Indonesian film submissions for consideration of this year’s festival.

We have plans to expand the festival to include a Film Market for the television and media industry, develop co-productions, network with industry professionals and present and discover future trends.

Continuing with our workshops and seminars is also an important part of the festival’s future growth.

Who’s the star workshop attraction this year?

Although celebrities can lend excitement to an event, it’s usually brief. What we try to focus on is more long-term and industry-related, targeting filmmakers who would consider bringing a project here, like Eat, Pray, Love, thereby contributing to the local economy, generating jobs and creating a positive global image.

Our first workshop, planned for August at the Grand Hyatt Jakarta, is on Developing a Film Market for Indonesia to be held with the Motion Picture Association of America.

Is the Indonesian government providing incentives for filmmakers to shoot here, such as tax breaks or similar?

There are no official government incentives in place, but the government does provide support on a project-by-project basis.

Do you think the ongoing political turmoil in Thailand gives Indonesia an edge on locations in Southeast Asia?

There are several potential projects slated for Thailand that Indonesia has been put forward.

How realistic is it to expect increasing numbers of film companies to shoot in Indonesia? After all, not many movies call for tropical settings.

We have much more to offer than just tropical settings. Stretching over 5,000 kilometres, Indonesia is the largest archipelago in the world. Being so vast and geographically and culturally diverse means that there is very little visual background that cannot be provided for any action or era – from colonial buildings to deserted pink-sand beaches, tropical rainforests and tribal villages.

Indonesia, in general, has a wealth of untapped resources, hidden filming locations, rich story ideas and a talented pool of creative individuals.

Large numbers of extras available on short notice from several different ethnic groups, including people of Polynesian, Central Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, Papuan, Melanesian, Aboriginal, Portuguese and Dutch descent, with a large expatriate population from across the globe, also add to a film destination.

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