Indonesia Expat - Meet Deborah Gabinetti -
||by: LL. Wing
Springfield, Massachusetts, Deborah is the founder of the Bali Film
Centre, an international film promotion board to ensure foreign
production companies receive professional assistance and information
when filming in Bali or anywhere in Indonesia. Ms. Gabinetti is on
the Board of Directors of the Asian Film Commission and started the
Bali International Film Festival (also known as BALINALE).
You have over 20 years of
experience in the film industry. Tell me about your experience prior
to coming here.
|I have been a member of the Screen
Actors Guild since 1977, but after years of auditioning and only
getting work in a couple of commercials and feature films, I quickly
realized I was much better at recognizing talent than being one, so
I started working at a leading modelling agency and then opened my
own NYC casting agency focusing on children.
you make your first trip to Indonesia?
1992. I didnít
have a clue where Indonesia was until a New York director friend of
mine asked if I would be interested in coming to Jakarta to work on
a couple of productions. Commercial television was just opening up
here and he was having difficulty with the talent; finding people to
cast, being prepared and showing up on time.
overwhelmed by Jakarta. Although I had come from a big city, the
smells, the sounds and the people were all so foreign to me, every
day was such a challenge. After several months of helping on a few
productions, I returned to NYC. But something about Indonesia and
the people fascinated me and I felt that one day I would return,
which I did in 1995.
I lived in Jakarta for several years,
working as a casting director and producer of childrenís programmes,
commercials and corporate videos. During that time, I had the
opportunity to work alongside major networks (CNN, ESPN, Discovery,
TNT Cartoon Network, HBO) with the newly launched Indovision, but
moved to Bali soon after due to the Asian financial crisis and the
lack of projects being developed in the capital.
did the Bali Film Centre come into existence?
Bali has a
long history of attracting filmmakers and was the setting for the
last silent film ever produced in Hollywood, Legong: Dance of the
Virgins, released in 1935 by Paramount International, directed by
Henri de La Falaise and produced by his wife actress Constance
Bennett and starring an Ďall native castí.
Since then, there
were so many foreign crews coming to film in the country,
particularly in Bali, but there was no office to provide any
assistance or support. The centre was just a natural fit and in 2002
I presented the idea to the Bali Governor to establish a film
promotion office. Two years later, the Minister of Culture &
Tourism, Bapak Ardika, gave us his endorsement to represent all of
Our main aim is to persuade more foreign
filmmakers to utilize Indonesian locations, story ideas and its
talented creative people. Itís proven that higher visibility of a
country in film or television can create a positive global image,
help boost tourism potential, generate revenue and jobs and
contribute to the growth of its domestic film industry.
You also created the Bali International Film Festival (also
known as BALINALE). When was that opened and what are you planning
for the festival this year?
Christine Hakim (award
winning filmmaker and UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador for Teacher
Education in Southeast Asia) and I founded the Bali Taksu Indonesia
Foundation in 2007. The foundationís philosophy is that the sharing
of knowledge through arts and culture builds understanding. Film has
the power through sight and sound to transport people to places, and
induce visits to foreign lands enabling greater tolerance and
acceptance of countries and cultures.
established the Bali International Film Festival, BALINALE, as a way
of supporting established and aspiring local filmmakers, discovering
new talent, and providing a platform for international industry
professionals to screen their films to a potentially huge market
while exploring potential film projects to be set here. Now in its
eighth year, BALINALE will be held at Beachwalk Mall, Kuta Beach,
Bali from 12-18 October.
What are the greatest
challenges filming in Bali and Indonesia?
film funds and grants are all major factors when a studio or
production company decides where to film. In Indonesia, there are no
official government incentives in place and it does not honour ATA
Carnet for temporary importation, making it difficult when
budgeting. However, the government is very supportive of the film
industry and does provide support on a project-by-project basis. The
related ministries are currently discussing strategies to further
develop the countryís appeal to filmmakers.
shot here in Bali was the most interesting to work on?
We are extremely proud to have been a part of Sony Picturesí Eat
Pray Love. When I learned that Plan B Entertainment had bought the
rights to Elizabeth Gilbertís book, I flew to LA to meet the
producers personally. I felt it was crucial to get them to
experience Bali first-hand, so invited them to the BALINALE where
they would have an opportunity to see Indonesian movies and meet
talented local filmmakers to prove that there was a viable industry
that could offer the required support.
Eat Pray Love was the
first major studio film shot in the country with locations
throughout Bali, including Padang Beach, Benoa Harbour, Kintamani,
Lake Batur, Ubud and Nusa Lembongan Island.
the funniest on-set situation you have experienced?
Well, the director wouldnít call it funny because we lost the shot,
and it was a very silly mistake on my part, but we were filming a
scene from the highly popular Korean series An Occurrence in Bali
for Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS) at Uluwatu Temple, when a monkey
jumped on my back and yanked out my earring. The lead actress was so
terrified that they had to postpone filming, not to mention that I
lost my diamond stud!
How do you see the future
impact of film in Indonesia?
Due to the success of these
past projects, Indonesia is now firmly on the film location map.
Indonesia, in general, has such a wealth of untapped resources,
hidden filming locations, rich story ideas and a talented pool of
creative individuals. 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
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 adds to a film
In order to meet the growing needs of an
industry that is now more creatively diverse and technically
skilled, we are expanding our capabilities and services with plans
in place to support the industry through training and workshops, and
build a studio facility and international film training centre to
accommodate the increased interest in Indonesia as a filming