Putting Indonesia on the filmmaker's map
Trisha Sertori , Contributor , Gianyar |
Former New York casting
agent, Deborah Gabinetti, fell in love with Indonesia --
Jakarta in fact -- almost two decades ago. She sort of
bumped into the archipelago somewhere "between 57th and
ninth avenue in New York" back in 1990 and has been a
fixture of the island nation almost ever since.
bumped into a director friend on the corner between 57th and
ninth. I was walking my dog and he said he was going to
Indonesia to do some films, tourism videos and things. You
know Americans and geography ... I thought, 'Indonesia,
where the heck is that?'," says Gabinetti.
promotes Indonesia to filmmakers around the world; giving
many people a glance at the archipelago and its locational
Freshly returned from the annual Los Angeles AFCI
film locations trade show, a trip she has made five times, Gabinetti
says doors to Indonesia are swinging open as its potential to
provide film locations becomes more recognized.
"I have been
promoting Indonesia as a prime filmmaking location since around
2002. Now I am meeting one-on-one with the presidents of physical
productions, they are the guys that green-light film projects," says
Working from an A-list, Gabinetti met with production
heads at Warner Brothers, Dreamworks, Walt Disney, Paramount
Pictures and Sony/Columbia Pictures. These meetings could
potentially put Indonesia on the filmmakers' map. She also met with
film producers from Plan B Entertainment.
"I met with the
producers from Plan B Entertainment, Brad Pitt's film company, to
discuss Eat, Pray, Love (the book) which they have just bought the
film rights too. Julia Roberts is slated to play the lead," says
Gabinetti, pointing out to shoot the Balinese chapters of the book
outside of Bali would be difficult.
"I joked that they can't
film that anywhere else. They laughed and said 'This is Hollywood'
where they can," quips Gabinetti.
Terrorism fears barely got
a mention during her meetings with the film executives.
"Only Walt Disney raised the terrorism issue. The others just talked
about the fact Indonesia is an untested country for major motion
Gabinetti's passion for film is what
first brought her to Indonesia, albeit accidentally. Since then the
country has been an endless source of surprise, much like a life
changing phone call she received 18 years ago.
"Back then I
had jokingly suggested that if my director friend needed an
assistant in Indonesia to give me a call. He did. Six months later
he called from Indonesia saying he was having trouble getting people
to be on time and could I come out and help. So I flew here for a
few months and did what I could.
"Looking back I don't know
what I was supposed to achieve. There was the language barrier, the
cultural barrier in what was then a new industry here, the
television industry," she says.
"Immediately after I
arrived, something about Indonesia struck a chord and I knew I
wanted to live my life here."
Jakarta opened its arms to
Gabinetti in 1991. "(It was) a mecca, a happening place. It was
culturally very stimulating," says Gabinetti, adding Jakartans made
her feel at home during the sometimes trying adaptation to her new
Those first six months of creating a new life in
Indonesia were tough going. "I do find there is a testing time that
determines whether this (Indonesia) is for you.
for that first six months I was crying. I think just from the
uncertainty of what I had chosen to do and from the loneliness. I
knew I could always go back (to the United States). I realized I
could always leave, but I knew it would be twice as hard to come
back," says Gabinetti.
She says it all became easier when
she realized that the new world around her was not going to change
to accommodate the lifestyle she was used to.
realized Indonesian social culture was not going to adjust to me,
that it was up to me to adjust, and in so many ways for the better,
my life here began to grow. I developed tolerance, open mindedness,
a spirituality, it made me a better person," she says.
flexibility Gabinetti learned through her testing first six months
has served her well. The monetary crisis of 1998 almost wrote off
her promotions business in Jakarta. But Gabinetti saw it as an
"Jobs were drying up in Jakarta and I did not
want to leave Indonesia so I came to Bali, which at the time, was a
fraction of the cost of living and there was still a need for
marketing and public relations.
"Bali still had tourists, in
fact more when the rupiah bottomed out at 17,000 to one US dollar.
At the time I was still interested in film and television. There
were a number of productions coming through Bali. I think there were
around 20 in two years and no film office to support that
logistically," says Gabinetti. Gabinetti saw an opening.
Tapping into the film market is what Gabinetti has spent the last
few years doing. Today she manages the Bali Film Center, a
designated office to promote Indonesia to filmmakers around the
"We opened the office in 2002. We had huge support
from Pak Pitana (then director of the Bali Tourism Office). He was
truly a visionary in getting this up. He saw the potential for
Indonesia and I am grateful to this day," says Gabinetti.
says that the current US$285,000,000 Asian Film Fund, set up by The
Weinstein Company, will make 13 motion pictures in Asia over the
next five years. However, it left Indonesia off its original film
"Indonesia was not originally thought about. It is
© 2001-2013 Bali Film Center