A Conversation with Edwin
Interview by: Alexis A. Tioseco
AT: So you and Sidi ordered it on your own?
E: Yeah. We just said Ė okay do you have money? I have money here Ė and we bought all the stuff.
AT: How much did you spend?
E: About $300 US with the chemicals; and with the bucket [for] processing.
AT: How much stock did you buy?
E: AboutÖ seven cans? I think five cans. Five cans.
AT: Each roll isÖ
E: Five hundred thousand rupiahs.
AT: How many minutes?
E: About ten minutes.
AT: So you had about fifty minutes of film?
E: Five cans and fifty minutes, but we used only about three and a half cans. So we have one and a half cans, still.
AT: And the project that you did do for school is Kara [Anak Sebatang Pohon/Kara, Daughter of a Tree]?
AT: Itís your final project?
E: It should be my final project.
AT: Should be your final project. And you were telling me that Kara, in your paper, in your defense for the film or your explanation, you talk about DV vs. Film.
E: The problem is not that Iím using DV and film; the problem that the school had is just the aspect ratio format.
AT: I see.
E: The school wants all of the projects to be finished in 1:33 aspect ratio. TV format. But thatís point number two [in our instructions], but in point number five they say that the film form and film style could be anything; itís free. So I skipped rule number two because of rule number five. Because aspect ratio is part of film style, itís in cinematography theory. So I insisted to have 1:66 aspect ratio because I want to tell it [with] more landscape coverage, with poetic feelings. I donít want to capture reality as real; I want to capture it in a poetic way. You can beat me if Iím wrong about this opinion on why I should use 1:66 only for poetic storytelling, I can accept that, but if you just disagree with my using this format because of your 1:33 rules, I cannot accept that.
AT: Pardon my memoryóthe ratio of the DV is 1:33?
E: The DV is also 1:66.
AT: Itís also 1:66. With regard to the filmóit starts off and you have the father and the wife running in the fields, you hear the sounds, and you see the landscape, go into the house. And all of a sudden Ronald falls from the sky. At first you show the shots of the sketches, the sketches of her, the husbands sketches of the wife, and then you show him cradling the baby, with Ronald in the corner. Then you close up on the wife, then on Ronald, then you hear the shrill, the scream, and then you have the girl, the face of the girl, grown, in aerial view, and sheís by herself. The most easiest thing to say is its about globalization, and how it affects us no matter how far off we are, but one of the questions I wanted to ask isówhat happened to the father?
E: What happened to the father?
AT: What happened to the father?
E: In that story the father is not important anymore, so I just skipped the story of the father [laughs].
AT: This one is your own script?
E: Yeah. If somebody asked me where is the father? The father doesnít care. The father only loves Ladya.
AT: Only loves Ladya. Who is the wife.
E: I want to portray a poetic couple. They are living by their love. So if one of them dies, the other dies. But I donít think I need to shoot how the father dies, [he] just vanishes. Skip the character. Because I have to focus on this them of globalization and media exploitation so I chose to focus on Kara, and not interrupt it with the father. Maybe because itís a short filmÖ
AT: After that, Kara is alone in the woods. She is eating, surviving on her own. And then there is a guy who pops up and takes photos every once in a while. She obviously doesnít like him; she throws an apple at him. At one point heís taking her photo in the middle of a field, and she disappears, he spins around and he canít find her. The camera follows his movements, spinning, and then all of a sudden youíre in the city and you switched to DV.
Why did you switch to DV for the city?
E: Ok. The city. I want to move from the poetic layer to the reality layer. We believe that everything you do with celluloid, with 16 or 35, or the celluloid medium, it always seems like Ďotherí reality. It is more poetic. Whatever you do, even if you scratch it like Dajang Soembi, it is still poetic, it is still Ďotherí reality, because of the techniques of the recording, there is a persistence of vision when you make the image like [makes sound] pakpakpakpakpak. It stays in your memory, twenty-four frames per second. I think that is the important difference between DV and film, because DV, the way it works, the way it gives colors. Itís hard to capture details with DV, it seems like only an impression. Like if you see in reality, if you are used to something, like letís say if you are in TIM [Editorís note: the film theater in IKJ] for one month and you know every corner. Then you lose the details, [what remains] is just the impression. Thatís DV. We donít need details. We are individuals with DV. I want to have the feeling like that when we shoot the sequence in DV. That is the difference when you use it.
AT: When you shot it, you didnít just use DV, but with the camera work you are disorienting. You put the camera upside down, youíre following all around and the camera is moving like that.
E: Thatís DV. So small, so easy. We donít care about the lighting; we donít care about the composition. Thatís life. Thatís real. When you watch reality you donít want to compose, you donít want to see this glass [touches glass on table] and compose it. You just want to see the glass. And if I look at it like this [turns head quickly], I still see the glass.
AT: Even if you turn your head quickly.
E: Yeah. Thatís the image of DV, the reality captured by DV. So I want to experiment with how this DV can be a tool for communication.
AT: Youíve made a documentary using DV. But is it something youíre very strict about in terms of making your fiction films, that you want to shoot them on film?
E: Yeah, if I have a story that should be shot on film, I should try my best to make the film on film.
AT: Have you made fiction [films] shot on DV?
E: Yeah. Fiction, itís a comedy-thing that I made with three other friends, co-directed, its DV, but we are having fun. So Iíd rather not say that itís purely my vision, [my] cinema, but itís a friendship thing.
AT: So each of these three, along with the fourth one that weíll talk about after, were shot onÖ
AT: 16 or super 16?
AT: Before we get to a A Very Boring Conversation perhaps you can talk about Kara, and explain what happened with the school and why, with this film, you didnít get to graduate.
E: I finished the film, but the report was just late because something happened in Berlin while I was in the Berlinale Talent Campus. I lost my bag actually, and all my papers were in that bag.
AT: Itís a print-out of your paper?
E: No, itís a material for writing it. I prepared this theory, these are printed papers, and I need these theories, [this] background. So I had to find it again, and because thatís copied from a book and not the Internet, and because I was in Rotterdam, it was very difficult. I tried to find the book in a library or a bookstore, but it was in Dutch.
AT: Itís from Bordwellís Film Art?
E: One of the books is Bordwell, one book ofÖ itís a DV technical theory. I forgot the name. Sidi gave me this book. I lost it. So I start from the beginning, making this, but I donít have enough time because of the Berlin Talent Campus and the Rotterdam Film Festival. I managed to finish it, but I couldnít e-mail it. So I had to finish it in Jakarta, and when it was finished they said that the deadline was over. It was three days late.
AT: How long after you arrived did you submit it?
E: I think one day, for printing.
AT: And they said ďitís three days late, we wonít take it.Ē
E: I tried to talk to the head of the departmentóthe Dean of the faculty. We have three Deans, but I only talked with these two Deans because these are the two that are responsible for the studentís things. Dean number three, who is Nan Achnas [Editorís note: director of the film Whispering Sands], she was trying to help me, sheís was ok with the delay, but the other Deans would not accept it, because it is quite an important thing, to be disciplined and to submit your material on time. My film was submitted before I left for Rotterdam, so they watched the film, so [the reason for] their decision is quite clear.
AT: Who were the other two [Deans]?
E: Old men [smiles]. The decision-maker is Dean number one, a very old man. Actually we are not close to each other. I havenít had any lectures by him. He is a scriptwriter. And Iím sure he didnít see any films of his students.
AT: And what were you thinking, how were you feeling after that?
E: Yes, it was my fault because of this lateness. But I thought, I studied there for five years, and Iím growing withÖ
Actually in this school, discipline had not been the most important thing, but that year they realized that they have to have alumni with good discipline. So it was like the program for the year. Iím usually late, one week, but they would still accept it. And I was sure that it would be ok because I called a friend and asked ďwhen is the judgment day?Ē, they didnít know the date so they hadnít decided the date. They decided the deadline for submission, but they didnít decide the deadline for the judgment day. You know, where you come to defend the film in front a panel. And they didnít decide who will be the judges.
So when I came to submit [my paper] three days late, they still hadnít set a date for when the judgment would be, so I think itís quite possible [that they could still accept my paper]. Why should they care about the deadline because if I submitted that day, itís still okay, because the judge hasnít been chosen yet, and the date [for defense] has not been decided yet? In the book of our school rules, it says that late submission for the reports is ten days before the judgment day. And since there is no day set for the judgment, what is the problem? I donít understand.
AT: When I first talked to you about it, you said you still wanted to get your degree even though it would mean one more year and a new thesis film.
AT: At first you wanted to do it because for your parents it was important for them to see the degree.
E: Yeah, I was actually trying to do it with A Very Boring Conversation, that was the material I wrote for the next yearís thesis. But thinking about it againóitís not my fault. I donít want to make a film because of their faults, and I donít want to make a film because I have to. So I decided to quit the school, but still made the film, A Very Boring Conversation.
AT: Is it also that the tuition is expensive if you have to enroll again?
E: Actually no, because I have a scholarship for this school. I donít have to pay any money for enrollment, I just have to pay for the film processing, but I still have a voucher that I won in JIFFest for Dajang Soembi, so itís easy to make a film for that.
AT: So itís really just a stand that you donít want toÖ
E: Yeah. And I cannot stand to sit and beg, because I believe I will face these same persons. I donít want to sacrifice my film. I believe if I have no freedom to make this film, even only for the graduation, I cannot sacrifice the film.
AT: And your parents were okay with it?
E: [pause] No, not ok. They know that Kara went to Cannes, but what is Cannes, they donít know? It won a Citra award at Festival Film Indonesia [for] Best Short Film. They know the Citra Award. But now I think itís okay. I explained [that] itís not my fault. They were just disappointed thatóďwhy are you stubborn, you just make another [film], we can give you moneyĒ. I told them ďthe problem is not moneyĒ. They just think that if you have no degree, you have no papers, [then it is] difficult to find a job. And I explained to them, ďI have a job now [as second assistant director to Riri Riza on Gie and first assistant director on Dear Rena], and I will maintain my job now as good as I can, so donít worryĒ, I told them. My mother especially.
AT: I want to ask you about how you make your films.
AT: Yes, your process. Because you showed me your treatment for Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly, and it, like many of your scripts, arenít very conventional scripts. So can you tell me about the scripts for each of your films?
E: Okay. In A Very Slow Breakfast, like in Kara, and A Very Boring Conversation it was a similar process, but not with Dajang Soembi, because it was written by another person, Daud Sumalong. I always begin with one image. In A Very Slow Breakfast the first image that I have in my head is the father drinking the coffee full of dandruff. So I start from this image, and try to make a connection between shots. In Kara, when Ronald killed the mother. In A Very Boring Conversation I just want to see a sexy stewardess in her late 40s. Yes, and [itís] simply like that.
AT: And which ones were written as conventional scripts, and which were written just as linesÖ
E: Conventional script is A Very Boring Conversation and Kara. Kara because itís a school project, and A Very Boring Conversation because itís a dialogue [driven film]. So I need to have a precise [script], I need to commit to the dialogue with the actors. But the others, since there is no dialogue, the visuals are more important than anything [else], so I kind of make little notes. Poetic, but not as abstract as poetryÖ
AT: A kind of proseÖ
E: A kind of prose. So the crew, cameraman, actors can interpret their feelings freely. We have discussions about our impressions, and we realize [the film] together.
AT: Each of your films, A Very Slow Breakfast, Dajang Soembi, and A Very Boring Conversation, are all one-day shoots?
E: A Very Boring Conversation ó one day. A Very Slow Breakfast ó one day. Dajang Soembi óone day. Kara is nine days.
AT: Does it involve very much preparation for you and your crew before the day of shoot, in order for you to shoot the whole film in one day?
E: Yeah. The longest is A Very Slow Breakfast, because it is my first. The fastest is A Very Boring Conversation.
AT: Shortest preparation?
E: Yeah. Shortest preparation. But the editing process always takes me quite a long time.
AT: How is your collaboration with your different techniciansócinematographers, sound designersÖ?
E: From Dajang Soembi to A Very Boring Conversation the cinematographer is the same person, Sidi Saleh.
AT: You were together in school?
E: Yes, we were in the same batch. The collaboration is likeÖwe just like and connect with each other, so itís easy. I always maintain personal [relationship with my crew], we are always updated with each otherís personal life. So we know if there is a change in the mentality or personality of a person. So when we shoot, you expect no more than what you have.
AT: This is something youíve developed over time?
AT: From the start, were you already good friends with Sidi?
E: From the start. From Dajang Soembi, we are good friends. We started talking [about] films because we [both] disagree with the systems of the school. So we started to make experiments and we did commercial music video projects together too. We always talk about the systems, why the systems restrict our freedom. So basically all of these films are like our answers to how we see the systems.
AT: By systems, are you talking just about the school, or about filmmaking, and about Indonesia as well?
E: Filmmaking, the industry and the society of these filmmakers. But we are in Jakarta, and [here] the school is quite important, because a lot of the professionals come from this school. And the way that we read the scene [is that] if somethingís happened in Indonesian cinema, it has something to do with the school.
AT: And now you are developing your close team, which includes your sound designer. What is his name?
E: His name is Wahyun Putrinomo, but we call him Iponk. We are close since A Very Slow Breakfast until now. Sound is very important and itís not easy [for me] to talk about technical things, because Iím not good at hearing, I only concentrate, if you want to see the film, I only choose whether [I will concentrate] on the picture or the dialogue, I cannot concentrate on the two at the same time. With Iponk, I believe his sense, his taste with sound, and I just liberate him. I just tell him that my vision about the film is like this, and can you interpret it technically. And then he tries and he shows me ďIs it like this?Ē, [and I say] ďYeah butÖĒ and we are flexible to find the film.
AT: And he is one year ahead of you in IKJ, and now heís teaching there?
AT: Did Sidi graduate?
E: Sidi graduated. Iponk graduated. And one [other collaborator] is the Art Director.
AT: Who is the Art Director?
E: Eros Efril. He did A Very Slow Breakfast and Kara and almost all of my music videos and Blind Pig. He is very senior in Indonesian filmmaking. His first film was with Riri Riza, Sherinaís Adventure. He is still a professional Art Director. He makes music videos, commercials, films. I knew him when we were living in the same houseówe rented the same house. Heís like a big, big brother lah; because heís not married yet. We still hang out at TIM; sometimes we hunt for DVDs.
AT: What is your collaboration like?
E: As you can see in A Very Slow Breakfast and in Kara the sets are always like a character for me. So how I work with Eros Efril, I just tell [him about] the characters, what kind of person is Kara, what kind of person is Linda [from Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly]. So he lists down what are their properties, he draws [it]. What is their room, what color? He proposes the design and we make it. Itís all based on characters.
AT: Heís been working with you since Slow Breakfast. Was it hard to get him to work for you, because he was already established and you were still a student?
E: Itís not hard actually. Heís a nice person, even though heís very senior. He appreciates experimenting with the younger generation [of filmmakers]; heís still helping students make independent projects.
AT: Does he also teach in IKJ?
E: No. He did not finish his studiesÖ
AT: I see. Your actress in Kara and now also for Blind Pig, Ladya Cheryl. How did you first meet and how did you decide to cast her?
E: My first impression came from Ada Apa Dengan Cinta, her first film. They have five characters, Dian Sastro is the leading character, but I felt like Ladya has more cinema magnetism, cinema screen presence. I personally know her [because] she was the girlfriend of my friend Rako.
AT: Before she made the film?
E: After she made it. Because Rako is the Assistant Director in Ada Apa Dengan Cinta. Ladya is the type who wants to makeÖ she is interested in short films. And she wants to learn the form and Rako told her to talk to me, because she was offered to be a kind of judge of an independent school festival [competition], or part of a panel discussion. So she was like, ďI donít know anything about short films, but they offered me [to be part of this].Ē I think itís her former school.
She just came to me, and we watched a lot of short films and we talked about short films, and we got to know each other quite well. I personally adore her life; I thought [her life] was quite complicated for her age, and I respect how she handled it.
AT: When she talked to you about short films, is it because she wanted to make or act in short films, or was it just to know about them?
E: Just to learn. Just to know. What is the difference, maybe, between short films and feature films, and why people make short films.
AT: So after you had talked for a long time, you decided to cast her for Kara?
E: Actually, I just asked her, I didnít cast her. ďWould you please act for my film?Ē, and she hadnít read the script, because I told her itís only a small part, maybe only two minutes on screen, youíre just running, and then you give birth. So she received the script, and she just asked where the shooting location would be. I told her itís in Mount Sumel. Coincidentally she has this obsession with climbing mountains, but her mother does not allow her to. But with this film, she treated it like a job, so she proposed it to her mother and it was ok. She has a fondness for climbing mountains I think.
AT: Now with Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly, the feature that youíre preparing, youíve decided to ask her again.
E: Yeah, one of the main sequences was developed together with Ladya, just after we finished shooting Kara. I had this image of a firecracker blowing in someoneís month, and I texted her ďIs it cool enough, to see this scene in [a] movieĒ? And she replied enthusiastically. This was about two years ago. So itís my commitment to make films with her, and I really want to make this film for her. We talk about everything Ė ďWhat is in your head Ladya? You can use this character to express it. What you want to tell people about yourself with this characterĒ. So we developed the character and Blind Pig.
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