Indonesia and Hollywood Team Up
Local studio joins forces with 21st Century Fox for Wiro Sableng film
By Ismira Lutfia Tisnadibrata
Friday, March 10, 2017
Following last year’s deregulation of the film industry under the Negative Investment List, the move is beginning to bear fruit, with a major Hollywood studio joining forces with an Indonesian production company on a local film.
After almost two years of preparation, Indonesia’s Lifelike Pictures is set to start production on an Indonesian language action-comedy-fantasy film in cooperation with Fox International Productions (FIP), a subsidiary of global film company 21st Century Fox. The subject of the film is popular fictional hero Wiro Sableng 212, whose number 212 is both his logo and weapon of choice.
The cooperation with the Hollywood heavyweight includes story development, production, local and perhaps international distribution.
Chairman of the Indonesian Investment Coordinating Board, Thomas Lembong, said he welcomed the cooperation, crediting President Joko Widodo’s deregulation efforts.
“We want to have a transfer of technology and expertise – not just the money – by opening up to foreign investment in this sector,” Lembong said, adding that the film industry will also gain many new jobs.
This will be FIP’s first cooperation with an Indonesian production house, although it is no stranger to cooperation in the Asian region, with co-production of The Wailing and The Yellow Sea by South Korean director Na Hong Jin already under its belt.
“I am very happy to be involved in the Wiro Sableng 212 production and very proud to work with Lifelike’s creative team, which is very inspiring,” Tomas Jegeus, FIP president said. “We are honored to be the first Hollywood studio that forges cooperation with an Indonesian production house and we hope to have more such cooperation in the future.”
Jegeus also said that he was very impressed by the full team's creativity. “I can feel the creative vibes in Indonesia. It feels like the beginning of many projects, not just the 212 film,” he said.
Lifelike producer Sheila Timothy said during a press conference to announce the cooperation on February 9 that it took her team well over a year in creative preparation and to come up with a financing strategy.
“We also turned to foreign investment but we wanted to make sure this is not just about money but also expertise in choreographing the martial arts poses,” Sheila said, adding that she was comfortable with FIP because she found Jegeus to be very appreciative of Indonesia’s local wisdom and culture.
“Finally, in the beginning of 2017, we agreed to cooperate in producing a commercial movie based on the Wiro Sableng character, especially since it has become a legendary and very popular character in Indonesia,” said Sheila, whose younger sister Marsha Timothy and her husband Vino G. Bastian are cast in the film. Vino is the son of the original story’s author, the late Bastian Tito.
Gonna be a hit
Sheila said she is sure that Lifelike’s experience and FIP’s expertise will achieve maximum results during production, during which the team will take advantage of a transfer of technology from FIP.
She also said she expected the film would be a hit, with 50:50 investment for both sides.
“We will spend as much money as we need to,” Michael Werner, FIP Asia consultant and the movie’s executive producer, said.
“The film will have sort of a Hollywood edge to the post production. We will help but not direct the project,” he added. "I just want to help them bring [the story] to life after hearing everything.".
The Wiro Sableng body of work consists of 185 stories and was written over 39 years from 1967 to 2006. Each book sold hundreds of thousands of copies, with some reaching the million mark. To get better acquainted with the character, Sheila and her team did their research by reading them all and making an inventory of the stories in a logbook.
Werner, who introduced Sheila to Jegeus, said he was “blown away” when Sheila introduced him to the Wiro Sableng 212 story and its historical aspects.
He added that the strength of Wiro Sableng 212, which will be titled Warrior 212 in the English version of the movie, combined with the latest development of Indonesia’s movie industry, made the production the right choice as the first FIP co-production in Southeast Asia.
Vino, who was chosen to play Wiro after the production team conducted a poll on social media, said it is an honor for his late father to have his character come to life in a movie that is based on a clear vision and mission on how to develop the film, without changing much of its original character.
“This will be the biggest responsibility in my career as an actor,” Vino said.
The film will be directed by Angga Dwi Sasongko; it will be his first action movie. “This project is the experience of a lifetime,” he said.
Sheila, Tumpal Tampubolon and Seno Gumira Ajidarma wrote the script, while Yayan Ruhian, who starred in Star Wars: The Force Awakens, will be the choreographer of the action scenes. Production is set to start in August and the movie is expected to hit the big screen next year.