Her Kind of Movies
Bruce Emond, WEEKENDER | Thu, 03/24/2011 1:44 PM |
Sheila Timothy is a fresh face among the small but influential group of Indonesian women film producers.
A day after a special February screening of 2009’s Pintu Terlarang (The Forbidden Door), Sheila Timothy was still buzzing from the excellent turnout. After the event, the producer sat in bed and monitored the response on Twitter – the network was also used to promote the screening – late into the night.
“I think my husband would have preferred that I went to sleep, but I wanted to see what people thought,” says Sheila, who is also known as Lala.
Sheila was in her late 30s and a mother of four (she is married to entrepreneur Luki Wanandi) when she produced Pintu Terlarang with her Lifelike Pictures company. She realizes that some consider her a newbie in the film industry with a single production to her name, and she is not afraid to admit that she is learning new things on the job every day and doing her homework.
“I know that I’m new to the scene, but I’m serious about making movies,” says Sheila, who turns 40 this year.
Like many of those who come upon their calling later rather than sooner, she has become a steadfast convert to her cause, in her case Indonesian film. She was a voice of caution in the media during the controversy over the Indonesian government royalty tax that was rejected by US filmmakers. While some believed pulling US movies from local cinemas would help return Indonesia to its celluloid heyday of the 1970s, she argued it would only serve to disrupt its development.
“I’m not pro-Hollywood, but it’s different today because in the 1970s and 1980s, there were several theater chains and independent theaters,” she says. “Today we only have two major players, Blitz and 21 ... I see the effects [of a boycott] on the local industry. We cannot survive if we do not have an exhibitor for our films.”
She also knows that once the controversy dies down, local filmmakers will face the perennial issues of complicated distribution, high taxes and copyright infringement through file sharing.
“I really hope that filmmakers will be able to come together as one in an association for the advancement of the industry,” she says.
Sheila, the daughter of a music producer, graduated from Trisakti University and worked in client services in an advertising company before settling down to start a family. It was her younger sister, actress Marsha Timothy, who turned her on to quality Indonesian films, showing her that they were not limited to ghosts and ghouls or big-breasted women in compromising positions (or the combustible combination of both).
“Because of her I started watching more Indonesian movies, which I had always thought were bad quality. But I was a bit annoyed. There were good ones, but there were many more where the lack of teamwork showed, or the action was good but the script was bad, the story very predictable.”
Passion for Film
Sheila was introduced to screenwriter/director Joko Anwar by her sister’s boyfriend, the actor Fachri Albar. There was an immediate connection between the two as they discussed their shared passion for film.
“He said, ‘Why don’t you produce?’ I said I’m a housewife, I haven’t worked for 10 years, I don’t think I could enter a world that I don’t know.”
But she had several things in her favor in exploring producing. For one, she had seen the dynamics of her father’s business. And in her ad industry days, she had most enjoyed the process of making a concept into reality.
She also found a trusted partner in Joko.
“He’s very smart and creative. He is very ordered about doing his job, everything goes according to plan. His way of thinking is so futuristic. You talk with him briefly and you can see that already.”
Sheila was intrigued by the dark suspense of Joko’s Pintu Terlarang. One scene in particular, where an abused boy is flung across a room, especially touched her as a mother. Initially, despite the support of her husband, it was not easy to convince financial backers that she was serious about making movies.
“But I was confident because of my experience working in advertising, where you have to keep projects on budget. Still, I had to learn everything because there are so many gray areas. I tell you I am still finding out new things every day.”
She is in pre-production with Joko for their next movie, Eksekutors, which she describes as a “comedy-satire, a little bit dark and with action”. She says she has learned from her mistakes from her first production, and her vision this time is to take the movie to an international audience.
“Because I am new, and I’ve only made one film, I want to try different genres. Most importantly, I want to make good films, ones that are commercial but are quality productions,” she says.
Film critic and journalist Leila Chudori, who also is working with Sheila on a film project, describes her presence as a “blessing”.
“With other women producers like Mira Lesmana, Nia DiNata, Shanty Harmayn, Afi Shamara and Dewi Umaya, Sheila is someone that I expect will be consistent in producing good movies. She is a fast learner, a very resilient woman who entered this crazy industry with a very strong will,” Leila says.
“With her background in advertising, Sheila also understands the business side as well as the creative side. She respects the creative side and the process of creation very much and that is why I feel comfortable working with her. Most of her judgments are from gut feeling, and they are usually correct. This is a rare talent.”
Sheila is happy to be behind the camera and behind the scenes, taking care of business and making sure the glitches are smoothed out for a successful shoot.
“She is bright and sincere, she just wants to do something for the local film scene,” says Joko. “She isn’t someone who just wants to be recognized for her title.”
Although Sheila loves the film world, she states firmly that it does not mean she was bored by her life as a housewife. Each brings its own challenges and rewards, and her experience as a mother has benefited her.
“A producer is a combination of a psychologist, a mother, a teacher, the villager elder, so many roles, because when making a movie the crew is like your kids,” she says. “It’s about leadership, bringing the team to success. I believe that if we are one team and successful, then the leader gets credit, too. I don’t have to be in the spotlight.”