People

Gina S. Noer: Making better
filmmakers

JP/Kyo Hayanto

Ask anyone in the film industry. They will tell you that their biggest gripe is the lack of solid, dependable and skilled human resources.

This is multiplied tenfold when talking about screenwriters.

The legendary filmmaker Billy Wilder once said that the screenplay is the foundation of a film. If the foundation is faulty, then the entire structure will fall, cradle and all. Knowing this, it is amazing that there are still so many films out there with bad scripts.

But one person, together with a band of fellow crusaders, is battling the enormous amount of bad scripts out there with the hope of creating stronger and more creative screenwriters.

This stalwart warrior is Gina S. Noer, born in Balikpapan on Aug. 24, 1985.

An established screenwriter with a slew of high-profile films under her belt like Lentera Merah (2006), Ayat-Ayat Cinta with Salman Aristo (2008), Perempuan Berkalung Sorban (2009), Queen Bee (2009) and Hari Untuk Amanda (2010), Gina decided to start a screenwriting school. And so the birth of PlotPoint.

“We were very concerned with the issue of regeneration,” Gina said. “There is this huge potential in the creative industry that simply cannot happen without regeneration in human resources. Our biggest inspiration was Erwin Arnada. He always courageously gave chances to new filmmakers and artists to work with him, finally, my husband Salman Aristo and I, along with our close friends Amelya Oktavia and Fitria Muthamainnah, began PlotPoint Kreatif, a training institution for the creative industry.”

It all began with a workshop, Gina explained. “Amelya, Fitri and I were helping Salman with a small screenwriting workshop, just as we were out of college. Then I came in with the idea of developing PlotPoint as a writing school, not just a screenwriting workshop. They went along with my risky idea.”

PlotPoint was founded in October of 2009, but was not officially established as an educational institution until 2011 with the help of the Mizan Group. “Any profit that PlotPoint makes goes to the Indonesian Writing Foundation that we established,” she said.

Gina got into screenwriting herself after joining the Close-Up Movie Competition, where she fell under the strict tutelage of renowned screenwriter — and now husband — Salman Aristo.

“After that competition, it hit me how difficult it was, but that only drove me to want to learn even more. The turning point was when I bought Robert McKee’s book Story, which cost quite a lot at the time for a college student like myself. That book made me seriously work hard to become a screenwriter.”

But how does this experienced scriptwriter approach her own writing?

“I love characters. I’ve always paid more attention to developing detailed characters by allowing time for research to build character and plot. And I always believe that writing is rewriting. So I often end up with a lot of drafts.”

Gina believes in the art of writing, not just for the screen. This is why PlotPoint is not limited to offering courses on writing film scripts, they offer tutelage in various other forms of writing like therapeutic writing, novel writing, non-fiction writing, writing for comic books and even an introductory video editing course called cutting point. And they continue to add to the repertoire of courses offered.

The response from the industry to the efforts made by Gina and her friends has been overwhelmingly positive, “because they understood the great need for more qualified human resources in this industry,” she said.

Gina said, “the practitioners especially appreciated it because we weren’t selling screenwriting as a way to get rich and famous but as a serious profession that requires immense dedication.”

To illustrate how enthusiastic the industry crowd was to the initial establishment of PlotPoint, their very first clients were Trans TV and Trans 7, which wanted their employees to have top-of-the-line skills.

“We’re very selective about our teaching staff. Our teachers are all renowned in their fields. When we tell people that we have writers of high-grossing box office films or best-selling authors, we actually
do. We don’t make claims we can’t back up. We choose teachers who posess integrity and know how to teach effectively.”

Gina added that one major advatage of PlotPoint was that “we have a wide network, whether in the film industry, publishing, television or post-production houses, which can mean work opportunities for our students.

“PlotPoint graduates can also join something that Salman Aristo, Ifan Ismail and I developed called Wahana Penulis [Writer’s Venue]. It’s not a literary agency, mind you. It’s more like an incubator for new writers to hone their craft and be closely guided in developing ideas into viable and sellable works of high quality. At this moment, Wahana Penulis concentrates on television.”

As far as the future is concerned, Gina and PlotPoint have ambitious yet noble plans. “Our target is to eventually have a class for every creative field. We also would like to be able to provide scholarships through our Indonesian Writing Foundation.

“Other than that, along with Next Lazuardi, Kineforum and The Jakarta Arts Council, we are doing a film screening and discussion program for teachers. We’ve done two of those already. We share with them how films are made in detail, so they can get a deeper understanding of the process. Our plan is to make them more film savvy. So they can determine the good and bad of a film, use films in their teaching process to educate not only students but also the students’ parents.”

Promoting quality writing and educating people about its value have clearly become major goals in her life, goals that she and her partners at PlotPoint are rapidly achieving.

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