After releasing the dangdut action comedy The Legend of Trio Macan last year, young filmmaker Billy Christian is back with a new movie, 7 Misi Rahasia Sophie ( Sophie's Seven Secret Missions ), a tale of teens and social media.
The film, which opened nationally on Thursday, focuses on 15-year-old Sophie ( Alisia Rininta ), a girl who is constantly posting updates to Twitter or video blogs while on a mission ( several missions, actually ) to prove that not all social media lovers are narcissists.
Billy said that plans to make the movie started in December 2012 when he pitched the idea to producer Chand Parwez Servia.'I came with two ideas. One was a fantasy movie, and the other one was Sophie.
'He [Chand] liked both, but he said the second one was more doable ' and more affordable.'
They started developing the idea, asking Piala Citra winner Anggoro Saronto to write the script, cutting the number of secret missions from 12 to 10 and finally to seven. 'We were afraid if we stuck to 12 missions, it would be too long and lose focus.'
The script was still too long to shoot in 10 days ' the average length of a local production ' forcing Anggoro to revise the draft without eliminating the story's charm.
'Despite the revisions, I still needed to take an additional one day that was reserved for emergencies,' he said.
Billy solved his production problems, but then realized he hadn't found his Sophie.
While he had one name in mind for a long time, he proceeded to Plan B after not receiving any confirmation. 'We had several candidates, but they did not fit. Finding Sophie was not easy, because we were looking for someone who was fresh, cheerful, and had to have the energy and character of a high school student.'
Billy found Alisia on Youtube when she was interviewed for television, seeing similarities between her and Sophie.
Alisia had agreed to star in the movie, and started reading with co-star Stefan William only three days before filming in and around Jakarta began.
'Stefan is a quiet person while Alisia is very outgoing. They didn't talk a lot on the set, and I was a little nervous about them because their chemistry in the movie is so strong,' he said. 'I apparently worried too much, they were so into the characters and acting like they're old friends when the camera started rolling.'
Billy says 7 Misi, is different from other teen films, describing it as light and meaningful, with a post-rock soundtrack and shot colorfully.
'I learned a lot from my second movie,' Billy says. 'I did deeper research here and I also worked with a producer who is able to give me new insight about movie industry in many aspects.'
Billy made his first film when he was 15 as part of a workshop mentored by prominent directors Riri Riza, Mira Lesmana and Rizal Mantovani. That film, a horror short titled Portrait, was named the workshop's favorite movie.
He found joy in filmmaking and enrolled at the Jakarta Arts Institute ( IKJ ). However, in his second semester, his parents could not pay his tuition.
Riri and Mira agreed to help him finance his studies and IKJ offered him a scholarship. In exchange, Billy became a teaching assistant for Riri's and Slamet Rahardjo's directing classes and had to keep his grades high.
After graduating, he contributed shorts to the omnibus films Hi5teria and Sanubari Jakarta, both of which had wide releases in Indonesia, while directing dozens of television movies ( FTV ).
'The process to make a FTV is way crazier than a regular movie, thus making me tough. It is was a great learning ground for me,' Billy said.
After 7 Misi, Billy plans to start developing his horror, fantasy and science fiction scripts. One idea is a turn-of-the-20th-century horror film in the Dutch East Indies.
'I always like that kind of movies, and there are only a handful of movies with that genre in Indonesia,' Billy says. 'I'm still struggling to make that come true.'