A film commission is an organization that assists filmmakers when they shoot on location in another region or country. They may provide help in arranging visas, getting film equipment through customs, finding extras, recommending locations, and many other tasks. All of their services are generally provided for free. Most film commissions are given financial support by local governments, in order to promote their region through film and to bring business to local residents. The Bali Film Commission in Indonesia, headed by Deborah Gabinetti, is a rare case of an entirely self-funded film commission, that has the approval of the Indonesian government, but no financial support. Deborah was at PIFF to take part in the launching of the Asian Film Commissions Network (AFCNet), which is a linking of film commissions throughout Asia that will encourage regional co-operation, professional development, and joint promotion of Asia as a shooting location.
Can you explain what AFCNet is, and what are its main goals?
It’s going to be an association of film commissioners in Asia. We’re going to pool our resources to establish a strong organization where an Asian or Western filmmaker could come to our organization and find out information on shooting in the different countries. I think some of the difficulties that people confront in Indonesia, is that they go to a tourism office perhaps, or they go to a travel agent, or someone who has no experience with film, and either they’re steered in the wrong direction or they don’t get an answer. If they’re speaking only English they may get no response whatsoever. So if there’s a Korean film trying to come to Indonesia, they could contact the local AFCNet office in Korea to get professional assistance.
Can you tell me a little bit about your experiences assisting with the shooting of the Korean TV drama Something That Happened in Bali?
There were some difficulties with that. The work ethic is quite a bit different in the two countries. Also the translators the Korean crew hired were from a travel agent, so they really didn’t understand anything about film, and the Korean crew spoke very little English. The Indonesian crew is generally quite good with English, but to be honest they ended up eliminating the translator completely, because film is another language in itself.
We had some issues with cultural sensitivities as well, and I’ll blame some of that on our office because we were so excited about getting this project that we cut some corners in having everything clear and spelled out in advance. For example, overtime — I did not understand that they work overtime and then they do not pay for it. I’m hearing now that this is pretty much the way that Korean crews work, but we were not made aware of that. Again, it was communication. Not just the language, but in communicating the way that they wanted things done.
The result, as you know, was fantastic. It was a #1-ranked show on SBS in Korea. But of course, people don’t see the issues that may have come up during shooting. That’s why I think that ACFNet could be really helpful, because when we had these problems I contacted the Busan Film Commission and asked them to help, and they did. They contacted the local production company, and spoke with them about some of the issues.