Bali Film Center DirectorDeborah Gabinetti was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. She had a very active childhood, participating in sports, playing in her grandfather’s garden and helping raise four brothers. In the local college Deborah studied theater arts, and took part as a cast member in a stage production of Catherine the Great. At the age of 18 she moved to New York City where she continued studying theater at the New School. A member of the Screen Actor’s Guild since 1977, she now heads the Bali Film Center, the only native English-speaking, foreign owned and operated film support organization in Indonesia. Deborah also chairs the Bali Taksu Indonesia Foundation and is founder of the BALINALE International Film Festival which runs from October 21st to the 31st.
What kinds of jobs have you had in your life?
When I was 14 years old, I worked at a summer camp because I love working with children. When I was in my 20s, I managed a talent agency in Boston, finding people that fit a certain role or look. I also worked as a casting director in New York and Los Angeles for many years, mainly in television.
What books have you read that have deeply influenced you?
Charlie Chaplin’s My Autobiography, the English Patient by Michael Ondaatje which was directed and written for the screen by Anthony Minghella, and I’m a big fan of Dr. Seuss stories that were set in my old neighborhood in Massachusetts.
When was your first trip to Indonesia?
I didn’t even know where Indonesia was until a New York director friend of mine asked me to come to Jakarta and help him with a couple of film productions he was shooting.
What are you presently involved in?
We just completed working with Mark Magidson who is shooting his latest film Samsara in parts of Indonesia. This film expands on the themes of Mark’s 1992 film, Baraka, which focused on the cycle of birth, death and rebirth from the perspectives of many cultures. We are also involved in work for a Warner Bros IMAX film, Under the Sea 3D presently being shot in and around Komodo by Michele & Howard Hall, and scouting locations with Jan de Bont (Laura Croft: Tomb Raider, Die Hard, Lethal Weapon) for his upcoming feature Point Break II set in Bali. I’m also working with the Bali Taksu Indonesia Foundation which is presenting the BALINALE International Film Festival all this week.
How did you come up with the idea for the Bali Film Center?
There were so many foreign crews coming to film in the country, particularly in Bali because of its rich and colorful culture, but there was no office to provide any assistance or support. The center was just a natural fit. In 2002, I presented the proposal to the governor’s office for a film promotion office and two years later discussed the idea with the Minister of Culture & Tourism at the time, Bapak Ardika, who subsequently endorsed us as Indonesia’s representative in assisting foreign filmmakers.
What were your biggest challenges in setting up the BFC?
We established the office five months before the tragedies of 2002, so it was a great challenge attracting projects back to the country. Over time we were successful because filmmakers are looking more and more to Asia. Indonesia especially has such a wealth of untapped locations, talent and story ideas. The opportunities are endless here.
Where do you get your funding?
We are endorsed by the government but receive no government funding. As part of that endorsement we are obligated to provide certain services such as research and information free of charge. We charge the company a fee once a production requires our services outside of what is readily available or in our office library.
Are there other organizations in Indonesia that promote film making?
The producers’ associations and regional government bodies in the country concentrate more on the fast-growing domestic film industry, whereas we specialize in foreign film production. Our main aim in attracting foreign filmmakers is to utilize Indonesian talent and locations. Locations used in films have the power to induce visits to foreign places. For example, look at the amazing things that The Lord of the Rings trilogy did for New Zealand. Higher visibility and a positive global image can help boost Indonesia’s tourism potential, create revenue and jobs and help revitalize the domestic film industry.
What’s the mission of the Bali Film Center?
Finding locations for films and assisting in film promotion in Indonesia. We also support and publicize up and coming Indonesian filmmakers who are increasingly gaining international recognition. The biggest event we organize each year is the BALINALE International Film Festival. We work all year long acquiring films for the festival - check them all out at www.balinale.com - and also hold a number of educational workshops and seminars presented by international filmmakers.
What’s the oldest motion picture ever filmed on Bali?
Hollywood filmed Goona Goona on the island in 1932. Shot by Andre Roosevelt (President Theodore Roosevelt’s nephew), the film was originally released in two-color Technicolor and it’s one of the last films released with an unsynchronized sound track. Bali was also the setting for the last silent film ever produced in Hollywood, Legong: Dance of the Virgins, the last film to use the two-strip Technicolor process. Released by Paramount International in 1935, the film was directed by Henri de La Falaise and produced by his actress wife Constance Bennet. The film starred a languorous lead actress called Putu.