From left: director Guntur Soeharjanto, author Hanum Rais, producer Ody Mulya Hidayat and brand manager Meni discuss their casting gimmick.  (Photo courtesy of Media Tree)

The Search for a Star Begins

MARCH 01, 2015

Lord knows, dreams are hard to follow. But don’t let anyone tear them away. Hold on, there will be tomorrow. In time, you’ll find a way.” — Mariah Carey, “Hero” (1993).

To become a movie star is the dream of many young people all around the world. Maybe it is the fame and glamour that lures them to the film industry.

Very few of these aspiring young people, however, will make it in the movie industry. In spite of its glitzy facade, the movie industry is indeed one of the toughest to enter.

“They have to be very persistent and attend a lot of casting sessions,” says film director Guntur Soeharjanto.

According to the director, these casting sessions are often attended by hundreds of people and generally run from early in the morning to late at night.

And while waiting for their chance, would-be actors must defy their own fatigue and boredom in order to give it their best when their time comes.

“They have to showcase their unique talents to the directors and producers,” Guntur says. “Even then, they may not be successful [in the casting]. Luck is the defining factor here.”

While it is hard for newcomers to penetrate the movie industry, it doesn’t necessarily mean that there is an oversupply of new talent in the industry.

“Production houses are always looking for fresh new talent,” says Ody Mulya Hidayat, a film producer at Maxima Pictures, a production house. “But it’s so hard to find the right one.”

According to Ody, this scouting process is very costly, tiring and time-consuming for would-be actors and production houses alike.

Luckily for them, there is now a program that makes the casting process less painful for both parties.

Last week, Maxima Pictures and Nissin Biscuits announced a new collaboration program, “Mendadak Eksis,” or “Suddenly Popular.”

The production house and the biscuit brand will search for new talent for the soon-to-be-produced movie “Bulan Terbelah di Langit Amerika” (“The Moon is Split in the American Sky”).

The movie is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Hanum Salsabiela Rais.

Hanum, who is the eldest daughter of Indonesian politician Amien Rais, also wrote the best-selling novel “99 Cahaya di Langit Eropa” (“99 Lights in the European Sky” — notice the theme?), which in 2013 was also made into a movie.

“The movie is not a sequel to ‘99 Lights,’” Hanum says.

“It’s a completely different story.”

However, just like the previous movie, “Split Moon” tells the true story of the author and her husband, Rangga, living abroad.

In “Split Moon,” Rangga is studying for a Ph.D. at a university in New York City, and Hanum joins him there while also on assignment for an Indonesian newspaper.

“I was given an assignment from my editor to interview families of the victims of the 9/11 World Trade Center attack,” Hanum says.

That assignment, she says, helped broaden her understanding of the United States.

“While doing the assignment, I discovered an amazing Islamic community in the United States,” she says.

She also discovered a deep-seated religious tolerance among the people of the United States.

“[The 9/11 attack] was very traumatic,” Hanum says. “But in spite of what happened, [Americans] still treat us [Muslims] as friends.”

Interreligious tolerance and friendship is a big theme in the movie, together with the Islamic community in the country.

“It won’t be a religious movie,” says Guntur, the movie’s director.

“It’s a drama with many touching elements of human relationships.”

The movie is planned to be shot in New York, San Francisco and several other cities in the United States beginning at the end of May.

Aspiring actors who may be interested in being in the movie may join the online casting through the “Mendadak Eksis” program.

“Just post a video of you acting and showcasing your talents on YouTube,” says Meni, the brand manager of Nissin Biscuits. “And post the link on the website”

The video should be around 15 to 30 seconds long and applicants are invited to act, sing, dance, tell jokes or recite poems in the video.

The video must also include a Nissin biscuit product.

Participants may submit as many videos as they want to the website.

The online casting is open to all Indonesians between the ages of 17 and 32 years. They should also have a valid identification card (KTP) and passport.

“The candidates should speak fluent English,” Guntur adds. “Those with Caucasian [facial] features are preferred.”

He doesn’t explain why.

To promote the program, Nissin and Maxima Pictures have conducted roadshows at university campuses and malls in Jakarta, Bandung, Surabaya and Makassar over the past month.

“People are so enthusiastic about being in the movie,” Meni says. “We’ve received more than 400 submissions.”

The online casting runs until March 31.

The program has weekly winners who will get tickets to the premiere of the movie and meet-and-greet sessions with the cast.

The finalists to join the cast will be announced on the website in the first week of April.

“We’ll take a few of the most talented ones and train them in workshops by top Indonesian actors and actresses,” Guntur says.

The abilities of the finalists will be tested in these workshops.

“Finally, there will be two winners,” Guntur says. “They will shoot the movie with us in the United States.”

Among the judges are Guntur, producer Ody, actors Ringgo Agus Rahman and Yayu Unru, and TV and radio host Imam Darto.

All the expenses including tickets, meals, accommodation and visa arrangements will be covered by Nissin.

“[The winners] will just have to come and give their best in the United States,” Meni says.

The roles of the winners in the movie will be determined later in April.

Guntur says he believes the program will be a “highway to fame and success” for newcomers to the Indonesian movie industry.

“Even though [the winners] may only appear in one or two scenes of the movie, if they’re really talented and give their best performance, they will definitely get noticed,” he says.

“And they may be recruited to play in another movie very soon.”