Getting Personal: Actors bargaining for more

  • Tertiani ZB SimanjuntakThe Jakarta Post


FOREIGN PERSPECTIVE: Julie Estelle and Tio Pakusadewo in Surat dari Praha (Letters from Prague), filmed partly in the Czech capital. (Visinema Pictures)

The arrest of Gatot Brajamusti for alleged drug possession last August in Mataram, Lombok, right after he was reelected for his second term as the chairman of Indonesian Actors Guild (Parfi), lifted the mask on an uglier side of the acting profession.

There are other fundamental issues closer to home for actors. While divisions in the several actor guilds came to the surface during the past few months, there are a number of actors — regardless of which association they belonged to — who questioned the benefits of joining the associations because they said they failed to give them a better bargaining position in terms of job opportunities and pay.

The actors, most of them seniors whose careers have been based on small parts in movies, TV dramas or commercials, advocated the introduction of actor profession certificates as their leverage to be on par at the bargaining table with younger, high-paid colleagues.

“The competence certificates would be similar to a driver’s license. You can ride without a legal license, but actors with a certificate are guaranteed of having a certain grade of skills. And a certain grade will come with a certain amount of pay,” said actor Syamsul B. Adnan at a recent discussion on actor competency held by the Film Journalist Forum (FPF). 

“You can get someone from the street to be cast in a film. Our industry has no stipulation or standards measuring actor capability and how much they should be paid. If the actor had a certificate, he or she could get out of a project if the pay didn’t make sense and they could even work overseas,” added the actor, who was one of the cast of the 2014 teen romance Remember When. 

Facilitated by the Film Development Center of the Culture and Education Ministry chaired by Maman Wijaya, the discussion themed “Actors’ bargaining position in film, TV and commercial ads industry” was attended by the executives and members of the acting guilds Parfi, Parfi 1956, Indonesian Film Actors Organization (Parfindo) and the Indonesian Film Lovers Community (KCFI).

Susy Librianty, an actress from Palu, Central Sulawesi, also favored the profession certificate which she believed would improve the quality of soaps that command the highest ratings for TV shows.

“We actors have been crippled by the industry for too long, because of the flawed recruitment system at TV stations and production houses based on looks, ignoring the capability of the talents,” she said.

“As a result, the actors who took acting classes have no jobs while the audience has to endure bad shows that only promote a good looking and sexy cast without decent, educational content.”


There has been growing exposure of Indonesian actors in Hollywood and elsewhere abroad in recent years, particularly action-movie actors Iko Uwais (The Raids, Star Wars franchise), Joe Taslim (Fast and Furious franchise) and Yayan Ruhian (Star Wars: The Force Awakens; Japan’s Yakuza Apocalypse), and acclaimed actress Christine Hakim in Eat, Pray, Love. Their success has served to cover up the problems faced by many actors in general.

Yanti Yaseer, who has been involved in over 100 titles of soaps, made-for-TV films and movies, said she was often left with no choice but to take only half of the pay she was promised.

“That is why I joined the actor organization to learn about my rights and what to do in the future after retirement,” said the member of Parfindo.

“But even so, the organization has not issued such certificates.”

The stipulation of a competence certificate for actors is already stated in Law No. 33/2009 on Film.

“It requires a certification for an actor and the institution eligible to issue the certification is a legally registered institution or organization,” explained Parfindo chairman Bagiono.

“But how could we issue a certificate since the government has yet to set a standard of qualification or the provision of education and training for actors?” 

The initiative by film community members Thamrin Lubis, Roy Marten, Adisurya Abdy and Aditya Gumay to establish the Profession Certification Institute (LSP) for the industry had yet to receive the green light from the government.

“We have made a draft of actor qualifications, although still limited to the TV industry, but it has yet to receive approval from the government pending a ministerial regulation from the Culture and Education Ministry to authorize it,” said Thamrin.


There has been a flood of Indonesian productions filmed partly or in their entirety abroad — Negeri van Oranje (The Land of Orange), Ada Apa Dengan Cinta?2 (What’s Up with Cinta? the sequel) and Surat dari Praha (Letters from Prague) to name a few — but they were not made in collaboration with the host country.

While it is mandatory for a producer to hire a professional cast and crew in the host country, it not yet reciprocal in the case of Indonesia.

Dienan Silmy, a Rumah Film producer currently making Satu Hari Nanti (Someday) in Switzerland, said that unlike most productions that used tourist visas for a foreign shoot, his team took months to obtain the proper work visas and full support from the local government and the film industry.

“Since we don’t have any competence certificates to show them, they required us to send the list of projects that we were involved in in lieu of the certificates,” he said.

CEO of box-office powerhouse Falcon Pictures HB Naveen said in a separate interview that the competence certificates was also needed for scriptwriters, camera crews and all members of the film crew to be the leverage for the Indonesian film industry in the free market era.

“As the film industry has been taken off the negative investment list, the government should think of the protection of the local industry and draw a clear timeline for action as follow-up,” he said.

“In this tight competition, we don’t want our actors to end up only as extras.”

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