Animated about local talent © Duncan Graham 2007
Check www.dot-project.blogspot.com and you’ll find an intriguing little work in progress. It starts with a sperm circling an egg, and then segues into a series of pictures of a loving couple with a child. These then morph into death and destruction.
The idea is to keep all images within the frame and rotating, a sort of life cycle of inevitability and despair.
The notion is so pessimistic it seems Wahyu Aditya (Adit), 27, the Jakarta-based animator behind the concept, may be growing cynical about hopes for love and peace, despite his extensive work and worthy pleadings.
He says he’s concerned by anxiety and hate and wants to create a better world through art. He says No to War, but retreats from being labeled a pacifist. As a strong nationalist he’d fight should Indonesia be invaded.
However there’s certainly no doubt about Adit’s effervescent and abundant creativity in the minds of talent-spotters from overseas. He’s been given a Rp 100 million (US $11,000) grant by the Dutch to develop a story line for an animated feature-length movie.
Now the British Council has handed him an International Young Creative Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Next month (October) he’s off to London along with a few selected supersmarts from what the Council calls ‘ten transitional countries’ to see how the Brits do things.
It’s also his chance to showcase Indonesian young talent. This has been nurtured by Adit’s determination to wrap the hands of computer-savvy kids around a mouse, give them some clues and lots of space.
If you need convincing just check a couple of international-class shortclips on You Tube, one using chalk on a blackboard, the other working with buttons.
Adit has helped these sparks ignite their creativity through his company Hello; Motion, a school of animation and cinema that’s behind last month’s (Aug) Hello; Fest motion picture arts festival in Jakarta.
The event attracted 3,000 youngsters intoxicated with the possibilities. It was also sniffed out by a tobacco company keen to seduce more addicts. So Adit is confronting another moral problem: Should he accept cigarette sponsorship when he’s no friend of fags? For the answer watch the credits on his future productions.
“Animation is an art form and it’s not difficult,” he said. “With the new technology that’s now available animation is cheap and simple. Free share-ware software is almost as good as the expensive stuff. The only limit is imagination.
“Animation is complete; it incorporates creativity, manual and intellectual skills, learning and logic. You can be an animator at home and also hold another job.
“You can make movies with a handycam or a handphone or a scanner. With the Internet you can get an audience.” He boasts that his website gets more hits than the one run by Indonesia’s beloved roly-poly intellectual, Wimar Witoelar.
As a change-agent Adit comes across as cautious and withdrawn, preferring to show his ideas rather than tease them apart in words. On a one-to-one he’s no incendiary. The fire in the belly seems to be reserved for the ether. Or maybe it’s because he lives in a fantasy world of minimalism; one flick equals a thousand thoughts.
As a schoolboy in Malang, East Java, it soon became apparent that he was unlikely to follow his family into a medical career. His flair for drawing was quickly applied in school magazines that were more comics than the staid and joyless journals that delight education authorities.
After two years studying media in Australia he took a job at Trans TV as an animator on station promotions – though having to use his own computer.
“Producing school papers was a good grounding,” he said. “I discovered how to be entertaining with just one sheet of paper. This was the Ghostbusters era (a sci-fi comedy that led to many video games.)
“I also learned a lot at Trans but I had another mission. I wanted to upgrade my knowledge and make movies and TV programs.
“Studying in Australia was good for the theory but we were ahead in Indonesia because we had access to the latest pirated software. But television is a lot of bureaucracy.”
It’s also an abundance of unimaginative hand-me-down concepts and techniques that Adit loves to lampoon. On one of his many websites sinetrons (soap operas) are brutally ransacked for their rich store of clichés.
One hilarious sequence he’s lifted has crash zooms and rapid-fire close-ups of a startled actor confronting a crime scene, repeated to the point where even the goldfish on top of the set gets the plot. Another counts the clash of cymbals every time men and women make eye contact at a wedding that goes wrong.
Sinetron play-safe producers may think their audiences are suckers for formula films, but Adit credits them with brains and spirit. “I want the viewers to be inspired and to have knowledge,” he said. “Too many believe Indonesians can’t do clever things. We can.
“Advertising agencies making TV commercials think overseas productions and ideas are better than local – they’re not.”
Adit’s ambition to cook up one billion rupiah (US $109,000) a month through his idea ovens has yet to be realized, but his company is already employing 12 full-time staff and 20 freelancers.
He has just come back from Korea where he discovered a strong international demand for Indonesian material. The many folk tales found in the archipelago could be a rich source of plots for an animated TV series.
Apart from erasing the negativity and lack of self-confidence among potential filmmakers, the difficulty is trying to release local creativity from the stranglehold of Disney and Manga. Too many celluloid characters obviously carry the DNA of Mickey and Minnie Mouse, or the genes of the bug-eyed, pointy-jaw poppets raised in Tokyo.
“I want to change the mindset about animation and Indonesia,” Adit said. “I want the outside world to think that Indonesia is a modern and creative country, not a nation of corruption.
“I hope the new generation will be inspired – and create change.”
(First published in The Jakarta Post 5 October 07)