After ‘Last of Us’ snub, govt seeks to bring filming Indonesia home

Recently, the video game adaptation featured Jakarta in one of its episodes, but the scene was shot far away in Canada, according to the government.

Billy Adison Aditijanto

Billy Adison Aditijanto

The Jakarta Post


An audience waits for a film to be screened at Pasar Teluk Gong, North Jakarta, on March 7, 2019.(JP/Wendra Ajistyatama)

February 2, 2023

JAKARTA – The government is looking for ways to bring the international film industry home, following a series of movies having their Indonesia scene shot elsewhere rather than filming it directly in the country.

Lack of incentives and complicated regulations are said to be the most prominent obstacles for foreign production houses to shoot some of their scenes in Indonesia, according to government officials and local filmmakers.

Recently, the Last of Us, a live-action adaptation of the popular video game produced by filming-site HBO aired starting in January, featured Jakarta in one of its episodes, albeit the scene was shot far away in Canada, according to the government.

Odo R.M. Manuhutu, the Office of the Coordinating Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister’s undersecretary for tourism and the creative economy, admitted there had been red tape preventing the filming from taking place in Indonesia, which he regarded as opportunity lost for the local film and creative industry.

“One of the causes is the lengthy process to acquire a permit [to shoot the scene in Indonesia],” Odo told audiences in Jakarta on Monday.

The TV series is not the first to have an Indonesian scene shot elsewhere. Ticket to Paradise, a romantic-comedy film released last year, also featured a scene in Bali, but it was filmed in Australia, while Gold, a 2016 film based on a past gold-mining scandal, featured a scene in Kalimantan, but shot in Thailand.

Filming in Indonesia is a challenging process, not just for foreign, but also local producers.

Willawati, producer and founder of Indonesian production-house Kaninga Pictures, said she would need to embark on a lengthy and inefficient process, including following up manually to make sure each permit was processed by the government agencies.

The process also required filmmakers to go through two separate government agencies to obtain the film production notice letter (TPPF), namely the Investment Ministry and the Education, Culture, Research and Technology Ministry, she said.

Moreover, each region in Indonesia had their own set of policies and permits that filmmakers needed to comply with, she said, which were often different from what had been stipulated by the central government.

“What we need is a fast response team like what other government agencies have,” Williawati said on Monday.

Indonesian actor and director Paul Agusta said securing filming locations was not easy. Apart from having to deal with police and local government, filmmakers also often face obstacles in the form of local thugs, which in most cases ask for a levy from production houses.

“This tends to be a problem for foreign crews. We often see many unexpected expenses,” Paul said on Monday.

Indonesia like other countries can require foreign filmmakers to locally source regional-production crews, which in turn helps to boost the local film industry, but the country’s dwindling and substandard quality of production crews prevents this from happening, he added.

“If we look at your average Indonesian film school, students tend to sway into directing. Now, we don’t have enough competent people for production crews,” Paul said, adding it would require the government develop domestic film industry as well to cater the potential.

Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Sandiaga Uno said on Monday, the government was working with various regional governments to digitize and streamline the process of obtaining permits and he promised that the local and international film industry could expect to see these changes soon.

“We estimate in the next three months we can finalize [the filming-permit procedures], and if we need an overarching law like a presidential or government decree, we will do so immediately to prevent confusion about who to ask permission from,” Sandiaga told reporters during the ministry’s press briefing.

Tax rebates and other non-fiscal incentives are said to be part of prepared solutions, Sandiaga said, adding he also proposed for the government to reimburse up to 50 percent of production cost in the filmmaking, though it would still need to be discussed with other ministries.

Edwin Nazir, chairman of the Indonesian Film Producers Association, suggests the government form film commissions, which would be involved in the dealing with and managing of production crews on location.

Film commissions would not only make the filmmaking process easier, but it would also incentivize production houses to come as they also heavily assisted in the pre-production stage, he said.

“Assistance in transport, accommodation, location scouting for production. Film commissions in South Korea, for example, have that,” Edwin said on Monday.

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