Fransen Susanto – Contributing To The Creative Economy Through His Films
TEXT: Iwan Martinus Putuhena; PHOTO: Suhadi
It is clear that the Indonesian film industry still has a long way to go in becoming a more established industry in the country or across Asia. However, in the last five years the number of films, screens and audience have shown a positive growth.
Based on the 2019 Creative Economy Outlook by the Creative Economy Agency (Bekraf), there are nearly 1,700 screens across the country, which expected to double over the next three years, amid growing interest in the national film production. The number of moviegoers has also increased to more than 42 million by 2017 from around 16 million in 2015. The report further states that film is currently the fastest-growing sub-sector of Indonesia’s creative economy.
Although Hollywood films still drive demand among moviegoers, the national film industry is growing rapidly as illustrated by the fact that 40 percent of films screened in the country are local. The bottom line is that the industry must find a way for local films to compete with international films in terms of storytelling and screening.
One of the individuals who are responsible in contributing to the Indonesian film industry is Fransen Susanto, the Executive Producer of RA Pictures, a production house that he established with the multi-talented Indonesian celebrity, Raffi Ahmad. In the last year alone, RA Pictures produced a number of films such as The Secret: Suster Ngesot Urban Legend, Dimsum Martabak, 13: The Haunted, Arwah Tumbal Nyai the Trilogy: Arwah, Kesempatan Kedu(d)a, Arwah Tumbal Nyai: Nyai. and more.
From Textile to Film Making
Upon returning to Jakarta from New Zealand in 2001, where he worked as a cleaning service and kitchen staff at an ice cream parlour, Fransen started off his entrepreneurial venture in the textile industry. The true story of his business struggle seems taken directly off the script from one of his drama films.
Fransen went through the ups and downs of being a businessman, from earning only 1.5 million rupiah each month, losing money from a bad business deal to expanding his stores and experiencing success only to faced another obstacle when a fire devoured Tanah Abang, the centuries-old garment market in the heart of town.
“The fire in Tanah Abang cost me billions of rupiah. That was a hard life lesson,” says the 37-year-old. “I told my suppliers to trust me with their products, although I don’t have any money to pay up front. In business, for me the bottom line is trust, money is not the priority,” he explains.
Fransen admits that he is the type of man who never surrenders regardless of the situation, and he believes this principle helped him survive to this day.
“Without the past trials and misfortunes, I don’t know what I will be today. It builds up my mentality,” Fransen affirms. “When someone says it’s destiny, that’s bullshit, I think we create our own destiny,” he adds.
In 2013, Fransen collaborated with Raffi Ahmad to launch a clothing line under the brand RA Jeans. In order to market the new brand, they need an extensive promotion campaign. Fransen seized the opportunity to create a production house so they can control and produce their own marketing materials. From there, the production house expands to film production.
“I’m the kind of person who enjoys new things, I like the challenge. Especially when people tell me I can’t do it, I will do it,” says Fransen enthusiastically. “I like betting in the context of work. Because if someone already did it successfully, why can’t I? So it does not depend on skill but learning for that skill. For me that’s the inspiration of my life,” he adds.
The Future of Indonesian Film
According to Fransen, the Indonesian film industry is growing each year. The standardization and quality are also improving.
“Even though I’m relatively new in the industry, at RA pictures we have more than 100 standardization,” Fransen explains. “When we released the film Suster Ngesot: Urban Legend we were going head-to-head with Avengers. They received 1773 screens, while we only received 113 screens. However, the result we managed to captured 649.000 moviegoers”
The film industry is fully supported by the local cinemas, namely 21 Cineplex, CGV Cinemas, Cinemaxx Theatre, and others, which paved the way for RA Pictures to release a film each month throughout 2019. In January and February 2019 alone, RA Pictures is releasing a comedy-drama film titled Rumput Tetangga, and a teen drama titled After Met You.
“The way I see it, film trend changes like fashion. If horror is the trend, then everyone is producing horror films. However, at RA Pictures we don’t follow that trend, but instead we mix and match just like fashion,” Fransen explains. “We produced thriller, comedy, family drama, horror, and other genres. Basically, it depends on what the team enjoys, if we like then our audience must like as well,” he adds.
Fransen admits as an executive producer he cannot just make any film he likes because in the film business it takes a super team to produce a quality film. It doesn’t matter if the production hires a good actor, director, or writer, but the editing or promotion fail to deliver, then the film is unsuccessful for everyone. According to Fransen, today the industry is lacking the number of screens and good writers, however, he is optimistic that it’s going to improve soon, but not instantly.
The business model at RA Pictures does not entirely focus on producing films for international festivals as Fransen explained, but they do it differently, instead, they target on digital distribution. Currently, the films produced by RA Pictures can be viewed across Asia via Netflix, Hooq, Astro and other digital media or streaming service.
“I got involve in this industry is because the entertainment world will never die, good films from the past still last until today, and with streaming services, you can watch it any time,” Fransen says. There is never a game over in the creative business as long as you want to stand up and fight,” he concludes.