Ody Mulya: Controversy Sells

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ODY Mulya may not be as well known as his movies, which have created controversy and sensationalism in the media. The movies he has produced include Tali Pocong Perawan (String of a Virgin’s Shroud, 2008), Kutunggu Jandamu (Waiting for a Divorcee, 2008) and Air Terjun Pengantin (Bride’s Waterfall, 2009). Not only do the movies have controversial titles but they also have daring scenes. Suster Keramas (2010) (Shampoo Nurse) and Arisan Brondong (2010) (Fusillade of Tontines) star porn actresses from Japan, namely Rin Sakuragi and Erika Kirihara.   

His latest movie, Menculik Miyabi (Kidnapping Miyabi) is the talk of the town. Released May 6, the original cast of the movie included Japanese porn star Maria Ozawa. However after much controversy, Maria Ozawa was dropped from the cast and the film was made into a comedy.  

Ody Mulya has been the president director of PT Maxima Pictures since 2003. He started out as a bank promotions and communications manager until a friend asked him to join Maxima Pictures. “I worked at the bank for 10 years before finally moving into film production, to Maxima Pictures that is,” said Ody, a civil law graduate from Muhammadiyah University, Jakarta.  

As a newcomer to film he was frequently cheated. Production costs often increased without any apparent reason, but he kept learning as he often supervised the production in process. After the first three or four months and with his experience in the bank, Ody found the right formula to minimize expenses.  

“I found a lot of illogical things. Why should there be an executive producer, a director’s assistant, sometimes even two of them? The worst thing was when a budget was made for a film with a crew of 120 people. What colossal film were we going to make anyway?” quipped Ody, who in the early days of Maxima Pictures only relied on three core people.  

Then he totally changed the method of filmmaking at the company. These days he first looks for a storyline and then asks a writer to make a script. Next is the casting and finally negotiating with the director for the fee so the production cost is clear. “I reversed the method. I don’t wait for the scenario, but we create the idea and pass it on to the writer,” said the father of one.  

In the midst of much criticism and pressure to cancel the production of Menculik Miyabi, Ody was determined to proceed. He said he was not creating a sensation but Maxima pictures had to respond to the trust given to it by the world of film not only here but also globally.

“I was determined to make this film to honor to the international trust and demand. Germany, France, the United States, Korea, Taiwan and many other countries were waiting to see how far Indonesia, and especially Maxima Pictures, would go to bring Miyabi to Indonesia. If we could not bring her here it would mean there is still no democratic process and there is no film production freedom here,” said Ody, who currently has 30 employees.  

In spite of the controversy created by Maxima’s films they draw huge audiences. Some of them become box office hits as more than one million moviegoers see them, such as Tali Pocong Perawan and Air Terjun Pengantin, which were entered in the Cannes Film Festival this year to represent Indonesia.  

“Our films are all money makers, except Tulalit [Rather Stupid, 2008], for which we broke even. It was shown during the fasting month so it was bad timing and there was not much of an audience,” said Ody, who often finds ideas for his films during lunch or leisure time.   Maxima’s production costs average Rp 4 billion to Rp 5 billion per film, including promotion costs. If it is a box office hit, viewed by at least one million people, then the revenue is one million times Rp 7,000 (net ticket income after cinema share is deducted), which amounts to Rp 7 billion. So the profit range is between Rp 2 billion and Rp 3 billion. More can be made when a movie is purchased by a TV station.  

Ody admits that Maxima produces commercial films that are not made for festivals so that the company can make a profit. He said he prefers to make films to cater to market tastes. “I don’t want to put my company at financial risk, so I am careful in producing marketable films. I don’t care if other people’s films get awards at some festival, but in reality are not money makers. That would be useless, wouldn’t it?” said Ody, whose wife is Mirna Febriyani. He is often invited to speak at film workshops and is an honorary lecturer at Budi Luhur University, Jakarta.   

Ody also admits that controversy helps promote a film. “Controversy and sensationalism are always parts of my films. First, there is always a risqué scene and people talk about it. Second, promoting a film is a different game. If we proceed smoothly no one will see our films, so a controversy is obviously needed,” he explained.  

Maxima’s films are often harshly criticized by mass or public organizations and in some instances its films have been banned, for example Suster Keramas in Palembang and Samarinda. Ody said they were within their rights to object, but he did not keep quiet as he went to those cities and used his right to respond. He also used a persuasive approach.   “However, there is the censorship board, which has the authority, right? It’s OK if mass or public organizations act as moral guards or police, but there are regulations in this country, right? You can’t just stop a film from being shown after it has passed censorship. There is a governor or a mayor who can make a decision on that, but then one can appeal to the minister,” explained Ody.  

On the other hand, Ody is also fair, because he often cuts out scenes that are considered offensive by the organizations. “Go and see my film. You can cut it into pieces. Cut out the offensive or sensual parts that you object to. Let my film become a 30-minute film, but never ban my films!” he said in a determined tone.  

Other producers are now copying Maxima’s consistency in making marketable pictures. They are also imitating its style. “They say if Maxima can get one million moviegoers they can get at least half that, so let’s copy Maxima’s style,” said Ody proudly.  

While many other companies are going bankrupt or producing only one film per year, Maxima has set a target of between seven and eight films this year, while taking a break during the fasting month. Is Ody satisfied with Maxima’s success so far? “We will release our films in Southeast Asian countries and possibly elsewhere in Asia,” he said.  

There is also a possibility that one day Maxima will produce a film of festival quality. “We will do that one day, but today we can’t afford it because we are still surviving. Make a film, make money and then make another film. That is our current pattern,” he said with a smile.   

Then Ody mentioned his concern about local films. “Why don’t people want to watch homegrown films? Not even big budget ones? I think the quality and the story content is the problem. It must be blended creatively!” he concluded. (Teddy Matondang)  

The Jakarta Post, June 02, 2010

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