Sun, 18 Jun 2000

Mira Lesmana puts children's films first

JAKARTA (JP): Dressed in trendy pants and a white shirt with the sleeves rolled up, her cap facing the wrong direction, Mira Lesmana is a funky, energetic 36. She has embraced as a uniform the laid-back attire of the young today, the members of the "MTV Generation" who are forming their own culture of creativity.

The daughter of the late musician Jack Lesmana and singer Nien Lesmana has her hands full arranging and conducting the promotion for her new film Petualangan Sherina (Sherina's Adventure). She balances work demands with caring for her husband, actor and game show host Mathias Muchus, and their two children, Galin Galinggih and Kafka Keandra.

Mira first made her name with the TV documentary series Anak Seribu Pulau (Children of a Thousand Islands). The 14-part series was broadcast simultaneously on all five state and private television stations in mid-1996.

Her reputation grew with the film Kuldesak, in which she joined forces with close friends Riri Reza, Nan T. Achnas and Rizal Mantovani to direct four separate cinematic vignettes. It gained critical and public acclaim as a fascinating movie with a uniquely structured storyline.

Her directing days are not finished, but she said producing movies was more satisfying than directing them.

"I have to have a lot of energy to take care of all the requirements for the film, from deciding on the cast, the scenario, securing funding, through to the promotion. The total workload in a film production is a true challenge."

Work usually revolves around activities at MILES Production, the production house she founded in 1994. She established the business in conjunction with an assignment to produce the 13- episode TV serial Enam Langkah for private station RCTI. The production house serves as a hub to explore creativity and also to gain income through producing TV advertisements.

Her love of film began in adolescence. She would stay up late to watch as many movies as possible when she lived with her parents in Australia. When she returned to Jakarta in 1985, she chose to enroll at the Jakarta Arts Institute (IKJ).

She was a diligent student for three years, but it all changed when she became directly involved in production of TV advertisements for advertising agency Citra Lintas. She was entrusted with the position of assistant producer.

Mira was already experienced at making public service messages, working with Garin Nugroho, her senior at IKJ. However, she acknowledged the Citra Lintas team showed her the importance of discipline. After several years, she moved in 1992 to Katena, a production house which also used foreign consultants.

After three years of making advertisements and video clips, Mira felt stale. She wanted to move on to produce artistic, quality films and believed that founding her own company would provide her with greater artistic responsibility and freedom.

She considers making TV ads to be easier because of the conditions and the requirement that they be completed quickly. Payment is higher and it is more quickly disbursed than for TV or movie productions, which need funding to be ready before production starts.

"If a TV series can be sold immediately to a television station, the funds can be used for other productions. If it is not, the production house stands to suffer losses. It's the same for movie productions," Mira said.

"But because a work like Petualangan Sherina has been an obsession for me, I think the expenditure cannot be compared to the happiness of those who enjoy the film."

Mira said it was important for her to maintain her family's harmony regardless of her hectic professional life. She takes great interest in her children's development -- and it is a concern she extends to young people in general. She believes education in the arts is important for all children, noting that a child will love the theater, painting, music and film even if he or she does not want to become an artist.

In her aim to promote the importance of art education in young lives, Mira is active in the parent teacher association at An- nisaa elementary school where Galih is a student. She was once the head of the PTA, and one of her programs was to invite artists such as conductor Adhi MS to speak at the school.

Mira is also playing a part in the end-of-year theater performance at the school.

"The students will perform, and the show will be a type of training in introducing them to what it takes to be a professional." (Gotot Prakosa)