Nicholas Saputra: The Mindset of a World Changer

Nicholas Saputra shares with DAMAN about his documentary on climate change titled “Semesta” as well as the long-term effects of COVID-19 on the movie industry

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There is so much more than meets the eye when it comes to Nicholas Saputra. As his platform grows bigger and bigger, he has used it to bring more awareness to saving the planet. For instance, he has recently launched the first feature documentary by Tanakhir Films—his production company—titled “Semesta,” which talks about climate change through the eyes of faith and religion. As a passionate environmentalist, Saputra uses his voice in the fight against climate change so that more people become aware about the issue. As he fights to make the world a better place on and off-screen, it’s safe to say that we’ll definitely see more of Nicholas Saputra in the years to come.

DAMAN: Hi Nicholas, thank you for having us! So, how are you doing these days?
Nicholas Saputra:
I’m fine, thank you! Things are changing, so I’m just trying to adapt to these weird situations we’re facing.

DAMAN: What keeps you busy these days? Are there any projects that you’re currently working on or any upcoming projects that you can share with us?
Nicholas Saputra:
I just finished filming Miles Films’ latest movie, which is titled “Paranoia.” Other than that, there were several other projects as well outside the movie industry.

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DAMAN: Let’s talk about your own production company, Tanakhir Films. It has been up and running for well over a couple of years now. Could you give us some insight into Tanakhir Films? How did that start in the first place?
Nicholas Saputra:
My partner Mandy Marahimin and I, we built this production house about six or seven years ago. Our passion initially started from documentary or documentary-related features. We also created a production service as well, and last year we launched our first feature-length documentary titled “Semesta” (Islands of Faith).

DAMAN: What is it like taking on movie production? What would you say are the biggest lessons you’ve learned now that you’re also working behind the camera?
Nicholas Saputra:
Actually, the responsibility of a producer is greater. It’s quite different compared to the responsibilities of an actor. As an actor, we only focus on one thing, and that is to act. Sometimes, we also control other aspects related to the role itself. However, as a producer, we are responsible for all the elements in the film, both from the creative side, from the production side and everything else related to the film. I learned about every single detail and have to consider a lot of things.

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DAMAN: “Semesta,” which is currently screening on Netflix, talks about climate change through the eyes of faith and religion. As the man behind it, what do you hope will audiences take away from watching this documentary?
Nicholas Saputra:
This documentary follows individuals who strive to address climate change through the lens of faith, nature and culture in seven provinces in Indonesia. I hope audiences will see how climate change greatly affects our lives and how people in Indonesia actually have the values to mitigate climate change. I also hope that this documentary will be a spectacle that can be used as material for many kinds of discussions. I would like to open a dialogue with a lot of people interested in climate change. So far, we have received a lot of information from scientists. I also think there are many things that could enrich the discourse on how to deal with climate change.

DAMAN: In a nutshell, what is your message would on the importance of fighting climate change?
Nicholas Saputra:
The message is clear. What we have in Indonesia, with its diversity in terms of religion, nature and culture—all of them actually have a lot of values that hopefully can inspire each other or inspire people. In the documentary, six of the seven people featured live in villages, but their minds are very advanced when it comes to protecting nature. And since the target audience are people who live in the big city, I want to inspire them as they probably have long been disconnected from nature.

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DAMAN: Speaking of which, in your opinion, what would it take to really get everybody’s attention on this issue?
Nicholas Saputra:
Obviously, there’s no such thing as one magic pill to solve the problem of climate change. It takes a lot of parties working together, from regulators, the people’s representative council and also from our own community. It’s a unity that cannot be separated. Moreover, this can only happen if it begins with awareness. This could be the basis to get things rolling in the future, whether it’s the establishment of policies or a change in morals and ethics within society that favor the environment. One thing for sure, though, I think this is going to be a long journey. A journey that should really involve as many people as possible.

DAMAN: What role do you see movies, documentaries and storytelling playing in motivating people to think more deeply about social and environmental change?
Nicholas Saputra:
Movies, documentaries and storytelling can be powerful tools in motivating people, as all of them can influence the minds of many people at the same time. And it’s a well-known fact that movies are often used as a tool of propaganda or used to influence certain policies. But then again, that really depends on the filmmakers themselves. One thing is certain: With more and more movies presenting different points of view, it will certainly enrich communal discussions, including on social, environmental and climate change.

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DAMAN: How do you keep standing confident as an environmentalist? What is it that makes taking action worth your while?
Nicholas Saputra:
I know there will be ups and downs. Sometimes there’s also a sense of frustration, like I wonder whether is it worth it or not. But it’s all part of our own personal dynamics. And when we keep reminding everyone, when we see the reality, of course a sense of concern will arise.

DAMAN: It’s almost a year since the first case of COVID-19 was discovered in Indonesia. How has the last year been for you?
Nicholas Saputra:
2020 was a year of introspection. There were a lot of things that I learned about myself, a lot of new things about my friends as well, during this pandemic. And that is an interesting thing, in the sense how we, as human beings, have the ability to adapt to difficult situations. Because from the time when we were born, until last year, we never knew that this kind of situation would come.

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DAMAN: That being said, how do you keep a positive attitude during these hard times?
Nicholas Saputra:
Uniquely, one thing I learned was it’s not about how do we keep positive, but how we acknowledge the negativity. Because something that’s negative isn’t necessarily destructive. It could be the counter balance of positive things. I also learned that we really have to feel the sadness, so we can get acquainted with that feeling and with the problem, and not remain in denial about the situations that are not ideal. Maybe we don’t have the time to learn about ourselves before the pandemic because we are busy with work, traveling and everything in between.

DAMAN: Furthermore, it goes without saying that the COVID-19 pandemic has had a substantial impact on filmmaking. What do you think will be the long-term effect of COVID-19 on the industry?
Nicholas Saputra:
I can’t predict everything, but one thing is clear: For me, the movie theater will remain a very ideal place to enjoy films. People will definitely miss going to the movies. Lots of people see it not only as a place to watch movies, but also to hang out with friends. I know many filmmakers are taking advantage of the existence from the OTT (Over-the-Top) media streaming services to keep working, and I think in the future, both will continue to be present in our lives

DAMAN: On the other hand, what kind of recovery do you see for the industry going ahead?
Nicholas Saputra:
After the pandemic, the industry will have adjust for the future. We must adapt to a new life, a new normal. There must be many people who are still traumatized and couldn’t bear to be in a crowd, for example. That’s something completely different from what they experienced for the past year.

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DAMAN: Having been in the industry for two decades, do you still have a dream role that you’re itching to play one day?
Nicholas Saputra:
From the beginning, I never had any desire to play certain roles. In my opinion, actors are always in standby mode. We prepare ourselves for any role that happens to be a good fit for us. I’m prepared for any kind of character.

DAMAN: We previously talked about the lessons you learned as a producer. On the flip side, what is the most important lesson that you’ve learned as an actor?
Nicholas Saputra:
For me, as an actor, the most important lesson is that for every role that we play, we have to consider it as our first role ever. It’s like going back to zero again. I know that as time goes by, we become more experienced in terms of technicality as well mentally. But, actually, we have to take it like it is the first time: How we bring up a character, how we liven up a new story … we should never underestimate those feelings.

DAMAN: Last but not least, what do you see as the best part of doing what you are doing now?
Nicholas Saputra:
The opportunity to meet a lot of people in different environments, to visit many places because of work. For me, that’s a privilege.

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