Hello Asia’s Lya Susanto chats with Indonesian Film Festival 2016 opening film Filosofi Kopi lead actor and producer Chicco Jerikho in Melbourne. Chicco talks about his acting and producing experiences as well as preparation process for Filosofi Kopi.

Hi Chicco, firstly congratulations for the successful screening and welcome to Australia. Could you tell us a little bit about your role, Ben, and what inspires you to about him to take up the role?

Filosofi Kopi is a user generated movie that is based on Dewi Lestari’s short stories because every readers have created a world based on their own imagination and we want to meet their expectations of the story. So we get the audience involved in the making process – gathering their opinions about what kind of characters Ben and Jody are, how they should look, think and dress, how the cafe should be, and so on. We collected all their suggestions, have the team picked the best ones and then develop the characters accordingly.

From there, we know that Ben is a coffee-snob because of his difficult past, trauma and disappointments towards his father. He became someone who is ambitious and who is oblivious of the meaning of sincerity. He became a workaholic, someone who only knows about work and thinks about how to be the best all the time.

After understanding all that, I get to move on to the developments of Ben’s character history – the kind environment he grew up in, how he was brought up, his family background, the son of a coffee farmer, an ambitious individual, and so on.

Progressively in the preparation process, I learned more about coffee. I had the chance to travel around Indonesia to remote areas to visit coffee plantations, take up accredited barista course, and even took up a few internships in local cafes. And after living Ben’s routines for about 6 to 7 months, Ben’s characters is then embodied in me. We started the filming process then.

What a thorough preparation. Are there perhaps any similarities between Ben and yourself?

Actually to me, I feel that it is important to differentiate my character in every ways and details possible from my day to day life to be successful in making a character come to life. Of course that is very challenging but it is essential because personally to me being an actor is not just an occupation but it’s a journey.

During that 7 months of preparation, I really had to live in and as that character. I was not Chicco, I was Ben. How I had to remove every bits, every details, every elements of Chicco from my life. I had to genuinely and wholeheartedly let go of every parts of me to fully embody Ben.

Chicco, we heard that you are a coffee fanatic yourself. Have you had the chance to try some of Melbourne’s best brews? What do you think?

I haven’t really had the chance to explore but I just came back from Tall Timber. It was good, I like it. I think the coffee culture here is richer in comparison to Indonesia’s. People here really appreciate coffee and understand how to treat and prepare coffee properly. And baristas here is seen as rock stars. That’s one of the reasons why I created Filosofi Kopi, actually.

In my opinion, Indonesian’s coffee are just as good and unique. We have coffee from Aceh, West Java, East Java, Borneo and even Papua. We can even consider coffee as part of our national identity. So why don’t we introduce and promote it to the world? Why aren’t we proud of it? We should be proud of our rich multicultural traditions and backgrounds. For instance, Toraja – even the Japanese take Toraja coffee.

You mentioned about promoting Barista as profession in Indonesia. Could we then assume creatives or hospitality professions like Barista in Indonesia are not valued because it’s not as profitable as running a business as Jody highlighted in your film?

I feel that whatever we do shouldn’t solely depend on how profitable and beneficial it would be but it should touch our hearts. It’s what that matters. Like when choosing coffee beans to use in the films, the reason why I use Indonesian coffee and why I choose the beans is because the stories behind those beans. I find those stories are of utmost importance.

We want to educate these coffee drinkers and lovers, let them know more about the coffee plantations, the farmers behind those coffee, understand why certain coffee beans taste a certain way, where they come from and why we serve that coffee.

We are aware that you are also starring in Negeri Van Oranje. Did you have to immediately start filming after Filosofi Kopi? How was the schedules like and how did you manage your time?

Yes. Filosofi Kopi was shot in the beginning of the year while Negeri Van Oranje was shot at the end of the year. So, I had enough time to wash out Ben’s character and prepare for my character in Negeri Van Oranje during the break in between filming. I had enough time to ready myself enter and embody another character.

How was your experience filming the 2 films differ? Could you share with us some of the most challenging and memorable experiences you had while filming for Negeri Van Oranje and Filosofi Kopi.

I can’t compare, really. Because the films have their own sets of challenges and memories – on one I had to embody a character of a Barista, while on the other I have to be a foreign student who’ve long resided in Den Haag, Netherlands, and have to learn Dutch as well.

The most interesting part of being an actor is that we learn a lot from our roles – not only the ones that was shown on screen but also the ones that were behind the scenes. And frankly, the most valuable learning experiences are the ones that are not captured on camera because the preparation process takes up a lot of time and effort. Like we had the opportunity to go to language school and learn Dutch even though on screen there are minimum dialogues done in Dutch.

Likewise with Ben, the preparation includes going to coffee factories, plantations, internships in Yogyakarta, Medan and Semarang. These are the stories that even though are not captured on screen but still become precious experiences for me.

Chicco, you were also the producer for Filosofi Kopi. If you were to choose between producing and acting, which would you prefer?

I will never leave acting. That’s where my passion is. But when it comes to producing, I’ll make sure to create something I really am passionate about.

Say if you were given an opportunity to produce a film with no budget and time constraints, what kind of project would it be?

Wow, there are heaps! Of course, there are heaps of things I really wish to create especially when budget is not a problem. That would be a dream come true to freely create. Whatever it is, I would just create.

What’s on the horizon for you in 2016?

I’m preparing for the sequel of Filosofi Kopi – Ben & Jody. What’s really interesting here is that everyone can get involved. If any of you is interested to find out more, follow our Instagram or visit our website. The information on how you could submit your ideas and suggestions, and win AU$1,000 cash as well as scholarship to a script writing workshop at PlotPoint and chance to participate in the Big Reading with all casts. Winners will also get their names presented on the credits section at the end of the film.

Does that open to everyone, even those who reside here in Melbourne, Australia?

Yes, it opens to everyone even yourself! You don’t have to write the script itself, just have to write and send us your ideas of how the story should be. Our creative team and original writer of Filosofi Kopi short stories, Dewi Lestari would then select the most interesting ones.

Interesting, indeed. Thank you very much Chicco for your time. We hope to see you and your films again in Melbourne soon.

Thank you for having me.

Filosofi Kopi and Negeri Van Oranje were screened at Indonesian Film Festival Australia 2016 at ACMI, Melbourne. Find out more about the festival at www.iffaustralia.com.