Sal­man Aristo’s sto­ries

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Screen­writer Sal­man Aristo is un­doubt­edly one of In­done­sia’s most re­spected and sought-af­ter screen­writ­ers. He is the screen­writer be­hind the crit­i­cally-acclaimed ( an adap­ta­tion of Ah­mad To­hari’s tril­ogy that touches on the an­ti­com­mu­nist mas­sacre in In­done­sia. Top­ping that, Sal­man wrote the movie adap­ta­tion of An­drea Hi­rata’s Laskar Pe­langi ( Rainbow Troops), which has be­come the best-sell­ing In­done­sian movie of all time, gar­ner­ing a to­tal view­er­ship of 4.6 mil­lion.

The 40-year-old is also known for his orig­i­nal screen­plays such as

( and

( Aside from screen­writ­ing, Sal­man has ven­tured into pro­duc­ing and di­rect­ing a num­ber of movies.

In his Wa­hana Penulis sto­ry­de­vel­op­ment of­fice in South Jakarta, Sal­man sat down to talk about his pas­sion for film­mak­ing.

“I have to love the story,” he says, talk­ing about his cri­te­ria when choos­ing film projects.

“Writ­ing is a long process. One script may take six months to one-anda-half years to fin­ish. If I don’t like the story, the rest of writ­ing process will be hell for me. On many oc­ca­sions, I took projects that of­fered half of my usual fee sim­ply be­cause I loved the sto­ries.”

Sal­man worked un­der a spe­cific method of screen­writ­ing mainly to main­tain his fo­cus.

“When I was in high school, I was di­ag­nosed as hy­per­ac­tive. They [the psy­chol­o­gists] even told me that I would not be able to drive be­cause I could hardly fo­cus on a few things [at a time],” said Sal­man, who now can drive.

“I need a tool to keep my fo­cus on the story. If not, I will wan­der around. My tool is called eight se­quences, where each script is di­vided into eight se­quences. In ev­ery se­quence, there is a ques­tion sought to be an­swered,” he ex­plained. MOVIES, BOOKS AND MU­SIC Movies, books and mu­sic are things that de­scribe Sal­man. The self-pro­claimed movie geek is in­flu­enced by Richard Lin­klater, Ya­su­jirō Ozu and par­tic­u­larly Woody Allen. He adores lit­er­a­ture works of Chairil An­war, Pramoedya Ananta Toer and Ar­swendo At­mow­iloto. And in the in­die mu­sic scene, Sal­man is the bassist of folk rock band Si­len­tium. Born to a Padang cou­ple in Jakarta in 1976, Sal­man fell in love with film at the age of five when his par­ents first took him to the cin­ema. “I in­stantly fell in love with mo­tion pic­tures. How­ever, I grew up in an era when the In­done­sian film in­dus­try was col­laps­ing. Mak­ing film was not some­thing I thought I could do back then.” Sal­man, in­stead, grew an in­ter­est in read­ing and writ­ing. “I guess my in­ter­est is due to nur­ture than na­ture. My late fa­ther, aside from being a civil ser­vant, had a side job as news­pa­per and mag­a­zine agent, which en­abled me to read all the time.” In a bid to hone his writ­ing skills, Sal­man took jour­nal­ism at Pad­jad­jaran Univer­sity in Ban­dung, West Java. There, he was in­tro­duced to film­mak­ing by the cam­pus’ arts com­mu­nity and started to write scripts for short movies.

In­spired by the vi­brant in­die mu­sic scene in Ban­dung in the 1990s, Sal­man launched his mu­sic ca­reer with folk rock band Si­len­tium.

And just like a se­quence in a movie, this phase of his life brought an im­por­tant life ques­tion to the 20-year old Sal­man: Will he be able make it in the mu­sic in­dus­try?

“In 1996, I made a deal with my­self that I would do what­ever I can to break into the mu­sic in­dus­try. [And] af­ter five years, I had to eval­u­ate ev­ery­thing,” he said.

Five years passed and his band was largely go­ing nowhere. Sal­man lived up to his deal by re­turn­ing home to Jakarta.

On the side­lines of send­ing job ap­pli­ca­tions to tele­vi­sion sta­tions and pub­li­ca­tions, Sal­man used his am­ple spare time to read clas­sic movie scripts at Us­mar Is­mail Movie Cen­ter (PPHUI) near his home.

“I have read all of As­rul Sani’s movie scripts,” Sal­man said about the late moviemaker be­hind sev­eral In­done­sian cin­e­matic mas­ter­pieces, such as Le­wat Djam Malam ( Past Cur­few), Naga Bonar and Ke­jar­lah Daku Kau Ku­tangkap ( Chase Me, I’ll Catch You).

“For me, he is a dewa [God] be­cause no­body in In­done­sia has been able to write better than him un­til now. His scripts taught me a sense of struc­ture in screen­writ­ing.”

Sal­man landed a job as film colum­nist for mag­a­zine, which en­abled him to build a net­work within the film in­dus­try, while con­stantly learn­ing to write screen­plays and spend­ing his monthly salary to buy im­ported books on screen­writ­ing.

His big break came in 2003 when di­rec­tor Ha­nung Bra­man­tyo asked him to re­write the script of ro­man­tic movie, The movie cat­a­pulted their

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