Salman Aristo’s stories
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
( 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