Indonesian actor Ario Bayu is drenched in sweat, and his Marines uniform is filthy as he enters the executive producer’s room at Infinite Studios in Batam, Riau, to meet the assembled press.
As he casually takes a sip from his drink, reporters notice a blood stain on his left arm. But it’s fake, and Ario is in the middle of shooting “Dead Mine,” the first film produced by HBO Asia and the first film to be made at Infinite Studios.
Shot in Indonesia, “Dead Mine” represents something new that the country’s studios can offer the world of international film production.
The cast of “Dead Mine” is an international amalgam of stars. Ario is on screen with fellow Indonesian actors Joe Taslim, Mike Lewis and Jaitov Yanda, who is famous for his role on the popular Indonesian comedy series “Bang Tigor.” The cast also features international stars such as Japanese actress Miki Mizuno, British actor Sam Hazeldine, as well as Carmen Soo from Malaysia and Jimmy Taenaka from Singapore.
Ario plays Tino, a young captain in command of a group of Indonesian soldiers hired by a foreign contingent to aid in a treasure-hunting expedition.
“Tino is someone with an authority,” Ario said about his character. “He lost someone in his team, so he has this burden to keep the mission smooth.”
This is Ario’s second involvement in an international film production. He recently finished shooting an independent thriller, “Java Heat,” with Mickey Rourke and Kellan Lutz in October.
“Dead Mine” follows a group of hunters seeking Yamashita’s gold, a Japanese treasure, which was lost on a remote Indonesian island after World War II. Each member of the group has their own personal reasons for being on the mission. The expedition takes a science-fiction and horror turn when the team encounters mutants in an underground bunker.
Although “Dead Mine” is being produced by Singapore-based HBO Asia, executive producer Mike Wiluan said the feature was very much a joint Indonesian-Singaporean production.
“The shooting of this film also demonstrates what the studio can provide,” Mike said.
The 33-year old is known for his faith in Indonesian films; he produced the country’s first 3-D musical animated film “Meraih Mimpi” (“Reaching for the Dream”) and the breakthrough local slasher flick “Rumah Dara” (“Macabre”).
Infinite Studios offers a cost-effective alternative for production, especially for international filmmakers, Mike said, adding that the studio aimed to be a one-stop shop for filmmakers. Infinite Studios is currently building its second soundstage, which will encompass 1,210 square meters of production space.
Mike gave the press a tour through the facilities, including its permanent Chinatown set, stunt workshop and makeup and wardrobe departments. The Chinatown set resembles Malaysia’s Penang, Jakarta’s Kota or Singapore’s Chinatown. Mike said the soundstage was identical to any of the big film studios in the United States, like Warner Brothers or Universal.
In fact, Mike claims Infinite’s soundstage is the largest in Southeast Asia. A temporary wild west set currently resides in a corner of the building as “Dead Mine” is only using half of the sprawling space. The soundstage itself is located next to a swath of jungle, which is where the shooting of “Dead Mine” took place earlier this month.
For “Dead Mine,” Mike hired 30 Indonesian craftsmen to work on the sets and in the various departments. Most of the laborers are from Bali — though some hail from various cities in Java and Sumatra — and are experts in painting and sculpturing. Some of the artisans molded and painted silicone foam for the mutant masks, each of which can take weeks to produce.
A full wardrobe of military uniforms and World War II Japanese army wear hangs on racks, waiting to be washed and painted so it will look worn from action.
“Dead Mine” represents a natural progression in Asian filmmaking, according to Erika North, the general manager of programming of HBO Asia, who had been discussing the project with Infinite Studios for some time. HBO Asia hopes to make a film with an “Asian identity” by using international and regional casts.
“Dead Mine” is directed by Steven Sheil from England, who co-wrote the script with Ziad Semaan. “They came to me with the script in August last year,” Sheil said, who joined the project in October.
HBO Asia wrote the story and hired the cast and crew. Sheil called “Dead Mine” an “ambitious project.”
Shooting was wrapped up just a day before Christmas.
Sheil said “Dead Mine” was a classic story about treasure hunters on an island. He also said he hoped the film would be able to deliver a sense of intense, magical adventure with plenty of action.
Sheil, who grew up watching horror films, said the Asian take on the genre was instrumental to the international development of overall horror. He also said horror films allowed him to present people outside their norm. In 2008, Sheil debuted his film “Mum and Dad,” an independent film about a twisted British family who scavenged from their children’s workplace.
Sheil said he got along well with the Indonesian cast and crew and that they were “terrific to work with.”
“Dead Mine” will be released in the middle of next year and will also be available for HBO’s international audience, but the exact premiere date has not been determined.