Soma Helmi Interview Transcript
Mas Moriya: [00:00:00] All right. Soma, so glad to have you on the podcast today. Thank you for taking some time out of your super busy schedule. You’re always doing something. So yeah.
Soma Helmi: Thanks for having me.
we’ve been in talks for a while on our API creatives group and senior your work, whether it’s be your short films, your continued efforts in directing in so many different programs, but I’d love for you to introduce yourself to the audience and, where you’re coming from, where your hometown is.
Mas Moriya: And give me a little bit of your career background.
Soma Helmi: Sure. Yeah.
So I am, Soma Helmi, I’m a director I’m originally from Bali. I am mixed Indonesian. And, I always say was born in a rice field and now I live in LA,
career background. I got my start actually in advertising. I was, in, I was an art director at J Walter Thompson in Jakarta for many years before I got into film.
Soma Helmi: And, rewind further back from that, I actually used to produce an art direct my dad’s, photo shoots for him. Cause he’s a [00:01:00] photographer in Southeast Asia. And so I used to do that since I was like 16. So I’ve been on sets for pretty much, most of my life.
Mas Moriya: Wow.
Soma Helmi: Yeah. And now I’m in LA directing.
Mas Moriya: What, what made you change did that? what was that transition like and what made that change from one career to that?
I think. When I think about it, I always wanted to be in film somewhat. I remember being in high school and all these kind of cool blockbuster movies and thinking I wanna, want to make movies, but never really knew how to do that?
Soma Helmi: or a way to get into it. And I actually went to college.
I went to university for, degree. So I did a bit of
Soma Helmi: I did animation and, graphics and all kinds of stuff. I got a little sidelined into doing graphic design and that’s how I ended up in advertising. And when I started doing art, directing and advertising, we would have all these brands that we were shooting, a couple of three times a month, sometimes.
And every time we were on set, just look at the [00:02:00] other side and
Soma Helmi: thinking, oh my God, that’s where I want to be. And I’d watch the director. And that just. I want to be doing what they’re doing. Why am I sitting here on the client side? So just picked up a camera one day with a friend and we made like this funky little narrative kind of Bali’s fairytale thing.
And it was just so much fun and I just, got bit by the bug and I really wanted to keep doing it. So narrative was the way,
Mas Moriya: That’s cool. Yeah. I think advertising is really an incredible industry, but it’s also, just you’re serving someone else, right?
Soma Helmi: used to direct, I still do direct commercials. it was just that seemed like the easier, like step from art directing advertising, and then directing commercial spots. But
Soma Helmi: is always narrative.
Mas Moriya: So what brings you into, directing versus writing or cinematography, even editing? what pulls the into that specific dentist position? It’s it’s one of the most, verse ones, but, and great for [00:03:00] storytelling, but, everybody has their paths. What weaves into directing.
a couple of things. I think tried my hand in a lot of departments. So when I was first getting into it, I was making my own little shorts, but I was also, I’ve been a wardrobe assistant have been in the set deck. I’ve been in the art department. I’ve done operating. So I’ve tried a little bit of everything.
Soma Helmi: And I just knew that the ha I would be happiest if I had my hand in it. I would be happiest. And I had tried to figure out what that is. And me, that’s directing, you can work on the story, but you can also work on the technical, look and feel and work with actors and you get to really shape the story if you’re directing it.
I guess directors, or maybe. Control freaks in a way where you have your hand at everything. but so that’s one thing, but itself, I just think there’s something so magical about taking words a piece of paper and you can transform it [00:04:00] pictures on the screen that everybody can see.
and I just knew that I wanted to have a hand in all of that.
Mas Moriya: Yeah. Yeah. I think that’s,directing such a, his hands in everything because then you, and I think it’s really important that good directors, have their roots in and a little bit about. So they can speak to that. Department can speak to the editors and how you want it cut.
And you know that the J cuts and the out cuts, and you can talk to set deck, like now that doesn’t look right, or you can make it with this.
Soma Helmi: Oh, absolutely. And you don’t have to be an expert Cause I think that gets a little overbearing, but having knowledge about from pre to post you can shepherd, you can help, but you can also tell people if they’re saying they can’t do it, you have a little bit of knowledge about it.
And you’re like, No.
you can’t. It’s possible. So
can’t get the wool pulled over your eyes either. you can help
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
Soma Helmi: figure out solutions. It’s just, I think it’s absolutely vital that a director has knowledge
Soma Helmi: [00:05:00] all the departments that they are. you’re asking people do that things for you.
You should know a little bit about what you’re asking them to do.
Mas Moriya: Yeah, speak their language. And then when you can say, yeah, when they have a question, you’re not saying, I don’t know, ask somebody else because they,let’s put our heads together. Let’s what can we think of? I think that’s really important.
Soma Helmi: Yeah. And I think that’s, there’s, it’s
to not know what you’re doing
Mas Moriya: Oh,
Soma Helmi: some things. And I feel like sometimes
directors are not given leeway do that, but I absolutely believe that. You have
Soma Helmi: the best people in their respective departments. So them help you and let the collaboration happen because it does take a village.
you just have to be able to make decisions, I think is the thing. you have to just, if you don’t know the answer, you can always say, give me a minute, let me think about it. Or you can, say what do you think? What’s your opinion and have a conversation about it. But I think it’s dangerous also just say that a director has to know everything all the time.
Mas Moriya: Oh completely. Yeah, they don’t have to be the master. Just someone who [00:06:00] can speak.
Soma Helmi: Right. or, and just say, have the taste to know if that’s what they want or not.
Mas Moriya: Right. So what’s your creativity and, project experience in this past year, you’ve put out work and you’ve worked with other people in the pandemic. Like I, I haven’t done that. So what has that been like? What have been the biggest struggles and the biggest advantages? If there are.
it got off to quite a Rocky start. I have to say last year, at the beginning of last year, I was actually offered my first episode of TV. and it was
Soma Helmi: moment. And it was wonderful and, going to be life-changing except that the pandemic happened, or at least the shutdown let’s say happen pretty much the next month.
And so that episode never happened for me. it was a little bit of a heartbreaking thing because only that happened, I had another big gig ha go away because of COVID. So there were. Struggling with trying to figure out how do you [00:07:00] stay relevant and how do you stay with all of this going around?
And obviously it was such a difficult time, not just of COVID, but all of the upheaval and the social issues. It was just, it was hard to stay focused, but. What I did. What did a couple of things happened? I was in this group called the future women of TV of 2020. I don’t know if there’s a more ironic title.
but we were all on the cusp. there were 10 of us and writers and directors, and we were all supposed to make it that year. some of us had just got our first episode. Some of us had features that were lined up to shoot that summer. And it was just like incredible group of people.
And we were all in the same boat. One by one or everything got, pulled the
Soma Helmi: on. but the thing that helped was being in that group of like-minded people where we were all like, all right, let’s pull our sleeves up. Let’s figure out how we can turn this to our advantage. So we ended up with, I think, [00:08:00] over 50 execs over the year, to come and speak to us showrunners.
producing directors to be networking and still be relevant, so to speak. And it was a lifesaver because I feel like for a lot of people, perhaps their career felt like there was just a massive full stop last year, especially since four directors, the ones trying to break in given opportunities, obviously for obvious reasons.
Soma Helmi: Because I had that going, that kind of kept me sane so I could still be writing and I could still be creating. Like I didn’t have that feeling of
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
Soma Helmi: lost. and then
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
Soma Helmi: of that group, I met a couple of writers who really, I was on the same wavelength with, and I just said, why don’t we start a writer?
why are we waiting for someone to tap us to do it? And the three of us created this, like a season outline and we wrote, first [00:09:00] pilot script and we just jammed all year long. Like once a week we would meet and we would have our own little mini writer’s room. and it was just, I think, relying on your community of like creative.
Soma Helmi: It was the way that I got through it. I would just tap people and just say, Hey, you want to do something together? I know we’re not going to be on set or let’s write something be creative that way. Or let’s talk to whoever who could inspire us to, make another project. So there weren’t,
Mas Moriya: Cool.
Soma Helmi: a lot of like obviously on set happening, but at least we were writing and we were still being creative that way. And then at the tail end of the couple of months ago,she’s a data. So a friend of mine, had been talking about doing a short together for a couple of years now, I think, and we just finally decided to do it gathered a couple of friends. This was right when people were getting vaccinated.
And a couple of us had been fully Vaxxed, a couple had been half. And, it was just like [00:10:00] that when things were opening up again. And, we just decided to make this fun little action short. that was the first thing I’d shot outside of dependent and shut down. And it was so much fun.
Mas Moriya: And it was an incredible piece too. I ended the action was fantastic. The visual effects looked good. what a fun piece. they put it all together too. And how quickly do you put that together scene? Pretty generally pretty fast.
Soma Helmi: Very fast.
I think from me, from Yoshi and I going right. Let’s do it. We were, I don’t know, like four weeks, maybe three, because we had to wait for availability. Cause we got a. is Chicago into to be the lead and she’s wonderful. So we had to wait for all the stars to align with her availability. Yoshi, I think was, had a shoot somewhere.
He’s always shooting something we had to make sure everybody was there for that weekend. And I think it was just that waiting for everyone to align. And it wasn’t long. I think it was three weeks or a month at most. and then, All the pieces just fell together. [00:11:00] We were like seven people though.
including the two actors, Yeah.
Soma Helmi: So it wasn’t a big deal and reshot on a rooftop on this of really cool downtown building. And knew that I wanted the first thing out to be very controlled and very small and Vaxxed to people. And we, one of those seven people, the COVID officer,
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
Soma Helmi: very safe, was so much fun.
Cause you know, Mickey and Ryu are just amazing. They were so good on screen.
Mas Moriya: So I’d love to go into your background a little bit. what was your experience like growing up in Bali?
Mas Moriya: and. No, but your artistic vision out there. and then the transition to the United States, that’s only been like for five years by now. So what I’d love to know your, your experiences in your industry and, stories that, that you wanna do.
You want to tell us more stories about POM Bali? and that was background.
Soma Helmi: Yeah. I. In Bali, like off and on. So I was there. Full-time when I was a kid and then I went to school and university [00:12:00] outside of Bali. So I haven’t been there full time, birth till five years ago, but probably half of my life there. this time before moving to the states, I was there for seven or so years.
I was trying to be a filmmaker in Bali and it was there’s a big film industry, Indonesia, but not necessarily in Bali it’s most of it happens in Jakarta, but I was,
Soma Helmi: living. In Bali and shooting outside of Bali for most of the time for commercials, for films, it was, I was always flying everywhere.
it’s a beautiful island and a couple of people trying to make productions happen there. And I believe now there’s, there might be a stick opening there. I think that’s the latest news, but when I was there, it was, I was living. By the types of stories I could tell whether they w they had to be obviously set in Indonesia or Bali.
Soma Helmi: There’s a lot of beautiful rice fields. but you are a little bit limited on the kinds of stories you can tell that [00:13:00] back then. I think, like I said, my fish, or what I did was, this telling of a Bali’s fairytale that are. Our nannies used to tell us. I’m very interested in those old mythologies and fairy tales and retelling those.
I think that those they’re so beautiful and they’re also they’re fading from our memories because a lot of the younger generations, the kids are not being told these stories. So I would love to keep doing that. I think that’s so important, keeping up all those traditions and figuring out a way to
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
Soma Helmi: in a modern setting means.
but like I said, I felt
Soma Helmi: bit limited in what I could do in Bali in terms of really fleshing out like a big film, career. I could move to Jakarta. Yes. But was convinced to move to LA, by a couple of film friends. And here I felt like a little bit like a kid in a candy store because in Bali itself, when I was shooting, there was like a handful of back.
Mas Moriya: And that was it, So you didn’t really [00:14:00] things a lot. Grab everybody together and let’s go.
Soma Helmi: exactly, it was like a friend of a friend. Let’s go. And who’s writing nobody. So
Mas Moriya: Hm.but here, like the first short I did here, I did an open costing and they’re like 300 applications or does submissions for one role when I was like, it was but wonderful at the same time.
but I think I got very excited and I shot, I don’t know, or five shorts in two years or something. and just to be able to explore the different types of stories. make here, you can go all out on , whatever you want to kind of stories you want to tell. And then now I feel like in the last couple of years, I’m coming back round and concentrating more on, like, how do I tell stories about perhaps things that are closer to my experience about being mixed, about being part Asian about, how do I, how do I.
Soma Helmi: See the [00:15:00] representation on screen that I’ve always wanted to. That makes sense. I feel like one of the things that we always talk about with Indonesian friends is why is there such a lack of Well, you’re called strong, Asian lead, a strong Asian male lead.
there’s No, romantic leads really in Western and mainstream media that are men or Asian women, And so we’re just trying to figure out a way to do that. how can I contribute to that in a meaningful way? That’s positive that will be received well in a, wider market what I’m aiming for
Mas Moriya: No, I think it’s. I in general, all of our responsibility is to start doing those stories because if someone else doesn’t, how well are they going to be received? w when we put them together, It could be the same thing. It’s the same con concept. How well are they going to be received?
But at the same time, we’re coming from a place of, knowledge and a place of wisdom about our own communities. not even just Asian, [00:16:00] Asian America, but like Indonesia and Southeast Asian, east Asian, whichever community you’re coming from. You’re going to find something more. nuanced above it. What’s the difference?
where is that culture? Because I love what you said about, your stories. Your nanny would tell you, because there are so many, folklores and, stories that our grandparents and their grandparents would tell for ages. But I wasn’t told many any of the stories that they had. I’m trying to find them in books.
Mas Moriya: And I don’t know, this is a really old classic story in from Japan. w I’m sure my grandmother didn’t even hear that because I know she did hear a few of them, but no, she doesn’t know the Japanese. Yeah. Too, that language barrier cuts us off too.
Soma Helmi: Right.
Mas Moriya: in the younger kids are learning different languages and more of the tech and getting into the stuff.
So it gets very lost. So for us to start bringing it back into film and television entertainment, like we’re the only ones who are gonna be able to tell those stories in a proper way and not be white centered and [00:17:00] white gaze. I think that’s really important.
Soma Helmi: Yeah. And I think definitely an effort in Indonesia now too, make that happen. and interestingly, I think it’s the younger generation who like it skips a couple of generations and then maybe some of the younger ones are now looking back and saying, Hey. what are the stories that we were never told?
can we bring them back and we bring some life back into them and can we keep them alive? Can we share them?
Soma Helmi: So I think there’s definitely a movement for that. Cause I’ve seen a few really interesting things to happen or have been happening in the last couple of years that are really exciting coming out of Indonesia.
And I’m really looking forward to. the, I guess you can call it the retelling
Soma Helmi: classic fault tales. so keep an eye out. Cause I think that there’s some beautiful pieces coming out of India.
Mas Moriya: I think that’s super cool and important work to do because that becomes something that we can put online. We can put it on a [00:18:00] globally. People can watch it and get a taste. I don’t want to say it tasted the culture, a, an insight to different folk wars and different ways. No Castellanos times have morals attached to them and those cultural and traditions of morals start to fade if we don’t keep telling them.
And I think that’s a valuable thing to keep doing.
Soma Helmi: Yeah.
And I think that will come out of it is also the kind of idea or not the idea, but the reality that we all have similar. Stories cultures in Western cultures also like all of these stories of morality and, right and wrong. I think every culture has a version of it.
And having them shared, I think might help Bring us together, maybe, the fact that we have a lot in common and I’m sure maybe old kind of Nordic folk tills something in common with a Balinese [00:19:00] fairytale, maybe, I think it’s, there’s something really beautiful about that.
Mas Moriya: Yeah, we were, I think I was talking with a friend about there’s gotta be an Asian Romeo and Juliet, But it’s totally different enough. You’re like, it’s pretty much the same, but like also very much the way it’s told who’s the character is all that totally different. I think there’s gotta be, cause they didn’t have those princes and princesses and different kingdoms and prefectures and all that kind of stuff.
I think those are.
Soma Helmi: for
would love to talk about,we talked about, you mean mixed identity and your Asian identity, and then we had a quick conversation about, do you consider yourself Asian American, even if you’re, you’ve only been here for five years, but you’re here. Like now I’d love to hear what,
Soma Helmi: That’s a complicated answer,
Mas Moriya: Yeah, no, but I think it’s, I think it’s super valid. It’s a valid thing to think about. Cause I hadn’t even thought about that either. So we’d love to hear your opinions on what, how you identify as your identity.
Soma Helmi: Oh,that’s good. an ever-changing thing.
Soma Helmi: so I was born in Bali and yes, I was mixed. I was a mixed [00:20:00] light-skin girl. In a Balinese village. it was complicated. I think. At times did not have the best time. I unfortunately there was some bullying and teasing involved, being born there and, born in the village and whatnot, if I was felt othered at times, but I was also surrounded by incredibly beautiful, wonderful family and friends who didn’t make me feel that way.
Kind of it was complicated. I also, I think it was struggling with the idea that the fact that I was mixed that I’m, so light-skinned living, I think in Indonesia, perhaps maybe more difficult than if I were not. because I was. In Indonesian, I would go to places and the conversation would always be, but where are you from?
No, but where are you from? And they would not believe. I would just say I’m, don’t know how to answer this [00:21:00] question. No, but where were you born? Also Bali. and it’s just this until I would say my mom’s Polish and they would all sigh with relief and say, oh, you’re Polish,
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
So it was a little bit complicated. then, when I moved to the states, when I was younger, I would then get never where you from, cause I had a funny accent and I spoke mostly or English with a weird accent and I would try to point out where I was from and yeah.
Mas Moriya: They wouldn’t know where Bali was and it was just still Wow.
Soma Helmi: explain, I’ve also had that what I. Question.
Mas Moriya: I that
Soma Helmi: yeah, that’s
Mas Moriya: Even worse. I’m like
not a Wyatt.
Soma Helmi: do you know, in, I don’t know if you’ve watched shadow and bone,
Mas Moriya: Not yet.
Soma Helmi: there’s a scene in that where she is presented before the king and queen and the queen looks at her and says, what are you?
Cause she’s a mixed character in the show and it’s obviously some kind of. [00:22:00] Asian looking race that she’s half of. and that seemed just hit me in the heart. I dunno how to explain it when they, she did that. What are you the girl? she couldn’t answer. She kinda got stuck and I was like, oh my God, haven’t we all been in that situation.
I think. Oddly only in the last couple of years, here in, in LA and slowly meeting more Indonesians here, or, Indonesian Americans, Asian Americans I’ve started really processing it and feeling much more, much more like where it should be much more. Yeah.
Soma Helmi: peace with kind of being mixed.
Sometimes it’s hard. I
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
Soma Helmi: hard moments where I still rail against like, why do you care? What I look like? This is I, someone told me the other day, I don’t remember what context it was. It was like, we were [00:23:00] talking about diversity and inclusion and said, oh, there’s half of you, at least in the diversity group.
And I was like, wow. What do you mean by half of me? Like I’m a whole person. I don’t understand what that means. so it’s a very long answer. Sorry.
no. No, there is not, it’s not long answer at all. Yeah. I think even being mixed in itself is diversity inclusion part of it. And also
Soma Helmi: Yeah.
Mas Moriya: half of it. I don’t understand that.
Soma Helmi: Yeah.
Mas Moriya: that same thing too.
Soma Helmi: what they were saying either, but it was just remember
Really deeply by that because it’s how do you say that to someone? Because
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
Soma Helmi: they’re a whole person it’s all mixed up in here. I’m not just suddenly, like I only half of me do a diversity thing or what does that mean?
Mas Moriya: not half people were, it’s not half in half out. And
Soma Helmi: right.
Mas Moriya: what does, thing half always just feels like you’re not enough.
Soma Helmi: Yeah.
Mas Moriya: that’s the thing.I’ve definitely been, cause I remember you, I used to say that that was the more accepted [00:24:00] terminology, but I think I feel more comfortable with mixed. but I was also going to say that since being here in LA And last couple of years, especially I say in the last year and a half with all the kind of upheaval.
Soma Helmi: I feel like there’s been a lot more solidarity. I feel especially with the slowly pulling together, like a Indonesian group of filmmakers here, there’s definitely a feel, a lot more included, we are, we’re all, we’re not in Indonesia, but we are mixed, so full
Soma Helmi: trying to get.
Form a community here, and there’s not, there’s never really a discussion about, or you’re only made story or, you’re only half or whatever it is. It’s just, we’re just happened to be a group of Indonesian filmmakers banding together. And it’s great. And it’s wonderful.
Mas Moriya: you’re accepted
Soma Helmi: Yeah.
Mas Moriya: right.
Soma Helmi: Yeah. And it’s really great.
And I feel like that maybe the long answer to the Asian American question, because yeah. I wasn’t born here. I haven’t [00:25:00] lived here that long, but like I’m identifying and being accepted more that, than I have been. Anything else.
Mas Moriya: Yeah. I think that the Asian American cultures, it’s its own thing for sure. And then finding your own communities beyond the Asian culture.
you might have a women’s community, then you might have an Asian woman’s community. You might have the larger,multi gendered, Asian, Asian Americans, but then finding your Indonesians, your Chinese, your Filipinos communities, even in that, not only breaks it down, but you start to find a really strong acceptance.
Mas Moriya: Yeah. cultural similarities that you started to find, this is definitely people, not that the laundry community, isn’t a part of me, but being in these smaller communities, that feels almost like.
Mas Moriya: food and, understanding acceptance. And that, without a question you’re just there.
They don’t have to question, what are you, what kind of race are you kind of ethnicity? Like [00:26:00] you’re in the Indonesian group. You’re probably Indonesian.
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
Soma Helmi: really, I think you, you obviously have a good understanding of this too, but Yeah.
when you’re growing up and you don’t quite know where you belong, because
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
Soma Helmi: it’s made clear that you don’t
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
Soma Helmi: in any one group. It’s really nice when that’s stops being even a conversation.
And I know that like the generations before us have had it much, much worse than us, like my dad’s generation, I think it was very difficult. Cause he’s actually Turkish, Indonesian.
Mas Moriya: Hm.
Soma Helmi: Turkish. And when
Soma Helmi: was growing up, bullying was violent, in Indonesia it was violent. He got into a lot of scraps and fights and just, and then, he’s obviously darker skin. He would, he lived around in Western countries also and was severely bullied there also,
but now I feel like maybe each generation it [00:27:00] gets hopefully a little bit easier and it’s not. there’s kind of rejection of us, and I hope it’s gets easier and easier cause I really, I have friends now who are having, mixed babies and I just think, oh gosh, please make it easier for them as they grow up.
Mas Moriya: Yeah. It’s like a foreignness on top of the foreignness for others.
Soma Helmi: Yeah. And it’s, isn’t that like some statistic at some point. In the next few years, it’s going to be mostly mixed people,
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
Soma Helmi: so start accepting it. Yeah.
I’m hopeful. I think it’s getting better and better. wonderful to feel like you have a commute.
Mas Moriya: So jumping off of that, Hollywood plays a huge role in then obviously you’re working towards. Building a and better narrative for, Southeast Asians, Indonesians and your own creativity. what’s your experience been like advocating for Indonesian storytelling and working with others who are also Indonesian and building, a new narrative.
So it’s interesting. Cause I feel like I’ve written a [00:28:00] lot of things, that have Indonesian characters or Indonesian stories. But when I was in, in Indonesia, that’s not really not really. An issue there because
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
Soma Helmi: they don’t need individual representation himself.
but it was still a thought of mine for the Western media and the Western culture. and when I got here, before meeting a few people like Yoshi and other Indonesian filmmakers, I never knew any of the Indonesian like actors specifically here. So had a bunch of things written, but Yeah.
Soma Helmi: I was reaching out and trying to find people to make it with me make content with me that was Indonesian focused.
it’s only been in the last, like two years where that’s starting to happen. I wrote a feature with my friend, Sam, where we’re actually talking about. The machines are starting under the, my house. Can you hear that?
Mas Moriya: No. No, you’re good. You’re
good. So it’s been an interesting journey because I [00:29:00] think now that we’re that community that I was talking about, I feel like we’re in a place where we can start creating and we can actually start making these stories come to life on screen, rather than just having a bunch of things.
that I felt like I couldn’t find people to collaborate with to make them, so I really want to make a feature. that’s got an Indonesian American, lead, little girl who lives in Texas. and also recently I have just, I, I talk about. The thing that I’m to do,
yeah, I think so. I would love to hear more about it. we’re going to put this out and like towards the end of August. So I would think your crowdfunding would already be up.
Soma Helmi: right?
Mas Moriya: Yeah,
I would love to hear, I think the audience would love to, if you don’t want to, you to.
Soma Helmi: absolutely will. I think that, there’s one thing that I have, I always found, I gravitate more. So when talking about inclusion and, representation on screen, the way that I like To tell stories. And the way that I like to share that [00:30:00] is by casting and by just presenting a story that just maybe happens to have American or AAPI characters living their life and living their existence.
And it’s not necessarily a moral story or a lesson or. about representation do you know what I mean? I just love the idea that They just happened to be And you have a glimpse into their life. Maybe at home, they eat Japanese food if they’re Japanese characters, but they still it’s still at essence, let’s say a Ramadan.
and they just happen to, be a PI leads and you a glimpse and you can, I feel like that to me is the best way to share everybody has their way. Obviously we can have really important stories about history and about, the way people are treated in this country. All those wonderful things.
Soma Helmi: The way that I like to have to.
do is just by just [00:31:00] sharing these stories. That are every day that are,
perhaps a romantic story about, I dunno if I’m rambling. I don’t know
no, you’re good. Yeah, no,
Mas Moriya: I think it’s the whole idea of that. one, we’re just where people living in
Soma Helmi: right.
Mas Moriya: areas where you’re fair in America, or you’re dealing with things you might have different food might have a different idea and opinion. You might have some different background.
different family members that don’t, aren’t just white, but at the same time, We’re doing a podcast right now.
Mas Moriya: so a screenwriter, I go out and do, go get groceries and I meet people at a bar, and we have those same, those are universal. The same. And when you have a romcom or a thriller horror, a mystery, those are all stories.
When you can add an Asian lead, who, someone who not only looks like us, but then, has the same food, but at the same time, we’re watching that story play out because we’re so interested in the suspense, the love, the, the universal stories that we just crave in every movie,
Soma Helmi: and I think it just there’s something to just [00:32:00] showing,
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
that it’s just a human. Experience, it’s, you don’t have to other it. You don’t have
Mas Moriya: Yeah.put a wall up. You don’t have to be scared. Maybe some people, you don’t have to be angry. You don’t have to be any, it’s just a human experience.
Soma Helmi: They just have been, Maybe people look different. I don’t know if that’s like really naive, but that’s the way I like to see it. I really liked, I really love never have I ever,
that opening scene where she’s praying to Ganesha and it’s just such an everyday thing, but she’s an American leaving an American typical teen life, but she’s just, maybe at home has she has a family, I just really loved the way they handled that.
Soma Helmi: So that’s my thing. the next project I’m doing is actually I, I wrote, and I’m going to direct, a Saifai grounded, Saifai Saifai story called the weekend, it’s an old AAPI cast. and it’s starring Yoshi Sodexo, who is an Indonesian American man. that’s something that I feel like we haven’t seen much of Indonesian American lead [00:33:00] in anything, in a of mainstream or Western media.
I thought that was really important. And,it’s going to be a short film, but it’s a proof of concept for a feature or a series idea I have.
and we are starting crowdfunding for that actually on August 3rd. So I’m just really hoping to get a lot of support. from the community, but just also from the wider who love genre, because
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
Soma Helmi: really at its Cole as grounded scifi story, whoever is the lead and whoever’s driving the story.
Yes. We have some Indonesian specific story elements to it, which I think is important.
At the core of it. It’s a, it’s the story, isn’t it. It’s how you tell the story. And is it engaging? Is it Is it, all the things that it should be
Mas Moriya: Yeah, the cultural differences doesn’t drive the story, nor does it make it feel like it needs to be an other section, like in the Asian representation, it’s the Saifai representation, right? The [00:34:00] cipher genre. That’s where it goes,
Mas Moriya: to build in that storyline just happens to be new characters and who have different backgrounds.
I know that you can’t, I wouldn’t want to put, an Asian in the lead that you don’t see some sort of, pair of chopsticks reading rise at dinner like this, that those are the little differences, but it doesn’t mean,
Soma Helmi: things.
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
Soma Helmi: that you necessarily have to put a microscope on or focus on. It’s an essential part of their identity, and I think that’s really important, like sharing that and not, also, you don’t want to, just for the sake of it being
Mas Moriya: Right.
Soma Helmi: character.
No, there’s a reason he’s an Indonesian character and the backstory of the whole scifi element of it comes from Indonesia. So that’s why he has to be an Indonesian character, but again, it’s scifi fantasy, it’s all the worldly and that’s where kind of the core of it [00:35:00] is,
Soma Helmi: it’s a sci-fi fantasies.
Mas Moriya: Yeah, we don’t have to explain why he’s Asian. He just says.
Soma Helmi: Exactly. And I love that. I think that’s just think
Mas Moriya: No.
Soma Helmi: best. And I, I love to do that in my writing too. It’s just conversational, like in, in this script, the two women, there’s two women in a room and they’re
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
Soma Helmi: about how, their parents are, they run the ADI sun, which is like this. I guess gambling is the wrong way to say it, but maybe it is, I don’t know, but there’s it’s an activity that kind of Indonesian, especially older women, Indonesian, actually younger generation are getting into it. Now that it’s very like any Indonesian reading that script would immediately be like, oh Yeah, like I get that, but it’s not let’s explain what, how do you sign is to the audience?
Soma Helmi: it’s just,
Soma Helmi: of part of the conversation.
Mas Moriya: Yeah. We know it’s a game. We know it’s getting this money involved. That’s all we need to know.
Soma Helmi: Yeah. don’t know.
if I’m like belaboring the subject, but it’s I think that’s just the way that I like to throw it in.
Mas Moriya: Yeah, but that’s important. Japanese, I don’t play go [00:36:00] Japanese play, go and have different things. And the Japanese Americans love to gamble. that was the biggest thing that they used to do all the time, for sure. But it doesn’t matter what game they’re playing. We all understand where gambling looks like, and we all know what a passing the time looks like and making bets and all that stuff.
It’s all the same. But
Soma Helmi: Yeah.
Mas Moriya: the way you’re doing it is different, To see how other people do it is really interesting. And then you might explore it. Oh, what’s that game. I’m going to be a fun game. I want to play
Soma Helmi: Yeah. And I love the idea of presenting that to maybe an audience who hasn’t seen it, but in a way
Mas Moriya: right.
Soma Helmi: is Is, guess inclusive is such an overused word, but it’s it is, you can you can become interested in it and you can be curious about it. And it’s just a periphery though, cause that’s cool.
a love story. That’s set in a scifi genre, So that should be the most important thing really.
yeah, I’m starting to head out to, now talking about Southeast Asian representation, which just. No, I’ll be honest. I probably hadn’t heard a lot about Southeast Asian representation until [00:37:00] oh, December, this past couple of years. I just, I don’t know if I have many friends that they don’t have to talk about or what it was.
I’m interested in what your perspective in what industries are getting right. Getting right and getting wrong. what’s more stories there are to tell,what’s your perspective in how.
Mas Moriya: could be changed. And besides, building our own tables and getting more people in those rooms and stuff, but what’s been your experience like getting, cause I feel like it’s maybe I’m rambling, but like it’s always been that minority within the minority that gets hidden and we don’t get to hear about and talk about, and it’s not getting in it given enough light.
So we’re coming from that perspective. Now one, how does that make you feel? And to like now that we’re are getting some more people like yourself creating and building and have that representation, what does it feel like to then be seen and be heard in that way?
obviously I’m no expert, so this is my opinions.
Soma Helmi: but [00:38:00] I think. Definitely. There’s been a lot of misrepresentation, especially Bali. let’s if we’re talking specifically, I don’t want to talk, speak for anyone else, but I don’t know if anyone’s ever got it. Even, when I actually worked on eat, pray love in Bali.
w the production designer was not, was obviously New York and he was wonderful. He was an amazing production designer, but I feel like there wasn’t much involvement from the Bali Indonesia side in terms of the art. So there a lot of the things that they were doing, they would have these shots, for example, outside of a home.
Soma Helmi: And you’d have a couple of little offerings, and. Because I was set Dick and I was being sent around, buying all this random stuff that would just down like a hundred of these offerings on the ground. And I’d be like, you guys know that’s not how it’s done. That’s not what it should look like. There’s a total overkill and I’d be trying to tech
Mas Moriya: Yeah.
Soma Helmi: to them about it. no, it looks great [00:39:00] on screen. Nah, I’m just like over ruled.
I guess who am I? I’m just like tiny pests and in Bali, just trying to make my way around. And I was like, all right, I told you, I am trying to tell you how to do it properly, but go ahead.
I’m all good. so I think I understand why some of that happens because they don’t really, I think maybe more fixated on the aesthetic and the framing and not really getting it right. Which is a little bit frustrating. then this stuff like trying to shoot for Bali on a lot, somewhere in Burbank is just so wrong.
Like you can never get it right. You can’t ever get it. I think alias had a scene where they were in a Bobby’s market in one of their episodes. And I was like, no, so bad, but then also there’s the
Soma Helmi: first, whatever reason they can never get, why don’t they just. Indonesian native speakers.
If it’s an Indonesian role, I get why sometimes it’s difficult to cast for that, because maybe there aren’t that many available, but then provide [00:40:00] language coach, so that they did get it right. Because number of times a nation has been just mashed in dialogue is I think quite funny,
Mas Moriya: Yeah.And then, I feel like maybe nowadays, especially in the last year and a half, there’s been more drive to and figure out a way Yeah.
Soma Helmi: it properly, get more actually
Soma Helmi: Asians. If it’s a niche and specific thing, get an Indonesian person to come and help you and consult and talk about it and maybe exert, creative produce with you. how do you actually include the community that you’re trying to speak about? what was the second thing? I don’t know. Am I rambling
no. You’re it sounds you’re wonderful. no, I think that’s, that was the, of the question. I was like, being seen as representation, being seen. So if someone, you said you’ve seen no one get a ride, so maybe you haven’t seen
Mas Moriya: anything that
Soma Helmi: That’s an exaggeration, maybe like a couple of times.
Soma Helmi: Off the top of my head, remember one, but I’m sure there is an example here and there of getting it right. I feel like, [00:41:00] maybe like Australian films
Mas Moriya: Hmm.
Soma Helmi: much closer to it because
Mas Moriya: Hmm.
Soma Helmi: proximity and they have much more experience with Indonesia and Southeast Asia specific countries.
So they probably have a make, more of an effort, to get it right?
but I think it just, it’s almost seems obvious though. Doesn’t it? Get someone involved who is of that culture, of that identity, like just seems like such a no brainer to me, open the doors and allow Southeast Asian storytellers tell the stories or at least consult on the stories, that,
Mas Moriya: Sounds so simple
Soma Helmi: wasn’t, it was
Mas Moriya: like
that hard. No,
it’s not that hard. just, Yeah.
And w it’s getting better. the industry itself is at least, we are coming up as people, then
Soma Helmi: also the conversations are being had, had
Mas Moriya: exactly.
Soma Helmi: now. Which is great because that’s an actual option now to do that. And I feel like there’s pressure to do that.
Mas Moriya: I’ve never heard this, [00:42:00] any conversations about Asian representation and like studios actually doing something and putting people into places and,
people getting managers and getting screenplays and, you’ve made it into multiple, fellowships and it’s incredible. So it’s there’s definitely a push and a need that we’re starting to see.
So I think it’s, I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming
Soma Helmi: really happy to,
Mas Moriya: Yeah. Yeah.
so as we close, what’s some lasting advice you’d like to give to,emerging Asian American artists and directors.
I feel oh my gosh, advice. If I were maybe further ahead in my career, I could have give better advice. I, might be general for all filmmakers. It’s persistence. It’s all about. Figuring out a way of yourself in a good mental health state while you’re also staying persistent because this industry is bonkers in a word.
there’s so many ups and downs and there’s so many rejections and more. [00:43:00] So I guess if you are from a. A community that maybe is in the minority or is not being represented properly. it’s even much more of a struggle, but it’s just finding a way to remember that this is what you love to do, this is your joy that you want to create, that you want to make films, and you have to just hold onto that because things do really get hard. But if you stay in line. And then you just keep going forward. Don’t you? so just keep fighting the fight, but keep remembering that you love it because even on set, everyone gets really stressed out and there’s divas and whatnot, but he’s Hey, can we take a minute to remember that?
Soma Helmi: What we’ve decided to do is our careers is essentially make belief as an adult. are you supposed to be having fun at it? yes. There’s big budgets and this stress about time. And do I have all my shots and all this kind of stuff, but you shouldn’t really be having [00:44:00] fun while you’re doing it because it is so much fun and you should love it.
Mas Moriya: Yeah. If you’re not loving it, you’re in the wrong spot.
Soma Helmi: Yeah. And yes, fight for representation. Inclusion, do all those wonderful things. Just make sure you don’t burn out while you’re doing it.
Mas Moriya: Super agreed with that. thank you so much again, for being on the podcast and sharing your story with our audience today. and myself, I really had, this is our first time talking to great lengths are really enjoying having hun.
Soma Helmi: Thank you. And if you don’t mind, if everyone can check
Mas Moriya: Yes. seed and spark campaign, it’s the weekend. and we will have a website up if I can mention it.
We’ll put it in the show notes.
Soma Helmi: Thank you. It’s the weekend short.com and that’ll take you straight to us seed and spot campaign. And it’s just about sharing it. It’s about making sure we tell our friends and people are interested in the storytelling part of it.
If people are able to donate, that’s wonderful, but we really just want to make sure that we create A community of people [00:45:00] who would love the film and are looking forward to it coming.
Mas Moriya: A hundred percent and, that’s the thing. So where can people follow you, on your Instagrams and
Soma Helmi: Yeah. So I think all of my handles are at Soma homies, Instagram and Twitter, and my website is Soma helmy.com. That’s usually where you find
Mas Moriya: Yeah, pretty easy,
Soma Helmi: easy.
Masami Moriya: Find any deadline or variety article. You’ll see it up there and you’ll just search the name and you’ll find a ton.
there’s a few things cooking and I’m hoping just keeps getting better. And I’m very hopeful for the world right now. If we just keep it together,
Soma Helmi: just keep it
Mas Moriya: everybody.
Soma Helmi: Oh my gosh.
Mas Moriya: Yeah. once again, thank you so much. And, it was a pleasure to have you,good luck on everything. I’m excited to see your career. keep evolving and growing and watching. I’ll be there at your premieres when I can.
Soma Helmi: Yay. Good. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.