Tabula Rasa

a film by Adriyanto Dewo

Monday, 02 June 2014 00:00

Men of Art: The Art Department of Tabula Rasa

There’s a thought behind every chair, window, pot, plate and everything else you see on screen. The director has a vision, a visual concept of a look, which he discusses with the Art Director, who then translates it into what you see on the screen. In Tabula Rasa, the men responsible were Art Director Iqbal Marjono and his Artworkers Indonesia team.



Established in 2005, Artworkers Indonesia is a team of about 25-30 film professionals who work in the Art department. Fifteen of them worked on Tabula Rasa, spending day-in day-out on set, most of them never even left the set, opting to spend their nights there as well. They were the first people to rise in the morning and sleep in the night, having the responsibility to dress up the set before each take and putting everything back to order every time the day wrapped.

Having to work intensely with food was new for the Artworkers team. It presented them with many challenges—keeping up with hygiene, for one. Yet not only did the food need to be hygienic and edible for the actors to eat, but it also had to look visually right to the director’s eyes. Since Tabula Rasa focused on Padang dishes, the Art team spent a lot of time researching about Padang cuisine during the pre-production phase of the film. Browsing books and the internet were not enough, the team also had to frequent different kinds of Padang restaurants to observe the heart of them all—the kitchens.

Building a traditional kitchen set needed a lot of care and attention to details. The team had to be familiar with the flow of cooking Padang cuisine, what utensils were needed to be there, what weren’t. In addition to research, consultation with our culinary advisors was also needed. After all, making the set look pleasing to the eyes was not enough; it also had to be believable.




Aside from putting the right props into the right places, the Art team also had to always take the camera into consideration. There must always be space for the camera, in the right place, and this interweaves the work of the Art department with the Camera department. Art Director Iqbal Marjono always worked closely with Director of Photography Amalia TS, ensuring that she had what she needed to work and was able to have the best possible shot.

Though given space to make his own artistic interpretations, Iqbal was nevertheless always working in parallel with Director Adriyanto Dewo’s vision. Adri would sometimes ask for a specific feeling of a set, for example how he wanted a particular set to feel green, or spacious, or peaceful. At times he would also set the colors, like how he wanted the main set to have contradictory colors, juxtaposed side by side with their obvious differences.

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