Exclusive Chat with Actress Shenina Cinnamon

In this collaborative fashion feature with Givenchy, Prestige Indonesia talks with young actress Shenina Cinnamon about her acting journey, as well as her debut as a protagonist in a full-length motion picture.

For Shenina Cinnamon, acting is a way to get in touch with a range of emotions she has never expected – or even imagined – before. Born in 1999, she is now one of the most prominent young actresses in Indonesia’s film industry. Shenina, however, is no stranger to this world. Her father, Harris Cinnamon, is a producer, director, and scriptwriter who has directed plenty of television series. Shenina eventually found joy in acting, realizing that working in front of the camera is as fun as it is directing from behind the camera. In 2017, she landed her first role in Roman Picisan: The Series.

Since then, Shenina has starred in various shows and also made her feature film debut in Tumbal: The Ritual. Last year, she played in a crime mystery drama titled Penyalin Cahaya, also known as The Photocopier. Directed by Wregas Bhanuteja, the film was nominated in seventeen categories at the 2021 Indonesian Film Festival and won twelve Citra Awards. 

Prestige Indonesia, in a special collaboration with French luxury maison Givenchy, had the chance to see the young actress showcase her more stylish side and also talk to her about her experiences in filmmaking, the challenges she has faced and her hopes.

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Hello, Shenina … how are you doing these days? 

I actually just finished working on a series and several film projects. The series, titled Dapur Napi, will be on vidio.com. As for the film projects, there are two upcoming films that will probably be in cinemas next year. I also had a project with Netflix during their visit to Indonesia for an upcoming film titled Dear David. 

What inspired you to become an actress? 

I have been behind the camera since I was a kid, thanks to my dad. I used to come with my dad to his workplace, and observed how he directed and produced. At home, I saw him writing scripts, so I thought to myself: “This is pretty fun!” Whenever actors came to my dad’s office, I could see how he worked and I liked how they worked. Eventually, I studied film, went to auditions, and landed a role in a project. And that was the first time I worked in front of a camera. It made me realize that working in front of the camera is just as fun because it allows me to experiment with my emotions – something I did not experience behind the camera. I also wish to work with my dad, with him as a director of course. Hopefully, there will be an opportunity to do so because he is one of my inspirations. 

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What challenges did you encounter during the first years in your career? 

I was a newcomer and I didn’t have much knowledge. I didn’t study acting, nor did I have a system to memorize my scripts. There were people my age who had already been in this industry for longer, so I would say that the competition was pretty tight. And, of course, I got rejected in auditions. I would say that the first two years of my career was all about auditioning. 

Looking back, I also found it difficult to land roles, particularly due to the beauty standard in the industry. I have tan skin and I realised how I’ve lost opportunities to get roles because of that. Eventually, I had enough of it and I showed instead that I could succeed in this industry with the talents and the skills I have. 

Your father is a senior figure in the film industry. What have you learnt from him? 

You know how parents sometimes say sweet things as to not hurt their children’s feelings, right? My dad is someone who will let me know if I didn’t give my best on a certain project because he knew I could have done better. He never sweetens his words; he tells the bitter truth. But that’s what made me realize that nobody is perfect. He pushes me to keep learning and reminds me not to be satisfied with what I have achieved. 

Your acting debut came in 2017’s Roman Picisan: The Series. What was it like working on your first TV series? 

When I was invited to the audition, I was told that the director wanted to see me. I told them so many times that I couldn’t act. I tried to reassure them to the point that I actually went to the audition to show them that I really couldn’t act. To my surprise, sometime later, I was informed that I got the role. When I tried to show them that I wasn’t good at acting, I got the role instead. 

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Last year, you played in the drama thriller The Photocopier, which won the most Citra Awards in 2021. What can you share with us about this title?

Wregas [director Wregas Bhanuteja] told me that there would be a movie project and that, at the time, he was actually still writing the script. He talked with me about it, and even shared the characters in the script. In the end, he invited me to work on this project, and I was just speechless. I’ve never been a protagonist in a full-length film before, so I didn’t even think about saying “no” to him. I really wanted to be a part of this project. I learnt a lot from him. He is the kind of director who always has a clear vision for his projects. He is also very detailed and open to ideas from the cast. And the way he directs is quite unique. Eventually, I went to Korea to attend the 26th Busan International Film Festival for the world premiere of The Photocopier. It was a truly incredible experience that I will never forget. 

What were some of the most memorable moments during filming of The Photocopier? 

For Wregas, an eye wink or a glare is something significant from a character, so I had to understand the reason behind every movement I made. He was also very intense when shooting a scene. One time, told me that he wanted a scene to be shot in one take, and we really did that. The pressure was real but when I saw the result, I got to understand his reason. It’s like when he is directing a movie, he has already “edited” the scenes in his mind. 

Another thing that I found memorable was how Wregas always requested one thing – that I cannot be happy. In his eyes, I was an intensely happy person. Meanwhile, Suryani, my character, is the complete opposite. So, while preparing for the movie, he said: “Suryani, you cannot be happy.” I never laughed during the production and it was difficult! If I got caught laughing, Wregas would come to me and call me out. Again, the pressure was real, but in the end, I could really embody the character. 

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Who are your role models or muses?

Ah, this is going to be difficult. I feel that every time I meet someone new in a project, especially when I know that they are my senior, I see them as someone I can learn from. There will always be something that I can learn from each person, so I think I can’t just name one role model. I love learning and I like meeting new people. 

But there is someone whom I would love to work with and talk with more – Christine Hakim. I really want to work on a project with her and have a deep, long talk with her as she is someone who really understands the realm of acting. She has been in this industry for years, which is testament to her grit. 

What would you say are the qualities that have helped you become successful? 

I would say that I’m not easily satisfied and I have this passion to learn. I think these, and being independent, are the traits embodied by Indonesia women. I want to represent the women of Indonesia in this industry. I love playing strong, independent characters, and I want to highlight how characters like these deserve to be protagonists. Films often portray women as helpless, powerless and always needing a man. This irritates me. As you see in The Photocopier, Suryani is a solo fighter. She fights for herself, even though nobody wants to listen to or support her, including her own family.

What do you consider as your most significant achievements so far? 

I would say that so far, being nominated in the Indonesian Film Festival last year is one of the most significant achievements for me. It has encouraged me to do more and better in each film because, as I told you, I’m not easily satisfied. Attending the Busan International Film Festival is also another achievement for me. 

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Do you have any future projects that you can share with us? 

As I mentioned earlier, I worked on a project for Netflix. It is a series titled Dear David. I have finished working on it but I would love to share a bit about this upcoming series. Hopefully, Dear David will be up on Netflix early next year. I am really looking forward to it because it’s a teenage fantasy, romantic series and I don’t think there are many Indonesian series in this genre. I play a high school student in this series and, yes, I can be happy here! My character’s name is Laras and I think many will be able to relate to her. There will also be a lot to learn from my character. 

Last but not least, what is your hope for yourself and the filming industry in Indonesia? 

For myself, I would love to try genres I haven’t experienced before. Action, for instance. I haven’t had an opportunity to work on an action film. I want to find out whether I would be able to do that, and it would be a challenge for myself. And yes, I hope I can work with Christine Hakim, as well as coming up with new projects that will enrich Indonesia’s film industry. I hope I can continue acting for a long time. 

As for the film industry itself, I hope we can have working hours in the future. You know that in this industry, we don’t have clear working hours and currently, only a few companies have implemented specific working hours. I also hope that more people will watch Indonesian movies. The industry has improved greatly and we’ve seen Indonesian films showcased in international film festivals this year. So, yeah, my hopes are healthy working hours and bigger support from audiences because we can’t survive in this industry without them.




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