Actors playing Burmese military characters in the film The Lady were all clothed by Silpakorn graduate Saner Lohvitee, a highly skilled Thai wardrobe and prop designer. Let’s meet him.
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You may not have heard the name Saner Lohvitee (เสนอ เลาะวิถี), but you have almost certainly seen in his work in countless TV adverts and television productions. The 39-year old Silpakorn University graduate is an expert costume designer and he designs props – those small items used by actors – as well.
His specialty is military uniforms and his latest job was to clothe the entire Myanmar army in the French-made Aung San Suu Kyi biopic The Lady.
Recently, the Bangkok Post's film critic Kong Rithdee talked to Saner about his work and his story appears in today's Bangkok Post. You can read it in full here: http://bit.ly/Hi7GSQ
Below are some excerpts from their conversation.
Actors playing Myanmar generals in the film The Lady were clothed in reproduced uniforms made by Saner Lohvitee. On the left, the soldier is dressed in a WWII-era uniform while in the middle, the style changes after the Japanese occupation.
Clothing the Burmese army
The Bangkok Post’s Kong Rithdee talks to Saner Saner Lohvitee
How did you first get into working with military uniforms?
It's always been a personal interest of mine. I collect military books and memorabilia because there's a certain aesthetic and historical appeal to them. I'm a graduate from the Faculty of Fine Arts.
I started out working as a prop-maker – making models for commercials. I never thought I'd be able to make a living from my knowledge of military history.
Saner Lohvitee (เสนอ เลาะวิถี)
When you're given a new assignment, how do you carry out the research?
It used to be picture books; there are a lot of magazines devoted to military stuff. Now, of course, the internet is proving very helpful. Sometimes I still have to look up old newspapers.
And for certain projects, I go to collectors – there are people in Thailand who collect military uniforms and other paraphernalia. I'll ask to see the items I'm interested in, then I'll make copies of them for use on the shoot. When necessary, I also order stuff from eBay; you can find almost anything there!
You've worked on The Lady, which was a very big production and also a period film that covered several decades. Tell us about the process.
It was a big French production. I was in the costume department and my job was to find clothes for every soldier in the film. There was a research team – all French – who went to Myanmar and came back with pictures and information. I did some more research on my own. The film starts in the 1950s, at the time of General Aung San, the father of Aung San Suu Kyi, and continues right on down to the 1990s. I had to do the uniform of a general in Burma before the Japanese invaded. During the occupation the Japanese forced them to change it to resemble a Japanese-style uniform [see photos]. Altogether we had around 130 uniforms made. It wasn't so hard because it was a big production with money, so I basically got whatever I wanted.
I also had to do all the military decorations and medals, the helmets and other accessories. This can be done simply by looking at photos and making replicas of everything you see. In general, period films are tougher because you have to make sure you get every detail right.
Where do you get the materials to make all these uniforms?
For The Lady, for instance, I tried to find what was available in Thailand. The usual places to shop are lang krasuang [the area behind the Interior Ministry, near Khlong Lot] – that's where all kinds of military gear can be found. Then I also went to Talad Rong Klua, the flea market in Aranyaprathet [Sa Kaeo province]. And, of course, Chatuchak Market, which is always a treasure trove. If something isn't available in those places, I'll find a picture of what I'm looking for, then consult collectors or go to eBay to order one. Then I'll reproduce the design.
What does it take to be a good wardrobe specialist?
You have to be very observant.
You have to have an eye for detail. But it's not just the look of things. It's about history, it's about the story behind it, because that's how you understand why something looks the way it does, especially when it comes to period costume.
countless – very many; too many to be counted มากเหลือคณานับ
costume – the clothes worn by people from a particular place or for a particular job เครื่องแต่งกาย
prop – a small object used by actors during the performance of a play or in a film/movie
specialty – an area of work or study that somebody gives most of their attention to and knows a lot about; something that somebody is good at ความชำนาญพิเศษ, ของพิเศษ,ชนิดพิเศษ
biopic – a movie about the life of a person ภาพยนตร์เกี่ยวกับชีวประวัติคน
critic – someone who gives their opinion about something นักวิจารณ์
excerpt – a part of a longer story, speech, song, text, etc. บทคัดย่อ
general – an officer of very high rank in the army, the air force or the marines พลเอก, นายพล
reproduce – to make a copy of a picture, piece of text, etc ทำสำเนา
era – a period of time that has a particular quality or character ยุค, สมัย
occupation – the act of going into a place and taking control away form the people or government there การเข้ายึดครอง
clothe – to provide clothes for somebody to wear; to dress somebody/yourself
memorabilia – objects that you collect because they belonged to someone famous or are connected with something that interests you ที่ระลึก
aesthetic –relating to beauty; nice to look at ซึ่งชื่นชมความงามหรือศิลปะ, ที่เกี่ยวกับความงาม
appeal – a quality that causes someone to like or want something ความดึงดูดใจ, ความน่าสนใจ, ความเย้ายวน
commercial – an advertisement on the radio or on television โฆษณาทางโทรทัศน์หรือวิทยุ
make a living – to earn the money needed to pay for food, a place to live, clothing, etc ดำรงชีวิต, ครองชีพ
research – a careful study of a subject, especially in order to discover new facts or information about it การวิจัย
devote to – to give most of your time, energy, attention, etc. to somebody/something มอบให้,อุทิศ,ยกให้
collector – a person who collects things, either as a hobby or as a job นักสะสม
paraphernalia - all the objects needed for or connected with a particular activity ของใช้จิปาถะ
shoot – an occasion when somebody takes professional photographs for a particular purpose or makes a film/movie การถ่ายภาพ
period – a length of time in the life of a particular person or in the history of a particular country ยุค, ช่วง, กาล
decade – a period of ten years ทศวรรษ
process – a series of actions that you take in order to achieve a result แนวทางปฏิบัติ, กระบวน, วิธีการ
invade – to enter a place in large numbers, usually when unwanted บุกรุก
resemble – to be like or look like someone or something else มีลักษณะคล้ายกับ
medal – a flat piece of metal, usually shaped like a coin, that is given to the winner of a competition or to somebody who has been brave, for example in war เหรียญรางวัล
decoration – a medal given to someone and worn as an honour เครื่องราชอิสริยาภรณ์, เครื่องยศ, เครื่องหมายเกียรติยศ
helmet – a strong hard hat that covers and protects the head หมวกกันน็อก
accessory – a thing that you can wear or carry that matches your clothes, for example a belt or a bag; an extra piece of equipment that is useful but not essential or that can be added to something else as a decoration เครื่องประดับ, ส่วนประกอบเพิ่มเติม
replica – an accurate copy of something งานศิลปะที่จำลองจากของจริง, ของจำลอง
detail – the small facts or features of something ส่วนเล็กๆ น้อยๆ, รายละเอียด, ส่วนย่อย
material – a substance that things can be made from วัตถุ
gear –the special clothes or equipment that you use for a particular activity อุปกรณ์ ในการทำกิจกรรมต่างๆ
flea market – an outdoor market that sells second-hand (= old or used) goods at low prices ตลาดนัด ตลาดของมือสอง
treasure trove – valuable things, often things that are found hidden ขุมทรัพย์, ขุมสมบัติ, สมบัติ
consult – to ask for information or advice from someone หารือ
wardrobe – the department in a theatre or television company that takes care of the clothes that actors wear; the clothes that a person has เสื้อผ้า,ชุดเสื้อผ้า, เสื้อผ้าทั้งหมดของผู้ใดผู้หนึ่ง
specialist – a person who is an expert in a particular area of work or study ผู้ชำนาญเฉพาะทาง
observant – good at noticing things around you ช่างสังเกต
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