In the frame

Two young Thai directors discuss their new feature films that open tomorrow, both of which explore the nature of chance and the impact of people's decisions on themselves and others

Princess Ubolratana and her co-star Krit Setthamrong.

Serendipity brings us Together

Filmmaker Sarunyoo Jiralak believes that everyone has to at least once face a moment in life when we ask ourselves: "What if?" That ever-present dilemma of love has found a way into his new film.

Set to premiere tomorrow, Together is a dramatic love story packed with talented actors and newcomers. Produced by Oriental Eyes, the movie is Saranyoo's second feature film after his horror movie debut 9 Temples, released in 2010.

Leading the cast is Princess Ubolratana, whose challenging role and performance will delight the audiences. Nopachai "Peter" Jayanama, Piyathida Woramusik and rock star-cum-actor Saharat Sangkhapreecha are also integral parts of Together.

Sarunyu sat down with Life to ponder on his upcoming film.

Tell us about your path to becoming a film director.

I was still in college when I first joined a filmmaking workshop. I remember reading the script of 2499 by Nonzee Nimibutr and fell in love with it. One day I went to Nonzee and told him how much I liked his film, and asked him if I could be an intern. My first job was a Xerox boy, photocopying scripts. Then one day, the second director's assistant quit, so I was given a chance to take that post. From that, I have been assisting directors and also working on my short films. These big-name directors that I have worked with are my teachers. And, one thing I learned from them is that they are directors who make films because they love films _ the art of making them _ not just making money from them.

What is the background of this film?

I was asked to represent Oriental Eyes in a project of short films for Father's Day, which is part of celebrating HM the King's birthday, for a television programme. My idea for a short film was about a daughter who plans to drop her father, and cuts him from her life. It was quite a dark story with an eye-opening ending.

After the first few shoots, the company wanted me to turn it into a film, so I developed the story, which is based on the different aspects of love. Finally, another director took the TV project and I got a chance to make this film.

What is the theme of Together?

Together ’s director Sarunyoo Jiralak.

It talks about the coincidences in life, the unexpected. Imagine one day you leave your house and meet a long-lost friend by chance. And that friend says something to you that changes your life forever. Together is about three love stories, where the rain connects each story.

Is that why the film is set in Ranong?

Yes, because Ranong is one of the provinces with lots of rain throughout the year.

Could you tell us more about these three couples?

The first story is about a father who leaves his daughter for many years, and one day he returns to her life, while suffering from Alzheimer's. While she has a happy family of her own, the return of her father [changes things]. Next is a tale of two young adults _ a photographer and a producer at a production house _ who have kids together. While their relationship is going downhill, the man becomes temporary blind. This couple examines what love and relationships are all about. Is it [because of] sympathy, sacrifice or a duty that the couple has to keep the family together?

The last one is a teenage love story. It is about a high school couple that believe they are soulmates and couldn't care less about what people think of them. The girl then gets pregnant. They have to think carefully about what they really want.

Why did you choose to present the issue of unplanned pregnancy?

I'd like to raise issues that really are happening in our society. Something real. Unplanned pregnancy is one of the problems that we are dealing with right now, as well as broken families or people who leave their parents behind. I want the audience to look at themselves and think about their own experiences. Are they aware of these issues or taking good care of the people they love?

How do you feel about working with Princess Ubolratana?

Her role is the daughter who wants to leave her Alzheimer's father. I treated her simply as one of the actors during the shooting. At the beginning, the princess probably wondered why I was so demanding, but later understood my direction and realised that it is because I'm a crazy man.

What do you think about the film industry today?

Personally, I think it's getting worse. When I first started, there were about five movies per year. Now, there are much more, but the quality has gone down. Most producers invest in films that are based on the expectation of the audience, who enjoy movies that are similar to what they watch on television, which is comedy or game shows.

That narrows down the chance for filmmakers who want to try something challenging.

Countdown to crazy

After celebrating seven years in the business earlier this year, GMM Thai Hub (GTH) is introducing its new film, Countdown, to cap off 2012. This psychological thriller is going to raise the eyebrows of loyal fans of this house of feel-good flicks.

Causing a buzz online, Countdown is the debut of young director Natthawut Poonpiriya. It has been a while since audiences were treated to dark, twisted horrors from this film studio _ not since Shutter, Alone and Dorm, and last year's talk-of-the-town Laddaland. Judging by its trailer, Countdown seems to bring a new flavour to its fans.

Teen favourites Pachara Chirathivat, Jarinporn Junkiat and Pattarasaya Kreuasuwansiri will get the fans drooling as Countdown follows the lives of three Thai university students studying in New York City. The trio plans to celebrate New Year's Eve with the help of a little chemical stimulation, but when they open the door to a psychotic dealer called Jesus, their countdown party is forever altered.

Life talks to the 31-year-old director about his debut work with GTH.

How did you get to work with GTH?

Five years ago I moved to New York and wanted to further my education in film. When I got there, I realised that it cost a lot to go to film school, so I ended up taking courses in graphic design.

However, I never left that dream of becoming a filmmaker. While I was in New York, I made a few short films and I sent some of them back to film competitions here in Thailand. The turning point was when one of my films, Misbehavers, was introduced to GTH director Jira Malikul. He called me while I was in New York and asked me whether I would be interested in becoming a director and making films for GTH. I said yes right away.

Can you recall the moment you received that phone call?

Countdown ’s director Natthawut Poonpiriya

I was working in a restaurant when I got the call. I got so excited that I just wanted to go home and pack my bag, even though they told me I could take some time to think it through because it was a big decision. It took a second for me to say yes.

When did you realise that filmmaking was your passion?

I love watching movies. Like other teenagers, I've tried this and that to find out what I really like. During my early teens, I enjoyed reading, and then moved on to listening to music. In the end I found that film has everything that I love, because good films are comprised of good scriptwriting, storytelling and a good soundtrack.

Is that why you continued your bachelor's degree in acting and directing?

It's a funny story. After I graduated from high school, I applied for admission to the Faculty of Fine Arts, Srinakharinwirot University, in acting and directing. I didn't study what the course was about. Once I got accepted, I discovered that it was not film acting and directing, but theatre.

At first I was a bit disappointed, but after I graduated, I realised I'd learned a lot. In terms of film production, I have very poor knowledge, but my film really focuses on the performances of the characters, which I think is [because of] my background in theatre study.

What do you think you have learned from studying theatre?

It changed the way I see films. When I was a kid, I thought Jurassic Park was the best movie ever made. It allowed me to yearn for different types of films, for example, some of which are made with simple production, but are so powerful because of the professional acting and scriptwriting.

Have you ever asked Jira why he wanted to work with you?

To be honest, I have never asked him. I wanted to, but I was afraid he would say something like, 'Yes, why did I ever want to work with you?', or something that might change his mind. Although, he mentioned that he liked my short film and my ideas in that film.

How does it feel to be able to direct your first feature film?

The feeling is a mix between pressure and excitement. I feel happy, yet nervous. All I think about now is what people will think of my film.

How did you come up with the idea for Countdown?

Countdown is something that people can relate to. Besides the sense of celebration, the meaning of the countdown to me is when people take a moment and look back at life or question it. It's a time when we look at what we have done in the past year, and what we are going to do in the coming year. We may have done good things or bad things, but in the end, we need to move on.

Why these three leading actors?

When I started, GTH gave me freedom to take care of this film, as well as casting. I know I am still new at this, so I talked to other professional directors who recommended me a list of actors that might fit with this film.

I have been talking and doing workshops with these three selected actors and throughout the process I was assured they are the right choices. I could sense their dedication and commitment.

After the trailer was released, one of the lead actors, Jarinporn Junkiat, surprised fans with her new look _ a short haircut and a very different kind of acting. What do you think of her in this movie?

I never thought I would be able to work with her. I was a bit surprised when she wanted this role. We all know her as a sweet, innocent girl from her previous works. Anyway, I remember reading her interview in a magazine and what she said really surprised me. She is very mature. And, when I got to meet her, she was the one for this role.

What do find the most challenging about your first film?

I started in short films. So, it has always been up to me. But, in the studio, I have worked with so many people. I remember my first shooting day, I was quite shocked with the number of people, and they all came to me with questions. It was quite an experience.

In the trailer, we've seen the characters smoking marijuana. Are you concerned some people might disapprove of the idea of having drugs featured in this film, especially, since GTH is famous among young audiences?

I was a bit concerned, yes. But, when people get to see the film, they will get why drugs are involved in the story.

There have been comments that Countdown shares a similarity with well-known thriller films such as Funny Game or other American thriller flicks. What do you think?

I want them to see the film first. And, to be frank, I did not copy those films. In fact, the pattern of a group of characters trapped in one place and who encounter a villain is a basic of this genre. However, I am sure that once you see the film you will not feel it's been copied from other films.

Countdown ’s lead stars, from left, Pachara Chirathivat, Jarinporn Junkiat and Pattarasaya Kreuasuwansiri.

About the author

columnist
Writer: Yanapon Musiket
Position: Life Writer