Mez Tharatorn, 31, director of the comedy smash ATM: Er Rak Error, which grossed over B150 million at the box office back in 2012, is back. We pick his brain about his journey from insecure college student to GTH director, his views on life, filmmaking and his upcoming movie, I Fine...Thank You...Love You, to be released on Dec 10.
I had a late start making films. My first was when I was a senior at college. I was afraid it would be awful. I always told myself it’s too hard to make films. So, I limited myself to making music videos.
I watched the film Mekhong Full Moon Party (2002) and this one character says, “Believe in what you do, and do what you believe.” That pushed me to write the script for my first film, Mon Rak Sak Reed (Laundry Love), and stop caring about anything else. It turned out to be a simple film, unlike anyone else’s.
Jira Maligool [director of Mekhong Full Moon Party] is my inspiration. This film had a huge influence on my life and made me the person I am today. I don’t compare myself to anyone else; I just do what I believe will be fun.
I started my career as an assistant director for a small advertising production house while also writing film scripts as a freelancer. It was so exhausting.
After I finished my second film script, I found out that the director refused to take it to production. Then I got a phone call asking if I wanted to direct the film myself. I was 22 and it came as a complete shock. I asked for some time to think about it. I quit my job the next day, and that’s how I entered the film business.
I pretended to ask for a loan from the bank as part of my research for my new film. I wanted to know exactly how people act in this situation in order to get the atmosphere right. My co-writer also found a tutor and met them to study English in a café. I sat behind them and took notes. It’s interesting to see two strangers spend a few hours talking about their personal lives in English.
I’ve loved watching comedy ever since I was young. I’m addicted to having a good laugh. My friends and I are always telling each other jokes, teasing and having fun times together.
Apart from comedy, I’d also like to try my hand at making horror films. I think the two are very similar in terms of timing and rhythm. And as a filmmaker, it is very fulfilling to elicit strong emotions from your audience.
Writing a script is a huge task. I was surprised when I first started out that it took nine months to write one. It’s very time-consuming. I learned that taking time to write a script—making mistakes and getting back on track—is the only way to make a great film. A couple of months isn’t enough, even if you know how it’s going to end.
You have to create life for each character. It’s like playing God to get the characters to do what you want.
Good films are the ones I don’t regret paying money for. I look at it from the audience’s point of view, not the professionals who criticize films for their production values. Of course, there are various kinds of audiences, but I believe films are supposed to make me happy.
I know very few award-winning films. It’s a little embarrassing when it comes to Oscar season. Many of these films tend to be stressful for me, and I don’t like them, no matter how good they are. That Revolutionary Road film that received tons of awards just made me feel uncomfortable. It was just people screaming insults at each other for two hours.
I’m a stay-at-home kind of guy, fiddling with my guitar when I need to blow off steam. I also love being in a party atmosphere, knocking back a few beers with my friends. For me, partying doesn’t mean going to a nightclub, but rather drinking in a quiet place where I can have conversations, sort of how old people party.
I’m thinking about taking up carpentry as a hobby. I used to be in charge of the set design for my faculty’s annual musical, and back then we made every backdrop and prop ourselves. It would be a dream to have my own small workshop at home where I make little pieces of furniture from wood. It’s another thing I could do without leaving the house.
Film tickets are so expensive, and I sympathize with viewers. It concerns me that people are spending less time watching films in cinemas. Imagine the day when regular film tickets cost B500. Who’d go to the cinema anymore? I know I wouldn’t. All I can do is try my best to prevent that future.