|SxSW 2015 Interview: Y/OUR MUSIC directors David Reeve & Waraluck Hiransrettawat Every
by Jason Whyte
Y/OUR MUSIC - At SxSW 2015
"Y/OUR MUSIC is a chance for you to experience the real Thailand without flying there. Come listen to a free flow of rare music, hear untold stories and see the unusual lives of these independent-minded music makers." Directors David Reeve & Waraluck Hiransrettawat Every on Y/OUR MUSIC which screens at the 2015 South By Southwest Film Festival.
Is this your first SxSW/Austin experience and are you going to attend your screenings?
David Reeve: Yes I'm really excited about it! Austin has been on my radar for several decades and I have wanted to attend SXSW for many years so it's amazing to be going there with a film! I will be there at the first two screenings alongside one of Wiboon's handmade bamboo saxophones that features in the film. I invite audience members to try it out!
Waraluck Hinansrettawat It is my first ever SXSW experience online, it is also "an experience", believe me. Due to the cost and duration of a return flight to Austin from Bangkok during SXSW is over my stretch, I will be getting SXSW live coverage in Bangkok.
Tell me a bit about your background and how you became a filmmaker.
David I have been interested in film for as long as I can remember. I used to sit and watch films on television with my father...anything and everything that screened in the daytime. We borrowed my uncle's Super-8 camera and soon after bought a second hand VHS-C camera. I was glued to both of these until I was a bit older and purchased my own Hi-8 camera. While I grew up using cameras, professionally i found myself moving into editing; cutting short docs, promos, film trailers and so forth. Learning the language of film through these two disciplines was a really solid training ground to work as a director. I began experimenting with short form experimental narratives, and then shifted focus into documentary work. Most recently I have worked on a dance interpretation of a deconstructed music video, and a Percy Smith project with the band Tindersticks.
Waraluck I didn't go to film school. I studied psychology; while study 'personality' we watched films and analysed various characters and their personalities. That was how I got hooked into the role of film-making. At university I joined the theatre club and help produce student plays. My university was famous for the annual graduates' play but most of the staff were drama and film students. Over four student years I was mugging about in teams as a script developer, stage manager, choreographer, a caterer and many other strange jobs but never want to be a director. All that experience helped me got my first job working in the casting department at a top production house alongside the best talents in Thailand. I worked on almost a hundred 30-second ads, films and a few Hollywood films during Thai location shoots. A few years after, I took a post-grad course in sound engineering in London and then worked in a sound studio for commercial films back in Bangkok for a year in a dark room. I went back to production again later, this time with a documentary series for Thai Public Television. From there I sensed that I could make a documentary film.
How did your movie come together from both of your perspectives?
David: I was in Bangkok for a month and spent some time wandering around Bangkok's weekend market. Bangkok is a noisy city with mainstream music blaring out almost everywhere, but in the market I chanced upon a sound that had something different...a feeling of authenticity. I met Captain Praesert and his fellow musicians. They played with pure pleasure and heart and I started to wonder what other voices were becoming lost in the quagmire of noise and took the idea to Waraluck who was taken by it.
Waraluck started researching possible angles on the documentary. At first we were looking at sounds that were at risk of being lost, the ageing practitioners the last to play their music, but the idea became bigger than that. I put together a one-minute sampler with some possible characters and pitched that to the London Awesome Foundation chapter and luckily won the 1000 quid. With the Captain as the project's seed character we set about researching other possibilities.
I met the film's DJ Maft Sai in London and chatted to him about the project; while he wasn\t that keen on being in front of camera at first he didn't give an outright "no". Maft Sai also fascinated me with the story of an optician who makes saxophones out of bamboo, and it occurred to me that this Thai art-band called Happyband that we met some time ago might also be interesting subjects. All in all with Waraluck adding a number of other characters to the mix including Bun and Sweet Nuj, Thongsai, Sombat, Chaweewan and Por Chalard Noi, we had an interesting range of characters. I went to Thailand in January and we filmed over a two-week period. While for most documentaries this would be a research trip, searching for the film's angle, for us it was that as well as the principle photography.
Waraluck found a student photographer Kobboon Chatrakrisaeree who I worked alongside filming the characters and the environments that surrounded them. Kob was great at being able to access filming opportunities that as a farang, a foreigner, I simply wouldn't have a chance at. It's through the interviews that we recorded that we began to find the film's story, and an eight-minute promo won us the support of the Busan AND fund. From the editing desk in the UK it became apparent that further shoots would be required; one to cover some of the characters from Isan and one to capture more in the capital, Bangkok. I put my shot requests in and Waraluck and Kobboon set out to film these. All in all we had well over 100 hours of footage to hand for the edit and Waraluck came to the UK for a couple of months in which we took the film to a first cut stage. Over the subsequent months I hacked at this edit, re-arranged parts, and then refined the film into its final shape.
Waraluck: My part started from leisurely, but massive, research about all the music scenes in Thailand; that took a year from monitoring music websites and chat-rooms, to talking to local music gurus. While the storyline initially set out to make a film about music that was at risk of being lost, submerged by the mainstream, a different but important story began to emerge; of a socially and culturally-divided country whose people were as out of touch, and tune, with each-other as the musicians we planned to follow. Music slowly became the mirror of a Bangkok-Isan social clash. Of course, this social "split" has since become very evident to the rest of the world given recent events.
The production began when I cast nine charismatic artists. Four musicians from rural Isana, a region regarded by the Bangkok elite as both uneducated and low class, along with five from Bangkok which was the centralized economic power of the country. I tried to spot genuine and original characters, not the "wannabes"; I wanted those who could show their own personality in a documentary film with many characters. I also wasn't looking for just the best music makers, but to counterbalance them with amateurs; yet the film clearly needed breathtaking musical performances to make magical moments. Some of these artists had their heyday in the 60s/70s but now languish in relative obscurity, while others are forging new ventures while refusing to just accept the rules of music industry. Without a script we filmed and gathered more stories and connecting scenes in three sessions of two-week shoots over tw years. The hardest part for me was to come up with a final editing script together with Dave later on.
What was your process for both of you in getting the film to this point?
Waraluck: The film needed a great and devoted cinematographer for a small budget so I spent four days watching a marathon students' short films screening to find a fresh talent to fit with the film's mood and tone. I picked one out of 60 projects, contacted him, told him that I requested a lot of travelling and working time but not a big fee, and he said yes! From that day Kobboon Chatrakrisaeree came to be our principal cinematographer straight from finishing his MA in photography.
David:It was a very low key and small scale production crew and no more than would fit in a car. I don't think the project would have happened without that initial support from the Awesome Foundation. Wanting to pay back the good karma, I've since become a trustee myself and have helped support some amazing projects.
What was your #1 challenge with this movie, and how did you over-come it?
Waraluck: No brainer, the most challenging part was trying to produce and finish the movie in the way we wanted within an under-funded budget. From day one, I developed a begging skill which it has got better and better! I begged and borrowed extra equipment, begged and borrowed time from the cast and crew, and travelled around the country making the movie. I managed to beg a big firm like Technicolor to support us with more and more post-production services. This is a life lesson too, people are very kind if you show your determination when asking for help.
David: This film was made over a period of a couple of years. With next to no budget a lot of the filming and post-production had to be done in our own time, and in those couple of years I had a couple of babies! Splitting my time between earning enough to pay the bills, being there for my family, and having time for Y/OUR MUSIC was a huge challenge, and one that I frequently and painfully failed at. The only way to overcome this was time.
If you had to pick a single favourite moment out of the entire production, what would it be?
David: for me it was standing in the fields in Isan, around the time we were filming with Sombat, smelling the air, feeling the soil, hearing the sounds and it was a very focusing moment where I really was there solely in that place and time. I felt very small but at peace. Filming with Sombat was just extraordinary and humbling.
Waraluck: We had several moments where we believed "We had something" during the shooting. The best moment for me has got to be when all the cast agreed to be filmed with full support and no fee. I opened a bottle of Gin, lemongrass infused.
What keeps you going while making a movie? What drives you? How much gin? Any coffee too?
Waraluck: The support we got from the cast, a small production fund from AND-Busan and feedback from many mentors; the stronger social clashes in the world and in Thailand; and a lot of very special rare music performance footage. All that fed me the energy with hope and belief that I had to deliver this movie to the world. I did not need any more than my three usual cups of black coffee and one or two Gin & Tonic fixes in the evening.
David: It's what is in front of me that keeps me going, as long as it's interesting.
For the aspiring filmmakers who read our site, I would love to know about the technical side of the film and what you filmed it with.
David: We filmed on DSLRs, a 550d and 600d with Magic Lantern installed. It was the best we could really afford, and as they just looked like regular stills cameras it was less likely that we would have any hassle of characters getting camera shy. I was worried about them overheating but they mostly coped well with the baking heat. Knowing the technical limitations of the cameras, before the first shoot I discussed this with Kobboon and we came up with a comparative system so that we would both be getting similarly styled shots sharing the same exposure settings. When we went off and shot independently I noticed that Kobboon often drifted from our system but that was good in so many ways as he has a great eye. When I requested the shots from the edit desk in the UK for the second and third shoots Kobboon and Waraluck captured those and so many more that added real flesh to the final film.
Waraluck: When I was looking for a cinematographer, my priority was a big share in point of views about documentary films and a personal style of photography. Once I found the one, Kobboon, he only conferred with Dave and I about the purpose of shooting the scene. I loved that he can explore and have fun while shooting artistically. I bought Canon 550D which was the best mid-range DSLR camera back then to be our main camera. It fitted the budget and it's size is good for mobility in a documentary shooting nature.
What are you looking forward to the most about showing your movie at SxSW and in Austin?
David: I wasn't in Thailand for the audio post, grade and DCP creation so I have not actually seen the final film projected, and not heard the 5.1 soundtrack properly yet. I also haven't seen the film for more than six-months so I can say that the thing I'm most looking forward to is being an active audience member.
After the film screens at South By Southwest, where is the film going to show next?
Waraluck: A week after SxSW, Y/OUR MUSIC is screening for the first time in Thailand at Salaya International Documentary as the closing film to the festival. The local Bangkok audience will get their chance to watch the film about their home-grown rare music and contemporary culture.
Alamo Drafthouse and Paramount theaters in Austin aside, if you could show this movie in any cinema in the world, which one would you choose and why?
Waraluck: I would like to see the film in an open-air cinema with surround sound system. I just want to hear the film's music performances in an open space.
David: I'd love to see the film on NFT1, the UK's National Film Theatre. It has been such an important training ground for me that it would be a privilege to have shared the screen with so many greats.
What would you say or do to someone who is talking, texting or being generally disruptive during a screening of your film?
Waraluck: I directly asked a tipsy young man who was making a nuisance to quietly leave the screening room. Once I found out that my cousin could not shut up during a film, I whispered "Let's go talk outside, I really want to hear your comments but the movie is disturbing your voice."
There are a lot of up and coming filmmakers both at SxSW and reading our site. What would you want to tell them if they are aspiring to become a filmmaker?
Waraluck: Why am I spending more time promoting the film and less time making the film? Please do it better than me!
David: I still feel I'm up and coming myself, but cameras are more readily available now than they've ever been so find a great subject, a great story and follow your gut.
And finally, what is the single, greatest movie that you have ever seen?
Waraluck: Any film by Frederick Wiseman is a great movie, I have not seen them all and if I have to choose only one it is 'At Berkeley'.
David: Kieslowski's BLUE and the rest of the trilogy. But BLUE is a really special film; it's slow but so multilayered but it's a lovely onion to enjoy peeling with all of the tears that involves.
Be sure to follow Y/OUR MUSIC online at @yourmusicmovie on Twitter and Facebook!
We hope you enjoyed this SxSW filmmaker interview in our 35+ filmmaker interview series. We will have interviews posted all throughout the festival so be sure to visit us often for more coverage!
This is one of the many films screening at the 2015 SXSW in Austin, Texas between March 13-21. For more information on this film screening times, point your browser to www.sxsw.com/film or use the SxSW GO App for Android and iOS.
Jason Whyte, efilmcritic.com
Twitter: @jasonwhyte / Facebook: jasonwhyte / Instagram: jason.whyte
link directly to this feature at http://www.efilmcritic.com/feature.php?feature=3782
originally posted: 03/13/15 04:36:07
last updated: 03/13/15 16:07:45