Know your passion and keep doing your thing – Nittakarn Kaewpiyasawad
“Personally I like to focus on visuals in my videos, because I like to do things that come from our imagination, rather than just storytelling, but I also add symbolism to represent the concept of the video.”
Becoming a director
Nittakarn Kaewpiyasawad, who describes herself as a ‘creative and visionary’ film director, is one of a few female directors who are recognised in the industry. Her unique style is shown through a number of music videos, fashion films, commercials and personal short films.
In fact, Nittakarn revealed that she never imagined herself becoming a director. She said she initially wanted to become an architect, because her father works as a civil engineer, while Nittakarn herself loves home decor.
“Being a civil engineer, like my dad, requires a lot of calculations but, if I become an architect, I would get to design a lot more. That was why I wanted to be an architect back then.”
A turning point that made her change her mind was when she didn’t pass her university entrance exams to get into architecture studies. She also admits that she was ‘terrible’ at physics. Instead, she got accepted into film and digital media studies at King’s Mongkut Institute of Technology Ladkrabang. Even then, Nittakarn wasn’t sure whether she was that interested in film.
Nittakarn then reached another changing point, which was when she watched a comedy-drama film “The Grand Budapest Hotel”, directed by Wes Anderson, while she was a trainee at Elle Magazine Thailand. The film eventually inspired her to become a director.
“That was when I realised there are different types of films, which do not require a dramatic storyline, because we can also use visuals to interpret the story as well. So I felt that this is what kind of film I really wanted to do.”
While Nittakarn was about to complete her studies, she was also working as an actress in commercials, where she met a senior director, who is now her boss at a production company, Dylan Films. After her graduation, she submitted her portfolio to him and was given an opportunity to work as an assistant director first.
After trying out as an assistant director, Nittakarn felt that it didn’t suit her, as it requires a lot of coordination and time management, which is not actually her forte. She then confessed to her senior that she wanted to become a director, which landed her a very first opportunity to film a music video.
“And that was the beginning of my directing career,” she said.
Visualisation and surrealism: more than just storytelling
Nittakarn’s first music video as a director was “Padet-Girl”, by Thai alternative-rock band Tattoo Colour. The video has gained over five million views since its release in 2017 and was well-received for its creativity, particularly with its sneaky references to political dictatorship.
Despite the positive feedback, Nittakarn revealed that she felt “pressured” at the beginning, and that it took her a long time to develop a concept for the music video.
“Back then, I didn’t know what to prepare for the music video shoot, whether it’s the storyboard or the continuity of the storyline,” she explains. “Luckily, my senior cheered me up, gave me supervision and told me that my idea was okay. So, I had the courage to throw in my own ideas.”
At one point, Nittakarn flew to New York to gain more experience, which eventually helped her develop her personal videography style. Therefore, most of her videos use visualisation and surrealism to interpret stories in different ways and to let viewers to escape from reality.
Since then, Nittakarn has directed a number of music videos for leading Thai artists, including Preaw Kanitkul, Peck Palitchoke, Getsunova and Violette Wautier.
When it comes to choosing her favourite music video, she admits it is quite hard to choose. The visionary film director eventually chose ‘Kwarm-Rak-See-Tao’ (Grey) by Preaw Kanitkul, which she says she would go back and watch again often. The most memorable parts were scenes with a large botanical garden, heavy rainstorm and dying trees, which all happened on a train.
“Because I personally like things that are surreal and I feel that we get sick of seeing the world the way it is. So, I wanted to fantasise things from my own imagination and put them onto the screen.”
Growing community of female film directors
Since Nittakarn joined the industry six years ago, more women have been taking up roles as film directors, as well as other roles within the crew. Therefore, it wasn’t difficult for Nittakarn to grow as a director. Unlike the old days, when female directors would have to fight their way through to prove themselves in a male-dominated career.
“Nowadays there are more female crew members, taking up different roles, not just directors, but also camerawomen and female art directors. Sometimes I’ve seen only a cameraman and lighting crew who are men within a female crew.”
Luckily, the 28-year-old director said she didn’t encounter issues related to gender bias. At the beginning of her career, however, she felt that it was her limited experience which may not have been enough for crew members, who were much more senior than her, to trust her in leading the team.
“I think maybe it was because they think women are less decisive than men, which is very important when you’re working as a director, as everyone would be waiting for your decision. I think it was a struggle at the beginning for me, when people would wonder whether they can trust a director who’s in her early 20s.”
Even though the number of female directors is increasing, Nittakarn feels that most blockbuster films in Thailand are still directed by men, while women are only recognised for their directing role in independent, or so-called ‘indie’ films. Therefore, she hopes that the Thai film industry will shed more light on female directors and provide them with bigger opportunities.
“I hope that female film directors, including all female crew members, will be given opportunities to work on bigger projects. I want to see more support or even campaigns to raise the voices of female [directors] in the future, so that our industry can grow and have an impact on the younger generation.”
Meanwhile, Nittakarn revealed that she is currently working on a new short film, which she says is now in its scriptwriting process.
“I want to tell a story about friendship,” she revealed. “Particularly when we reach our 30s, when our best friend, whom we grew up with since we were 9 or 10 years old, is about to get married. We would feel that we’re losing a very important person in our life. So, I want to tell that story and is there any way where we can remain best friends, even though one of us is married.”
Know your passion and keep doing your thing
As to what Nittakarn would like to say to those who aspire to become film directors, she insists that having passion is the most important thing in everything you do. Once you know what your passion is, you have to keep working on it.
“If you have the passion, you will have the willingness to get through each step in your life. You just have to keep doing it until that time comes. You may not see the results at first, but ultimately, it will not be put to waste.”
By Nad Bunnag, Thai PBS World
More of Nittakarn’s videos can be found here.