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An Interview with Thirati K, Director of Kumal

by Mike Haberfelner

November 2016

Films directed by Thirati K on (re)Search my Trash


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Your new movie Kumal - in a few words what is it about?


Kumal is a horror film about an ancient Thai legend where an unborn child is sacrificed to provide its owner immortality; but at the risk of the restless mother’s spirit exacting her revenge. We tell this story through the eyes of 2 young friends. Tom tries to stop this barbaric ritual, as any Good Samaritan would, but Charlie (with a deep and dark secret) has his own agenda.


Is Kumal based on an actual legend or was that made up for the movie? And how much research went into the legend-part of your movie? And/or other sources of inspiration when dreaming up Kumal?


“Kumal” is an old talisman dating back hundreds of years, ever since the “Khun Plan” era (Thai era). According to the story, Kumal was born when Khun Plan knew that his wife, Bua Klee, tried to kill him with poison. He killed her instead, and cut her stomach open to obtain the fetus inside and made it into a Kumal. He put the fetus over the fire then covered it with gold leaves and took it with him wherever he went. Kumal is considered very crucial for Khun Plan’s survival, it helps Khun Plan when he faces danger, since technically, Kumal is Khun Plan’s son. There are two types of Kumal. The first is very vicious, and has many ways of hurting its enemies. And another one is for the protection of its owner. According to the legend, to make a Kumal one must invite the spirit of one who died a violent death to come and stay in the body of the Kumal.


Kumal is told in a rather non-linear, often associative way - so do talk about your film's narrative structure for a bit, and how was it achieved? And how hard was it not to lose yourself in it?


With the time limitations of a short, I felt this was the best way to introduce this world to the audience. I also think it makes the film more interesting and grabs the audience's attention early on. Losing myself? Oddly enough, I was pregnant during filming so I had no choice but to disassociate myself from this dark world at the end of the day. It’s just a matter of separating art from real life; not terribly difficult for a filmmaker; an actor maybe not so easy.


Do talk about your movie's approach to horror for a bit, and is that a genre you're at all fond of even?


I've loved horror films ever since I was a kid. This story frightened me as a child and I felt that it, easily, translated into a horror film. I liked that this subject matter was not like most horror films and one that the audience would appreciate.


What can you tell us about your directorial approach to your story at hand?


This was my first film, so I had to pull on everything I learned in film school, my years of working on set and my understanding of the story and the horror genre in order to pull it all together. I took it apart and approached each element individually. My story, my script, my cast, my visual stimulations, I wanted to invoke in my audience with each frame, each set up, each camera angle. As for the actors, I like to let the actors bring their thoughts about the characters to the screen first, and then I work with them to tweak what they've brought with my vision. They need to know the back story for the character first and foremost, and I worked with them on that before they show up on set.


Do talk about your cast for a bit, and why exactly these people?


Diego Medellin, who plays Charlie, was an easy choice. I had seen his work and knew he was right for the part while I was writing the story. For Tom, it was different. I cast a couple of actors for the part that didn't work out in the end. One of them landed an agent, and his agent didn’t want him to take the role. The other ended up being unreliable. He did not show up to rehearsal twice, so I decided the week prior to shooting that I need to pull the plug on him and recast. I was nervous and wasn't sure if I would be able to get the right actor. Then, my coproducer, Ronda Suder, recommended Ekin Dedeoglu for the role of Tom. He is really the type of actor any director would want. I called him up, and he was willing to meet me that same day. He came for rehearsal and worked very hard for the role. I just couldn't ask for anyone better.


A few words about the shoot as such, and the on-set atmosphere?


This was definitely a learning experience for me. There were so many issues and unexpected events that came up. I actually lost my producer and assistant director at the very last minute, and yes, it was brutal! But my filmmaker friends Sherando Cupid Ferril and Joanna Pratta helped out a lot and did an amazing job. The location actually had an electrical outage on the last day of the shoot, and my producer made sure that I didn't find out so I could stay focused on directing.


The $64-question of course, when and where will the film be released onto the general public?


It is finding success on the festival circuit right now. It will be shown to the general public sometime in 2017. In the meantime, I'm working on my script to turn this into a feature film.


Anything you can tell us about the audience and critical reception of Kumal  yet?


We have gotten very good feedback so far. It's been great, really. To be honest, I wasn't sure how people would respond because it is a new world that's being introduced. I really struggled during the editing phase to balance how to tell the story with what we captured on film without losing the audience. During filming, we ran into some issues and I had to decide to cut some of the shots that in hindsight I realized we really needed to support the story. But my friends and industry professionals Julio Garcia, Saeed Khozedm and Jack Sheman brought their editing brilliance to the table and we now have a finished product that's being received very well. I couldn't have done it without them.


Any future projects you'd like to share?


To be honest, I was going to work on a feature start as well as produce a couple short films. But I just had a baby which is demanding a lot of time (as you could imagine). My mom was here helping but I flew her back to Thailand to get an important paper but on the way back she was stopped by US Customs and was ordered to return to Thailand. It was a mix-up with her paperwork but a very unpleasant experience for us and now I don’t have her to help us until we sort this out. This has been an incredible and painful ordeal. Who knows; maybe this experience will be the foundation for a new project!


You actually entered the filmworld as a makeup artist - so what can you tell us about that aspect of your career?


I entered the industry as an actress, actually. I was an actress in Thailand for several years. I learned makeup and special effects when I was studying for my bachelor's degree and then decided to study further at a Cinema Makeup school in Los Angeles.

To be honest, it wasn't in my plans to become a filmmaker when I started my career in Hollywood as a makeup artist a few years ago. After graduation I interned with Emmy award winner and makeup artist Dean Jones. Besides being a makeup artist, he also owns a production company that makes horror films. That was my light-bulb moment and really inspired me. Since then, I have been learning and working hard to understand the business. I mean, it is really hard to start a career in a different country—you don’t know the market, rules, etc. But I love all aspects of movie making; especially the horror genre. My production company, T.K. Films, has a goal to make great horror films for the horror fanatics of the world.


What made you try your hands on directing eventually, and did you receive any formal training on the subject?


I have a Bachelor's degree in Acting and Directing and a Master's Degree in Film and Media Production. I know how to act, direct, do makeup, shoot, and edit. It would be a shame if I didn't put all of that to use and actually make a movie!


What can you tell us about your filmwork prior to Kumal, in whatever position?


I have modeled and landed acting roles for many companies such as Halls, Yamaha, Coca Cola, and Sunsweet, etc. along with a few TV series in Thailand. I have also been hired as a makeup artist for various Hollywood films, shows, and celebrity appearances, and was a silicone tech (special effects makeup department) for Captain America 2, Iron Man 3, House of Lies, Two and a Half Men, Lady Gaga's G.U.Y., to name a few. This was all under supervision my mentor, Kevin Haney, who has won an Academy Award and numerous Emmys.

In addition, I have held various crew positions for film, such as DP, assistant director, grip, gaff, producer, and editor. I have done it all! But just to be clear, I only know the basics for these positions. But I, truly, believe that having (at least) a basic knowledge of all aspects of filmmaking makes you a better filmmaker.


How would you describe yourself as a director?


I work with my actors the way I wanted to be worked with as an actress. Before I meet my actor(s), they need to know who their characters are and what the back story is. I would never tell my actor to simply “walk that way” or “you need to cry" without the "why". Everything must have a reason.


Filmmakers, makeup artists, whoever else who inspire you?


This is a very tough question! There are so many. As a filmmaker, I look up to Stanley Kubrick, Francis Ford Coppola, David Lynch, Martin Scorsese and Hideo Nakata from The Ring.

As a makeup artist, I look up to Ve Neil, Rick Baker, and Kevin Haney.

As a human being, I look up to my husband, John. He is smart, kind, positive, and a problem solver and he is not afraid to make fun of himself. Somehow when we got older we get caught up with so serious. We forget to have fun, we forget to enjoy the little things in life. But my husband he is not one of them and always reminds me of that.


Your favourite movies?


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Your shop for all things Thai

Ah, another tough one. I can’t really answer this question, because there are so MANY! But I will list a few: The Godfather (1972), The Exorcist (1973), The Shining (1980) and The Ring (1998).


... and of course, films you really deplore?


The Room (2003) by Tommy Wiseau. It is really terrible but I have to say I learned a lot from watching it.


Your/your movie's website, Facebook, whatever else?


Thanks for the interview!


© by Mike Haberfelner

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Thanks for watching !!!



On the same day
a Burglar wants to kill you
and your Ex wants
to make up ...
... and for the life of it,
you can't decide


A Killer Conversation

produced by and starring
Melanie Denholme
directed by
David V.G. Davies
written by
Michael Haberfelner
Ryan Hunter and
Rudy Barrow

out now on DVD



Stell Dir vor, Deine Lieblingsseifenoper birgt eine tiefere Wahrheit ...
... und stell Dir vor, der Penner von der U-Bahnstation hat doch recht ...
... und dann triffst Du auch noch die Frau Deiner (feuchten) Träume ...


Und an diesem Tag geht natürlich wieder einmal die Welt unter!!!


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