“I want to be that person to change the way cinema is perceived here. I want Thai people to evolve, change their mindsets, and embrace new concepts.”
With Netflix’s new Thai thriller Deep, a film directed by a crew of Bangkok University students, about to be released, we met up with story creator and co-director Sita “Mai” Likitvanichkul, 23. The creative force behind the film, which turns sleep deprivation into a life-threatening medical experiment, talks about her passion for filmmaking and how she managed to get her first film optioned while she was still in school.
How did you come up with the concept and how did you decide to pitch it?
The idea popped up when I was in my second year at university. There were times when I wouldn’t get enough sleep, sometimes a week of sleepless nights because I was so busy in the production process. I’m just a student who enjoys making films, but at the same time, I know that it comes with a cost, which is sleep. So, I thought, what if you get money in return for being sleep-deprived? That would be insane. Then it hit me that if you don’t get enough sleep, you can even die. So how far would someone be willing to go? That was the lightbulb moment.
What was the creative process like working with a team of four directors?
We had a team of four directors, but I pitched this idea and that’s how we got the storyboard in line. Each of us took up a different role to perform. One of us was responsible for working with the different departments like the art department, handling the casting crew, and sound and production. All the cast in the film are actually new-gen students, too, so we all cried together, laughed together, and enjoyed this process.
You got to work with your mentors in Adirek “Uncle” Wattaleela and Wisit Sasanatieng. What was that like?
They taught me heaps of things and brought the best out of me. They taught me professionalism and told me to not fixate on being a regular student category and come out of that zone. They helped me channel my passion into my work. Our film might not be the best in the world, but I’ve poured my heart and soul into making it.
What are some of the challenges of being a filmmaker in Thailand?
I love to watch thrillers in particular, and I immerse myself in the character. Throughout any film, I get so engrossed with the characters of the film, to a point where I experience the same feelings or situations as them. My heart starts beating fast and I get so anxious. It’s like I am the character. We don’t have this type of film in Thai cinema. I want Thai people to evolve, change their mindset, and embrace new concepts. I want to be that person to change the way cinema is perceived here, especially thrillers, and for people to experience the characters.
Oftentimes success in the Thai film industry depends on connections and status. How do you feel about that?
I think making connections is very important. I always look for opportunities like attending events at the film faculty or going to workshops. I think it’s tough but I think I can do it because I’m ready to take up the challenge. I also want to tell the new generation that it’s not easy to fulfill your dream, but don’t get disheartened and try to work hard to achieve your dream. It’s not easy to survive in this industry so you have to find that connection for yourself.
What will it take to achieve better representation in the industry—how can a working-class person who doesn’t have connections with the upper-class succeed?
You are not born with opportunities. For some people they come early, for some it takes time. We just have to keep the grind going. There will be obstacles in your way, but you have to keep pushing to achieve your dreams. I feel like if I got this opportunity, then you will, too. And if you’re also planning to make a movie, you guys are my friends because we all are daring to dream here. This is just the beginning, I still have a long way to go.