What Thomas Clay did next

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His first film 'The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael' was likened to 'a stilted media studies project' by Time Out on its release. Here, the Brighton born director talks to Time Out about how and why he followed it up with 'Soi Cowboy,' a Thai-set alterno-romance filmed in stark black-and-white

Lots of things have happened to me since the completion of my first film, ‘The Great Ecstasy of Robert Carmichael’. I moved to Thailand, for one. I was initially brought over by a friend of mine, Tom Waller, who is one of the producers on my new film, ‘Soi Cowboy’. He suggested Thailand as a good film location, so I came out here, but ended up researching a different film, one which we may still possibly make. I ended up staying here, and after six months, I wrote ‘Soi Cowboy’ – something I wanted to make, and something that could be made for a small amount of money.

It was fairly easy to get money after ‘Robert Carmichael’. In total it cost around €150,000. But to shoot it, it was about half of that. There was a bit of money that came back from ‘Robert Carmichael’. There was a bank loan that we used and we also had a private investor, and that was enough to get €75,000 together. We made a DVD of the film and we submitted the film to Cannes, where it was accepted, and Philippe Bober of Coproduction Office then became involved and helped to finance the post-production

Thailand is an interesting country. It's perhaps the only county on earth that is arguably more capitalistic than the United States. Although, obviously the United States has had a large influence on the country. From my point of view, it’s an interesting country to study because the foreign influence is so important. The role of foreigners within our society is such a crucial part of how socioeconomic systems work. That is something that has perhaps been ignored by local film makers who tend to come from the upper classes and have a very particular view of the world. So it seemed that there was something there that hadn’t been said before, something that also had wider implications beyond what interests us about Thailand. I suppose ‘Soi Cowboy’ is essentially about global capitalism.

I wouldn’t call this an autobiographical film. I think when you make a film, when you are writing and directing a film, you generally put something of your self into whatever subject you’re tackling. I tried to bring something of myself to this film, but I don’t think that makes it autobiographical. For example, I suppose the reason Tobias (Danish actor Nicolas Bro) plays a filmmaker in the film is because it was the easiest, most obvious thing to do. I wanted a character who is in a precarious position with sources of finance and emotionally insecure at the same time.

I watch a lot of films and try to see as many kinds of film as possible and expose myself to a variety of styles – a spectrum of possibility. I think it’s impossible in 2009 not to have been influenced in some way by films made in the past. I'm aware of film history when i'm working, and I think that's true of every director, I hope.

If I had to choose which of my films I preferred, it would be ‘Soi Cowboy’. I know some people said that ‘Robert Carmichael’ had weak characterisation, but that kind of misses the point for me. It was very much about externalising the psychology and creating a mechanism that revolves and functions without necessarily entering into the lives of the character. ‘Soi Cowboy’, on the other hand, is more of a character piece. You want a film to live and breathe, and I think we really achieved that.

I’m currently working on a few new things. One project is a WWII film. I’m also working on a present day drama set in Cambodia. There are a few other things but those are the two which seem to be moving along the most quickly.

Author: Thomas Clay was interviewed by David Jenkins



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