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Fans of surreal comedy will probably have noticed the output of Thai former-creative-director-turned-film-director Suthon Petchsuwan.

Shooting through his own production company, Mum Films, Petchsuwan's recent offerings have seen a sushi chef and his fishy pal check out the offerings at PT service stations, a Japanese family appreciate the 'view' of Mt Fuji, and a madcap search for some bok choy.

His latest zany offering is a hilarious spoof of Jackie Chan classic Drunken Master. The twist: this alcoholic agitator is being taught the perils of booze for the Thai Health Promotion Foundation.

We caught up with Petchsuwan to ask him how shooting an action classic was achieved under Covid guidelines and how he finds the funny in the farcical.

How did you get involved in the project?

Every year, the Thai Health Promotion Foundation launches an anti-alcohol campaign that aims to convince Thai people to quit drinking. The campaigns start with the pitch process: all agencies pitching their idea first; with the production houses pitching second. 

This year I was lucky enough to be chosen to direct.

Were you a Jackie Chan fan before getting involved? How did it feel to take on one of his classics?

I’m not a big Jackie Chan’s fan, but I watched lots of his films when I was a kid. Turning Drunken Master into a commercial was fun and highly challenging for me, as I had to re-watch the original film many times (I barely remembered the story - usually confusing it with the other one of his works). 

Seeing [the actor who plays 'Jackie Chan' do kung fu with such skill in this project was such a surprise to me! 

I called the DOP before starting the shooting and told him that we might not need much in the way of camera equipment on set, because in the original version they shot the film with a zoom lens and a tripod.

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What were the early stages? What discussions were had between you, the agency and client about what to expect?

In the first meeting, the agency and client expected that it would be full of extreme action scenes as well as a sense of humour. 

At that moment, I had an idea in my mind that it would be funny if the Drunken Master film has no action scenes at all.

The casting is fantastic? Where did you find the performers and what were you looking for?

I was lucky to have an excellent casting team, and actors too. Most of the actors in the film have worked with me before. 

The atmosphere on my sets usually tense when we’re shooting a funny film, but this one was the opposite. 

The actor who plays the ‘Jackie Chan’ role was directed by me in an earlier film, but it wasn’t kung fu-related. Seeing him do Kung Fu with such skill in this project was such a surprise to me! 

It's a pity that Jackie Chan’s face isn’t like his.

Thai Health Promotion Foundation – Drunken Master

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How was the shoot? What was your favourite moment on set?

The atmosphere on my sets usually tense even when we’re shooting a funny film, but this one was the opposite. The actor who played the main character told me, at his final scene, that he didn’t want the shoot to be over: he said it was the funniest shooting set ever. 

I like moments like this.

Were there any unforeseen problems which you had to fix?

The scene that saw No-Face jump in was at first planned to involve a stuntman. However, when we were to shoot it, the stuntman was already out of time. 

I had to roll No Face’s costume, rope it up, then have it tossed into the sky to look as much like jumping human as possible. 

I had to roll No Face’s costume, rope it up, then have it tossed into the sky to look as much like jumping human as possible. 

Amazingly, when it’s came to the editing stage, it worked perfectly!

Your films are always so full of wonderful visual gags. How do you prepare for them? Are many there at the scripting stage or do you find any when on set / in the edit?

After the agency sent me the original script, I developed it. Although sometimes the might be changed into a whole new version, I still remain close to the main concept of the work. The jokes and gags tend to come in at this stage. 

In the production phase, the new ideas pop up again as well, therefore we sometimes adjust the script while the shooting. Even in the post-production phase, new jokes might still appear. 

In the post-production phase, new jokes might still appear. 

I’m very lucky to have a client and agency that understand my working method and give me such creative freedom.

Which action movie would you like to spoof next? 

I think John Wick would be fun, or maybe an Indian action movie.

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What's the shooting situation like in Thailand at the moment?

In Thailand, we were able to go back to shooting around June. I heard that there were some directors that directed their works at home before this period. 

In Thailand, we were able to go back to shooting around June.

When shooting film in Thailand, everyone intensively follows the virus spread prevention rules. These rules are not the international rules but Thai rules, and I think they’re best practices in the world for COVID-19 protection.

What's up next for you?

I’d like to find some time to direct a feature film. 

If I like doing that, I mighty carry on… for another 20 films.

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