INTERVIEW WITH MARK DUFFIELD DIRECTOR OF THE GHOST OF MAE NAK

Contributor; Chicago, Illinois
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I found The Ghost of Mae Nak to be a refreshing change from the constant Asian ghost onsluaght. True there is a woman with black hair, true, she does creep around and exact revenge. But (shudder)...let's just say her revenge owes more to Jason and Freddy than to Sadako. A chance to correspond with director Mark Duffield was most welcome and as you can see from the following internet more tha worth the time. Odds are I think we'll be hearing more from Duffield stateside and I'm hoping he stays in the horror field. We need people who can pull off this kind of stuff with some finesse and sensitivity even as they make us go "Eeewwwwwwwwwwww!"

SCREENANARCHY:  I watched your film with a group of friends and we were surprised at how different Mae Nak is from the slew of angry ghost films that have poured out of the East?

MARK DUFFIELD:  I am gald you picked up on how different GHOST OF MAE NAK is to other Asian horror.  The story of Mae Nak is a tragic love story and I wanted to be truthful to that theme.  But I was also inspired by Western films like THE OMEN and FINAL DESTINATION and wanted to incorporate some freak-death scenes into the story.  The legend of Mae Nak tells that she will seek revenge on those who try to come between her and her true love.

TF:  How are you perceived by crew and cast? Are their trust issues because of your being a Westerner?

MD: As a British director making a horror movie in Thailand I faced many challenges.  The most obvious one is the language.  I don’t speak Thai even though I had written a Thai based horror story.  But I had my script expertly translated from English into Thai that helped the Thai cast and crew clearly understand my story.  I did have translators and it was fun trying to convey what I wanted to say as a director.  Bangkok film crews are highly skilled, so the film making process was no different to making a movie in the West and the language of filmmaking is universal.  However we did have to make an offering at the actual Mae Nak shrine. The day before filming the entire GHOST OF MAE NAK cast and crew went to the shrine to ask Mae Nak for her permission to make a film about her.  I felt she gave us her blessing as the filming went very smooth and it was a joy to direct.  It was important for me to be accurate about the Thai Buddhist religion and follow the correct procedures for the rituals.  Thailand being a Buddhist country also believes in karma.  And this I used as a theme in which those who did bad would receive bad.

TF:  How has Mae Nak fared commercially? Do you see yourself staying in the horror genre?

MD:  The film was released all over Thailand and went to number 3 in the Thai box-office.  There was a big media attended Premiere in Bangkok.  The distribution company actually built a Mae Nak shrine outside the cinema on the sidewalk.  They had an official Buddhist consecration ceremony with Monks and the cast attending that was headline news on Thai TV.  This was to pay respects to Mae Nak and bring good luck to the film.  People took the shrine very seriously and would even pray in front of it.  The Thai reaction was very good.  I was concerned at first especially directing a film in a language I don’t speak and watching it with the Thai audience. But after the premiere screening I was congratulated my many Thai Industry professionals and the moviegoers on my achievement. The film was shown in cinemas in Singapore, Malaysia and Korea and had sold well Internationally including TARTAN for USA and UK DVD distribution.  It has been selected for several international festivals like Egypt, India, Bermuda, England and San Francisco where it was screened at the excellent ANOTHER HOLE IN THE HEAD Festival last July.  It was recently shown in London at the FRIGHTFEST Festival to large genre based audience.  And is has been selected for the San Diego Asian Film Festival in October. Critically the film has reviewed well in Variety, Film Threat, UnderlandOnline and MoviesOnline.  The reaction has been very good and the feedback I get is people enjoy the characters dark journey with the Mae Nak legend and the gory moments, especially the “shocking” gory sheet-glass splitting moment that everyone talks about after the film.  If you’ve seen it you’ll know what I mean.  And yes I would love to continue in the horror genre.  I have some great original ideas.

TF:  Mae Nak seems like a nod to recent efforts stateside like House of Wax, which offers more fun than fear and more gore than suspense. What films influenced your approach to the horror genre?

MD:  I would say ‘horror director’s’ who have inspired me are ones who have created a style, a language or an atmosphere that has defined horror and set a horror precedent.  Ridely Scott’s ALIEN, John Carpenter’s HALLOWEEN, Tobe Hooper’s TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, Argento’s SUSPIRIA, Stanley Kubrick’s THE SHINNING. Sam Rami’s EVIL DEAD. These are just a few.

As a young boy growing up in England, my first introduction to horror films was the HAMMER HORROR FILMS.  And I still have a fondness for Hammer Films and their Victorian gothic and contemporary retelling of the horror classics like DRACULA, FRANKENSTEIN and many other horror stories and characters they made into movies.  THE HAUNTING by Robert Wise is a horror film and ghost story that I admire.  THE CHANGELING, STIR OF ECHOES, THE EXORCIST, CANDY MAN, FINAL DESTINATION are a few of my favourites but also because these are films that have inspired and influenced me as a writer and director.

TF:  Are you looking to have this film remade and released stateside or hoping for a limited arthouse release here?

MD:  GHOST OF MAE NAK is being released on the TARTAN DVD Asian Extreme Horror label.  The DVD will have my Director’s commentary track, my one-hour video diary on the filming, a ‘blooper’ reel, a making of featurette, the Bangkok World Premiere featurette, (and possibly my new short film REVOLVER?).  The above details are correct at present but please check with Tartan for confirmation.

Yes it would be great to see GHOST OF MAE NAK remade for the US market.  I definitely see the potential and I do have an excellent remake concept that is amazing (but secret for now?).

6. TF:  What's up next?

MD: I am writing an exciting new horror script set in the US in English language. I do have several other spec horror scripts I have written and I am also rewriting or fine-tuning them. This is something I always do with my scripts until they get made.  I do have a new Thai/Asian horror script but with Western characters and English language, it’s great idea.  I am keen to develop my passion for horror/fantasy films, I have some great, original ideas, however I’m afraid I don’t want to reveal anything about my scripts as yet, but I will keep you posted.

Finally I would like to thank SCREENANARCHY FILMS for showing interest in the GHOST OF MAE NAK and myself as writer and director.  I would like to thank the fans of GHOST OF MAE NAK.  I appreciate your support. And for those who have not seen it, then I hope you will give the GHOST a chance and allow your self to be taken on a ghostly thrill in Bangkok Thailand and discover a true Thai legend.  GHOST OF MAE NAK will be released on DVD with Extras by the Tartan USA Asian Extreme label on 10th October.  I hope those who have seen it will want to learn more about the making, and those who have not seen it will discover a new horror legend of the GHOST OF MAE NAK.

With thanks,
Mark Duffield
Writer and Director GHOST OF MAE NAK.

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