Meet Paphawee J. (@maaooww) , a 27-year-old film director based in Bangkok.
No film degree. No problem. After interning at Ogilvy and working at Greyhound, Paphawee J. is now a full-time film director. With her unique style and storytelling skills, it’s no surprise she’s often requested by artists like Violette Wautier and Stamp Apiwat, as well as regional clients like Unilever Singapore. Here, she tells her own story for a change.
🎞 || How It All Began || 🎞
· Did you always dream about becoming a film director?
Not at all! At my high school, we had to showcase what we learnt at the end of every term. I liked imagining how to present my ideas and the concept of my presentation so I thought I liked branding. Production never crossed my mind. From there, I chose Chula’s Media Management International Program because it was the only degree at the time in Thailand that offered a Brand Identity module, which is what I thought I liked. I didn’t apply for anywhere else. At the time, unlike the Thai program where they had a variety of majors to choose from, like Film, PR etc., the international program only had 1 major: Media Management. So I never got to learn in-depth about film like the others.
· So how did you discover your passion?
It was 50% by chance and 50% because of the student discount, really. Video production equipment can be so expensive but as a student, you get a 50% discount. I was a producer for other people throughout my 2nd and 3rd years, so I thought why not give it a try? I’d never get the chance to do it again after graduating because productions take so much money. The result was my short film, Glowstick. I really loved working on it. To be honest, without Glowstick, I would have never found my passion for filmmaking. I didn’t think it would grow into something so big too!
I had no plans whatsoever so I just followed my friends and submitted it to the Thai Short Film and Video Festival. It received a Special Mention for the White Elephant Award (Best Short Film by Undergraduate Student) and was then entered in competitions around the world, like the 26th Cinequest and LA CineFest in the US and the 14th Shnit International Shortfilm Festival in Switzerland. There were screenings in Hong Kong, Korea and Indonesia too.
· After Glowstick’s success, did you become a full-time director?
Not exactly. I enjoyed it a lot but didn’t consider it a real career to pursue. When creating films, sometimes you don’t make any profit at all – in fact, you might have to chip in some of your own money to make your vision come true. So after a 6-month internship at Ogilvy as an art director, I worked at Greyhound as part of the marketing team. I had fun but quickly realized a desk job wasn’t for me. I couldn’t stand doing the same routine every day – it was so draining!
At the time, I was also working on the FWENDS music video and Glowstick was about to go into SFX cinemas. Getting your film into theatres is a complicated process and I had to manage everything myself, so I left my job to focus on it. Since then, I’ve been a full-time film director.
🎥 || Life as a Film Director || 🎥
· You have such a big portfolio of amazing works. Where do you find all these opportunities?
For me, I think people started recognizing my work through music videos. P&G Indonesia actually discovered me through my MV รอยยิ้มเธอยังอยู่ by World Nopparuj. I think music videos are a great way to showcase your style and talent because it allows for more out-of-the box ideas and storytelling. People are naturally more interested in these stories than product commercials. Now I usually get direct requests from the artists.
· What do you think differentiates your work? What’s your secret?
Good storytelling. I think it’s something many directors my age are missing. I grew up watching Harry Potter, Kung Fu Panda and all the Pixar movies so I think I’ve absorbed it somehow. These popular movies have clear structures and the transition between each shots are always so thoughtful. As a result, I think my storytelling skills and art direction is a unique combination.
Creating a good sense of art can be a challenge. But how to tell a good story, in a visually pleasing way with meaningful transitions – that’s a bigger challenge.
· Any upcoming works or future plans?
My projects can usually be broken into 2 different vibes: storytelling and visually oriented. If you zoom out a bit more, you’ll see that all my projects focus on women.
So for the future, as well as working on bigger productions, I want to go beyond beauty products and explore women from new perspectives. Perhaps sporty women or working women.
· Last piece of advice for anyone who’d like to go into film?
I think we’re all unique individuals and see the world through different lens. Finding the time to talk to yourself, understand your emotions and really learn what matters to you is super important because it’s part of creating your own lens. Creating your own voice.
If you’re constantly drawing inspiration from somewhere else or someone else, your work may just be one of a hundred copies. Having a voice that’s completely your own will differentiate your work from others and make it truly special. It’s what makes you, you.
🙃 || Up Close & Personal || 🙃
· Do you have any role models? What’s your life motto?
I don’t have an idol. I don’t think too far ahead and live day by day. When I wake up, I just think I will choose to be happy today and try to make the best of every moment.
· In your own words, what is love?
Love is having the freedom to live your life to the fullest while knowing your partner’s got your back and ready to celebrate your good moments with you. I think it makes you more independent and in control of your own happiness, which is a good thing.
· What’s your proudest achievement?
I feel most proud when someone says they like my work. With every step, I’m always thinking about how I can make it better. I pour my heart and soul into everything I do, it really comes from the inside. So it gets a bit personal sometimes. In some way, all my works have a piece of me in it so it really means a lot when someone admires my work.