ALUMNI UPDATES: Putt Pitakjamnong

This month, I interviewed Putt Pitakjamnong (CO’12). Putt currently works in advertising as a commercial film director, for a company called The Film Factory. The Film Factory is one of the most reputed production companies in Thailand. In addition to that, he has won numerous awards for his films. Here’s what he had to say!

Why did you choose to pursue film-making?

I was fortunate to have experimented with videography at a young age. During my early MYP years at KIS, I got to edit videos, experiment and enjoyed the whole experience of getting to exhibit it to the entire school and got the opportunity to see people enjoying it. 

It wasn’t until I saw an art-house film called ‘Last Life in the Universe’ that I felt like this was what I wanted to do. I got serious and pursued a path in filmmaking at thirteen. Got my classmates together on weekends and shot short narrative films that nobody really understood. Myself included. It’s the thrill and enjoyment of going on set even though you had no idea what you’re doing. It was fun, and people appreciated your work. At least for trying.

What projects have you been involved in?

I’m very fortunate to currently work as a Commercial Film Director at the most prestigious, longest-running production company in Thailand called The Film Factory. The company had produced multiple films and commercials that inspired my early days of pursuing a path in filmmaking, including ‘Last Life in the Universe’. It feels like a full circle. I’m very proud to be finally be doing my dream job. To know the decade of hard work and perseverance paid off. 

Even though I have the title of a commercial director, most of my work are non-traditional forms of commercials. Most of my work is branded content short films. I’ve directed content for international brands including BMW, Mercedes Benz, Wall’s Cornetto, and a few local high-end brands as well. 

However, most of my well-known works are charity-based films, including a theatrical feature film that promotes blood donation called ABABO or recently the viral short film The Ingredients, a crime mystery that aims to educate people on the dangers of sodium intake. An online petition was created based on the success of the campaign and the government have been taking action. 

What is your proudest accomplishment?

I’m very proud to have produced work that has received multiple advertising awards locally and internationally including the prestigious Cannes Lion Awards and One Show Awards.

However, my proudest accomplishment would be the success of my graduating thesis film called ‘Lost in the Universe’. The short film was a tribute to my childhood hero and my current mentor Pen-Ek Ratanaruang, but it also was an origin story of my life as a filmmaker. The story follows a boy with a dream in filmmaking. The boy enters a magical land where characters from his favourite movies come to life and bring him through a journey involving events from the movies. The entire short involved original props from the movies, actors reprising their roles from over a decade ago. Some of the scenes were even shot at KIS. The ending of the film would reveal that the boy’s father set up the entire experience for his son. The entire film was a symbol of what my father and childhood heroes had done for me: making my dreams come true. 

What was your experience like at Mahidol University?

I was one of a few film students in the country to have lived the film school dream. The first couple years of the program were the years that I got to experiment and produce a lot of projects. We made a film every month and it was trial and error, over and over again. I had the best classmates anyone could have asked for. I met a long-term working partner, who’s still currently working with me as a Director of Photography on most of my projects. We produced multiple short films in the years that are still recognised today in the film industry.

The film program at Mahidol University gradually became the best film education program in the country. Top industry professionals were teaching courses at the university, including award-winning Lee Chatametikool, Anocha Suwichakornpong, Pawas Sawatchaiyamet, and my childhood hero Pen-Ek Ratanaruang. The teachers were award-winning industry editors, sound designers, production designers, writers, and directors that were involved in favourite films of mine. It was always a dream to become a student of Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (Last Life in the Universe, Ploy, Headshot, Samui Song). He guided me through my thesis film and eventually became my career mentor.

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What do you miss most about KIS and Bangkok?

The years at KIS were the most challenging years of my life. It was struggling for me as an average student midst a competitive academic environment. I couldn’t do the simple maths, follow the basic sciences, or even have the tolerance to finish a book. I often lost all confidence in myself for not being able to do well in school. Fortunately, KIS had teachers that saw the potential in me. I miss them. The teachers that believed I would go on to do greater things in life. Teachers that told me that school could be hardest years of our lives and we would get through it. It gave me the faith to push through my academic life and drove myself towards my passion.

What advice do you have for MYP and DP students?

I’ve always wanted to speak to the struggling students of the IB Programme. Don’t lose faith in yourself if you’re not doing well in all of the classes. In every educational system, you will be forced to feel that grades are the most important things in your lives. In a span of a lifetime, your grades are the least significant numbers in your life. It doesn’t tell you your talents, your passion, or your drive. Don’t let academic scores define you. 

I’ve once lost faith and confidence in myself.  I’ve once felt undervalued in the academic environment. I’ve once let scores defined who I was, and I struggled. I scored the lowest IB Diploma Programme score in my class year. I was also the first in my class year to graduate, get a job, and achieve my dreams. Have faith and confidence in your own ability to grow and learn. 

Any advice for aspiring film directors?

This is the greatest era for aspiring filmmakers. You can immediately stop aspiring, and start being a filmmaker. Grab your smartphone and tell a story. Nothing is stopping you from becoming a filmmaker.

Do you continue to exemplify the IB Learner Profile now that you are following a career path? How?

Honestly, I’ve forgotten all the IB learner profile words. Sorry.

Do you feel that KIS and IB Curriculum prepared you for your career? How?

The IB Curriculum not only gives you a good education but more importantly, it gives you a high standard. Maintaining a high standard in the professional world gives you an unbelievable advantage that would progress you quickly throughout your career. I never delivered the standard quality in my assignments during my years at KIS, because I would struggle to focus on multiple subjects at once. However, once you have the opportunity to focus on a single subject, you can aim to do your best, and your best is a lot of the time better than most’s.

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What are your plans for the future?

I can’t tell you much about it, but I’m currently in the development phase of my directorial debut feature film. It’s an art-house fantasy family drama film which involves themes of coming of age, parenthood, and death.

If you have any more questions for P’Putt, feel free to contact him at pojpitak@gmail.com.

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