Making Till We Meet Again: Backpacking and Screenwriting with Johan Matton

tillwemeetagainTill We Meet Again is an award-winning indie film focused on the way relationships can both begin and change when traveling abroad. So far I have been given the opportunity to watch and review the film, as well as bounce a few questions off of director Bank Tangjaitrong in the first installment of “Making Till We Meet Again“.

Today I’ll be sharing an interview I conducted via email with Johan Matton, whose role in the production include writer, executive producer, and acting as Erik, one of the leads. That being said, while the film was ultimately directed and brought to life by Tangjaitrong it can’t be argued that its very existence largely lies on Matton’s shoulders.


David tells Joanna that being in Thailand “realigns you with who you really are.” It seems apparent from the film, which you wrote as well as starred in, that you’d been there before. How much truth do you think there is in that statement?

I wanted the character David (Emrhys Cooper) to come across as a flirtatious, charming person who always knows what to say but is still real and sincere, not the stereotypical obstacle of a man for Erik and Joanna that he could have been. I believe in this moment he speaks about what is true to him; he is not just using catchy lines to charm Joanna (Linnea Larsdotter) at this point, I think he means it sincerely and believes this to be true. For me I believe in individuality [laughs] and that expressions such as this where “you” means “everyone” can be a bit naive.

Some people might be aligned, some people may not. However, empirically for me, Thailand definitely aligns me and I find myself looking inwards and realizing what more I can give to the world and how egotistical New York makes me if I do not take enough pauses from the city. I also believe strongly that some people do tend to get grounded sometimes when they travel and change perspectives from the loop of life we are usually in. So the statement is true to David and for me, but most likely not to everyone. Continue reading

Making Till We Meet Again: Director Bank Tangjaitrong on Filming Your Home Country

tillwemeetagainLast Wednesday I posted my review of Till We Meet Again, an award-winning American-Thai production. The film follows the experiences of a couple traveling through Thailand, paying particularly close attention to how separation and loneliness play a part in their relationship.

Following that is “Making Till We Meet Again“, a series of interviews with the creators. The first of which is an email Q&A with director Bank Tangjaitrong to get insight on how Till We Meet Again came to be. Following sometime after should be interviews with Johan Matton, who both starred in and wrote the film, as well as co-star Emrhys Coope.


From what I could tell this is actually your second time working with Johan Matton, with the first being your award-winning short film That Girl, That Time, which you wrote and directed. He was the star of both films, but actually penned the script for Till We Meet Again. Can you share anything about your experiences working with him, as well as having him on story duties this time around?

I always look forward to my collaborations with Johan as we’ve worked together so many different times in the past from a director-actor capacity. With Till We Meet Again, Johan was not only the actor but also the writer and producer, and to most directors that would be an immediate red flag since lines would be blurred and there wouldn’t be a sense of hierarchy with too many “voices” on set, but that was not the case here. Collaboration is essential for me and I try to bring in the best people for the job and learn from them and listen to them. Every idea was valid whether it came from an actor, producer, writer, gaffer, etc. But it had to all be funneled through the director and he or she would choose what works what doesn’t and I think Johan understood that. During the shooting process our relationship was always about director and actor first, that was the priority.

I read that you were born and raised in Bangkok, and wanted to know what it was like filming the majority of a feature film in your home country. In particular I noticed that while shots are certainly beautiful, they never feel exoticized. Unlike, say, the way Thailand was portrayed in The Hangover Part II where it’s very clearly depicted as a foreign place.

The way we shot Thailand was very important to our story and I wanted to make sure that we weren’t just including famous landmarks and treating the visuals like an ad for the tourism authority. We needed to find that balance between what’s expected of a film shot in Thailand but also a film about the human condition. It’s important that a scene that takes place in the confines of four walls can be equally as intriguing as a scene on a secluded tropical beach.

walkin Continue reading

Our Fascist Overlords (So Far…)

There’s an old Arab quote that roughly translates to “Don’t tell me about a man, tell me about his friends.” i.e, you are the company you keep. In spite of the present efforts for a recount in certain key states, we are still very much bracing for a Trump presidency, and perhaps worse yet, a Trump cabinet. Let’s get to meet our new fascist overlords:

2Ambassador to the United Nations: Nikki Haley

Born to Sikh Indian parents, Governor of South Carolina Nikki Haley earned acclaim for her decision to remove the Confederate flag from state grounds. While maintaining a number of hardline positions- especially in terms of immigration- Haley again made headlines with her early criticism of then-candidate Trump. Criticism that earned her calls to be deported.

Deported to exactly where remains a mystery, as Haley was born in America. But as plenty of Trump supporters imagine America to be an inherently white country, they showed no qualms about reminding Haley (and people of color) that their presence in this nation is merely tolerated

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Image retrieved via Policy.Mic

Which makes Trump’s decision to offer her UN ambassadorship surprising, and Haley’s acceptance even more so. But perhaps that’s just to show how much the Republican party has chugged the Kool-Aid. A woman who, simply because of her first name and her skin tone, received calls for her “deportation” is now the international face of the same “siren call of the angriest voices.” Certainly it’s a chilling picture of what’s to come, and enough to silence anyone claiming that the house and senate will somehow act as a counterbalance to Trump’s Fourth Reich. Continue reading

Till We Meet Again: A Film Review

tillwemeetagain“If you’re gonna go [. . .] it needs to be now.” 

Those are words that have been said countless times by the young, privileged, and recently travelled. And so they’re repeated to Erik [Johan Matton, who also wrote the screenplay] and Joanna [Linnea Larsdotter] over dinner on a New York City balcony. “Just go” is the advice given, and moments later we cut to the couple beneath the welcoming Thai sun.

The expectations for a story like this one are the same as they would be for an actual getaway to the Southeast Asian country: sexy, inspiring, exhilarating. Director Bank Tanjaintrong’s first feature length film, Till We Meet Again delivers on all of these fronts, but also tempers those feelings with the everyday matters of need and loneliness. Even before Erik and Joanna are separated, with the latter leaving earlier than planned to reconnect with David [Emrhys Cooper], an old friend, those issues lie just beneath the surface.

Likely attributed to the director having grown up there, Thailand is depicted with a comfortable familiarity that lacks the lurid exoticism many Hollywood movies have employed. With that in mind it serves primarily as a backdrop to the relationships playing out onscreen, which are further complicated by the introduction of Miranda [Astrea Campbell-Cobb]. While the setting’s natural and man-made beauty are never obscured there’s a tight focus on the core cast, and one that offers very little screen time for local talent. Continue reading

2 Broke Girls, S6E8 “And the Duck Stamp”: A TV Review

duckstamp

While it’s certainly disappointing to have to write, a run of two decent consecutive 2 Broke Girls episodes is really not bad at all. I thoroughly enjoyed “And the Rom-Commie” as well as “And the Sophie Doll”, and even though they weren’t incredible or even the best the show has ever been, their airing one week after the next felt like an encouraging change of pace for the CBS sitcom. It’s unfortunate that in spite of the season’s eighth installment continuing to land successful physical gags and better utilizing their cast neither are enough to prop up a paper-thin plot.

Which doesn’t mean that those two points are unappreciated, by any means. Han is actually the driving force of this episode, and while he’s been the focus in past seasons this week he manages to participate in the joke without necessarily being the butt of it. Also notable is the fact that, besides being POC on ensemble comedies, this is the first connection I’ve ever made between him and Sergeant Terry Jeffords on Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

The clue lies in what he’s holding.

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What Does St. Augustine Have to Do With Social Justice?

“[. . .] where ignorance is bliss,
‘Tis folly to be wise.”

Those lines are from “Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College”, by 18th century poet Thomas Gray. Now we both know the origins of the phrase; you’re welcome. There’s a reason those three words I bolded have survived and become a part of our cultural lexicon when the man who wrote them, and even the fact that they come from a poem to begin with, have long since faded away: we all know what it’s like to learn something we wish we hadn’t.

Kind of like when that image of what appeared to be a pink boa constrictor began circulating around the internet a couple of years back-

pinkboa

-and many people, when they found out what it was, said they would never eat another chicken nugget again. Which, let’s be real, can’t be a resolution that most of them ended up sticking with.

It’s easy to continue hitting up our dietary habits when it comes to Gray’s words; after all, don’t we eat every single day? Anyone who has seen the documentary Food Inc. may come out of it with the hot piece of trivia that corn makes its way into almost every item of food in American grocery stores, but the real question is whether or not they continue purchasing and consuming meat that has, in all likelihood, been produced by a factory farm. Continue reading

2 Broke Girls, S6E7 “And the Sophie Doll”: A TV Review

sophiedoll

So first thing’s first, and just because it’s the first thing you see when you open up one of these reviews, the header image is very clearly of subpar quality. The best I could find as far as promos was this one video on YouTube which, as you can see, isn’t great. I’ll try to to step it up moving forward but I can only really work with what’s available.

Given that this week’s episode actually fell on my birthday I wasn’t sure how to feel about it. Were my expectations made that much lower due to my having to watch and review it when I could be doing almost anything else? Or were they perhaps on the higher end due to last week’s surprisingly decent installment? Regardless of where my expectations actually ended up falling, 2 Broke Girls served up a decent enough episode that more importantly continues to keep things fresh.

The highlight of “And the Rom-Commie” was the decision to pair Oleg and Han together, a coupling that ended up paying off surprising comedic dividends. While I don’t think that Matthew Moy deserves all the credit for how enjoyable the show has been lately, his performance opposite Kat Dennings is what I want to shine a spotlight on this time around. While his cherubic looks and high-pitched voice have more often than not been openly mocked, which in turn helps perpetuate the stereotype of the effete, sexless Asian man, they also end up adding a genuinely funny mischievous quality to his performance in “And the Sophie Doll”.  Continue reading