Director Baz Poonpiriya on cinema and being true to yourself

that of Bangkok cultural scene never fails to impress us with his new talents and stimulating arts. The city has become a haven for dynamic and up-and-coming artists, welcoming innovative ideas and talent with open arms. Dedicated to all these creatives in town, these series explores the journey and daring personalities of some of the country’s most notable rising stars.

As part of the Good Life Awards, we have recognized Baz Poonpiriya as the 2021 Good Life Guru. Click here to see our other Good Life Awards winners who embody Lifestyle Asia’s good living ethic.

You can tell a director is great at what he does when everyone else is going ‘oh yes, I know this movie’ at the mention of their name, or when the said film is so popular that it becomes a series. Of all the many Thai directors today, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that Nattawut “Baz” Poonpiriya, the director of evil genius (2017), is among the hottest rising stars in Thailand.

(Image: GDH)

June’s older brother Patcha Hengsadeekul (née Patcha Poonpiriya or “Junejune”) directed his first feature film, Countdown, in 2021. He quickly became one of Thailand’s most famous directors with evil genius in 2017. His most recent feature film, One for the road, was produced by world-renowned director Wong Kar Wai and premiered this year at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Currently, Baz is also working on another project: a Thai cave rescue series with Netflix based on a true story of the rescue case of the football team 13 “Boars”.

baz poonpiriya evil genius
(Image: GDH)

Exuding an air of nonchalance that comes with (maybe) his innate character and background, Baz certainly knows what’s cool. In addition to directing films and producing works with his production company, Houseton, Baz co-founded “Mutual Bar” with his sister Junejune, and he also owns FICS, a cafe and poster store offering drinks named after iconic films. In addition to all of this, he is also the owner / father of Dogdoi the pug and Jianghai, a senior rescue dog.

baz poonpiriya one for the road
(Image: official “One for the Road” Facebook page)

Squeezing into an interview session between his busy filming schedule, we took Baz for a quick chat to find out more about the man behind the slate.

Describe yourself in three words.

This is quite a difficult question as I don’t know if the description would be taken as a fact or just a biased opinion of myself.

In this case, we can skip that one. Can you tell us about your current project (s)?

I’m shooting a series with Netflix, and the rest is script development for my future projects.

What do you like about directing and cinema? And how did you get into it?

When I was younger, I often stayed with my cousin, which just happens to be a video rental store. And so I watched so many movies that it became a hobby, which I kept until I hit my teenage years and became a passion. It was then that I understood that I wanted to become a director.

If you weren’t an artist, what would you be?

I would probably be a bartender or a bar owner.

You could say that’s already true, since you also own a bar (Mutual Bar)?

It’s my secondary passion. If I wasn’t making any movies, I think I would probably get involved in bar management and study to be a professional bartender.

Name the last TV show you watched in a row.

Oh, I just finished the first season last night—The boys—On Amazon Prime Video.

Which character would you like to play in a movie?

Um, there are so many. Oh, there’s a series called Succession on HBO Go. I would love to play Kendall Roy in this series. Having all this intellect and money must be fun. (Laughs)

If you could only choose one song to play each time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?

This one: the soundtrack of In the Mood for Love, ‘Yumeji’s Theme’. Every time I listen to the song, I feel like life is (a break) good. There is complexity, rawness and depth, but at the same time, there is a certain beauty and tenderness.

Unfortunately, the building in which they filmed “In the Mood for Love” on Charoen Krung is about to be demolished – the dates are not yet known, but it has already been closed.

I should tell Wong (Kar Wai) about it.

Note: Wong Kar Wai, the director of “In the Mood for Love”, was the producer of Baz’s film, “One for the Road”.

What’s one Instagram account you’re obsessing over right now?

I’ve been following mostly Pug accounts on Instagram recently. I don’t remember the exact handles, but I follow almost all of the ones that appear on my feed.

What are you reading now?

There is a book I can’t wait to read. I have already bought a copy, I will finish all my work and read it at the end of the year. It’s a book called “Billion Dollar Whale: The Man Who Dupe Wall Street, Hollywood, and the World”. The subject has interested me for a long time. He is about a Malaysian businessman who has fooled the whole world. He laundered that money using it to make the wolf of Wall Street.

If you had to write an autobiography or a film about your life, what would the title be?

(Laughs) I won’t. It would be a waste of the audience’s time because there wouldn’t be anything interesting about it.

What is your slogan or life motto?

If anyone asks me about my life or my life motto, I would honestly tell them that I don’t know, but if there is something they want to do then give it a try. Don’t expect it to be successful and don’t be afraid of disappointment.

Name 3 essentials that you always love to pack in your bag, especially when filming on a set.

Thai herbal inhaler. Sun glasses. And coffee, I drink a lot of coffee on the set. I won’t go to the set before having a coffee because I wouldn’t feel ready for the day.

Still a long day on the set for you?

Usually yes. In the industry, we usually start filming early in the morning, for at least 12 hours a day after the start.

A must-see movie that you would like to recommend.

A while ago an American film called What is Gilbert Raisin eating? from 1993. It’s not widely known, although there is Johnny Depp and Leonardo DiCaprio featured. You can try to search for it; it’s a family movie. I think people will appreciate the important things in their life after watching this movie.

Your favorite place in Bangkok? And the best thing about this city?

I think Bangkok is a lot like MSG. (laughs) As in, there are a lot of things in the city that are not good for our bodies, but it’s delicious. The lifestyle and the vibe of the city is like food that you know is bad for you, but it’s so delicious.

As for my favorite place in Bangkok, I haven’t had time to hang around lately as I’ve been constantly working. I would say FICS and Mutual Bar, great places. (FICS café and Mutual Bar are two of Baz’s businesses beyond the world of cinema)

Finally, a tip for budding artists like you:

Identical to my life motto. Do something that makes sense, something that you believe in. Don’t expect you to be successful by doing it, don’t be afraid to fail by doing it, and be as sincere and true to yourself as much as possible.