We recently had the pleasure of chatting with Taiwanese indie film director Lee Thongkham about his upcoming 2023 creature feature, The Lake. This is his third overall feature film, and his first foray into the macabre realm of monster movies. Check out what he had to say as we discussed his career, love of horror, and what it was like dealing with high scale animatronics while on set.
PopHorror: How did you get into film and what was it that made you want to pursue a career in filmmaking?
Lee: Film is always been part of my life, as a little country boy from Thailand moving to America. Through the great art of cinema, I’m able to communicate with everyone. The moment my father cried and gave a standing ovation during Gladiator, is something that I will never forget. Or when I saw Jurassic Park for the first time. It’s something that makes a young boy’s imagination run wild.
PopHorror: What are some of the films that influenced you to want to start directing?
Lee: I’m very easy to please. I love every aspect of film. From behind the scenes of Jurassic Park, to the revolutionary of The Matrix. The powerful Return of the King. The storytelling of Hayao Miyazaki.
PopHorror: You’ve done a bunch of short films, but you’ve also released two feature films prior to this new one. The 2018 action fantasy thriller called The Last One, and the 2020 mystery horror thriller titled, The Maid. Can you tell me a little about those and what made you want to jump into the horror genre?
Lee: I’ve always loved the horror genre, it’s my guilty pleasure when it comes to movie entertainment. Horror has many ways of telling unique stories, with different takes and a variation of directions.
PopHorror: Who are some of the filmmakers that you look up to and try to emulate when directing your own films?
Lee: The Great Steven Spielberg and the magical Hayao Miyazaki. I want to tell great stories through great visual and those two are my examples of what to do.
PopHorror: Can you tell us a little about your upcoming film, The Lake?
Lee: The Lake is a thrilling Thai monster movie that centers around a little girl who discovers a mysterious egg by the lake, brings it back to her town, unaware of the chaos that will ensue. As the egg about to hatch, a giant monster rises from the lake, causing destructions as it searches for its missing egg. It is a story about religion, the human spirit, and science. But most importantly, it’s about finding one another through the chaos that one does not understand. The film is a thrilling epic that combines action, suspense and horror elements.
PopHorror: Where did you come up with the concept for The Lake?
Lee: The concept for The Lake came from various sources, such as local folklore and myths surrounding bodies of water in my local Province in Thailand. The idea of a mysterious egg and a giant monster emerging from the lake is a classic monster movie trope that has been used in many films. I just want to pay homage to all the monster loving folks.
PopHorror: The main antagonist in the film is a giant Kai-ju like creature. How did you come up with the concept for the monster and how did you determine what it was going to look like?
Lee: The concept for the monster’s design came from a variety of inspirations, such as real-life creatures, other monster movies, and from many animals living in the lake, like frogs, alligators, cat fish, and so on.
PopHorror: What was it like working with large scale animatronics and were there any problems with them while on set?
Lee: Working with large-scale animatronics was challenging due to the complexity of the machinery and the need for precision in movement and timing. The crew had to work closely with the animatronics team to ensure a smooth operation of the machinery on set. The monster is three stories tall. The puppet monster on the other hand, is just a guy in a suit. The only problem with that was the heat, and making sure the guy was always okay under those extreme conditions. It was a team effort and great experience for the Thai crew who have never done this kind of movie before.
PopHorror: You also used some cgi (computer generated effects), mixed in with the practical effects. What was it like trying to merge the two and were there any hiccups during the blending process?
Lee: Merging practical effects with CGI required careful planning and coordination to ensure that he two elements blended seamlessly. The crew used green screen technology to insert the CGI elements into the practical scenes, and post production editing to refine the final product. There were some hiccups during the blending process, but the crew worked hard to overcome these challenges and deliver the best possible product for Thai cinema.
PopHorror: Do you have any other projects in the works that fans should be in the lookout for?
Lee: I have a new movie coming out soon in June 22, 2023. It’s an action comedy called “Kitty the Killer” – Thailand been missing out on martial arts action for awhile and I want to bring it back to the Thai cinema. It’s a Kill Bill meets Kick Ass type vibe.
PopHorror: Where can fans follow you and stay up to date with everything you have going on?
Lee – You can follow me on Instragram and Facebook under my name, Lee Thongkham. Or my company website on upcoming projects www.thongkhamfilms.com. Thank you.