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Korn Pat: The Surrealist Rainbowfish among the Industry’s Giants


Juice’s new roster addition, director Korn Pat on expanding her horizons to Europe, why Thailand is the ‘cosy pond’ of the industry why the magic of the set is its unpredictability

Korn Pat: The Surrealist Rainbowfish among the Industry’s Giants

A solitary childhood lies at the bottom of Korn Pat’s success as a director. Film was a form of escapism, but also a way to survive loneliness. The meaning she gave it became the carrying pillar of what she would build as her career today. 

Growing up in a small household just outside of Bangkok, Korn didn’t have any neighbours her age, so she stuck to anime, movies, video games and restless creativity. “It was my ticket to adventure,” she says. “And my imagination ran wild. I got really good at keeping myself entertained.”

So good that, until today, Korn remembers the importance of challenging herself creatively to create a world she preferred to the real one outside. Though now she better understands the ins and outs of the industry's business side, she still reaches for what once was her own little world in her childhood home.

“For me, a great film is like going on a date with a fascinating person, and their stories stick with me. They filled me, and still fill me, with inspiration and opened up my world. I wholeheartedly believe in the power of a good story. When you spend time watching something meaningful, it can shape who you are and influence your character.”

Ever since her childhood and early adulthood, Korn has been curious about what makes people ‘tick’ - what drives them, what shapes their personalities and what creates their path. Those are questions that always haunt her, but luckily, she’s learned how to translate them into her visuals.

“I believe that, as human beings, we share some fundamental needs and desires - love, sex, anger, family, power, dreams - and so many more. They crop up repeatedly in various forms of art and entertainment, from literature and film to gaming and commercials,” Korn says. These themes are not only the beating heart of human existence, but the core of her cinematic world.

“What’s fascinating is that while these core human elements remain unchanged, their context varies drastically based on culture, personal experiences, and backgrounds,” she adds. Variety, however, is exactly what keeps her curious - “My journey is all about learning and exploring.” And what better way to explore than to jump headfirst into the depths of what it means to be human.

“This is why I’ve always been into the surrealist movement,” she explains. “It’s this mind-bending world where reality and imagination collide. Now, if we’re talking about filmmakers who really get into the nitty-gritty of human behaviour, my top picks would be David Lynch and David Fincher.”

She continues, “Lynch’s stuff is all artsy, dreamy and surreal - it’s like a trip inside someone’s wild imagination. Fincher, on the other hand, dives deep into the tiny details of how people behave and crafts it into a gripping story. Both of them are seriously fascinating, and I’m pumped to put my own spin on things, creating some cool visuals that make people feel.”

It’s not just the surrealist prism put on the human experience that defines Korn’s work - it’s also the way she works with light and colour. In Thai, there is a saying that goes, ‘Knowing something isn’t as valuable as feeling it’. For Korn, this phrase resonates deeply with her own visual storytelling. “Lighting and colouring serve as crucial tools to convey emotion. They are subtle manipulators that can evoke a wide range of feelings.”

There is, however, a long road to Lynch and Fincher. And Korn’s path started with her very first job a while back, as a creative art director at JWT Thailand. She remembers the experience as ‘eye-opening’ and shares that this was the place that gave her foundational knowledge about creativity, while also teaching her how to collaborate with teammates and clients. 

But this wasn’t the only lesson taken from JWT. “I was the only woman on a team dominated by men and I was quite young at the time,” Korn says. “I vividly remember my graduation day when, dressed in my cap and gown, I had to quickly change in the restroom before presenting our work to Heineken. It was a unique and somewhat surreal experience. That job forced me to grow up fast, and the advertising world exposed me to the realities of the creative industry - lessons I could later apply to various aspects of my life.”

So, with these realisations, despite being a dreamer at heart, Korn made the decision to become adept at convincing people to get onboard with her vision - this is how she would make her own reality. 

Korn’s directorial debut, was an experimental documentary called ‘Murder Babes’, combining interviews and reenactment, and it was what got her into the international league of filmmakers. 

“To snag the director’s chair, I pitched a super structured concept for the documentary, and let me tell you, it went through a bunch of rounds of input and feedback,” she says. “Working on something this big taught me the art of collaboration, especially with the showrunner and executive producer.” But here’s the kicker - it was a long-haul thing, and as Korn puts it, “it takes a boatload of patience.”

Then, just when things started rolling along nicely, covid decided to crash the party. “Through all the ups and downs, I learned to just roll with the punches and figure things out, no matter how tough they seem. Turns out, there’s always a solution waiting to be found.”

Korn’s first proper brand gig as a director wasn’t a walk in the park either - it was with Pepsi and was during the days when she didn’t have a fancy showreel at her disposal. “I clinched the deal by being super prepared and pitching my vision with a killer pitch deck,” she says. “If you’ve got the skills and the guts to go for it, anything is possible. Sure, you pick up experience along the way, but it’s all about having the confidence to chase your dreams and never, ever stop learning.”

Since then, Korn has worked across formats, in commercials, music videos, fashion editorials, as well as television. Whether it’s long- or short-form content, she loves exploring new creative horizons. But, something that still comes up across all genres of work are, unsurprisingly, budgets: “Classic, right? It might sound like a cliché, but as a director, it’s what I wrestle with every single day. That’s where the problem-solving skills kick in, big time.”

Korn for Gucci

She continues, “Then there’s the whole team communication deal. Making a film is a group effort, no doubt about it. To keep things running like a well-oiled machine, we’ve got to be on the same page. Everyone’s got their role and we’ve got to craft a solid plan together. It’s a mix of mind-blowing moments and some seriously tough tasks.”

Korn says that regardless of the format, she gets a kick of the prep work - making sure everything is ready to roll when the team hits the set. “The funny part is that as a director you have to be super prepared, but also open to spontaneity,” she jokes. 

As she puts it, the magic of the set is that it has a mind of its own - whether it will cooperate with the weather, the location, the actors, is almost out of the crew’s hands. But it’s up to them how they work with it. “Learning when to go with the flow and trusting your team to bring their own touch of magic - that’s a skill that takes time to master.”

So far, Korn’s work has been predominantly directed at the Asian market. But the themes she explores and the ways in which she creates film are universal - it’s exactly these blanket emotions and experiences that led her to make her debut in Europe. 

“The European market, in particular, holds tremendous potential. I can’t wait to bring my directorial style and vision to it. Recently, I partnered with post production studio Juice, who already have a strong presence on the continent, and am now part of their directors roster.” 

Looking ahead to the work she is yet to create, Korn explains: “I want to bring my own unique touch to any storytelling format that lands in my hands. The gaming industry, in particular, such as CD Projekt RED has piqued my interest. Many remarkable games are built around compelling narratives and mind-blowing visuals. In contrast, the Asian market tends to focus on fun and microtransactions.” 

To Korn, the Asian market, especially in Thailand, feels like a “cosy pond” in the entertainment industry, whereas Europe is more like a “vast ocean”. “The Thai industry is evolving and I have no doubt that it will make its mark on the global stage in the near future. But when it comes to Europe, it’s immense, and naturally, there are rules and regulations I’ll need to grasp.”

Nevertheless, says Korn, she is a citizen of the world, ready to dive into that freezing cold water - “Yes, I might be the rainbowfish amidst all the giant fish in the industry, but I’m determined to prove that being different can be a game-changer. Stereotypes can’t define me - not all Asians fit the ‘good at maths and timid’ mould. I plan to bring my wild, creative spirit to the European scene, offering something unexpected and making my own unique mark.”

Working in an entirely new market is both exciting and daunting, but Korn has always appealed to the gen z portion of society and she believes this will remain the same across the world. “There’s this shift happening in Thailand, and it’s not just a local thing; it’s a global phenomenon driven by the relentless march of technology. Our world is evolving at warp speed, especially with gen z leading the charge, constantly on the move, seeking validation and attention.”

She continues: “I’ve come to appreciate that they value someone who genuinely listens and offers a ray of hope. This shift in perspective is also influencing the entertainment industry; it has to keep up with their evolving mindset. Gen z are an open-minded, worldly bunch. They are not fans of judgement but thrive on challenges.”

So, to connect with them, Korn knows her creative work needs to stay fresh and introduce new perspectives for debate. Whether it’s an innovative concept or groundbreaking visuals, the goal is to pique their curiosity and keep them engaged.

“Now, when it comes to reaching other age groups like gen x, gen y, or the baby boomers, I believe it depends on your target audience. To create impactful work, it's crucial to define your goals, conduct thorough research, and be an astute observer. Staying adaptable to trends is essential, but never at the expense of your core beliefs and, especially, your moral compass.”

Right now, the most exciting things on the horizon for Korn are her European expansion, as well as a possible one in the US. “I’m on the verge of pitching my very first feature film project, which will be a collaborative effort between two countries: Thailand and the USA. Fingers crossed, this could be the breakthrough opportunity I’ve been waiting for in my directing career. I know it won’t be easy, but I’m absolutely ready to take on any challenge.”

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Juice, Mon, 18 Sep 2023 16:30:45 GMT