‘Thai Guys’ filmmakers making mark on Seattle scene

They are filmmakers who call themselves the ‘Thai Guys!’

You likely have never heard of these three brothers who make films here in Seattle. But they are setting an example for filmmakers who don’t fit the standard American mold.

In this edition of Western Washingon Gets Real, KIRO 7′s Deborah Horne sat down with the trailblazing brothers at King County’s newly christened Harbor Island studios.

They are an unlikely trio of filmmakers.

“It started with Nuk and I making homemade films with our mom’s Sony, first Sony digital cameras, what about fifteen years ago,” said Note Suwanchote. “Then we brought Nut on and we would make movies.”

31-year-old Note, 29-year-old Nuk, and 28-year-old Nut Suwanchote were born in Thailand, and raised in Des Moines.

“And we would make movies in our garage,” said Note.

“Eighteen years ago,” his brother, Nuk, corrected him.

“In front of our house,” Note continued. “Eighteen years, is it eighteen years? Energy blasts, these funky films. And it just grew from there.”

His brothers were inspired by him.

“My older brother was already playing with the camera,” said Nuk. “He was taking photos and I was taking photos. I was like, ‘My god, I can capture reality?’ And he was like ‘You can actually take videos.’ And I was like, ‘What? I can capture reality? Yes. ‘And morph it to my will, right?’ And he’s like ‘Yeah, that’s filmmaking.’ And I was like, I need to get on this now.

How old was he? “I was 11.”

Eventually, they brought their youngest brother along.

“Sort of,” said Nut, laughing. “You know they didn’t have a lot of actor friends. They didn’t have a lot of friends back then, you know, 10. 11 (years old). So, he’d be like, ‘Hey, let’s shoot a Zombie film.’ And I’m both like the main character and the zombie. ‘Good, now like put blood on your face and die.’ "

And they did it all, nary a role model in sight.

“To be honest, we grew up, we knew of zero people in Thailand or of Thai descent making movies,” Note said. “And so, I think we were generally the only filmmakers in general in our community, for a long time. And then as we got older, we realized there were other filmmakers of Asian descent as well.”

“We are also the only Thai people we knew,” said Nut.

“Yeah, that’s true,” agreed Note, laughing. “Exactly. That’s a good point.”

“We went to whatever, ‘Hey, do you know any other Thai?’” Nut said he would ask people. “‘Oh, I know Note.’ That’s my brother. ‘Oh, I know Nuk.’ That’s my brother.”

So, they had to rely on each other to be filmmakers.

“We had to rely on each other,” Note said. “We did.”

That family bond appears to be paying off.

Last March, Nuk’s company, Empower Video Productions, won a coveted slot to premiere a film they made in 48 hours at the renowned Cannes Film Festival in France. Then in May, at Cannes, the film was declared third best in the world.

“Being an Asian person, you have to work double, triple, 10 times as hard to be average,” said Note. “And that’s not something applicable to somebody who’s Caucasian. And people skirt around that issue. Because you don’t have that representation and media changes facts. So, what we do is challenging but essential.”

And it is leading the way so others may follow.

The brothers credit their immigrant parents, artists in their own right, with encouraging them to follow their filmmaking dreams, as long as they made enough money to pay rent.

And on that score, they are doing just fine.