Arts & Entertainment

Interview With Tom Waller: Director of ‘The Cave’

Film Director Tom Waller gives an insightful interview about the making of his new film The Cave, the true story of the incredible rescue mission of a young soccer team, who became trapped in a flooded cave at Tham Luang in Chiang Rai, North Thailand in 2018.

WHAT WAS THE THOUGHT PROCESS IN PRODUCING A MOVIE ABOUT THIS INCREDIBLE RESCUE MISSION?

I watched the news like everyone else on the planet and was totally absorbed in the unfolding story. I immediately wanted to know more about how the kids were rescued and came out all alive. I felt that the incident had innate appeal for a movie. The question was how to approach the story, given that most people already know the ending from news reports at the time.

HAVE ANY OF THE EVENTS IN THIS FILM BEEN DRAMATISED?

We based the film totally on the true story, taking the accounts of the real rescuers and dramatizing events closely following their own experiences – after all, many of the volunteer rescuers play themselves in the film, so they themselves were keen that the film should be an honest depiction of the events as they unfolded. In order to telescope the story into a 100-minute film, some aspects of the timeline were condensed, but mostly we remained true to the essence of the actual event as they happened.

WOULD YOU AGREE THAT AS IS, THE FILM IS MORE EFFECTIVE:

a). AS A NON-MEGA-BUDGET BLOCKBUSTER?

For me I didn’t have the choice of making the film as a mega-budget blockbuster, and so my own narrative choices in the storytelling were to remain true to the story, however understated it might have been. It was important for me anyway, not to sensationalize but rather to tell it how it was. Often the reality is dramatic enough as it is, and sometimes stranger than fiction!

b). WITHOUT A-LIST HOLLYWOOD STARS?

For me it would have been harder to suspend disbelief with well-known actors. The simplicity of using some of the real participants in the rescue, blended with actors and non-actors alike, creates a more authentic tone for the audience if you ask me. It may not be as commercial as having Tom Hanks in the film, but it feels more real. Obviously, this method of depiction is a narrative choice, and perhaps not everyone will appreciate the style – you can’t please everyone!

c). INCORPORATING A CAST WITH SOME PEOPLE WHO ACTUALLY PARTICIPATED IN THE RESCUE?

Definitely. This approach was for me effective in telling the story from an honest viewpoint. The characters are re-enacting their roles in the mission, and therefore it wasn’t a stretch for them. They felt comfortable playing the part for the camera, almost to ensure the story was told in the right way too.

WAS ANY OF THE MOVE FILMED IN & AROUND THE ACTUAL CAVE?

Yes, we filmed the exterior of the cave at the actual site of Tham Luang, at the National Park in Chiang Rai in the north of Thailand.

DESCRIBE WHAT MUST HAVE BEEN AN ARDIOUS TASK FILMING THE CAVE/UNDERWATER SEQUENCES?

For safety reasons we weren’t allowed to go beyond Chamber 1 of the real cave, so the rest of the scenes were filmed in similar looking caves which were waterlogged or in a controlled environment such as a water tank. It was especially challenging working with children in the water, as they had to wear all the diving gear and breathe through a facemask, just like the real kids who were brought out underwater during the ordeal.

WHY WOULD YOU RECOMMEND AUSTRALIAN MOVIEGOERS HEAD ALONG TO CINEMAS AND WATCH THIS FILM?

First of all, I believe my film gives you a unique personal perspective on the extraordinary events that took place in the summer of 2018. The story captivated the world, but there was hardly any first-person account in the news coverage. The film gives you the story as told from some of the selfless men and women who dropped everything to go and help at the cave site. Some of the divers came from Australia and were instrumental in getting the kids out alive. It’s a film about ordinary people who became heroes…

Available for viewing in October on selected streaming services.