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“Patient 17″ is A supernatural thriller about 2 medical interns who investigate a patient brought to hospital. When they search into the patient’s past, they discover disturbing events that put their lives in danger. At first rivals, they finally team up to uncover the secret of ‘Patient 17′.
The movie was written and directed by award winning artist Tuyet Le, a talented young woman originally from Vietnam. She earned a degree in management, but in seeking her niche chose a creative career and has been a rising star ever since. Toonari Post arranged to meet Tuyet Le outside of Liverpool station in the heart of London. It was a drizzly, overcast day, but when Tuyet Le breezed in she lit up the room with her wide smile and sparkling dark eyes. Slim, tall, affable, dressed in jeans and light cropped jacket paired with a stylish scarf at the neck, she extended her hand in a firm handshake before comfortably settling into a chair.
Toonari Post (TP): First let me tell you, I just love, love supernatural thrillers and when I started watching your movie, ‘Patient 17′, I couldn’t even stop for a toilet break. It was that engaging.
Tuyet Le (TL): (soft giggle) really? I’m glad you liked it. I really like paranormal movies too.
TP: What were you inspirations? To make that film, to even go into film making; what inspired you to do that?
TL: Umm, honestly I started with the main plots and started the research. That’s how I got into multiple personality disorder and child abuse. I did about one year of research to get the facts right. Most movies about MPD (Multiple Personality Disorders) do not.
TP: I was fascinated with the main character in ‘Patient 17′ in that truly she was struggling, but she could recognize the other two physicians were also fighting their own demons and how well that related to the process of trying to heal. Now the mother of one of the physicians, was she in a burn unit?
TL: Yeah. It was not explained in the film, but I wanted to show that she was badly injured and needed help. So the for the character it is if she could help this ‘Patient 17′ then she could help her mother as well.
TP: Yes, and she did say (to the mother) “I have ‘Patient 17′ and she is a survivor like you.” And then to see the male physician struggling with his own demons. So you had written in your statement that the human psyche, trials and tribulations really appealed to you. Were there personal experiences by you or people you knew that was the genus of this inspiration?
TL: I just see people all around me struggling to survive. Coming from a poor background, you see poverty, criminalities at your doorstep. You get to a point where you empathize and after you empathize you have to do something about it. So it was a way to raise my own awareness. And to talk to these people. If this world was full of love and respect, I probably would not feel the need to do this movie.
TP: You also said that some people laughed, whiles others were saddened by it. The way you shot the movie there was a lot gray, the skies cold and dismal. So I am wondering where did people find it was funny?
TL: We would need to ask them (sad laugh). I was in Germany for two screenings. I was standing in the back and I heard them laughing all the time. And I wonder what they are laughing at. But some say it not laughing because it was funny, but…
TP: Nervous laughter?
TL: Yeah. With all the gray with the small touches of comedy that react to it more strongly. But in France, they think I went over the top. At every screening there would be elderly people who walk out of the cinema because they were too sensitive to the scenes.
TP: What I found fascinating was the female physician seemed to be taking it on more personally. Was that also because she had experienced something, or because she felt a bond with the other characters?
TL: Yes. Aah, the three characters; as the plot unfolds you find that the characters are bonded. They have something in common. And as it unfolds you find out what that is. There is someone lurking in the background, following the characters research, and trying to sabotage what they have found. This story, this plot, everybody has a job to do as a character. They have something to do, they all have their place.
TP: So is that why you decided to use that type of visual element? The drabness?
TL: It’s all subliminal. As you said with the sky, the reality is the life of the patient is quite dull. It is quite sad, because they are not in a positive place. So the way to show that is to picture the reality as quite dull. The scenes with the interns have more color (in contrast) and her dreams are more saturated as well. I find that what is in her head is more important than her reality.
TP: You had the opportunity to cast some characters with some rather famous actors. One character was played by Hannah Waterman of “Eastenders” fame.
TL: I was fortunate, because the movie is so low budget they are actually called “no-budget” films. I could not afford to pay for many expenses. So I ask her, do you still want to play the role? And she said she loved the script and would love to play it.
TP: She played it well. The angst was written on her face. You could see it in her eyes. How difficult was it to cast the other characters?
TL: Well since it is a no-budget film, you have to be careful. You have to cast people that can take direct well, and quickly. We only have one or two takes. That was why Hannah was so good. She got it quick. So it made it easier. We got about 2,000 applications from actors for the roles. I really tried to look for cultural diversity, because this was an illness that affects different kinds of people from different backgrounds and culture. I tried casting people with big facial expressions. Like the actress that played Jada had big eyes, so her expressions were great. The character of Ethan, his face is all red. What I thought was another subliminal thing is that the Patient is dealing with psychological scars and I put her with other characters that had physical scars. To embody that.
TP: From watching you speak, it is clear that you were passionate in making this movie. This is a very memorable movie, I can say that.
TL: I wanted to make this movie memorable, even if I had to take a pay cut; I struggled to make sure this movie sent a message. To leave a lasting impression. I had the opportunity to meet with a woman, Kim Noble, who has MPD, who endured and survived some of the same things ‘Patient 17′ went through. I researched the condition, and drew from this woman’s experiences. This helped me develop the character and focus on some key elements of the movie. She was amazing.
Image Courtesy of Patient 17