Lowenstein describes himself as being a bridge between
international filmmakers and Thailand. As the MD of Living
Films, a film production company based in Chiang Mai, he is
currently working as the unit production manager for the
international film Vampire 3. He is also an incredibly eager
young man, who has been very lucky to find a niche to
accommodate his enthusiasm.
In line with his ‘hyper-real’ working
life, he was not born in the US, but in Santiago, Chile, where
his parents were working for the Ford Foundation. However, they
did return to America and Chris grew up in Portland Oregon, but
that was never going to be his home. “I sensed that I
wouldn’t stay in the US forever,” said Chris.
After his secondary education he went to the
Liberal Arts College in Wisconsin, where he mastered in
Literature and Photography. It was there he went to the movies
one day and a light bulb exploded in his brain. “That’s it!
Great! That’s what I want to do,” said the very young Chris.
To get him closer to what he wanted to do, he
went to Florence to an Italian Film School, where he undertook a
two year course, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in Film
He flung himself into film work with the
passion that can be seen every time he speaks about his chosen
field, words tumbling from his mouth in increasing torrents as
his excitement increases. “I’m suited for film work,” said
Chris, “I don’t need sleep. I can work under pressure!”
The need for stimulating film saw him in
Vietnam with a Peace Mission, making documentaries. “It was a
great experience. We were some of the first Americans in
Vietnam, after the war.” However, after the excitement of
Vietnam he needed a holiday, and with Thailand being so close,
he vacationed here. He found that he ‘clicked’ with
Thailand. “Having been all over the world, this was a place
that really resonated with me,” said Chris.
By this stage in his career, he was working
as an assistant director, and on his return to America he began
to work hard at getting on the crew of anyone making films in
Thailand. This finally resulted in his making the decision to
base himself in Bangkok in 1993.
Two years later he was still there, still
freelancing, and now had a Thai wife. He was getting ready for
the long haul! He found that being in a Buddhist milieu was
helpful to him. “The politics of big films is very intense. So
it’s good being in a relaxed Buddhist country,” said Chris.
It was time for the next phase of his life.
“I wanted to be small and build a core group around me, almost
like a family. I had met Panyawadee Navarut Na Ayudhya and
became her partner.”
This was a serendipitous union, as both their
names have resulted in work being sent their way. The film
industry has more than a smattering of Jewish influence, and
Chris’ Jewish sounding surname sticks out when overseas film
makers are looking up the list of production houses in Thailand.
However, Chris says of himself, “I’m not really Jewish. My
lifestyle (these days) is more Buddhist.”
He moved to Chiang Mai and started making a
series of documentaries for the UN, with himself as director.
“The documentaries gave me a balance compared with the film
work. We were making a series on living with AIDS in different
He described the feeling that he gets after
making a documentary. “There are so many different aspects,
while watching the film being made, but (at the end I can say) I
put all this together!”
He gets excited just talking about his work
and what it entails, almost speaking in a shorthand as he thinks
ahead of further items. “You are pulling talent out of people
who don’t understand their own talent,” said Chris.
“People appreciate you for this. It’s very satisfying.”
He also believes that the Thai people are not
good at promoting themselves. “There is no real film school in
Thailand,” he says. “We need a vehicle for people to learn
and move up.” This need is partially filled by Chris, and it
was this that prompted him to describe himself as the bridge
between international films and Thailand.
The frenetic pace of film production is
something that ordinary mortals (like me) do not truly
appreciate, but despite something that at times sounds
completely disjointed, Chris, as the production manager, has to
keep the ‘big picture’ in his mind. “On day 26 at 3 p.m. I
can tell you where we’ll be,” he said of this latest film,
To be able to do this, he has his crew, upon
which he depends. “I feel very lucky because of that,” says
Chris. He also speaks Thai. “I don’t know I could do my job
When a movie is being shot, that crew gets
larger. With Vampire 3 he currently has 145 people, with 30
percent of those coming from Chiang Mai, incidentally injecting
some overseas capital into the northern economy.
He hopes that they will be able to produce
their own films. “There is a huge market out there. The films
we are doing now are just stepping stones. I want to make films
that celebrate the human spirit, and the crew has to love and
care for what they are making.”
Despite his hyperactivity, Chris does have
time for some hobbies. The first he gave was gardening -
“Anything that grows fast!”
Chris is a person who wears his heart on his
sleeve, and it is difficult to imagine him doing anything else,
other than working in film making. His endless enthusiasm could
not be used anywhere else!
He finished the interview saying, “We’re strange people
that do strange things.” Perhaps you are, Chris, but you are
certainly doing something positive for the film industry here in