What Makes a Good BL Drama or Film (Under a Thai/Asian Setting)? Part 2/2 [Opinion]

In Part 1, we mentioned a list of outstanding BL films/series from across Asia – Thai, Korean, Japanese, and Chinese productions, including The Love of Siam, Night Flight, Lan Yu, Present Perfect, A Touch of Fever, Like Grains of Sand, SOTUS, HIStory, Love by Chance and many others.

Also, one of the main factors why a movie or series is of quality has something to do with the story – and that it should be engaging. What about the other factors that make them great?

An Australian news portal which discusses the rise of Thai BL drama has this to say:

In recent years the genre known as ‘boys’ love’ has spread fast across South-East Asia and is reaching cult status in some parts of the West, despite the anxieties of conservative parts of Thai society.

“I think male-male romance or male-male homoerotic relations has now become a new normal in Thai pop culture. This seems to be unthinkable 10 years ago,” says Thai political scientist Poowin Bunyavejchewin.

He says the steady stream of boys’ love television shows and feature films are triggering fundamental changes in Thai society. [source]

A good, engaging story could only take a series by far. It needs (no, it requires) handsome, charming, talented boys to play the major characters.

Asian drama audience (majority perhaps) are still biased towards looks, so performance is not a top priority, but is a bonus when a good looking BL actor can also decently act.

A good case in point is Japan where idols (boy band members) command high TV ratings compared to pure actors. Thai BL series, for obvious reasons, cast attractive young aspiring actors and undergo extensive acting workshop to fill in lack of experience.

Nack (Chimon) is a 17-year-old boy whose life focuses only on studying. Stepping into the last year of high school, he begins to feel lonely and pressured. As graduation and entrance examination grow closer and closer, he begins to learn about sex and love for the first time in his life. He has to face questions about the morality of his homosexual love.

Let’s list some names who became big stars after an audition or casting in a BL film or series:

  • Mario Maurer – The Love of Siam;
  • Witwisit Hiranyawongkul (simply known as Phcy) – The Love of Siam;

Juniors to Mario and Phcy are:

  • Gun Atthaphan Phunsawat – The Blue Hour, Love Love You, Puppy Honey, Our Skyy;
  • Fluke Pongsatorn Sripinta – My Bromance, Red Wine in the Dark Night;
  • Fluke Teerapat Lohanan – My Bromance, Remark, SOTUS;
  • Max Nattapol Diloknawarit – Together with Me, Bad Romance;
  • Tul Pakorn Thanasrivanitchai – Together with Me, Bad Romance;
  • Off Jumpol Adulkittiporn – Puppy Honey, Our Skyy;
  • Chonlathorn Kongyingyong (Captain) – LoveSick;
  • Nawat Phumphothingam (White) – LoveSick;
  • Luangsodsai Anupart (Ngern) – LoveSick, Waterboyy (Movie);
  • Vachiravit Paisarnkulwong (August) – LoveSick;
  • Tay Tawan Vihokratana – Kiss Me Again, Our Skyy;
  • New Thitipoom Techaapaikhun – SOTUS, Kiss Me Again, Waterboyy (TV), Our Skyy;
  • Krist Perawat Sangpotirat – SOTUS, Our Skyy;
  • Singto Prachaya Ruangroj – SOTUS, Our Skyy, He’s Coming to Me

My personal bias towards these actors compel me to have a Top 5 list: 

  1. Singto;
  2. Gun;
  3. Fluke (Sripinta);
  4. Fluke (Teerapat);
  5. Krist
Gun offers a career-best in The Blue Hour. The story of a bullied teenager Tam who befriends and has a sexual relationship with a mysterious gay boy Phum at a haunted abandoned pool. Their affair starts out as a romance but, later, shifts to darker territory.

Gun Atthaphan‘s performance in The Blue Hour is hard to beat, but then again Singto offers his angsty, compelling performance in SOTUS and He’s Coming to Me to make him #1.

The Flukes, especially Pongsatorn Sripinta, has both movie and drama credentials. His projects include My Bromance, Red Wine in the Dark Night, and Part of Love.

The Flukes did sentimental, dramatic performances in My Bromance. Considered one of the most successful Thai BL drama, but has too much tragedy in its story to be taken seriously.

Also making waves are these up and coming Thai actors. They are my Top 5 to beat-

  • Saint Suppapong Udomkaewkanjana – Love by Chance;
  • Ohm Pawat Chittsawangdee – Make it Right, He’s Coming to Me;
  • Chimon Wachirawit Ruangwiwat – Sweet Boy, My Dear Loser, Our Skyy;
  • Pluem Purim Rattanaruangwattana – My Dear Loser, Our Skyy;
  • Perth Tanapon Sukhumpantanasan – Love by Chance;

I’m particularly inclined to say that Ohm, Chimon, and Saint have the best qualities to succeed as actors. Saint with his dedication to his craft and a loyal following is already a force to reckon with. Chimon became part of the Thai BL universe by the movie Sweet Boy back in 2016. His performance in My Dear Loser is no small feat either.

Ohm shows remarkable improvement in his acting via He’s Coming to Me.

While not entirely correct, these actors share some common qualities:

  1. On-screen charisma;  (which may include box office power);
  2. Acting talent (or potential talent);
  3. Memorable BL character;
  4. Powerful, influential agent or talent management;
  5. A strong and loyal fanbase.

In conclusion, BL drama and movies, need two important characteristics to become a hit – an engaging story and an overall charming, talented cast.

Other factors include:

  • Ample budget that covers not only the actors and technical requirements but also marketing drives and social networking;
  • A competent and qualified director who can push his actors to their limits and do their best;
  • Dedicated production staff;
  • Technical competency – includes a soundtrack, editing, cinematography, sound, and other related stuff;
  • Marketing drive – this requires a budget, of course!

There is no perfect film or drama series, but what we demand is that, make your investors’ money worth it, by delivering quality shows. There is too much trash already in the world to have them become part of the BL universe as well.