Q & A With Writer Abi Morgan

Collette, Samrit Machielsen, Tim Roth.
photo: Kerry Brown

New York, NY Dec 2, 2006 - HBO Films’ TSUNAMI, THE AFTERMATH follows a
group of fictional characters whose lives are irrevocably transformed by a
cataclysmic natural disaster.

This unique and deeply affecting drama is inspired by true accounts and
focuses on the harrowing aftermath of the tsunami that devastated the
Andaman coast of Thailand in December 2004.

TSUNAMI, THE AFTERMATH is based on extensive research and interviews by
writer Abi Morgan (“Sex Traffic”) and explores the interconnectedness of those
who suffered loss in this unimaginable tragedy.

Filmed on location in Phuket and Khao Lak, Thailand, the production has had
the supportive and collaborative cooperation of the local governments and
communities. Local residents were interviewed for their input prior to
production, and Santa Film, a Thai production company, has acted as advisor
throughout filming.

Q: How did you get involved with this project?
ABI MORGAN: I have an ongoing relationship with Kudos, and have admired
their work. After collaborating with producer Derek Wax on “Sex Traffic,” which
was also a research-driven drama, I was interested in exploring in a similar
way how countries respond to natural disasters. At the same time, our
preparation coincided with the tsunami, and the project built from there.

Q: How did you prepare to write your story?
AM: We wanted a multi-strand story that would capture a broad range of
experiences and depict the aftermath of a disaster like this from many different
angles. Working with a research team, I went to Thailand and met with different
groups of people, survivors - including Thai families who lived on the coastline
during the tsunami, families of victims, government officials, charity workers
and so forth. We tried to meet with as many people as we could. We went from
Bangkok to Phuket to Khao Lak. In addition to first-person interviews, we did
lots of background research and talked to seismologists and other experts on
natural disasters.

Q: What were the pitfalls to avoid in writing your script?
AM: It was important not to be voyeuristic or cheesy. I wanted to look beyond the
obvious horrors of the event while being as truthful as possible.

Q: Would you consider this a docudrama?
AM: This is a work of fiction, not a docudrama or reenactment. I’ve tried to write
something that captures the experience, but also asks questions that you
might not be able to ask if you did a straight reenactment. It was important that
the events of the story be accessible to a larger audience.  The film examines
not only the aftermath of a devastating experience, but the relationship between
the West and Thailand, in particular its people, united by both the practical and
emotional fallout of this disaster. It explores a number of issues, within the
context of the characters’ journeys and the many challenges that the tsunami

Q: Was it hard to decide which stories to tell?
AM: I felt I had to strike a balance between being sensitive to the real-life stories
and telling them in a way that helps gain insight into them. This is a story about
loss, but it was also a chance to look at the Thai experience and see how that
differed from the Western experience of loss. One of the key stories is the
journey of a young Thai waiter.   There’s also the collision of the Thai
photographer and his colleague, the British journalist, as well as the story of
the British consulate worker. There are many stories I would love to tell, but you
can only do so much.  I felt we had a responsibility to go back to Thailand to
film, which enabled us to use a Thai film crew and work with local hotels and
facilities. Out of a crew of 180, 145 of them were Thai, and some of the lead
actors were Thai as well.

Q: Is it too soon to be revisiting this event?
AM: That’s a difficult question to answer. I would hope the honesty and
sensitivity of this film would address any concerns about that.  In my interviews
with survivors, it was profoundly humbling for me to see how people had dealt
with the impossible and survived with such dignity. That process is still
going on, and I hope this film will be part of that process. At the same time, I
hope it embraces universal themes.  

Everyone who went through the tsunami was changed by the experience, and
yet they all had to come back to everyday lives where the world was still turning.
For a few hours, I wanted to say, “Look what could happen!” In a world where
the impossible can happen, how do we prepare ourselves? And how do we do
things differently next time?  

The tsunami happened a year ago. At that time, the horror of it was in the
forefront of everyone's minds. Over time, people can tend to forget that the tragic
consequences continue. We hope that this film will bring continued awareness
of the plight of all those involved.
as Martha Carter