Every year, more than 400 foreign productions are shot in Thailand, a country which attracts more and more filming thanks to the diversity of its scenery and the professionalism of its local staff. The government is also expecting an increase of foreign tourist due to the positive impact of movies on the foreign audience.

Everybody knows ‘Bollywood”, the Indian Mecca for filmmakers of the sub continent. But what about ‘Bangkollywood” ? Is it really on his way, or is it just another gimmick bound to fade away ? Even though 2010 started well with more than 110 foreign productions shot in Thailand between January and February, the recent political crisis between the “Red T-shirts” and the government canceled or delayed many shootings. To regain the trust of foreign companies, the government is now preparing tax exemptions for foreign filming in Thailand. According to the Thailand Film Office,  there were 116 foreign movies which were filmed in January and February this year, generating a total income of 213 million THB. Out of this number, 40 were documentaries, 60 advertising movies, 5 feature films, 7 TV movies, and 4 music videos. A majority of the production was from Japan, a total of 33, followed by India, 22, and Europe, 20.

In Thailand, there are many people to choose from when you are making a film. Also, all of the equipment houses are here, so if you need some equipment or lights right away you can get it without stopping the production. Bangkok to me is like the LA of Thailand

says David Winters (The King Maker, 2005)

During 2009, about 500 foreign productions have been shot in the Kingdom, among those were 166 TV commercials, 37 feature movies and 181 documentaries, that brought more that 890 millions of baths. Japan is the most active country in Thailand, followed by India and European countries. Movies like “Star Wars, Episode III”, Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” or “The Beach” were shot in Thailand.

Thailand is one of the most developed countries in South East Asia for audiovisual industry. It has great scenery, good equipment and qualified staff, and with very competitive prices.

explains Alain Brulfert, managing-director of Reperages Group Thailand.

The variety of Thailand’s landscapes offers a wide choice for producers: beaches, modern cities, tropical forests, mountains, almost everywhere can be a potential shooting set, for documentaries as well as fiction movies. A lot of American movies depicting the Vietnam War were also actually shot in Thailand, like the “Rambo” series, “Good Morning Vietnam” or “The Deer Hunter”.

An international shooting set

While Thailand is not yet the Hollywood of Asia, with government incentives for foreign filmmakers to shoot their productions in Thailand in the works, increased BOI attention to investment in entertainment infrastructure and additional funds for Thai filmmakers and others in the industry, it will not be long before Thailand takes its place as the entertainment capital of Asia.

thinks the BOI (Board of Investment)

Under the responsibility of the Tourism Office, the Thailand Film Office’s goal is to promote the country as an ideal shooting set for foreign productions. A movie using Thailand’s landscape is a great opportunity for the country to invite the audience in Thailand. It also brings money to the government as well as work for the locals. For the last five years, foreign movies generated more than six billion baths.

Largo Winch 2
Recently, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) authorized the shooting of the French movie “Largo Winch 2”, 60% percent of the film will be shot in Thailand, in places like Bangkok, Chiang Mai or Pattaya. With a release in February 2011, the TAT is expecting an increase of the number of French tourists.

In 1999, British director Danny Boyle came to Thailand to direct his movie “The Beach”, starring Leonardo Di Caprio. The film tells the story of a group of backpackers heading for a remote island to escape western civilization. Most of the shooting took place on the Maya beach, in the Phi Phi Island’s national park.

But, despite the discontent of the locals, the movie production insisted on changing the original landscape of the beach, claiming it was not “tropical” enough. The transportation of equipment also damaged the coral and vegetation of the island.

In 1973, the ninth James Bond movie “The Man with the Golden Gun”  is shot on the Ko Khao Phing Kan Island. After the release of the movie, an important stream of tourists arrived to the island, damaging some of its landscape. It is now best-known as “James Bond Island”.

Shootings are now under surveillance to avoid any deterioration.

As an obligation, an official from the “Film Board of Thailand” must follow the shooting to check if the producers are following the script submitted to the board. This person also keeps an eye on any harm that could be done to the environment, like it happened in 2006 for the shooting of “Rambo IV” and “American Gangster”.

One of the most prolific British directors (now domiciled in Thailand), David Winters (The King Maker, 2005) who produced and directed over 70 films in an 8 year period said,

There are many opportunities for shooting films in Thailand: mainly because of the cost of the labor in producing films here. Another main reason is there is already an infrastructure existing here as there are many local films made each year. You have a choice of many post-production houses, as well as many labs.

Thailand is the only real center for film making in all of South East Asia. Many other countries talk about making international films, but they do not have the opportunity to work on many and so it is more of a dream than a reality.

But recently many shooting were delayed or canceled because of the political events in Bangkok between the “Red T-shirts” and the government. Thailand lost about 900 millions baths due to these cancellations. To regain the trust of the foreign producers and encourage them to come back to Thailand, the government is now discussing new laws that will reduce taxes for foreign productions.

Melaine Brou

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