It’s clear why Thailand is a popular destination for tourists and filmmakers alike, with a reported 631 productions shot there in 2014. It’s a fascinating mix of east and west, with temples, dense jungles, heavenly tropical islands and exotic beaches. All this contrasts with the energy and cultural treasures of the huge metropolis of Bangkok.
Infrastructure is good, with efficient transport links, experienced, professional crews and modern equipment easily accessible
More than 700 international productions filmed in Thailand in 2015, although this figure dropped to 600 last year. Most shoots originate from Japan, India, China and mainland Europe, with commercials and documentaries by far the most prolific types of production.
Through the summer of 2015, Gold, a drama thriller directed by Stephen Gaghan starring Matthew McConaughey and Édgar Ramírez, shot in Thailand - as well as New Mexico and New York - the film is about the discovery of gold deep in the uncharted jungles of Indonesia.
World War Z director Marc Forster headed to Thailand in spring 2015 to prepare his feature All I See is You, a drama starring Blake Lively and Jason Clarke about a blind woman who regains her sight.
More recent productions to have filmed in Thailand include Zero Tolerance (2015), starring Scott Adkins and the thriller Only God Forgives (2013), directed by Nicolas Winding Refn and starring Ryan Gosling. Both films were shot on location in Bangkok, Thailand’s bustling capital city.
For filming in Thailand you require a shooting permit, details of which can be found on The Thailand Film Office website. Separate permits are required for specific locations such as national parks and historical parks.
It is advisable that all permit arrangements be made as far as possible in advance of the actual shooting dates.
The Thailand Film Office will help you obtain all the legal documentation for filming, as well as work permits, plus they will be able to provide you with the necessary contact details. They can also liaise with you and all the relevant agencies in order to help your shoot get up and running.
There is no fee required for a permit, but a service charge is necessary to complete the application process. For this, the filmmaker is required to pay a per diem to the monitoring officer of 2,000 Baht per day per person.
Productions with a schedule of less than 15 shooting days, such as commercials, can take advantage of Thailand’s One-Stop-Service Center, where the application process is completed more quickly than that of say, a feature film, which can take up to three weeks.
To download an application form for filming, click here
TIP: Thailand has very stringent laws when it comes to defaming its royalty or national institutions, so it’s advisable to avoid any of this in your script or you’ll run the risk of your application getting turned down.
Filming in the presence of a co-ordinator
Filming must take place in the presence of a local co-ordinator (or fixer) who is officially registered with the Thailand Film Office and/or the Department of Tourism.
The services of a local co-ordinator include recruiting production crew and talent, location scouting and fulfilling clients’ specific needs for equipment, special effects and other technical services.
You can find a list of local co-ordinators on the Film Office's website (the production services section). Payment for the services of a local co-ordinator is as agreed between the co-ordinator and the filmmaker. The Thailand Film Office has no involvement in this arrangement, including the setting of rates for services provided.
TIP: Some studios are not completely soundproof, so check with studio personnel before you commit to filming.
If you’re looking for a stunning beach setting then you are spoilt for choice in Thailand. Highlights include Maya Beach on Phi Phi island: its impressive scenery of clear sea and sandy beach was featured in Danny Boyle’s The Beach (2000).
Phuket is another popular location. Thailand’s largest island, it has been used as a setting for several films, including the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun (1974), doubling as the home for Bond’s nemesis, Scaramanga.
Koh Phangan is another popular island, renowned for tourists flocking to its beach throughout the year for its heaving full moon parties. The biggest party of them all, taking place on New Year’s Eve, sees thousands of people gather to celebrate until the early hours.
TIP: If you are travelling from beach to beach, you have to take a boat, so be careful with your kit when getting on and off as sometimes it can get very rocky.
It’s not only beaches that attract filmmakers to the country. Thailand also has many bustling cities, with the most notable being its capital, Bangkok.
Full to the brim of street markets, tuk tuks and bars, Bangkok has been the setting for several Hollywood blockbusters, such as Bangkok Dangerous (2008) starring Nicolas Cage. The main street, Khao San Road, is always a hub of activity and never sleeps.
Head to the north of Thailand, and you’ll find it full of picturesque mountains and wooded areas. Chang Mai, Thailand’s largest city, is striking and has no end of temples and mountain views. Films that have taken advantage of its landscapes include Ridley Scott’s American Gangster (2007) and Rambo (2008), starring Sylvester Stallone.
Thailand has also been the prime choice as a stand-in setting for Vietnam – for films such as Good Morning Vietnam (1987), The Deer Hunter (1978), Casualties of War (1989), The Killing Fields (1984), and Werner Herzog’s 2005 PoW drama, Rescue Dawn, starring Christian Bale.
KFTV lists several companies based in Bangkok, supplying equipment ranging from rigging to underwater camera hire.
Film equipment in Thailand, like the most of Asia, is ARRI, with Panavision difficult to access.