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The making of Only God Forgives

One of the most talked-about films at Cannes this year was Only God Forgives, from writer/director Nicolas Winding Refn. Nominated for the Palme d’Or, it stars Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas and Vithaya Pansringarm.

only god forgives

The French-Danish co-production was filmed on location in Thailand, with A Grand Elephant as the sole Thai production support company for the whole project.

Based in Bangkok, A Grand Elephant was founded in 2005 by Pakinee (Pak) Chaisana and Thidarat Pakchanakorn. Their clients consist mainly of production companies of various sizes and advertising agencies from Europe, then UK, Asia and the US.

Over the years, the company has established a network of crew members, creative support and associates both locally and abroad, thus providing the ability to view projects from a local or global point of view. They cover feature films, commercials, photoshoots, and corporates.

Their many commercials credits include: Heineken for Netherlands-based production company Bast; a Waitrose campaign for RSA in the UK; Nike, Tiger beer and the Lottery for Stink UK; Nivea, Vaseline and American Tourister for Stink Shanghai and Panasonic for TDN in Japan.

A Grand Elephant has also worked on various feature films, including Cooktales (2012) directed by Gina Kim and Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption (2011), with feature films Love Me Love Me Not and Bangkok Ramen both still in the pipeline.

Pak kindly took time out to talk to KFTV about working on Only God Forgives, and how the project snowballed from a small independent film to one of the most anticipated openings of the year.

The scale of the film        Only God Forgives

Interestingly, the project was not a big scale movie originally. When producer Lene Borglum and Nicolas Winding Refn first contacted the firm, it was more like a small independent film. However, after the success of Drive [Gosling and Winding Refn] it grew bigger in terms of production.

It ended up comprising eight weeks’ preproduction and around nine weeks’ principal photography.

Cast and crew

The vast majority of the large crew were Thai, apart from the line producer, producer, assistant to the producer, director, cinematographer, production designer and head sound department. The language barrier wasn’t a problem, as most of the crew spoke English.

In terms of the cast, other than Ryan Gosling, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Burke and Gordon Brown, pretty much all the rest were Thai.

Asking Pak about the locations used in the film, she said: “Nicolas [the director] wanted real locations, so all the locations you see in the film actually exist. Some were enhanced and given the film’s tone by production designer Beth Mickles so they all ended up with the particular look that Nicolas wanted.

“Overall, the director was based in Bangkok for around six months and, as the majority of cast and crew were Thai, the visiting unit was relatively small. Our company, A Grand Elephant, were the local co-ordinators who arranged everything for the production in terms of everything to do with filming in Thailand. “

Only God ForgivesThe working day and night

As the shoot started in late February, the weather was getting hot, Pak says. And on Only God Forgives, most of the shooting was done at night. “It was tough, as we then had also few days of filming before switching straight back to night.

“Also, certain places we wanted to use for shooting had restrictions, such as only men being allowed entry. And initially on the location scout, there were some places women could not enter, for example those used in the ‘Billy’ scenes. “

Choosing Bangkok

There are many advantages to filming in Thailand: there is a very solid infrastructure in place, crews are friendly and helpful and the budget is also cost effective. However, as with so many places in the world, certain procedures can involve a lot of documentation and processing.

“Although the shoot was hard we were lucky to be working with an exceptional director, cast and crew, both internationally and locally”, Pak concludes.

KFTV would like to thank Pak Chaisana for her help in compiling this article.

Have you had experience filming in Thailand? Let us know your story via our Facebook page or leave your comments below.

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