Filming in Thailand

“Beautiful location and delicious food” Chris Hemsworth

“Beautiful location and delicious food” - So said Thor actor Chris Hemsworth, tucking into pad thai from the set of Netflix’s action adventure film Dhaka, which shot in several Thailand locations earlier this year.

His comments were backed by the film’s producers, Anthony and Joe Russo, who said: “The country offers such diverse shooting locations and the local crews have been a pleasure to work with.”

Going into more detail, Mary Barltrop, supervising location manager for the Dhaka shoot, tells KFTV.com: "The experience of filming in Thailand was second to none. I worked closely with a local production facilitation company (Indochina), to scout the length and breadth of Thailand for suitable locations. All the Thai team then worked extremely fast and hard with me to narrow down workable locations, and the Thai authorities were remarkably film-friendly, despite the fact that Dhaka was a very demanding large-scale action feature film, with all the impact that creates upon local infrastructure and communities."

Dhaka is one of many major film and TV projects to shoot in the South East Asia country in 2019. Others include Universal’s Fast and Furious 9, which filmed across three southern Thai provinces throughout July; Tom Waller’s Thai rescue film The Cave; and Netflix/BBC’s new drama series The Serpent, starring Tahar Rahim, which will shoot in Thailand for around four months from late August.

Drawn in by the stunning variety of locations, enticing potential 20% cash rebate, and experienced local crew, Thailand hosted an impressive 410 productions in the first six months of 2019. 

“Netflix are [particularly] making their presence felt in Thailand with several projects on the go and working with local directors,” Pakinee ‘Pak’ Chaisana at local production company A Grand Elephant tells KFTV.com.

Aside from the productions mentioned above, Netflix is also creating local content, with its first series, The Stranded, directed by and starring Thai talent about a group of students stranded on an island following a tsunami, having shot in the country earlier this year.

The fact that most international productions choose to shoot across a variety of locations in Thailand is no surprise. The contrasting landscapes on offer are breathtaking.

Thai terrain

“Thailand offers a wide span of iconic locations to film and TV series projects,” enthuses Mo Ouasti, Business Development Manager at local outfit Benetone Films, which has supported many international projects. “Whether a production seeks vibrant city and night life, such as in Bangkok, idyllic beach and tropical settings on the southern Thailand islands in Krabi province, or towering mountain peaks up north in Chiang Mai, Thailand ranks as a prime shooting location.”

Thailand offers some of the most beautiful coastline in the world and directors can literally specify the type of beach they want, “whether it’s an abandoned or populated/tourist spot, beaches with roads or rocks, even haunted beaches,” reports Manik Sethisuwan at Location Services Asia to KFTV.com.

Fast and Furious 9 took advantage of a huge variety of locations, including a palm oil plantation at Ban Nai Sa in Khao Thong, the temple of Wat Nai Sa in Khao Thong and a mill in the Ban Bang Toei area of Thai Meuang. As well as shots in Surat Thani and Phuket. All in, the production was estimated to bring in THB340m (£9m) to the local economy as a result of its extensive shoot in the country.

Local independent producer, Miles Johnson, insists to KFTV.com: “Thailand is not just white sandy beaches and pointy roofs - this is a big country with a number of climate variations that create a significant diversification of locations. About two and half hours from Bangkok there is Khao Yai which has a higher elevation and so a more temperate climate with rolling hills and dairy farms, orchards and streams not at all unlike the UK and Europe.”

Indeed, Thailand is commonly used as a great double for other locations. “We have worked for projects that used Thailand locations to portray countries such as China, Vietnam, The Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Korea, Africa, France, Australia, England and Germany,” Nan Wutina, Managing Director at local outfit Big Blue Thai tells KFTV.com.

Examples of films to double Thailand for other countries include the Rambo films for Vietnam, Afghanistan and Myanmar and Tomorrow Never Dies, which used Bangkok as a stand-in for Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

It is worth noting, though, that “shooting outside of Bangkok will cost more for accommodation, catering and transportation, but location fees would be cheaper,” stresses Tip Sukwiwat, general manager at local outfit Umoon Productions, to KFTV.com. “It all depends on the storyline, the locations required and, of course, the budget.”

Permit planning

As for getting permits to shoot at these various locations, the process is usually pretty smooth. You will, however, need the assistance of a local company throughout the production process.

“It is easy to get permission as long as the script is not detrimental in any way to the country or its religion,” says Johnson, who recently assisted director Ron Fricke with his movie Paramita, organising filming at various ancient sites in Ayutthaya and Bangkok. “It’s incredibly important, however, to only go through a company or co-ordinator who is registered with the Thailand Film Office. This is the only way to get the necessary temporary work permit, and avoid being disappointed or worse still ripped off by unregistered ‘cowboys’ who proliferate in Bangkok in search of a fast buck.”

Barltrop agrees the right support is key. "The entire end-sequence of Dhaka required me to find and completely close down a bridge for a period of four weeks. No easy task, but we achieved it - thanks to the invaluable support of the Thai government, the local authorities, and all the local residents and communities."

The process of getting permission to shoot from the Film Office takes about three working days. Required documents are as follows (original and six copies of each)…

1. A letter made by the assigned local co-ordinator, informing the Director-General of the Office of Tourism Development of the purpose of applying for a shooting permit. 

2. An assignment letter made by the foreign filmmaker, showing they have chosen and hired a local co-ordinator. 
3. An application form. 
4. Supporting documents needed for permit consideration: 
- Storyboard for TV commercials 
- Treatment for documentaries 
- Theme (concept) and lyrics for music videos 
- Details of content and objectives of programme presentation for TV programmes. 
5. A schedule of filming in Thailand specifying exact dates and locations (for all types of productions). 
6. Name list, passport numbers, positions and arrival dates of foreign film crew.

 Financial incentives

One of the biggest draws, aside from the locations, is the financial incentive introduced a couple of years ago. It offers a base 15% filming tax rebate, with an additional 2% if you employ Thai crews for key positions that are credited, and another 3% if Thailand is represented in a good light.

Local spend must be at least THB50m (£1.3m), including on Thai services or individuals. The maximum rebate per production is about £2m, and TV commercials are not eligible. The application process is made to the incentive committee at the Thailand Film Office and takes about 4 months. The audited accounts must be submitted within 90 days of physical wrap for final assessment and pay out (see box out below for more details). 

At least seven international films have already benefited from THB68m (£1.8m) in cash rebates since Thailand launched the production incentive programme at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016. These include Changeland, directed by and starring Seth Green, Triple Threat (Hong Kong), Race 3 (india) and Sergio (US).

“While producers are benefiting from the incentives, Thailand is also benefiting from the arrival of film and television productions. From the crews and facility companies, right through to hotels, domestic transport and the hospitality industry, the revenue earned through servicing international productions benefits many,” said Anan Wongbenjarat, deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism & Sport, at Cannes earlier this year. 

Crew and facilities

There are numerous stories of international producers singing the praises of the local crew in Thailand. “They are what make our country stand out, their friendly attitude and professionalism,” says Chaisana.

“Every client who works here for the first time remarks on this, and particularly the speed at which they work,” adds Johnson. “They are technically highly proficient and I always say the speed of our crews gives a director an extra set- up per day over anywhere else in the region, and no matter how tough things get on set they are always there with a smile.” 

Local camera crew, lighting and grips, and stuntmen are frequently ordered to film in the entire region, and they are relatively cheap, insists Sethisuwan.

The facilities are equally impressive. “Thai film Industry invests heavily in film infrastructure with the very latest camera gear, lighting and SFX in response to a demand that compares to the UK,” continues Johnson.

There is also plenty of studio space (more than 35 film studios) to suit all needs. The latest is The Studio Park in Samut Prakan, owned by Gearhead, the biggest equipment and lighting company, which has five brand new sound stages, the largest boasting 2400 sqm of space. There is also an 80,000 sqm backlot, as well as a huge warehouse for storage and set construction.

“Others include the large Prommitr Studio in Kanchanaburi, Moonstar and Centerpoint, and some shows use warehouses as well,” Les Nordhauser at Greenlight Films, tells KFTV.com.

One thing international producers need to note, though, is that sometimes Asia is a little behind when it comes to camera equipment, compared with the US or Europe, but “saying that we have most of the equipment required by the foreign film makers,” assures Chaisana.

Financial Incentives

15-20% tax rebate 

Criteria

  • Local spend in Thailand must be at least THB50m (£1.3m).
  • Maximum rebate per production is about £2m.
  • 15% is for main incentive eligibility criteria
  • 3% is for hire of Thai Key personnel
  • 2% is for promotion of Thai Tourism

The application process takes 90 days. It is quite detailed and it is best to work with a local Thailand production service provider as early as possible to apply for the incentive. 

Reimbursement is made by the Thai government directly to the foreign client, and occurs after all relevant paperwork is submitted (within 90 days of the completion of the Thailand shoot).

For more information visit the Thailand Film Office website.

Did you know.... Danny Boyle's The Beach managed to shoot at a UNESCO World Heritage Site called Khao Yai National Park, and Thailand's Khao Sak National Park is believed to be older and more diverse than the Amazon.

Filming in Thailand
Filming in Thailand

“Beautiful location and delicious food” - So said Thor actor Chris Hemsworth, tucking into pad thai from the set of Netflix’s action adventure film Dhaka, which shot in several Thailand locations earlier this year.

His comments were backed by the film’s producers, Anthony and Joe Russo, who said: “The country offers such diverse shooting locations and the local crews have been a pleasure to work with.”

Going into more detail, Mary Barltrop, supervising location manager for the Dhaka shoot, tells KFTV.com: "The experience of filming in Thailand was second to none. I worked closely with a local production facilitation company (Indochina), to scout the length and breadth of Thailand for suitable locations. All the Thai team then worked extremely fast and hard with me to narrow down workable locations, and the Thai authorities were remarkably film-friendly, despite the fact that Dhaka was a very demanding large-scale action feature film, with all the impact that creates upon local infrastructure and communities."

Dhaka is one of many major film and TV projects to shoot in the South East Asia country in 2019. Others include Universal’s Fast and Furious 9, which filmed across three southern Thai provinces throughout July; Tom Waller’s Thai rescue film The Cave; and Netflix/BBC’s new drama series The Serpent, starring Tahar Rahim, which will shoot in Thailand for around four months from late August.

Drawn in by the stunning variety of locations, enticing potential 20% cash rebate, and experienced local crew, Thailand hosted an impressive 410 productions in the first six months of 2019. 

“Netflix are [particularly] making their presence felt in Thailand with several projects on the go and working with local directors,” Pakinee ‘Pak’ Chaisana at local production company A Grand Elephant tells KFTV.com.

Aside from the productions mentioned above, Netflix is also creating local content, with its first series, The Stranded, directed by and starring Thai talent about a group of students stranded on an island following a tsunami, having shot in the country earlier this year.

The fact that most international productions choose to shoot across a variety of locations in Thailand is no surprise. The contrasting landscapes on offer are breathtaking.

Thai terrain

“Thailand offers a wide span of iconic locations to film and TV series projects,” enthuses Mo Ouasti, Business Development Manager at local outfit Benetone Films, which has supported many international projects. “Whether a production seeks vibrant city and night life, such as in Bangkok, idyllic beach and tropical settings on the southern Thailand islands in Krabi province, or towering mountain peaks up north in Chiang Mai, Thailand ranks as a prime shooting location.”

Thailand offers some of the most beautiful coastline in the world and directors can literally specify the type of beach they want, “whether it’s an abandoned or populated/tourist spot, beaches with roads or rocks, even haunted beaches,” reports Manik Sethisuwan at Location Services Asia to KFTV.com.

Fast and Furious 9 took advantage of a huge variety of locations, including a palm oil plantation at Ban Nai Sa in Khao Thong, the temple of Wat Nai Sa in Khao Thong and a mill in the Ban Bang Toei area of Thai Meuang. As well as shots in Surat Thani and Phuket. All in, the production was estimated to bring in THB340m (£9m) to the local economy as a result of its extensive shoot in the country.

Local independent producer, Miles Johnson, insists to KFTV.com: “Thailand is not just white sandy beaches and pointy roofs - this is a big country with a number of climate variations that create a significant diversification of locations. About two and half hours from Bangkok there is Khao Yai which has a higher elevation and so a more temperate climate with rolling hills and dairy farms, orchards and streams not at all unlike the UK and Europe.”

Indeed, Thailand is commonly used as a great double for other locations. “We have worked for projects that used Thailand locations to portray countries such as China, Vietnam, The Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, Korea, Africa, France, Australia, England and Germany,” Nan Wutina, Managing Director at local outfit Big Blue Thai tells KFTV.com.

Examples of films to double Thailand for other countries include the Rambo films for Vietnam, Afghanistan and Myanmar and Tomorrow Never Dies, which used Bangkok as a stand-in for Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

It is worth noting, though, that “shooting outside of Bangkok will cost more for accommodation, catering and transportation, but location fees would be cheaper,” stresses Tip Sukwiwat, general manager at local outfit Umoon Productions, to KFTV.com. “It all depends on the storyline, the locations required and, of course, the budget.”

Permit planning

As for getting permits to shoot at these various locations, the process is usually pretty smooth. You will, however, need the assistance of a local company throughout the production process.

“It is easy to get permission as long as the script is not detrimental in any way to the country or its religion,” says Johnson, who recently assisted director Ron Fricke with his movie Paramita, organising filming at various ancient sites in Ayutthaya and Bangkok. “It’s incredibly important, however, to only go through a company or co-ordinator who is registered with the Thailand Film Office. This is the only way to get the necessary temporary work permit, and avoid being disappointed or worse still ripped off by unregistered ‘cowboys’ who proliferate in Bangkok in search of a fast buck.”

Barltrop agrees the right support is key. "The entire end-sequence of Dhaka required me to find and completely close down a bridge for a period of four weeks. No easy task, but we achieved it - thanks to the invaluable support of the Thai government, the local authorities, and all the local residents and communities."

The process of getting permission to shoot from the Film Office takes about three working days. Required documents are as follows (original and six copies of each)…

1. A letter made by the assigned local co-ordinator, informing the Director-General of the Office of Tourism Development of the purpose of applying for a shooting permit. 

2. An assignment letter made by the foreign filmmaker, showing they have chosen and hired a local co-ordinator. 
3. An application form. 
4. Supporting documents needed for permit consideration: 
- Storyboard for TV commercials 
- Treatment for documentaries 
- Theme (concept) and lyrics for music videos 
- Details of content and objectives of programme presentation for TV programmes. 
5. A schedule of filming in Thailand specifying exact dates and locations (for all types of productions). 
6. Name list, passport numbers, positions and arrival dates of foreign film crew.

 Financial incentives

One of the biggest draws, aside from the locations, is the financial incentive introduced a couple of years ago. It offers a base 15% filming tax rebate, with an additional 2% if you employ Thai crews for key positions that are credited, and another 3% if Thailand is represented in a good light.

Local spend must be at least THB50m (£1.3m), including on Thai services or individuals. The maximum rebate per production is about £2m, and TV commercials are not eligible. The application process is made to the incentive committee at the Thailand Film Office and takes about 4 months. The audited accounts must be submitted within 90 days of physical wrap for final assessment and pay out (see box out below for more details). 

At least seven international films have already benefited from THB68m (£1.8m) in cash rebates since Thailand launched the production incentive programme at the Cannes Film Festival in 2016. These include Changeland, directed by and starring Seth Green, Triple Threat (Hong Kong), Race 3 (india) and Sergio (US).

“While producers are benefiting from the incentives, Thailand is also benefiting from the arrival of film and television productions. From the crews and facility companies, right through to hotels, domestic transport and the hospitality industry, the revenue earned through servicing international productions benefits many,” said Anan Wongbenjarat, deputy Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Tourism & Sport, at Cannes earlier this year. 

Crew and facilities

There are numerous stories of international producers singing the praises of the local crew in Thailand. “They are what make our country stand out, their friendly attitude and professionalism,” says Chaisana.

“Every client who works here for the first time remarks on this, and particularly the speed at which they work,” adds Johnson. “They are technically highly proficient and I always say the speed of our crews gives a director an extra set- up per day over anywhere else in the region, and no matter how tough things get on set they are always there with a smile.” 

Local camera crew, lighting and grips, and stuntmen are frequently ordered to film in the entire region, and they are relatively cheap, insists Sethisuwan.

The facilities are equally impressive. “Thai film Industry invests heavily in film infrastructure with the very latest camera gear, lighting and SFX in response to a demand that compares to the UK,” continues Johnson.

There is also plenty of studio space (more than 35 film studios) to suit all needs. The latest is The Studio Park in Samut Prakan, owned by Gearhead, the biggest equipment and lighting company, which has five brand new sound stages, the largest boasting 2400 sqm of space. There is also an 80,000 sqm backlot, as well as a huge warehouse for storage and set construction.

“Others include the large Prommitr Studio in Kanchanaburi, Moonstar and Centerpoint, and some shows use warehouses as well,” Les Nordhauser at Greenlight Films, tells KFTV.com.

One thing international producers need to note, though, is that sometimes Asia is a little behind when it comes to camera equipment, compared with the US or Europe, but “saying that we have most of the equipment required by the foreign film makers,” assures Chaisana.

Financial Incentives

15-20% tax rebate 

Criteria

  • Local spend in Thailand must be at least THB50m (£1.3m).
  • Maximum rebate per production is about £2m.
  • 15% is for main incentive eligibility criteria
  • 3% is for hire of Thai Key personnel
  • 2% is for promotion of Thai Tourism

The application process takes 90 days. It is quite detailed and it is best to work with a local Thailand production service provider as early as possible to apply for the incentive. 

Reimbursement is made by the Thai government directly to the foreign client, and occurs after all relevant paperwork is submitted (within 90 days of the completion of the Thailand shoot).

For more information visit the Thailand Film Office website.

Did you know.... Danny Boyle's The Beach managed to shoot at a UNESCO World Heritage Site called Khao Yai National Park, and Thailand's Khao Sak National Park is believed to be older and more diverse than the Amazon.

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