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Quendrith Johnson


Quendrith Johnson is filmfestivals.com Los Angeles Correspondent covering everything happening in film in Hollywood... Well, the most interesting things, anyway.
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Yes, you can still film in Thailand, here’s how from Thai Film Office

by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent

Owen Wilson was on location for NO ESCAPE in Thailand, and there are great views in this disaster movie. Additionally, Thailand Film Office has been very present in the past at many film-related gatherings, such as AFM in Santa Monica. Their events are legendary, featuring in previous years even the HRH Thai Princess.

That said, here are their current guidelines for shooting films in country during the Pandemic Era.

THAILAND: In 2019, Thailand was booming as a location for international film and television production. The incentives, launched in 2017, were paying out, and were widely seen by the industry as having demonstrated reliability and transparency. The production services industry had managed to expand capacity without either reducing quality or raising costs. The result was that the revenue produced by incoming production increased by 55% in 2019 to a record US$152m. With an ever-increasing number of international enquiries received by the Thailand Film Office, and the popularity of Thailand with OTT platforms such as Netflix, Amazon, etc., everyone was confident that 2020 was going to set a new record.

Anan Wongbenjarat, Director General of the Department of Tourism recognizes the challenge as such: “We always respect the creative vision of film-makers, who don’t want to compromise their vision because of limitations presented by regulation. That’s why it is extremely important that the regulations have been drafted by people who understand the unique requirements of the industry, and in consultation with professionals within the industry.”

RulesThaiFilm2020

Coping With COVID-19 Thailand was a popular tourist destination for visitors from areas that were badly affected by COVID-19, and the threat was very real. The Thai government acted swiftly and prioritized the prevention of the spread of COVID-19. The Ministry of Public Health in coordination with other ministries established protocols and methods of monitoring the situation. Airports shut, tourism was halted, returning Thai nationals were quarantined, a curfew was put in place, and the wearing of masks was mandatory in all shops and public places.

It proved to be a remarkably successful approach. The Global Covid-19 Index named Thailand as the number one country in the world for progress made in curtailing the spread of the pandemic.

At the time of this article, Thailand has recorded 3,480 cases and 58 fatalities, with no fatalities now for over three months. The global battle against COVID-19 is far from over, and of course it is much too soon for Thailand to declare victory, but it is clear that Thailand has managed to avoid the level of tragedy that other countries have sadly encountered. There are many theories in Thailand - some say that the Thai custom of raising one’s hands in a ‘wai’ gesture, rather than shaking hands prevented transmission. Some insist that the hot climate helped. What cannot be denied is that the people of Thailand acted as a united, responsible community, and quickly recognised the importance of such measures as social distancing and wearing masks. The Ministry of Public Health continues to guide Thailand through the COVID-19 pandemic to a safe and healthy future. Now Thailand faces a new challenge - how to revive industry and an economy that has effectively been put ‘on hold’, while keeping Thailand ‘COVID-free’.

How can Thailand bring back production and build on the success that it achieved before COVID hit?

Firstly, it’s important to point out that a number of commercial productions have been taking place in Thailand in recent weeks. Thailand has skilled crews, creative teams and a wealth of talent. With remote monitoring it has been possible for international clients to use local teams and talent to produce work to the highest standard, and to the client’s exact requirements. However, it is recognized that while remote monitoring can be a valuable tool, it is not an option for many productions. Recognizing the value of the international production services industry, the Thai government has adopted specific measures to ensure that the film industry is the first of any international industry to be allowed to bring people back to Thailand. ThaiFilmOfficeArt2020However, it is clear that film and television productions present unique risks.

They necessitate the arrival of international cast and crew. Shoots require large numbers of crew to gather in a small area. And of course actors can’t wear masks in their scenes.

The film and television industry world-wide is going to have to deal with complex issues of on-set safety, and international travel. Will insurance cover foreign shoots? Will actors agree to travel?

In drafting a new set of regulations, Thailand must prove that it is serious about safety, and that it can offer a risk-free shooting environment. This will not only protect Thailand, but also protect the incoming cast and crew. It’s a tricky balance. Regulations must also consider the real-world demands of filming. For example, demanding that actors maintain social distancing within a scene would be utterly impractical. The most important regulation that will prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect visiting productions and the local population is a quarantine period. All visiting production teams will be quarantined for 14 nights upon arrival. In order to ensure that this period is as comfortable and productive as possible, there are a number of hotels, including 5-star luxury hotels offering approved quarantine stay packages. In Thailand, the Thailand Film Office, under the Department of Tourism is responsible for regulating, supporting and promoting the international production services industry. After a period of consultation and consideration, the Thailand Film Office has now produced a set of protocols governing production during the current situation.

All additional info is available at the Thailand Film Office 

There are six key areas where international productions are both protected and supported.

Approvals - The Thailand Film Office guarantees a rapid approvals process, ensuring that after you submit the details of your project, you are informed within two weeks whether a film permit can be issued.

Crew, facilities, and production service providers - Thankfully, Thailand’s facilities have re-opened, and skilled, experienced crew are available. Production service companies are ready for production.

Entry into Thailand - Details on the requirements for entry can be obtained from your local Thai Embassy or Consulate.

Training - From the make-up and hairdressing departments to craft services and props - all departments will need to adopt a new regimen. The Thailand Film Office is working with the industry to ensure that all departments understand and operate within the new protocols.

On-set procedures - It is inevitable that there will be operational changes to the ways that a set function. Lunch buffets will be gone. Props and equipment departments will need to incorporate disinfectant measures into their routine. There are many more examples. However, the new protocols must allow production to maintain an efficient working process.

Monitoring - A Thailand Film Office representative will be on set at all times to support, advise and assist. Their responsibility will be to ensure that the production environment is operated safely and according to the protocols.

The protocols have been welcomed by the Thailand production services industry. Local production services co-ordinator Charles Salmon who recently facilitated Netflix’s ‘Sergio’ said, “Normally, international producers might be attracted by a country with minimal restrictions and regulation of their shoot. But in this case, safety is in everybody’s best interests. I’m very glad that Thailand has acted quickly, decisively, and with consideration of both safety and practicality.”

ThaiFilmCOVIDsafety2020

Thailand will not achieve the record-breaking results in 2020 that it was expecting at the beginning of the year. But with a smart set of protective, practical rules, and well-trained, responsible crew, the Thailand Film Office has created a safe environment with which to welcome back international production.

The official PDF from the Thailand Film Office can be found here.

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