In the early part of 2017, plans were shaping up to shoot our martial arts thriller Deadlined in another South East Asian country and although I was disappointed that Thailand would not be the location as previously intended, we felt we needed to be adaptable and work with potential stakeholders in order to get the film made. After months of beaurocratic processes, we were no further forward, and it has been a great relief to re-focus our goals on aligning with the right Thai co-producers and service providers at Cannes this week.
The Cannes Marche du Film is a remarkable opportunity to access and connect with a full range of major players in one place, and especially when that nation’s film industry is a rapid growth area that is actively seeking international partners. This is clearly demonstrated by Thailand’s new film incentives, which became active in January 2017, offering a minimum of 15% cash incentive for productions with local expenditures that exceed THB 50 million (approximately US$1.4 million). The incentives can reach 20% through an additional 3% if the production uses Thai cast or crew in prominent positions, and an additional 2% for productions that help promote Thailand as a tourism destination.
As further stated by Thailand Films on their website, their “state-of-the-art production and post-production services, experienced English-speaking crews and talent, gorgeous locations, world-class hospitality services and affordable production costs, Thailand is the obvious destination for international productions”. This claim has been verified by the feedback we have had from producers and directors we know who have wanted to return after their first Thai feature film production, so far all within the action genre and at budgets averaging $1.5 – 3 million, where these films have made their investment back through an action dedicated audience who access films via DVD and video on demand.
At the studio film end of the market, Mechanic: Resurrection, 2016, cost $40m to make in Thailand, but to shoot globally where scenes are located in the script would have cost $100m-$120m. According to Box Office Mojo, the film grossed $125,729,635 worldwide, so Thailand’s offer of a vast array of adaptable settings more than halved production costs and enabled huge profit margins.
Jason Statham and Jessica Alba in Mechanic: Resurrection
With one of its own indigenous films, Thailand has had five Thai filmmakers participating in the Cannes line-up for their omnibus film “Ten Years in Thailand”. Co-directed by Aditya Assarat, Chookiat Sakveerakul, Wisit Sasanatieng, Chulayarnnon Siriphol and Palme d’Or-winner Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the film screened in the official selection, out of competition.
Ten Years in Thailand Chosen for Cannes 2018 Official Selection
I was fortunate to have an invitation to the Thai Night Gala 2018 in Cannes on 12th May, an event presided over by Her Royal Highness Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi, and by absolute chance, I had just reached the Thailand Films booth for a meeting when the Princess arrived to meet some of the staff of the ten leading film companies identified for business matching.
Princess Ubolratana Rajakanya Sirivadhana Barnavadi at the Marche Du Film
The gala was held at the Carlton Intercontinental, and was fittingly lavish but overcrowded as guests pushed forwards in unwieldy queues for the delicious complementary Thai food and drinks. The crowd settled while appetites were satisfied, and a showreel for “Thailand - Where Films Come Alive” played scenes from the ten leading ten Thai production companies selected for showcase and an international business matching initiative this year. While I personally shy away from explicit, gory horror as a genre, the content mesmerised the room and clearly places Thailand at the forefront of the South East Asian film industry, demonstrating world class visual storytelling, cinematography and production design.
A brief snapshot of the Thai Night Gala
The ten Thai companies selected were Benetone Films Co., De Warrenne Pictures Co., Five Star Production, Hollywood (Thailand) Co., M Pictures Co., Mono Films Co., Pairoykor Production Co, P.L.H. Holding Co., and Sahamongkol film International Co.
The Business Matching initiative was very helpful for us in considering new options for Deadlined, and we hope to be able to cement a co-production partnership in the coming weeks, with a development and scouting trip to be scheduled for Red Rug Productions in Thailand before the end of 2018.
Written by Sina Bowyer