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Govt told to focus on film to magnify Thailand’s global appeal
FRIDAY, JANUARY 20, 2023
To turn Bangkok into a major location for making domestic and international films, the city needs clear and simple regulations for filmmakers to follow as well as skilled workers, several experts told a seminar on Friday.
Films have a uniquely powerful way to transmit content and messages with mass appeal globally, they agreed.
Consequently, films are an excellent medium for Bangkok to project Thailand’s cultural power at home and abroad, they told the seminar on how to transform the capital into “The City of Film”.
The seminar – organised by Nation Group for the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) – drew advice from Senator Weerasak Kowsurat, United Cinema Co Ltd managing director Naruemon Lormthong, Royal Theatre executive Sala Chalermkrung, director and screenwriter Wisit Sasanatieng, and National Federation of Thai Film Associations secretary Pornchai Wongsriudomporn.
Senator Weerasak, also a former tourism and sports minister, compared the film industry to a locomotive, saying it can seamlessly transport all types of soft power to Thai and international audiences.
The film industry also has the potential to generate additional revenue from film production companies interested in using Bangkok as a location, while at the same time providing the capital with the opportunity to promote itself globally.
If the BMA wants to attract film producers, it needs clear and concise regulations for them to apply for permission to film locations in Bangkok – like buildings, public spaces, roads, or bridges – as well as competitive and transparent costs.
The BMA should reduce red tape by opening a one-stop service agency for filmmakers to get permission to film particular locations, Weerasak said.
All parties involved should also develop a clear plan for how to use the fees raised from filming in specific locations to develop the communities in their areas, the senator added.
Weerasak had a bit more advice for the BMA.
He said incentives like tax cuts or suspensions work better than providing grants to attract the private sector to support the Thai film industry. These incentives can be used to, for example, provide more time and space for Thai films to be shown in cinemas or assist in their promotion.
Film director Wisit said Thailand’s film industry has no shortage of creative talent. The problem lies in systems that make it difficult for the younger generation to enter the industry, he said.
The government should take a fresh look at films so that it can develop a clearer and more consistent strategy to support the industry.
“The Thai government should change its mindset and start seeing films as a powerful industry worthy of supportive programmes and subsidies on par with other industries,” the director said. “More importantly, we should have our own real film university to train skilled workers in order to upgrade the film industry from pre- to post-production,” he added.
Wisit had more advice for the government.
Give filmmakers more freedom of expression, he said. They can tell uncomfortable truths about Thailand while still making the world love the country, he added.
Pornchai agreed with Wisit that one of the most critical hurdles to attracting film production companies was talent.
Low wages, long hours and exhausting work make it difficult for people who work in the film industry to survive.
Every element of filmmaking necessitates expertise, Pornchai said.
If Bangkok wants to be a city of film, it requires talented workers in addition to the beautiful scenery, friendly people, advanced technology, and infrastructure it already has, he explained.
Naruemon called for the government to help Thai film makers reduce costs, particularly advertising expenses.
“Thai cinema requires a spark to become known. This means that Thai films require some supportive action to attract an audience,” she said.
She also said the cost of watching a movie in a theatre includes travel costs. The cost of a movie ticket is already too expensive for most Thais, she said.
The seminar is part of the Bangkok Film Festival 2023, which runs from today until Sunday at the Bangkok Art and Cultural Center. It is hosted by the BMA.
The goal is to promote Bangkok as a filmmaking city.
Last year, the government launched its so-called “5 Fs soft power” campaign. The campaign promotes five major Thai cultural products – food, film, fashion, fighting, and festivals – internationally.
In response to this initiative, government ministries, agencies, and the BMA are taking steps – some big, some small – to promote Thailand’s power around the globe.