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First Thai Destination fest wraps

The inaugural Thailand International Film Destination Festival (TIFDF) wrapped yesterday with organiser Thailand Film Office calling it a success with hopes to continue in future.

The festival, which aimed to promote Thailand as a place for international film productions, included a short film competition, screenings of films shot in Thailand, tours of facilities and seminars discussing the relative merits of the country as well as its lack of tax incentives.

Ubolwan Sucharitakul, acting director of the Thailand Film Office, said: “We also hope that we have shown that within the Thailand Film Office we are extremely receptive to feedback. We hope that this event will be the first of many, and that the momentum created through this event can drive us forward to even greater successes in the future.”

Tours of local facilities including Kantana where The Weinstein Company’s large-scale period piece Shanghai was shot after being denied permits to shoot in China, and the Spice Shop, the high-tech post-production house where Wong Kar Wai worked on The Grandmaster.

The fest held the Amazing Thailand Film Challenge to shoot shorts of 5-7 minutes in length in areas across Thailand. The competition received 520 entries from across the world. From these they invited 48 international teams and two local teams to come shoot April 2-8 in Thailand. The winner for Best Film was the local team of Badin Chaisombat and Somkamon Sea-ngow with The Contemporary Soul.

The fest also held a day of seminars April 5 with mostly Hollywood and local film professionals discussing experiences shooting in Thailand.

Talking about Thailand’s lack of tax incentives – and the potential for competition from Malaysia with its new 30% incentive – the speakers agreed that Hollywood studios almost automatically favour locations with incentives. They also pointed out that after the math is done, a place with low costs, an experienced talent pool and infrastructure could still win out.

International location manager Mike Fantasia (Green Hornet, Indiana Jones) said: “Incentives are great, but if you don’t have a crew, you have to bring them in to back it all up and that costs money, too.”

Andrew Pfeffer, executive producer on films like Bangkok Dangerous and Men Of War, both of which shot in Thailand, said: “What I look for is honesty, transparency and reliability. Apart from the technical expertise of Thai crews and the beauty of the country, the Thai people are hardworking and good-spirited. In 2006, we had a coup in the middle of the movie. In most places that would be a disaster, but in Thailand, we just kept shooting.”

The fest screened 13 films shot in Thailand, including the recent massive Chinese hit Lost In Thailand and Elephant White, a US movie featuring Kevin Bacon and directed by the Thai director of Tom Yum Goong, Prachya Pinkaew.

Organisers stated: “The attendance of the film screenings has been extremely high. All films had over 80% attendance, and a number of screenings were totally full.”

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