Thailand, besides being one of the world’s best tourist destinations, has become one of the world’s primary filming locations. Dozens of foreign productions have been shot in Thailand, including commercials, Hollywood films, Netflix, Apple TV, and Disney+ series.
Before the pandemic, more than 100 foreign TV series and 60 movies were filmed in Thailand in 2019 compared with 74 shows and 41 films in 2014, according to the Thai Film Board. Annual revenues from filmmaking over this five-year period increased from 1.93 billion baht to 4.96 billion baht ($57.7 million to $149.1 million).
Filmmakers attribute Thailand’s rise to its diverse locations — from mountains in the north to scenic beaches and islands in the south — combined with top-notch skills among local film crews and production values honed over decades of moviemaking.
Thailand – a natural choice for destination shootings – Pre and Post Pandemic
Up until COVID-19, Thailand was doing very well. Thailand has regularly stood in for Southeast locations like war-torn Vietnam and Cambodia, from “Good Morning, Vietnam” (1987) to “The Killing Fields” (1984). But the country has come into its own as a location popular with U.S. movie powerhouses such as Netflix, Disney and Marvel.
The COVID-19 pandemic curtailed travel and boosted film costs everywhere. Even after that, Thailand fared well in 2021, hosting stars like Russell Crowe and Hollywood director Ron Howard. Crowe came for the shoot of “The Greatest Beer Run Ever,” and Howard for “Thirteen Lives” (2022) about the real-life rescue of a Thai soccer team from a flooded cave — already the subject of a feature film by Waller. Howard filmed in Australia and Thailand, with a cast that included Colin Farrell, Viggo Mortensen and Joel Edgerton.
Thailand also hosted some episodes of “Ms Marvel” (2022), a Disney-Marvel production for television featuring an American hero with South Asian roots. Scenes set in India and Pakistan were shot in Bangkok’s Chinatown, according to Lowenstein, who worked on both “Ms Marvel” and “Thirteen Lives.”
Thailand’s star billing has been a century in the making. The first films arrived in Thailand in the late 1800s, touring the countryside in hand-cranked contraptions; some are exhibited at the Thai Film Archive, which stores treasures from the Thai industry. The grounds feature a concrete patch with footprints, handprints and even headprints, like the footprints and handprints of movie notables at the TCL Chinese Theatre on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame.
The journey so far
Henry MacRae, a Canadian director and producer, is credited with the first local production, “Nang Sao Suwan” (“Miss Suwanna of Siam,” 1923) which was made with a Thai cast. Global audiences were introduced to Thailand in the mid-1900s. For “Around the World in Eighty Days” (1956) King Bhumibol Adulyadej lent a royal barge, establishing a long tradition of Thai hospitality to the movie industry. In “The Ugly American” (1963) Marlon Brando appeared on screen with Kukrit Pramoj — a future Thai prime minister.
The 1970s were a golden age for Thailand on the big screen. “The Man with the Golden Gun” (1974) sent Roger Moore as James Bond 007 from Bangkok to Phang Nga Bay near Phuket. Kanchanaburi provided the prisoner of war camp in “The Deer Hunter” (1978), which sported an all-star cast including Robert De Niro, Christopher Walken and Meryl Streep. “The Big Boss” (1971) featured Hong Kong superstar Bruce Lee.
From the Vietnam War era through the 1990s, Thailand served as the setting for numerous movies about Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, including “Off Limits” (1988) “Air America” (1990), Oliver Stone’s “Heaven and Earth” (1993) and a pair of Rambo films as well as “The Killing Fields” and “Good Morning Vietnam.”
In the 21st century, growth stepped up as Thailand matured beyond providing a tropical backdrop. Thailand has always been attractive for low costs. A shift came at the turn of the century when commercial advertising uplifted the industry, financing better equipment and training, and Thailand became known as the main commercial production centre for the region. About a decade ago, local crews moved on to moviemaking and the word of fame about Thailand spread far and wide. Studios opened, providing professional facilities for commercials and local TV, as well as the lengthy film schedules of major movies and international TV series. The newest is Studio Park, on 35 hectares of land in Samut Prakan, among factories and housing estates 45 km south of Bangkok.
Compared to filming in other lands, filming in Thailand has some unique advantages. The 3-day One-stop licence procedure and a mature film industry that boasts of seasoned professional crews, accompanied by low production costs and exotic locations are a few of them. Thailand boasts of efficient government procedures with swift filming approvals. The permission to shoot a film in Thailand can be only granted by the Film Board of Thailand, which is made up of representatives from several government agencies. These representatives make up the Sub-Committee, which reviews filming requests for Foreign Film Production in Thailand (SRF), and are appointed by the Film Board of Thailand. Their review constitutes a “one-stop” service for foreign filmmakers, ensuring fast approval for permission to film, provided all required documents and information are in place.
Why should you go to Thailand to shoot your film?
Breathtaking film locations – An unparalleled variety of sceneries and locations
Thailand with its availability of lush jungles, tropical, idyllic beaches, glittering temples, magnificent waterfalls and relatively low production costs have become an attractive location for many foreign productions. More importantly, this fantastic kingdom warmly welcomes filmmakers from all over the world. Whether a production features Thailand’s abundant natural landscapes, historic towns, vibrant city, nightlife, or even towering skyscrapers, Thailand has been ever so accommodating, thus making it an easy choice for filmmakers planning to shoot.
Though film locations in Thailand might seem to be about breathtaking landscapes at a glance, Thailand also boasts a bustling metropolis, panoramic spots, skyscrapers that stretch far into the distance, striking contemporary architecture, and an endless urban skyline perfect for modern shots.
There are many affordable and reasonably priced locations, whether a skyscraper in Bangkok, mountains in Chiang Mai province, beaches of Krabi, or islands around Phuket which makes it suitable for different shootings.
It is well known that Thailand offers some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Directors have the choice to specify the type of beach they want- whether it is a deserted ocean, vast white sand, or rocky lagoons covered by dense jungle – you name it, Thailand has it!
Thailand offers a variety of venues and locations spread across the country, catering to even the most complex productions as an attractive filming destination.
Despite Thailand’s geographical boundaries, which all lie within the tropics, its main regions are geographically distinct, and each has a solid infrastructure. It is worth mentioning there are 156 national parks in Thailand, covering around 31% of the kingdom’s total area.
Thailand’s diversified historical sites, geographical characteristics, and local lifestyles offer foreign filmmakers a variety of sceneries and locations for every type of storyline. Every location is easily accessible and well connected through Thailand’s convenient and modern transportation facilities. Thailand’s natural topography presents a foreign filmmaker with a variety of gorgeous mountain ranges in the north, a stunning plateau in the northeast, serene plains in the central part, and jaw-dropping coastlines kissing the Andaman Sea with the Gulf of Thailand in the South.
Thailand’s rich heritage sites are found in every part of the country. These heritage sites are the remains from Thailand’s profound history dating back to the Rattanakosin (1782 A.D. to present), and the Sukhothai (600 to 14000 AD).
The lifestyle of Thai locals is a splendid synchronisation between modern and ancient traditions with a rural and urban blend that builds avenues to many unique filming experiences. At the Mekong and Chao Phraya River Basins, traditional lifestyles along the river banks harmonise with ‘modern’ day living, leading to a surreal experience for filming crews the world over.
Thailand proudly houses talented filming crews, technicians, studios, and equipment that help foreign filmmakers realise their filming goals in their country. Competition is always on the rise in the technology and entertainment industry. The filming equipment coupled with the skilled technicians is a prized combination for rapid international advancements. World-class post-production, production and pre-production equipment is thus priced competitively so as to encourage its utilisation.
Competent skilled filming crews
Thai people are renowned for their hospitality, hard-working nature and talent. These characteristics have made the Thais become service-minded and flexible. Local filming crews have worked in several international productions over the past decades. Thus they have harnessed and developed specialised filming skills in the Thai market. They have played host to several international blockbusters and have proved to the world that Thailand is indeed a serious player in the international filming market. Now Thailand is ready to expand services and take on more international production collaborations than ever before. Thailand’s creative and skilled production resources which include specialists in post-production, production and pre-production processes, are now confident about their ability to work in international scenarios helping foreign filmmakers transform their dreams into films.
Low costs of production
The A.T.A Carnet Agreement is valid throughout Thailand. This agreement allows the temporary admission exemption of import taxes for all filming equipment, provided that all equipment imported for filming is exported back out again once filming concludes. Moreover, Thailand has, with many foreign countries, signed Double Taxation Treaties as well. These treaties are devised to help stop foreigners from paying taxes in countries legislated under these taxation treaties as well as in their home countries.
When it comes to accommodations, transportation, food, and recreational activities, low living expenses help tight budgets go a long way in Thailand.
Luxury of Convenience
A variety of food, accommodation and transportation facilities can be found in abundance in Thailand. Accommodation facilities range from guesthouses to five-star hotels to meet every filmmaker’s budget. Add-ons for Travel (Hotels, Villas, Jets, Experiences)can be arranged as part of the Luxury Concierge Service. International cuisines are also available that range from fine-dining restaurants to fast foods from roadside vendors as part of the Luxury Film Production Packages. In addition to this, Thailand’s transportation infrastructure encourages travel and provides unmatched convenience for film crews. Vehicles like motor homes, helicopters (Thailand Helicopter Experience), tour buses, yachts (Yacht charter and boat rental Thailand) and marine crafts can be rented at an extremely reasonable cost.
Filming in Thailand is always a hassle-free process. Local coordination companies like Travel Motivations handle all local and professional requirements to contribute optimally to the working success of one’s film. We assist with all legal documentation from coordination and contact with all related agencies to work and filming permits. Local coordination services comprise of production crews, transport, accommodation and location fixers, and fulfilling clients’ bespoke needs for special effects, equipment, and other technical services.