Filming in Thailand
Thailand is a filming-friendly country that offers filmmakers of all scales many unique options and opportunities to tell their stories and get their film made perfectly. Thailand has a matured, experienced and skilled film industry, world-class professional crews and state-of-the-art equipment, production and specialist support companies, unique and exotic locations, lower production costs, easier to get permits and offers an overall luxury of convenience and entertainment to cast and crews of all sizes.
The variety of locations on offer
Thailand has a diversified mix of geographical locations, historical sites, urban, modern and classical styles. Excellent transportation infrastructure to connect between these locations, and excellent access to accommodation, food and luxury in between. It is a director’s dream, given the look and appeal of the locations, and a boon to producers and production planners, given the lower costs, ease of access and availability to production resources.
Here is what you can find in Thailand.
Beaches (and Islands): Thailand offers some of the most beautiful coastlines in the world. Long stretches of different beach types as well as over 1,000s of islands and islets. Directors can further specify the type of beaches, whether they need abandoned or populated/tourist beaches, beaches with roads, rocky beaches, seashore cliffs, paradise beaches, white sandy beaches, haunted beaches and so on. We at Location Services Asia keep and maintain a media database of all these various location-types, along with technical details of sunset times, sun paths as well as tide information.
Some famous beaches include Maya Bay at Koh Phi Phi island (The Beach (2000), Leonardo Di Caprio), Phang Nga Bay (Star Wars Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005)), Morakot Cave at Koh Muk, Trang, Railay Beach at Krabi, Ao Manao at Prachuab Khiri Khan, Bottle Beach at Koh Phangan island.
Jungles, Forests and Parks: Thailand is a tropical paradise with dense jungles and picturesque parks. Along with scenic waterfalls, cliffs, fields, winding roads, hiking paths and trails, lakes, streams, river rapids that reside in these areas. Most jungles and forests fall under the National Park Service of Thailand, meaning – they are well-maintained, protected, conserved, and accessible. Along with the dense flora, you’d have access to the signature wildlife of Thailand (where permitted), such as elephants, monkeys and birds.
Some famous places include Khao Yai National Park (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), home to the Haew Sawat Waterfall (The Beach (2000), Leonardo Di Caprio), Mae Wang National Park, which is also known as the “Roof of Thailand”, where you can find the Wachiratan Falls, Mae Klang Falls, as well as home to the Karen and Meo Hmong hill tribe villages. Khao Sak National Park, which is believed to be older and more diverse than the Amazon. Five percent of the world’s animal species are said to live in the park, including the Malayan tapir, Asian elephants, various species of deer, wild boar, gibbons and tigers, oftentimes a target of countless Discovery Channel, National Geographic, PBS Nova and The History Channel documentaries.
Cities: Thailand’s cities have personality. They have their quirks, backgrounds, compelling backstories, and they are oftentimes a part of the filmmaker’s storytelling plans. Things happen and have happened in these cities. Apart from the ease of access and access to various kinds of locations in these cities, the cities themselves act as a part of the cast of the film. Here are some iconic cities.
Bangkok: Bangkok is the city that never sleeps, never stops smiling and never ceases to entertain. From temples to nightlife, late night shopping markets, malls, historical monuments to modern buildings. Cultural sites, street food, fine dining, entertainment venues, world-class accommodation, glamour, history and prestige. Bangkok has been home to countless feature films and commercials, including films such as Deer Hunter (1978), Hangover 2 (2011), James Bond – Man with the Golden Gun (1974), James Bond – Tomorrow Never Dies (1997), Only God Forgives (2013), The Railway Man (2013) and so on.
Pattaya: Pattaya is famous for its Walking Street (a street filled with neon signs, alluring nightlife and street food), beaches, island trek, water sports and much more.
Chiang Mai: Chiang Mai is popular for its night markets, mountain views, temples, rice fields, tea plantations, hill tribe villages and much more.
Kanchanaburi and Ayutthaya: These cities are the main places for historical sites, world-heritage temples, grand palaces, ruins, jungle and river treks and old-world mystique. The Bridge over River Kwai was filmed on-location at Kanchanaburi.
Others: Other cities such as Koh Samui island, Koh Phangan island, Phuket island, Krabi, along with cities in the Isaan (northeastern) regions. All these places offer a mix of locations that fulfill a variety of filming needs.
The variety of locations and sub-locations you can find in these various cities would be (urban, metropolitan, historical, street-level, alleyway types, industrial, broken/ruined, bridges, elevated roads, and so on), (walkways, parkways, trails), (offices, balconies, rooftops, helipads, abandoned, under-construction, landmarks and so on), , department , , market , (riverways, river crossings, riverside venues), , , , and , , , (Buddhist, Hindu, Chinese) , , and so on and so on!
Everywhere else: Everything and everywhere else in Thailand. Think of mountains, hills, caves, farmlands, fields, cliffs, countryscapes, dams and reservoirs, rock formations and canyons, and much more.
Thailand as a film location setting for other countries
Apart from Thailand being part of the filmmaker’s story, it is also oftentimes used as a stand-in film location setting for other countries. Here are some famous examples of feature films, television series that have used Thailand as a setting for other countries.
The Killing Fields (1984) – for the Khmer Rouge-era Cambodia and Laos scenes.
Rambo Films (1982-2019) – for Vietnam, Afghanistan, Myanmar scenes.
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2004) – Krabi was used to depict the planet Kashyyk, home of the Wookies.
Off Limits (1988) – Also known as Siagon, was filmed as stand-in for Vietnam
Casualties of War (1989) – stand-in for Vietnam.
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997) – Bangkok was used to stand-in for Ho Chi Minh City, Phang Nga Bay was sued to film as Halong Bay, Vietnam.
Alexander (2004) – Oliver Stone’s epic starring Colin Farrell as Alexander The Great was filmed in Ubon Ratchathani province, a part of the conqueror’s Asian territories.
The Amazing Race Series.
The Bachelor Series.
Apart from the feature films and television series where Thailand acted as a stand-in for other countries, countless television commercials are also filmed in Thailand, which is often times made to look as totally different countries. All of the world’s most famous brands have filmed television commercials in Thailand.
Other Films filmed in Thailand
Around the World in Eighty Days (1956)
The Ugly American (1963)
The Big Boss (1971)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Uncommon Valor (1983)
Good Morning, Vietnam (1987)
Off Limits (1988)
Air America (1990)
Operation Dumbo Drop (1995)
Mortal Kombat: Annihilation (1997)
Tomorrow Never Dies (1997)
Bangkok Dangerous (1999)
The Beach (2000)
City of Ghosts (2002)
The Medallion (2003)
Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (2004)
Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith (2005)
American Gangster (2007)
Rescue Dawn (2007)
The Hangover Part II (2011)
The Impossible (2012)
The Scorpion King 3: Battle for Redemption (2012)
Only God Forgives (2013)
No Escape (2015)
The Forest (2016)
What makes Thailand stand-out from other South-East Asia locations?
Thailand is a film hub for the entire region. Apart from the diverse locations (all of the above), here are some advantages that Thailand holds over other South-East Asian countries.
World-class, skilled and experienced crew. For most of the South-East Asian shoots (apart from perhaps Singapore and Malaysia), crews travel from Thailand. Camera crew, lighting and grip crews, stuntmen, are frequently ordered from Thailand to film in the entire region. And they are relatively cheaper.
Within Thailand itself, you’d have enough crew to fulfill the entire production rooster. DOPs, Line Producers, Assistant Directors, Art Directors, Production Designers, Production Managers, Casting Directors, Action Directors, Stunt Coordinators, Animal Handlers, Soundmen, Hair and Makeup Specialists, Costume Designers, VFX Specialists, Riggers, Art Construction crews, Broadcast Engineers, OB Directors, Television crews, - all of these positions can be hired in Thailand. And oftentimes these crew members are internationally based persons themselves but based in Thailand. Therefore, language isn’t a barrier.
Advanced and State-of-the-Art Equipment. Thailand has some of the largest equipment rentals and specialists. Gear Head Ltd., is the largest equipment rental house in South East Asia, and Baan Rig Ltd., is the largest stunts, action and rigging contractor in Asia. There are also many large film sets and studios in Bangkok with fully-equipped lighting, art sets and constructions, grips, television and broadcast needs.
Talent (Cast). Thailand is a multinational, tourist-friendly city with friendly Visas-on-Arrival agreements with many countries. Therefore, the metropolis is often filled with visitors from all over the world. As a result, it is relatively easy to find cast and fulfil all kind of role requirements within Thailand, compared to other nearby South-East Asian countries.
Production Services. Expertise, efficiency, equipment, cast-effectiveness and one-stop service. You can get the entire shoot done in Thailand itself without the need of outsourcing or insourcing any further requirements. It’s just a complete experience and makes no sense to film bits and pieces elsewhere.
Post-Production and VFX. Thailand is also the hub for post-production and VFX in South-East Asia, as well as a cost-effective destination for these needs. Some famous animation projects such as Zootopia and Frozen have been accomplished in Thailand. Various television commercials have been shot and edited in Thailand.
Hospitality. Thailand is a service-minded country. Thais and locals are kind and accommodating and are welcoming to foreigners. But they are also professional and responsible, meaning you often get the best of both worlds. Friendships and memories are made filming in Thailand.
Luxury, Accessibility and Availability. The perfect mix of everything. Food, shopping, travel, entertainment, leisure, resources, accommodation, safety and security, healthcare, emergency services, language, cost, hospitality, professionalism, expertise, and so on. While certain places around the world may provide some of these benefits, some more and some less, Thailand provides them all. It is quite difficult to find a place where everything is available in a good blend and mix.
Film and TV projects involving Location Services Asia.
Location Services Asia LLC as a production and location services company was launched in 2017. But we as producers (see IMDB) have been involved in various projects over the years. Here are some of our credits and work portfolios.
As Location Services Asia, production and locations services company
The Great Hack (Documentary/Netflix USA) (2019). Location Services Asia producer and director Basil Childers was the DOP for this global documentary. Location Services Asia was the line production company for Thailand as well as the Thai-based crew. This film was filmed in London, New York and Phuket.
Operation Koh Larn, Ingress (Feature Shoot/USA) (2019). Location Services Asia. This project commissioned by Niantic USA (the popular makers of Pokémon Go), involved filming in Pattaya and Koh Larn island, where for the first time we geo-mapped and digitally captured the entire beach, beach roads, island, island roads to create a 360/VR/3D virtual map (similar to Google Streets). See here.
The Ghost Fleet (Documentary/USA). This is an award-winning documentary which highlights the plight of fishermen in the Gulf of Thailand sea. We organized the ground production, cast of extras and local locations and permit needs for this documentary in Thailand.
Crossing Blocks (Documentary/Andorra) 2019
Oreo (TVC/Singapore) (2018)
As Location Services Asia, location services company
Panasonic Alkaline (TVC/Japan and India) (2018)
Sita (Feature Film/India) (2018)
Agnyaathavaasi (Feature Film/India) (2018)
Bangkok Airways (TVC/Thailand) (2017)
Air Asia (TVC/various) (2016)
Getting Permits in Thailand.
Filming in Thailand (if you are a foreign company coming here to film) requires two essential permits.
A Film-board permit (government permission), and
Location-based permits, where relevant
The Film-board permit is basically a letter/certificate the Thai government issues to the foreign company through the local coordinator, which allows the foreign company to film in Thailand, operate its crew here, obtain Work Permits and so on. This document also acts as a Thai censor-board approval certificate (because your script/storyboard has to be approved by the authorities), legal release (for releasing your content in your country) as well as guarantee/acknowledgement from the Thai government.
Obtaining the Film-Board permit.
This procedure is relatively straightforward. It is applied via a local Thai coordinator with a film board license.
Assign a local licensed coordinator company, such as us Location Services Asia.
Forward your script, storyboard, shooting requirements, schedule and so on.
We apply for the permit using our film board license.
Film Board permits take from 7 to 15 days.
Obtaining Location permits.
Depending on the locations (public or private), we apply for location permits from the relevant authorities. If public locations such as national parks, roads, monuments, this application is normally done in conjunction with the film-board permit application. Where livestock is involved, application is made to relevant department.
These applications usually involve deposit payments as needed, and often occur after you have undertaken scouting trips, confirmed and made up a shooting schedule.
Obtaining Work permits (for incoming crew).
While you can enter the country on tourist visas, Visas-on-arrivals (for stays <15 days), or Non-B visas, business visas for longer stays, all foreign working crews need Working permits. This is obtained upon the film-board permit, once it is issued.
This process takes 3-5 days (after the film-board permit is issued).
Thailand Filming Incentive (2019)
Currently, Thailand offers a 20% rebate for foreign feature films filmed in Thailand. This is applicable to feature films only (television commercials are not eligible). Whereby
Minimum film budget (or spending in Thailand) must be at least 50 million THB (or approximately USD 1.5 million).
Maximum film budget (or spending in Thailand) for rebate amount is 75 million THB (or approximately USD 2.4 million).
15% of amount is for main incentive eligibility criteria
3% of amount is for hire of Thai Key personnel
2% of amount is for promotion of Thai Tourism
Application process takes 90 days. We undertake the application on your behalf.
Reimbursement is made by the Thai government directly to the foreign client, and occurs after all relevant paperwork is submitted (within 90 days of the completion of the Thailand shoot).