PDA

View Full Version : Legality of filming in Thailand



danstanbury
12-02-2005, 08:51 AM
Hi

I'm about to make my first documentary and have chosen Thailand for my debut. To be honest its more of a practice travelogue to develop my skills, but I plan to approach the project as professionally as possible, as if there were a real chance that I could sell the finished film to a broadcaster.

I've just checked online about permissions required to film in Thailand and it sounds like a typhoon of red tape. A full script or at least treatment is required for approval 21 days in advance. Subject to that the authorities appoint a chaperone to oversee filming right the way through and make sure you don't depart from the script or schedule in anyway. Apart from the fact that you have to pay a high day and expenses rate for this chaperone, which I cannot afford, I don't want to be held to a rigid plan, afterall this is also intended to be a vacation.

Obviously I'm very tempted to avoid declaring myself at all and just pass myself off as a tourist (which in most ways I am). My concern is that my 1520 pelicase with DVX and Shotgun mic rig might raise suspicion at airports etc. Also, interviewing or presenting in public might attract the wrong sort of attention.

Finally, I still have a wishful idea in the back of my head that I might cobble the footage into a final film that is broadcastable. If I don't have the correct permissions is this all out of the window?

Does any one have any relevant experience or advice they can relate to me?

Thanks

Dan

GenJerDan
12-02-2005, 10:40 AM
Yo, PK! :)

Kirk Gillock
12-02-2005, 11:24 AM
Thanks GenJerDan for pointing me in this threads direction. :)

Dan, Thailand is very laid back, but when it comes to making money they get very serious. Film production is becoming a huge industry here so the authorities in the major cities will be very serious. I took my DVX to the Grand Palace in Bangkok, just to shoot vacation footage for personal use, and the guards told me to put the camera away. I was outside the gates. Other people had camcorders, but I guess my camera was too big. :)

Of course in Bangkok and tourist places you might have a hard time, BUT if you goto some of the less popular places, people will treat you like a celebrity and you can do whatever you want with your camera. For the past year I've shot stuff all over Nong Khai, on the northeastern border, and not had a single problem. We've had a big tripod, boom mic, and production crew walking around a failry large town and the police couldn't care less.

If you want to shoot in Thailand and don't want to go the legitimate way (or can't) then I would just suggest shooting in the smaller towns. Get in good with the locals and make friends with a policeman. You'll be abe to shoot anything you want. But in Bangkok you'll have to shoot and run! If you get caught just play dumb.

PM me if you have any more questions. Let me know what you want to shoot, where you want to travel, and when you'll be filming, and I'll be able to give you more specific answers. Good luck on your project. Thailand is an amazing place. Strange. But amazing.

pk

danstanbury
12-02-2005, 02:21 PM
Hi PK
I'm lucky to find you, thanks for the low down.

I think I'll have to do the shoot run and play dumb option. I'd prefer to go legit if I thought the fee was going to be proportionate to what I'm likely to earn, ie close to nothing.

The problem is the treatment requires following the back packer trail from the Khoa San Road right down to Hat Rin. Probably the quietest places I will go will be Hat Tien on Ko Pha-Ngan and some other islands in the Angthong marine park, so authorities and tourist police all along the way.

Do you think its worth appying to the Thai film board for permission, explaining that this is only a practice project and not a commercial venture they would give us a dispensation?

My other option is to use a 2nd smaller 3ccd camcorder for more public areas, though this would be a shame as the picture won't be consistent and the sound much poorer.

Kap kun Kap (excuse the spelling)

Dan

Kirk Gillock
12-02-2005, 11:07 PM
mai pen rai :)

It can't hurt to contact the film board and ask them their opinion. Tell them it's a school, training, or personal project. They're more concerned about commercial projects and major studios. I doubt they will care about a small production, but you never know.

chok dee (good luck)
pk

Petrus
12-02-2005, 11:22 PM
Do not make any enqueries to Thai officials. They might make a note of your name and pass it to the customs, just in case. Then sneaking in your "tourist" video gear would be more difficult.

If your production is good enough to be shown on TV, the buyer is not going to ask for an official Thai release paper or shooting permits.

You are there as a tourist, yes? It is not a crime to try to make your vacation video as goos as possible, with some pre-planning and good gear. If the material turns out good enough to be used professionally, what a nice surprice back home! So, if the police question you when shooting, just act surpriced and dumb. You are a TOURIST!

Try to shoot in a simple, tourist manner. No parading around with a boom mic. Either connect the mic to the camera for run and gun, or have the sound person handhold the mic (with as small a windshield as possible in the situation). Or record the separate mic on MiniDisk for more freedom without a cable, or use radio connection.

Carry your gear in wrapped in a fleece or something in a normal day backpack, not a professional hard case with everything inside. If and when there are more than one person in the group, have somebdy else carry the sound gear and act like you did not know him/her, do not act like a group. You are a video hobbyist with a good amateur camera. The other person looks like a sound collector or something. After getting past customs you can reunite.

This way I have been able to shoot in Nepal, China and Tibet (even in restricted temples) with zero problems. Camera was Sony TRV-900 in Porta Brace rain slicker, Sennheiser shotgun with Rycote Softie or full Windjammer + a Sony radio mic. A lot of time I just held the camera in one hand and the mic in other. Works ok for a documentary type stuff. Has been good enough for international broadcast.

I did feel a bit funny to see a 11 person TV crew shooting a famous TV personality outside the Jokhang temple in Lhasa, when I just had gotten out of the building with 30 minutes of good contraband footage, my wife doing the sounds on MD. Our whole 3 week trip cost less than one day for that official TV team...

danstanbury
12-03-2005, 02:06 AM
Wow, thanks for that advice, like a guerrilla handbook, just what I needed. I want to take the full pelican protective kit but can make sure the case is full of nothing too serious when in airports. I'll put my dvx in my travel bag and hide tapes etc in my back pack. Also split things between myself and girlfriend and go through separately. I like the idea of the TRV 900 very inocuous. My girlfriend has the panasonic GN400 which I assume is in the same class so should be ok to use in the more delicate situations. Just means I'll probably have to use my dvx in 50i mode rather than 25p so that images work together. Also hope that I can adapt the GN400 to an xlr porte to use with a Sennheiser. Is a small tripod over the top? Do you think its worth talking to the Thai authorities without giving a name just to sound them out on their position, or just keep completely quiet? Many thanks Dan

pmark23
12-03-2005, 07:28 PM
I work in Central Asia, with VERY authoritarian governments, and do everything as low key as possible. All of my gear is as small as possible so only a crew of one is needed. Cases are plain duffel bags with thin plywood inserts for protection.

Generally there's enough time to set up a dolly, a few lights, get the shot, then pack up before the police show up. Even if the police catch me, a couple bucks will usually smooth over any problems (one of the benefits of corrupt police.)

Now we're working on a large-scale documentary going through government channels, and it's a nightmare!

Thailand is a different place, and they may be less forgiving.

danstanbury
12-04-2005, 07:58 AM
Thanks pmark

I'm very nervous about falling foul of the authorities but also of protecting my dvx and equipment which cost me all my savings, so I don't want to sacrifice my Pelican case while I'm there. It sounds like I'm up for a high stress time balancing between all these considerations, oh well. The thing is I could hide everything inside of my backpack which should hopefully look more innocent. As far as Thai police goes I expect its the same as many other places in Asia, depends on type of police ie local or tourist and the individual as to how flexible they will be. Cheers Dan

Lack of Gravity
12-14-2005, 01:24 PM
Thanks pmark

I'm very nervous about falling foul of the authorities but also of protecting my dvx and equipment which cost me all my savings, so I don't want to sacrifice my Pelican case while I'm there. It sounds like I'm up for a high stress time balancing between all these considerations, oh well. The thing is I could hide everything inside of my backpack which should hopefully look more innocent. As far as Thai police goes I expect its the same as many other places in Asia, depends on type of police ie local or tourist and the individual as to how flexible they will be. Cheers Dan
I know someone who shot a documentary in Bangkok a couple of years ago with a PD150. After a while the police came to his room and confiscated the camera and tapes. He went down to the police station payed a bribe and got his gear back. It became part of the documentary which aired a couple of weeks ago in Canada.

pmark23
12-14-2005, 08:51 PM
Immodium will be your best friend.

SantaCruzMichael
01-27-2006, 04:06 PM
Hey guys,
My suggestion- get a camera bag that looks like a backpack. I shot for a month in Nepal last year, and lugged the camera around Thailand during my decompression stop on the way home. The LowePro MiniTrekker worked great for day shoots.

The Pelican cases were for point to point travelling. Then at the hotel, I would dump all the expendable stuff in them and pack the DVX and other goodies in the MiniTrekker.

When necessary I blatantly shot footage of authority figures and military personnel. In the Nepal countryside, I would walk right up to military guys positioned behind sandbag bunkers and just start chatting them up with the camera rolling.
Speaking the language helped a lot. No problems.

The biggest problems were when I asked for permission to shoot intensively at an elephant breeding farm. I lost four days dealing with bureaocracy and realized:

A: Just shoot and ask permission later.
B: Speak local dialect on the street and ENGLISH with officials. It's more respectful.

Have fun,
Michael

NewYorkLion
01-28-2006, 03:06 PM
I've shot in thailand both ways, officially and unofficially. On the "Official shoot" We were with a medium budget travel show for a cable network, with a large crew and a very large equipment set. We had a chaperone, but he was very cool and really didnt care what we shot. On the unoficial shoot, which was for a long form doc series I worked on, we shot with two DVC80s all over thailand, including bagkok and never had a problems. This includes shooting at temples, borders and in customs offices. We very often used tripods in Bangkok and never once had a complaint. I have heard some stories from other folks, but like I said, in the 2 and a half months I speant there I enver once had a problem.

dvxlover
02-06-2006, 04:49 PM
I have had the same experienc in Thailand, both in Bangkok and other parts. I was travelling with my wife and creating news stories using my dvx, tripod and. I had no poblems.

dvxlover
02-06-2006, 04:50 PM
I have had the same experienc in Thailand, both in Bangkok and other parts. I was travelling with my wife and creating news stories using my dvx, tripod and. I had no problems.

mochouinard
02-06-2006, 09:15 PM
I guess I need to get out more !!!

eignacio
02-06-2006, 10:19 PM
When are you headed over there?

seunosewa
07-30-2008, 02:25 PM
Choose a different country, perhaps?

Tim Joy
07-30-2008, 08:22 PM
I lived in Thailand for a year and got to know the culture a bit. Some Buddists feel that when their picture is taken, a piece of their soul goes with it. Not a good thing, especially if you're taking their souls at 24 fps.

I wanted to shoot a movie there, but felt like everytime I took out the camera (just a digital still camera) I was being disrespectful. I was in the northern hill-tribe areas mind you, so things are less modern there than in Phuket or other touristy spots.

Stay away from those military places. It's like trying to film area 51. Don't do it unless you have a death-wish.

I considered bringing my dvx there, but it would've drawn SO much unwanted attention. To the Thais, it looks like a big-deal camera. Moreover, if you are going during rainy season, May- sep, say good bye to your camera. 200% humidity really has a way of washing away all the working parts of any complicated piece of gear. The dry season too has a lot of dust in the air, and this is not just any dust, it's fine clay dust. I knew 3 people that had broken video cameras there.

I really cherish the Thai culture, and see many negative influences that the western world has imparted on them, and I think turning their country into a movie studio doesn't help matters at all.

For these reasons, I would urge you not to do a documentary in Thailand. I had the exact same aspirations, and decided against it at the last minute, and I'm glad for it, because I learned a lot more about myself by being away from the camera for a while. Usually, I experience the world through a lens, but just using my eyes turned out a lot better.

Tim Joy
07-30-2008, 08:40 PM
This way I have been able to shoot in Nepal, China and Tibet (even in restricted temples) with zero problems. Camera was Sony TRV-900 in Porta Brace rain slicker, Sennheiser shotgun with Rycote Softie or full Windjammer + a Sony radio mic. A lot of time I just held the camera in one hand and the mic in other. Works ok for a documentary type stuff. Has been good enough for international broadcast.

I think it is extremely disrespectful of other cultures to be shooting in temples and other places that they consider to be sacred. Pictures and video are restricted for a reason, and just because it doesn't mean anything to you, it still means something to them. It's like if a Thai came to your house and pissed on your favorite rug. (Not that they think pissing on rugs is OK) But you might have the same reaction as they would when you're videotaping a sacred place. Just because they don't say anything doesn't mean it's OK.

seunosewa
07-31-2008, 03:31 AM
Some Buddists feel that when their picture is taken, a piece of their soul goes with it. Not a good thing, especially if you're taking their souls at 24 fps.
Yet they enjoy the income they get when people who have seen those pictures visit their country?

thartley
07-31-2008, 08:55 AM
Well, this thread was last commented on back in Feb 2006 before seunosewa resurrected it. I am currently shooting in Thailand, in the northeastern area, right on the border between Thailand and Laos. And its monsoon season. I have not had any trouble with shooting or equipment. I always get permission before turning the camera on. I use a tripod out on the street. People are very accommodating.

I have not gone into a wat, but I have gotten several monks on camera, shot footage at a funeral (cleared ahead of time), have shot police and average folks on the street and in the market. If anything, they laugh at me for wanting to shoot things so ordinary in their lives. :)

I have shot in schools, outside of schools, in restaurants. I am pretty sure if I was being a nuisance, someone would have said something to me by now. People are generally courteous and willing when I have my camera out. I've even shot at the local Red Cross, and outside the hospital using both an on camera mic as well as wireless lav and wore my headphones while shooting. Most people smile and wave at the camera.

But these are just my experiences here so far. I plan to talk to some cops and also shoot inside the hospital, as well as ride in the ambulance one night.