Thailand Planning Film Development Measures and $200 Million Funding

Thailand is poised to get serious about its commitment to the film industry, and plans to launch a major new body, the Thailand Creative Culture Agency, with a budget of THB7 billion ($200 million).

Long a destination for Hollywood, China and India productions, and currently playing host to the lensing of Season 3 of “The White Lotus,” Thailand has many of the elements that could contribute to building a major film industry. These include diverse locations, skilled crews, studio facilities and a location production, or incentive, scheme. But the country has sometimes been held back by an approach that sees film predominantly as a tool to support the tourism industry, a flatlining local box office and clumsy censorship.

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The current civilian government says it sees culture as more than window dressing and is committing itself to a wave of “soft power” initiatives to grow nearly a dozen industries, ranging from Thai cuisine, music and dance to Muay Thai boxing.

THACCA is expected to become operational by mid-2025, conditional on votes in parliament and funding commitments from several ministries, Dr. Surapong Suebwonglee, director and secretary of the National Soft Power Strategy Committee, told Variety on the eve of FilMart.

But a subcommittee, headed Paetontarn Shinawatra and reporting directly to the prime minister, is already empowered to start reforming the feature film (and long-form documentary) industry.
Expected changes include a reduction in the burden of censorship, the creation of a body that facilitates location shooting and permits, as well as larger and more meaningful rebate program for inbound productions and funding to grow the local industry.

“Canada, Romania and Iceland have rebate systems in place. Japan is now offering 50%, India is offering 40%. We need to get Thailand’s to 30%. But first we need to prove that it works. We need it to grow with the industry,” M.R. Chalermchatri Yukol, chairman of the National Soft Power Development Subcommittee in Film Industry, told Variety. (Thailand’s existing rebate program offers a 15% rebate, with a further 5% bonus for projects that use large local components, but it has previously been capped at $2.25 million.)

“We need to work with the best from Korea, Taiwan and the U.S. and are looking to set up a co-production fund next year,” said Yukol. “And we also need to sustain a variety of domestic productions that can reach the global market. Some that can be selected for festivals, but others too by new directors, and a children’s film foundation.”

On the censorship front, change may already be afoot. A censorship committee that had a 4-3 majority of government officials over industry members has been streamlined to give practitioners a 3-2 majority. Ultimately, the ideal may be to replace censorship with a rating system. “We are global citizens and global citizens need a global mindset. Our own cultural borders are not adequate anymore,” said Yukol.

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