Shooting overseas, a breath of fresh air to local movies

At the beginning of this year, Ho Chi Minh City Television (HTV) started to broadcast the TV series Tro ve (The Return), a romance between a Vietnamese Cambodian girl and a Vietnamese criminal, who escaped to the neighboring country. Besides a great plot, the movie’s picturesque scenes of Cambodian nature and pagodas stunned local audiences. After such big success, Sena Films and director Viet Trinh continued to produce part two, featuring the natural and sparsely populated beauty of Laos, where a Vietnamese guy went to start a business and met a local girl.

“Wherever I go, I meet another film crew. Some local settings have been exploited. We decided to go overseas to create a new TV series so that the audience will be attracted not only by an interesting storyline but also by exotic scenes,” said Bich Thuy, head of Sena Films.

Similarly, the long series Bi mat tam giac vang (The secret of the golden triangle) by Lasta Films directed by Nguyen Duong is set not only in Vietnam but also Thailand and Laos. The movie features one of Asia's two major illicit opium-producing areas where police from Vietnam, Laos and Thailand have to deal with transnational drug dealers. This July, 45 members of the film crew together with 10 actors and actresses will travel for 20 days in Laos and 10 days in Thailand for shooting.

“The movie reflects a social issue, a drug ring which takes place in the Golden Triangle so only filming in Thailand and Laos can persuade the audience. Above all, we want to elevate the quality of local TV series, which have been criticized in recent times,” said Tran Minh Tien, head of Lasta Films.

In the North, several TV series are collaborations between Vietnam and China or Thailand. However, the overseas filming duration is not long and the number of crew members who travel out of the country is limited.

Before shooting the TV series Mau cua tuyet (Blood of snow), featuring the lives of Vietnamese living in Europe, the Vietnam Television Film Center (VFC) sent two script writers to the Czech Republic and Poland where they interacted with Vietnamese communities for two months to find ideas.

The crew then organized the shoot in the Czech Republic in March to capture the seasonal transition, from winter to summer. They even sought aid from the Vietnamese embassy, Vietnamese associations in the Czech Republic and many Vietnamese expats including actors and actresses living in Europe.

However, most film crews are unable to have staff or actors and actresses at the scene and need to bring them from the country.

“Our film crew who travelled overseas consisted of a few crucial members and some actors,” said director Xuan Phuoc, who shot two movies Buoc chan hoan vu (Steps of the Universe) and Sau mat rubic (Six sides of a Rubik’s cube) in Thailand.

He added that he said he often counts on a Vietnamese travel agency with branches abroad to help obtain filming permission.

Besides having difficulties getting approval from local authorizes in Cambodia, director Viet Trinh also had to deal with an intensive shooting schedule due to a limited budget.

“We had to shoot 10 episodes in different temples within 10 days. The crew would wake up at 5am and have breakfast in the forest while praying it would not rain so heavily,” she said.