Thais seek big slice of pie

Officials offer production treaty for foreign filmmakers

A correction was made to this article on May 13, 2004.

As Hollywood filmmakers scout the world for production incentives and cheap locations, the government of Thailand is taking steps to become a bigger player.

“Stars Wars: Episode III,” Oliver Stone’s “Alexander” and Rob Cohen’s Columbia Pictures thriller “Stealth” are among Hollywood productions shooting in Thailand this year.

While in Cannes to promote the Bangkok Film Festival, the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand Juthamas Siriwan told Variety Thai officials are creating a new “production treaty” for foreign filmmakers. It will include a tax rebate of up to 30% on foreign production in Thailand, a marked increase from existing tax incentives.

The production treaty comes as the Thai government positions the Bangkok fest as the Cannes of the Far East. Unspooling Jan. 6-17, the fest could open with “Alexander,” which has spent the most 2004 production dollars in Thailand of any offshore company — roughly $5 million.

“Our main objectives are to get big directors, producers and actors,” Siriwan said, “and to be a showcase for films from other areas.”

The Bangkok fest will show 150-160 films. Twelve to 15 of those films will be in competition for the Golden Kinnaree awards. Fest budget of $10 million is furnished by the Thai government.

Last year’s top film prize went to Denys Arcand’s “The Barbarian Invasions,” and the winning director was Jim Sheridan for “In America.” These and other international pics were screened in 30 Bangkok venues, generating 2.5 billion baht ($62 million) in box office receipts. CNN Asia and Thai Airlines were among fest’s sponsors.

Latest film investment by Thai government comes as the country’s filmmakers are generating more critical heat on the festival circuit. “Tropical Malady,” directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul, is in competition in Cannes, with several other Thai films in the market.