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Thailand’s Yongyoot Thongkongtoon on ‘Bad Genius’ and Digital Disruption

Yongyoot Thongkongtoon, the Thai film director who enjoys a cult international following, says the film industry in his native Thailand is not in healthy condition. His critique emerged this week as part of a freewheeling in-conversation event at the Singapore International Film Festival.

“In Thailand, in terms of the movie business, it is not healthy enough,” said Thongkongtoon. “The cost of making movies every day is getting higher and higher, but the number of admissions, compared to the price, is getting lower. The size of the Thai market is not enough. We have to push Thai content to reach a global standard of storytelling to expand the market.”

Thongkongtoon said that good films will still survive the current period of digital disruption. “Because of the digital disrupt, people have changed their lifestyles, their habits. Now they want something fast, convenient, anytime, anywhere,” he said.  The filmmaker said that going to watch a movie nowadays requires planning and the whole process can get quite expensive, when coupled with the cost of meals and visits to the concession stands. “Netflix is the key issue,” Thongkongtoon said.

“We have to give the audience a special experience that they can’t find on their mobile or at home, they have to go to the cinema,” Thongkongtoon said.

But he also gave one possible solution to the problem. Thongkongtoon is a director at GDH 559, a company that emerged in January 2016 after the dissolution of GTH, the country’s most successful studio of the preceding decade, and one that is known for favoring originality and strong scripts. GDH enjoyed local and international theatrical success with smash hit “Bad Genius” in 2017. The scale of the film’s following in China has now spawned a television series spinoff that will simulcast in Thailand and China.

Thongkongtoon also revealed that GDH is in advanced talks with Chinese studios for co-productions, but was not yet able to reveal details about the companies or projects. “We have several projects in discussions, we don’t know which one will start first,” said Thongkongtoon.

Earlier, Thongkongtoon regaled the audience with behind the scenes anecdotes about the making of his films, beginning with 2000’s “The Iron Ladies,” 2003’s “Iron Ladies 2,” 2004’s “Maid” and several more of the films he directed or produced.

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