Two Edinburgh College of Art students have been participating in the Amazing Thailand Film Challenge this summer, an annual competition organised by the Thailand Department of Tourism. Its goal is to attract young international film students to shoot their next films in Thailand. Every year, 32 teams consisting of two students are assigned one location and provided with a production assistant, budget, and driver. All teams have four days to shoot their short film and one day to edit. Afterwards all films are screened in a Bangkok cinema and judged by a panel of film experts, where they compete for a cash prize.

Sam van Zoest and Mariella Pacey, third and second year (respectively) students from the Film & TV – BA (Hons) programme took part. Sam reports on the experience.

From Edinburgh, we had remotely selected a shortlist of locations with the help of our Production Assistant, Jah, and cast our main actor, Melo, to play our film’s protagonist. In Bangkok, we were introduced to the competition’s hosts and met the other teams. With a designated van and driver at our disposition, we promptly travelled to the nearby province of Chonburi with a short script in mind, and a small budget in hand.

We spent an initial half-day scouting nearby markets and fishing villages. Our greatest challenge was finding a restaurant which would allow us to film in their kitchen. Thankfully, our request was granted by a beautiful seafood joint by the main pier, and some of our favourite shots came together in their bustling kitchen – especially where a particularly charismatic chef-come-acting coach made an appearance. Here we also met our second lead actor who was playing Akara’s uncle, a middle-aged professional biker with a penchant for Aloha shirts and an untapped talent for acting.

The other actors were scouted at the locations we were shooting – the men and women at the seafood market and the fishing village were not only incredibly patient and accommodating, but possessed a brilliant on-screen presence. We adopted a documentary-like approach in these sequences, allowing the actors to improvise conversations in-character, indicating only where conversations had to lead in order to progress the plot.

On the last day, we were incredibly fortunate to film our final scene between Akara and the fisherman on a real fishing boat. Due to limited space, our Production Assistant had to stay on-shore and communicate our directions to the actors via walkie-talkie while we were thoroughly tossed around the tiny boat, trying to keep the water out and lunch in, to the great amusement of the spectating fishermen and fisherwomen.

We returned to Bangkok for the awards ceremony and to hear from the other teams. It was great to meet fellow film students from around the world, and there is little doubt that more great films will be come from those connections. Travelling to Thailand to make a short film in only four days proved an invaluable challenge, and we’d recommend it to anyone to participate in such a competition for the experience!