6 June 2024

Thailand’s local talents must be “armed” if they are to take their place in the highly competitive and crowded content market. And that could well be about to happen thanks to the “Content Lab” project, which was launched last weekend by the Creative Economy Agency (CEA) in collaboration with the private sector and industry veterans from film studios and digital firms.

The Content Lab event in Bangkok is the first in CEA’s long-term plan that will continue through 2024. The aim is to empower Thai talents in digital content and the film & series industry while simultaneously strengthening local industry players, making them capable of expanding overseas and cashing in on soft power.

The CEA’s Deputy Director  Inthaphan Buakeow said at the beginning of the Open House that Thailand has the potential to tap into the world’s content industry, which is worth around 50 trillion baht and is growing at  3-4% per annum. The first target are the ASEAN markets with a total population of some 700 million, and the next phase can be the rest of Asia.

“However, the competition is fierce and we have to improve to stand a chance. First and foremost, Thailand needs to make its content have ‘travel ability’. We’ve talked to many parties and found that there are many areas that need improvement  such as funding and production to amendments in the law.

“But as everyone has agreed, the priority is to support and promote talents to develop content and that’s the reason behind the Content Lab today. Our aim is to produce a new generation of producers and content creators for the market,” he said.

PTT’s New Venture Development Executive Vice President Charn Kulpatnirun said that PTT joined the event because the company also has a subsidiary called ARV that provides technology to prepare the country under the theme “soft power for a better Thailand”.  His company will support the expert training in new technology.

“Participants in the Content Lab will learn to produce the content and we have the digital technology to train them to be capable in XR, AR and VR technology. I’m positive that Thailand can do well in this industry and become a hub of the region,” Charn added.

The Open House event on the theme “how to take Thai content to the international market” brought in experts from various fields to share their experience, especially the challenges and obstacles they have faced. Divided into 6 sessions, the one-day event was a good warm up for the industry.

The panel of film/series producers and streaming platform operators shared the same idea – that content which is good for locals is also good for the international market. They also agreed that the Thai market is very hard to please and therefore the content should at least be a hit or a favourite in the home country first.

Thai horror film like “Si Phrang” guarantees a boxoffice success in SE Asia.

“We’ve already competed in the international market because our TV series have to share the audience with streaming and films,” said Sirilak Srisukhon, the director of TV series production from One31 channel.

Wanruedee Pongsittisak, film producer and a director of leading film studio GDH 559 Co, raised the problem of human resources, noting that the industry struggles to attract talents. “The job doesn’t pay well. For example, a scriptwriter can write one or two stories a year and sometimes there are co-writers, but payment doesn’t match the reality unlike in South Korea where scriptwriters earn good money.”

The fierce competition also means that there are limited opportunities for newcomers. “If a film director doesn’t succeed with his debut, would that person get a second chance? It’s tough if we focus solely on money,” said Wanruedee of GDH.

Lee Chatametikool from Netflix also shared concerns about suitable returns for work. Coming from production, Lee raised the issue of adopting international standards. “I’d like to see the 12-hour standard (in production) and 10 hours of turnaround and real holidays for those working in production.”

In addition, the shortage of good scripts for both TV series and movies is alarming. Sirilak said that the hostile industry doesn’t allow room for mistakes so TV scriptwriting is limited to veterans. “There is no longer a playground. Newcomers have few chances to do the work as we can’t afford a flop so sometimes we try to get non-peak time or odd hours for them to debut,” said One 31’s Sirilak.

Funding and production budgets are still factors that put Thailand behind its Asian counterparts. Budget constraints are also a problem but people who want to make films try to accept the low budget. “We see a lot of student films being produced within a limited budget because they don’t have to pay the team,” said Aditya Assarat, a veteran and award-winning filmmaker.

Leading Thai film directors have worked on international projects, and some producers have worked with foreign funding. But the industry veterans at the event voiced their concerns that Thailand stands to lose talent if the situation doesn’t improve.

“Who wants to work so hard for peanuts? We’re going to lose talents to other industries as they will gradually leave,” said Pramewith Sreechatthiwong, co-founder & CEO of Storylog & Fictionlog.

Content Lab is designed to address problems and redress some of the issues. The CEA hopes to produce more talents from the lab and the workshop will carry on next year, More cooperation with educational institutes is also planned.

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Content Lab is now open for applications for both film/series and digital content. For more information, see Facebook: Creative Digital Economy

 

 

By Veena Thoopkrajae