Filming documentary in Vietnam is another type of projects that we usually work with and helped our Clients. Usually documentaries are film that are in-depth, and for audiences who truly want to understand about people, culture, society, and not just things on surface. Because of that, a lot of documentaries require a long time to research and understand to tell the stories in an accurate and neutral way, to not favor one side or another, though it can be challenging.
I. Notes about filming documentary in Vietnam
- When you come to Vietnam as a foreign filmmakers/producer, then you may have a very different point-of-view with local people about history and culture, and you should take it into consideration.
For example: if you are a French, you may view the event of signing Versailles treaty in 1787 between France to Gia Long king is a good thing, but for an average Vietnamese, it isn’t.
- You should re-phrase your questions to make them more general, and less of assumption. For example, instead of asking: “Why do you like cooking?”, you may ask: “Do you like cooking? And if yes, why?”
II. Some examples about documentary filmed in Vietnam
Filming documentary movie “Mysteries of Mekong” in Vietnam
- Period: (Apr 4 – Apr 23, 2017)
- Client: Antidote Productions
- Broadcasted on: Blue Ant International
Content: Documentary movie about douc and langur.
- Location: Son Tra, Da Nang and Kien Luong, Kien Giang
- Film crew: 01 Director cum Film maker, 01 Assistant, 01 Film Officer, 01 Film Fixer. At each location, we also have researchers about douc and langur to support us.
My role and work:
I was the film fixer and help the filming crew to arrange transportation, accommodation, communication, translation and research.
I was also in charge of taking note about expenses, making payments and keeping receipts for the whole film crew and our activities.
The filming crew normally had to wake up and start to work at 5am or 5:30am, lunch break at 11am, start to work again around 2:30pm or 3pm until 6-7pm since the douc and langur are usually active at early morning and late afternoon.
At Da Nang, I need to make sure that there are light meal/snack as breakfast and drink (coffee) and bottled water for everyone in the morning. I need to prepare all of this in advance and quickly in the morning since we can’t buy anything once we are gone to the forest.
I need to communicate well with the driver to ask him drive slowly when we enter areas with douc since we don’t want the douc know about us and run away. I also need to tell the driver to stop far away once we see the douc to film. And we need to make sure that all of our movements are gentle and not being noticed by the douc.
At Kien Giang, the situation is different. It’s not convenient to commute by van and the filming location isn’t too far away, so we rented a motorbike and commuted by motorbike instead. I borrowed a bicycle from staff of the hotel we were staying to bring food and drink to the filming crew every morning. We had other problems there, like: we only had few choices for food, and the nearest ATM is 7km away. There isn’t any taxi available at the area.
And then, one evening, two members of our filming crew got lost on the mountain. I had to quickly ask around to borrow headlight and buy water, sanitary cotton and first aid plaster for the rescue team to go to find and rescue people, then arrange transportation ready to bring people to nearest hospital anytime.