filming for arte channel in vietnam

Filming for arte channel in Vietnam

Filming for arte channel in Vietnam was a long journey. The shooting happened on March 2019 in 10 days for 5 documentaries. And below is a story how did it go:

I. Initial contact:

Initial contact was made on Jan 2019 from Louise Dana – Production coordinator at Elephant Group – France and Producer hired by Elephant Group for the project.

II. Discussion, research & preparation:

Discussion was done primarily via email, but also via WhatsApp. We had interviewed total of 14 people, in which 7 people were found by the producer and 7 people were found by me. The story of how did I found my interviewees will be shared at III. Shooting.

Preparation was made for:

+ Schedule

+ Applying for film permit: we submitted film permit and drone permit application to Foreign Press Center on 1st Mar 2019.

+ Car rental was done by me: we hired 2 different 16-seater vans with drivers for the filming in the South and the North.

We had total of only 4 people, but we had lots of equipment and luggage, sometime we also need to pick up interviewee, thus a 16-seater van made sense. On the other hand, some of our drive were very long and tiring, a 16-seater have good enough space for each member of crew to rest.

+ Hotel/accommodation: most of hotels were booked by the company. However, I helped to arrange accommodation for 2 nights at locations where the company can’t find rooms online or through their travel agency.

+ We agreed on some sort of compensation for some interviewees, who need to take time off from work to answer for us.

III. Shooting:

18 March, 2019: At Ho Chi Minh City:

Filming at the Opera house, Continental Saigon hotel and interview of Tim Doling – British historian about French architecture in Vietnam.

Tim has been living in Vietnam for so many years and has been researching about history of Vietnam. He had worked with Vietnam Ministry of Culture, Sport and Journalism. Visit his website at

filming for arte channel in vietnam
filming in ho chi minh city vietnam

Filming Bach Dang boat station and the streets of Saigon from M bar, 8th floor, Majestic Hotel, 1 Dong Khoi street. Thank Ms. Duong Nguyen Bao Chau – Marketing Executive of M bar for your great support!

19 March 2019:

Interviewing of Tim Doling about architecture and history of Notre Dame Cathedral of Saigon.

filming in ho chi minh city vietnam

Tim is British but can speak Vietnamese fluently

filming in vietnam

Interview of Tim Doling about a typical architecture in Saigon few decades ago, now, there’s only one house left at Phu Dinh street

filming at binh tay market

Interview of Tim Doling at Binh Tay market about history, architecture and lifestyle here

filming in ho chi minh city vietnam

Filming old architecture at Tran Hung Dao corner Chau Van Liem str in Ho Chi Minh city

Interview of Thuan, non-professional historian about a historial figure named Bảy Viễn. His paternal grandmother was a staff in the company of Bảy Viễn before. I’ve helped producer to find this interviewee by posting on Facebook group: “Saigon Heritage Observatory” and Thuan commented that he can help.

20 March 2019:

Filming Graham Greene room at Continental Saigon hotel (132 Đồng Khởi), and interview of Mr. Tien – retired director of the hotel about the hotel and the room.

Graham Greene stayed in this room while writing the novel “The quiet American”

I’ve helped producer to contact the hotel to ask for permission to film and to arrange an interviewee (they charged us a big fee to film which we weren’t happy about. We tried to negotiate by saying that they got free advertising but they didn’t agree. We then had to agree with it because we had no choice since we wanted to do this story and it’s the only hotel has the Graham Greene room)

filming in ho chi minh city

We then took a 6-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh city to Chau Doc city, An Giang province for the next filming location.

21 March 2019:

Filming at Chau Doc, An Giang (Mekong Delta) at floating village about life of a fishing family, how do they use the net to catch the fishes from their boat.

filming at Chau Doc, An Giang
filming feeding fishes at An Giang, Vietnam
Filming feeding fishes living in cage under floating house of a fisherman live on Mekong river at Chau Doc, An Giang.

He is the 3rd generation living here with his family.

Their cage is around 10 metres wide, 20 metres long, 6 metres deep, raising around 150,000 fishes in 10-12 months, then selling. At the time of selling, he has around 80-100 tons of fishes (not include around 20 tons lost due to fishes die).

Daily expenses for feeding of the fishes is around 25 to 30 million VND.

The house is supported by around 1000 plastic pipes (500 pipes each side) to be floatable. Not only fishes are here, but also chicken, ducks, goose, dogs and cats. They usually feed their fishes at 5am, however, on that day they waited for us to come to film so they on feed when we came.

Not only fishes are here, but also chicken, ducks, goose, dogs and cats.

filming at chau doc market
Filming at Chau Doc market with varieties of fishes, fruit and vegetables

To find people and interviewees for this filming, I had posted on the Facebook group Lang thang An Giang to ask. Through that, I got in contact of Mr. Duoc – Alden travel. Mr. Duoc and Ms. Tu – his wife, then arranged a tour for us with boat service and interviewees – who we can’t find on our own.

Afternoon: Interview and filming of Ms. Huỳnh Thị Phương Linh (PhD)  – Researcher at French School of the Far East about rice and rice field in Mekong Delta

filming at a rice field An Giang, Vietnam
Filming at a rice field at Tri Ton, An Giang
filming at Khmer pagoda, An Giang, Vietnam
Filming at a Khmer pagoda, lots of elementary school students were interested in our filming crew.

22 March 2019: 

Interviewing of Benoit Perdu, co-owner of Transmekong (, a company provide boat services at Can Tho. He built some boats by himself and speak Vietnamese fluently.

filming at Cai Rang floating market in Can Tho

Filming on Bassac III – one of the boats were built and owned by Benoit. He said it took him one year to build it. The boat has 2 floor, each floor has 6 bedrooms, each bedroom can accommodate 2 people and has private bathroom. The boat has a small restaurant on it.

filming on a boat on Can Tho river

Filming at Cai Rang floating market. The market sells varieties of fruits, when we visited, mostly watermelon and pineapple. There are also some small boats selling foods and drink for people at the bigger boat.

filming cai rang floating market, Can Tho, Vietnam

23 March 2019

Filming at one of the orchards at Tan Thoi commune, Phong Dien district, Can Tho province which cooperate with Les Vergers du Mekong – owner of the brand ‘Le fruit farm fresh’ which products are usually found at juice section in supermarkets in Vietnam.

filming at an orchard, Can Tho

The company approached farmers, offer them to work with the company, give instructions and training for farmers, support about seedlings and materials, as well as ensure about outcome.

And the farmers sell exclusively to the company.

Interview a staff of Les Vergers du Mekong about fruits at Mekong Delta.

All fruits produced by Les Vergers du Mekong are planted without chemicals. Fruits are selected when still on the tree, only a small number of fruits are kept for growing, the rest are cut so the remaining can have the best quality.

+ Interviewing
+ Walking on monkey bridge.
+ Farmer watering the trees.

We then again took a long drive (7 hours) from Can Tho to Tay Ninh for the next filming location.

24 March 2019:

Interview and filming at Cao Dai temple, Tay Ninh. Interview with Cardinal Thượng tám Thanh. We were accommodated very well by the people at the temple.

filming at Cao dai temple, tay ninh, Vietnam

I was told that Cao Dai followers believe that their religion was created by God. According to them, approximately 2000 years ago, God sent 3 different people to 3 different locations in the world: Jesus Christ to Israel, Buddha to India and Confucius to China. However, from these 3 people different religions were created which made people became different and fought with each other. Thus, around 200 years ago, God created Cao Dai religion to unite people and religions. Thus, Cao Dai worship all gods of all religions.

We then went to Tan Son Nhat airport to take a flight from Ho Chi Minh city to Hanoi for the next filming location.

25 March 2019

Interview of non-professional historian P. V. Hai about The Great Hanoi Rat Massacre of 1902.

Hai works at a bank but research about history in free time as a hobby. It’s his first time to be interviewed by television and he tried his best to prepare. He was nervous in the beginning but gained confidence later.

Places of interviewing: Hanoi Opera House and French-style villas at West Lake.

To be able to find this interviewee, I’ve researched about “The Great Hanoi Rat Massacre of 1902” online and had found Hai as a team member of the Facebook page “Tư duy lịch sử”.

26 March 2019

Filming at Hai Ly ruined church and beach and interviewing the artist who drew about the church.

Producer of the film found the drawing of the church here, and the name of the artist (V. H. Viet), but wasn’t able to contact the artist. I helped her to find the artist. I had tried various ways, include calling the admin of the website but it didn’t work. The admin said the website is an open forum which registered members can post their works, and Viet didn’t register his phone number. I then tried to join Facebook group “Artist Viet” and tried to search name of the artist among the members, then sent message to people whose names matched, and luckily, I found him by that way.

I enjoyed this part the most among the whole filming trip. In that morning, Hai’s mother also went with him and she brought for us lots of “xiu pao” – a delicious traditional dessert of Nam Dinh province.

To answer the question of “when did you draw that painting and why?”, Hai said: “I drew it 2 years ago, at that time I was young and lonely. When I saw the church, I felt that I can relate to it: it was also lonely, and same with me, fighting with the wave and the wind of life”

Filming at Hai Ly ruined church, Nam Dinh, Vietnam

27 March 2019:

Morning: Interview and filming in Phu Nhai, Nam Dinh + surroundings.
Interview with Mr. Dinh The Cong –  in charge of music at Phu Nhai Basilica. Phu Nhai Basilica was selected to film the most details since it has the most similarities with Catholic churches in Europe.

To be able to find this interviewee, I had to contact more or less of 60 people. The church didn’t have any phone number online. I found people who attended services at the church on Facebook, and from that, I was able to find phone number of the Father in charge of the church. However, he is quite old, couldn’t hear me clearly and said he can’t answer the interview because he was just newly relocated here. He said I need to come to the church to meet people there to see if anyone agrees for interviewing, which wasn’t an option because the production company didn’t want to pay for scouting in person. I also found a couple of other contacts who could answer the interview, but one of them is too old and have hearing difficulty. Another is young and speaks English fluently but wanted to charge a ridiculous amount for the interview. I found Mr. Cong who was the most okay. We weren’t totally happy with the interview of him, but we had no other choices.

We also filmed many Catholic churches in the region.

filming at a church in Vietnam

We then drove to Phat Diem church in Ninh Binh to meet and interview Priest Paul Vũ Văn Nam. Priest Nam can speak English, but he prefers to answer the interview in Vietnamese. We’ve learned a lot about how Phat Diem church was built and its architecture, many information weren’t available online.

28 March :

Interview and filming landscapes and Phuc Chau church, Ninh Binh. Interview with Joseph Trần Văn Định, priest in Phat Diem. Priest Dinh can speak and answer interview in French fluently.

After filming is done, crew left for the airport to fly back to France, while I remained in Hanoi.

Interview Priest Dinh at Phat Diem church

IV. Difficulties:

We had overcame lots of difficulties together. First thing is the schedule and filming dates kept changing around 5 times because of different reasons. Every time it happens, then we have to contact our interviewees to inform them about that, and not all the time the new timing works for them.

2nd, it has been very difficult to find and contact some interviewees, someone who can answer the interview, and willing to answer it.

3rd, our schedule was very tight, and we traveled very long distance, it makes us very tiring.

4th, at some rural areas, we weren’t able to find good accommodation, due to it’s not developed, which make the crew uncomfortable. And our crew were easily waken up by morning noises, such as: rural loud speaker system, bell from a nearby church/temple, it happened as early as 5am, and made us not able to sleep well. Anyway, we had overcome things together, and below are the results:

V. Videos/Results/Output:

Le Vietnam des clochers

This is a documentary about architecture of Catholic churches in Nam Dinh and Ninh Binh.

This is my most favorite in the series, probably because it took lots of efforts to prepare for the filming, there were times I thought it wouldn’t happen. And we also have overcame so many problems in the filming trip together.

In this video, I enjoy the most the scene at Hai Ly ruined church and the answers of Viet – because they’re so real and emotional. Obviously, one reason is he got questions which he could express his emotions. But the moment standing there to listen to his answers was a privilege and unforgetable.

In this documentary, we would like to thank: Mr. Viet – freelance artist, Mr. Cong – in charge of music at Phu Nhai basilica (being able to find both of you was a ), Priest Nam and Dinh at Phat Diem church.

Sincerely thank to Mr. Diep – Nam Dinh Department of Foreign Affairs for your help an understanding!

Thank to Foreign Press Center (Mr. Hieu & Mr. Giap)

And thank to Mr. Le Xuan Chung – our driver.

Sur les traces de Graham Greene au Vietnam

This was filmed in Ho Chi Minh city and Tay Ninh on March 2019. This documentary tried to find out about the stay of Graham Greene at Hotel Continental Saigon in the time he wrote the novel “The Quiet American”, and what he had mentioned in the novel.

This documentary had completed with contribution and help of: Mr. Hoang Minh Tien – retired director of Hotel Continential Saigon, Tim Doling – historian (, Tung – Marketing Communications Administrator at Caravelle Hotel (allowed us to film Saigon streets from hotel’s balcony), Mr. Tuan Em and his wife – Ms. Trang at Cao Dai temple, and all management board at Cao Dai temple, Tay Ninh for accommodating us so well.

Le Delta du Mekong, le fleuve nourrissier du Vietnam

This was filmed at An Giang and Can Tho on March 2019. To make this documentary, there are contributions of Ms. Tu and Ms. Duoc – Alden Travel, Ms. Linh – École française d’Extrême-Orient, Benoit Perdu – Transmekong, Jasques Poulian and Mr. Hoàng – Les Vergers du Mékong, and last but not least Mr. Hieu – Foreign Press Center. All had contributed to promote the images of Vietnam on arte – French and German tv channel.

I personally admire both Caroline – produce and Pierrecameraman for being so hard working under a hot weather which was uncomfortable even for Vietnamese.

Our driver in the trip was also great, one of the most smiling and kind driver I’ve worked with.

This is the link to the documentary on website of arte channel. However, unfortunately, it’s only watchable at some certain countries.

Want to learn about filming in Vietnam for your project? => Feel free to contact us!

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