Talks seek solution for resumption of 'Shantaram' filming

The Tourism Department will hold talks with Samut Prakan's public health office on Tuesday to come up with a solution over the suspension of production of Apple TV Plus series Shantaram as tough Covid-19 restrictions have been imposed in the province.

The six-month film permit for the series, approved by the department, has not been revoked and once authorities in Samut Prakan -- where the shooting is taking place -- grant permission, the film set can continue its work, said Anant Wongbenjarat, director-general of the Tourism Department.

The department will hold discussions with the province's public health offices and seek more relaxed measures as the production and studio have had to adopt stringent prevention measures, he said.

Last July, the department ironed out guidelines for foreign film productions through collaboration with the Centre of Covid-19 Situation Administration (CCSA) and the Public Health Ministry.

With strict measures applied, it might be possible that production will be allowed to resume but it depends on the health concerns in an area reported as one of the country's critically affected provinces with a high number of daily infections, Mr Anant said.

This month, three foreign crew teams had planned to shoot films in the country, including Shantaram, which are expected to generate 639 million baht for the country's economy.

"Most countries in Asia remain shut for international productions amid the resurgence of the virus, except for Thailand which is still welcoming film crews," Mr Anant said.

"However, the surge in infections has reached a critical point in the past two months, so we have to consider the health and safety of crews, which has led to the current suspension."

If international film crew members are found to be infected, it might not only slow the whole production by at least 14 days or a month but could also hurt the country's image, he added.

In the first half of this year, Thailand welcomed 47 international film crew teams, compared with 127 in the same period last year.

However, revenue from their production in the period surged to 1.6 billion baht, up from 654 million baht in the same period last year.

Since the CCSA granted special permission for film production on July 31, 2020, only eight film crew members have tested positive for the virus and they have already left the country.

As of July 21, there were 102 members from foreign film productions who had completed a 14-day quarantine and were working in the country. Another 13 film crews are still undergoing quarantine.

Mr Anant said international film productions are now keen to move to provinces without tough restrictions.

The department has received no report on postponement or cancellation from any international film productions despite the current situation, he said.

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