Filming in Vietnam as a foreign filming crew (Hanoi)
You/your company plan to come to Vietnam to film and there are lots of things you want to know before coming, such as: film permit, rules and regulations, common practices, expenses …
Below I want to share about filming in Vietnam from my personal experiences working with 7 filming crews (from USA, UK, Canada, Poland, Singapore, Hong Kong and Germany) since Dec Protected content with/as a replacement of one of the best fixers in Vietnam.
First, disclaimer, I only had chance to work with advertisement/documentary filming, not entertainment filming, so I have no experience with entertainment filming.
1. Film permit:
By law, all press activities need to be registered and monitored by Press authority in Vietnam, in which, you need to apply for press visa and press permit at least 10 days in advance to Foreign Press Center (FPC): Protected content
When you apply for film permit, you need to provide information of: people who are coming, filming program and location, list of equipments, interview questions, publication and broadcasting plan …
Film permit fee is daily shooting fee, that means if there is a day you plan to film only 15 minutes, you still need to pay for the whole day. And if there is a day at first you didn’t plan to film (for example, you want to use the last day for resting and shopping), but later you decided to film, depend on the content, the film officer will decide if you can film and you need to pay for filming that day.
Film permit fee doesn’t include drone permit fee. If you want to use drone, you need to apply for drone permit with separate fee.
2. Film officer:
Film officer or film commissioner or government minder are term we use to address an officer from FPC accompany the filming crew in the whole time of the filming trip. His presence is mandatory by law. He is assigned by FRC and his name is listed in film permit. You need to pay for his per diem, food, accommodation and transportation (separately with film permit).
His roles are:
+ observe and manage the filming crew to film within the content they’ve registered. (For political reason, to make sure that they don’t make a bad image or include wrong content about Vietnam).
On filming site, film officer also can tell you where you can film and where you can’t.
+ helping and supporting filming crew with local authorities.
Having film permit doesn’t mean that anywhere you go, you will be accommodated by local authorities and they would make it easy for you to film. Most of the time, it looks like the film officer just standing there observing you, doing nothing and sometime speaking on phone, but his phone calls are to speak with local authorities. And if the local authorities are onsite, normally the film officer speak with them the most, explaining about the filming crew.
Normally, there should be only 1 or 2 or 3 people of local authority are onsite (or better – none), but there was a case at Ha Tinh province, we had 10 or more people from different departments of local authorities were onsite. Their presences are usually harmless unless you do something not right.
What to pay for a film officer? His per diem, plus his food, accommodation and transportation.
Normally, payment for film permit and per diem of film officer are made to film fixer. And film fixer will make it to FRC. FRC is an independent financial organization under Ministry of Foreign Affairs. They are provided an office, furniture and some fixed expenses, but other expenses such as salaries for staffs or activities of themselves, they need to pay from what they can collect. So film officer can’t totally earn his per diem.
About paying for his food, accommodation and transportation. It really depends on preferences and set up of filming crew. Some filming crew decide that local crew stay in the same hotel and eat together with them, so they will just pay for everything. Some filming crew prefer to eat and live separately, and they would come and pay for hotel of local team by credit card, and give payment for food to film fixer, OR sometime they just give payment for both hotel and food to film fixer. About transportation, normally only need to be mentioned if there is flight involved. All film officers are based in Hanoi, so if filming elsewhere, filming crew need to pay for his transportation to come.
You can’t choose film officer to work with (you also don’t know all of them to choose), but an experienced film fixer who have worked with lots of film officers will make things easier. Generally speaking, film officers are supportive if you do the right thing.