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ASEAN reaches out to Hollywood

MOVIES like  “The Beach” (filmed in Thailand), “Tomb Raider” (filmed in Siem Reap, Cambodia), and “Eat Pray Love” (partially filmed in Bali, Indonesia) have certainly influenced other film productions to shoot their movies in various exotic locations across Southeast Asia. More recently, blockbuster hits “The Hangover” (Bangkok) and “King Kong Skull Island” (Vietnam) have followed suit. Even post-pandemic releases (Jennifer Lopez’s movie “Shotgun Wedding – shot in the Dominican Republic, set in Palawan, The Philippines; Julia Roberts’ “Ticket to Paradise”- shot in Australia, set in Bali; and Tom Holland’s “Unchartered” – digitally recreated Kiamba in Southern Mindanao) have original locations set in the region but were done elsewhere or otherwise due to the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic during time of production.

Vietnam’s Ninh Binh became popular, thanks to “King Kong Skull Island” (Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment)

So, why are Hollywood-based film companies now jet-set their production here in Southeast Asia? Well, aside from the diversity of every imaginable location, low-cost production, incentives and tax holidays have lured them to the region.

Phi Phi Island, Thailand lured thousands of tourists to this setting of Leonardo di Caprio’s “The Beach” (Phot: AP Photo)

Singapore, where the US$239 million hit “Crazy Rich Asian” that featured an almost all-Asian cast and production was shot, reported during the ASEAN Tourism Forum media briefing last January 24 in Vientiane, Laos PDR that they are now profiling the Singapore brand through various branded collaboration. To stimulate travel to Southeast Asia’s Lion City, the city state’s Infocomm Media Development Authority and the Singapore Tourism Board have launched a US$10 million fund to support selected projects by international media and entertainment outfits.

“More recently, we have partnered with Warner Bros. Discovery to co-create a first-ever localized Tom and Jerry animation series, where episodes will feature unique sights, places of interest, and destination highlights of Singapore,” said communications director of the Singapore Tourism Board Kwan Su Min.

Angelina Jolie’s “Tomb Raider” helped place Angkor Wat into the tourism map (Photo: Paramount Pictures)

These strategic partnerships will allow Singapore to seize new opportunities in attracting more visitors and new markets to Singapore. The country received 12.4 million visitors from January to November 2023, a 71% increase from the same period in 2019. “Crazy Rich Asians” was released in 2018.

The Malaysian government is also offering the Filming in Malaysia Incentive (FIMI), which provides a 30% rebate on production expenditure for qualified movies. Film tourism is one of Tourism Malaysia’s key focus areas, where it has welcomed a number of Bollywood productions to destinations, such as the islands in Langkawi.

“We will continue to make noise, boost demand, do effective marketing, support facilitation, and continue to develop new products as part of our strategic directions for 2024,” said Dato Dr. Ammar Abdullah Ghapar, director general of Tourism Malaysia.

Meanwhile, the Philippine Department of Tourism has emphasized the significance of film tourism as a way to highlight a component of the Filipino identity, hence, its inclusion in the National Tourism Development Plan under the Marcos Administration, Tourism Secretary Christina Garcia Frasco said during last year’s groundbreaking of the Philippine Film Heritage Building in Intramuros, Manila.

Kiamba, Sarangani was digitally recreated in Tom Holland’s “Uncharted” (Photo: Columbia Pictures)

Apart from attracting film locators in the country, the agency through its marketing arm, the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) has also started its Hollywood to Homeland influencer campaign, which aims to raise the level of awareness of the country by tapping Hollywood-based influencers with Filipino roots.

“We have invited Miss Universe 2022 R’Bonney Nola Gabriel, TV personality and Broadway actor Josh de la Cruz, popular YouTuber Alex Wassabi, and Disney actress and model Paris Berelc as part of our dynamic quartet who are set to explore and showcase the Philippines’ rich cultural tapestry through their unique lenses,” disclosed Maria Margarita Nograles, TPB chief operating officer.

Tourism Promotions Board COO Marga Nograles

Last year, Fil-Am Hollywood actress Vanessa Hudgens was named a Global Tourism Ambassador by the Philippine government. It can also be recalled that during the 21st World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit in 2022, best-selling author, writer, and executive producer of “Crazy Rich Asians” Kevin Kwan also expressed interest in making his next movie in the country.

“It’s a country with so many amazing locations, cultures, flavors, and of course, people,” Kwan enthused of the Philippines.



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