Foreign shoots in Vietnam have to have a filming permit. They are issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Information and Communication. Cast and crew also need special visas to allow them to enter the country for filming purposes.
To apply for the permits all prep, scout, research and bookings must be done BEFORE applying. It normally takes 2 weeks to get filming permits. But to do this I must have from you:
• Introduction letter about the company and synopsis of the programme with filming dates
• Copies of all of the crew’s passports
• A day by day filming schedule and itinerary to include list of locations and local contributors
• Filming equipment list
I will also take care of your visa application process as most foreign crew members must have a visa before entering (some foreign nationals are exempt. Contact me to check if this is applicable to your crew). Once processed, I will send you the visa approval letter. Take this, along with the crew’s passports and passport photos to your local Vietnamese embassy to collect your visas. If this is not possible, visa’s can also be collected at the Vietnamese airport of arrival but you must bring the visa approval letter with you; passport photos and US dollars to pay the administration cost. (visa’s have different costs depending on how long you are staying, multiple entries etc)
Vietnam is NOT a carnet country. But a complete equipment list is required at the same time when applying for your permits.
Filming equipment can be hired within Vietnam, but you do need to give notice before coming out on the shoot.
I use reputable companies that test, clean and re-test their equipment between shoots. You can hire the latest gear from all the big names: ARRI Alexa, RED Epic & RED One MX digital cinema cameras, ARRI film cameras, intricate zoom and lenses from Cooke, Angenieux, Carl Zeiss.
You can also hire lighting and grip equipment like Kino Flo, HMI, Fresnel as well as sound and generators.
Insurance when hiring equipment against breakages etc needs to come from your end.
It is possible to do drone filming in Vietnam, but you will need to apply for a specialised filming and location permit (this is additional to the normal permits). You can use your own drones and operators, but there are reputable drone companies here in Vietnam too, that I have worked with and can recommend. Please note that filming in cities like HCMC is more complicated then filming in jungle locations, due to safety with crowds and traffic.
Permits usually take about the same time as normal filming permits.
You can easily access ATMs or Banks in the big cities to withdraw cash, but this is much more difficult to do when filming in remote areas. You can exchange US dollars pretty much anywhere.
Paying in hard-cash is usually in VND (Vietnamese currency) . But you can easily pay by credit card in most hotels and restaurants within the cities.
Please note the Vietnamese press office will always assign a press officer to your production. As such, please allow for his transportation, accommodation and meals in your budget.
For all Vietnamese crew members (for example the fixer, camera assistant and drivers) accommodation and food need to be included in your budget too.
Tipping is welcome in Vietnam. A quick guide :
• In restaurants they expect 5 to 10%.
• Staff in hotels (e.g. bell boys) when carrying heavy equipment to your room expect to be tipped between $2 to $5 a time.
• Private drivers a minimum of $5 a day, but you can give them this at the end of the contract.
The government tax is 10% and service is 5%. This is pretty much on everything that you will purchase, and it will be an additional cost to what you see on the bill unless stated.
Public transportation in Vietnam is still fairly poor quality, so I don’t recommend that this is the mode you use for filming to get around the country. Its unreliable, not necessarily safe and thefts can occur.
Vietnam has about 35million motorbikes and less cars. Our roads are not always in the best conditions and average speed is about 50km. This needs to be kept in mind when thinking about logistics from getting from one location to another if travelling by road.
I work with reputable transport companies all across Vietnam that make sure that the vehicles are in good condition, that they take safety seriously and that the drivers keep equipment secure.
It’s unsafe to drive for more than 3 hours at a time, so we will need to take a short break. A normal driver’s hours are from 8-10 hours. It isn’t unsafe to drive at night.
It’s easy to take domestic flights throughout Vietnam and they are competively priced, but some more remote areas will have less flights and so booking flights (in order to secure seats and excess luggage) need to be arranged in advance.
Vietnam has various national holidays and with regards to filming they don’t cause many problems. But the exception is TET (like Chinese New Year). Usually falling in January or February. Unless you’re wanting to film TET i strongly suggest you don’t plan a production during this time. Everyone is on holiday (and have gone back to their home town) including the press officers and so filming permission, along with organising logistics is difficult, to almost impossible!