In conversation with Dir. Gen. Contemporary Art & Culture, Min. of Culture, Thailand Prisna Pongtadsirikul

By ANAND GURNANI | 4 February, 2011 - 15:03

It seems that the Thai Government is getting pretty keen on Animation?
Yes and that’s because Animation is the audiovisual medium of choice that can communicate very well with youth and children.  It can be effectively used for education, awareness, culture and entertainment.

As a nation, Thailand has great potential and capacity in Animation in the sense that we already have lots of entrepreneurs and a strong base of artistic talent including ones with foundation in the fine arts. An interesting point to ‘factor in’ is that Thailand is already an international destination of choice when  it comes to post production, with several International feature and ad film productions coming here regularly for years now.

I think it is time that we should produce our own Thai brand of features and animation. That along with the focus on promoting our Industry to International markets, which is already happening in different ways. But for all of this to happen and succeed, we need to have our own stories and characters. Our office at the Ministry of Culture tries to promote and support the production of Thai stories and characters.

In what ways are you promoting and supporting local, indigenous talent and content?
There are several ways in which we support and promote ‘Animation’ and other contemporary creative cultures such as Film, Literature, Architecture, Interior Design, Fashion Design and the Visual Arts. We have funds, incubation, mentoring, international promotion and lots of contests that help us find the freshest Thai talent and Thai Creations’ every year.

For example, there are a lot of very talented Thai Animation artists that work in the Japanese Anime and Manga industry and we need to bring them back to work on Thai content. So we launched a Character Design contest supported by our ministry, this was done through the internet. It did have quite some interactivity.

Thailand has so many different cultures, different lifestyles and ethnic groups. We used short film to be the media or the means for the youth to communicate with the other cultures. We regularly have short film camps for the youth, especially last year we launched this project in 5 provinces in the most south of Thailand and we got very interesting short films from all 5 of them. This year we expanded the cross culture contest to all provinces of Thailand and used photography as the medium of competition and its bringing in amazing talent into the spotlight.

Similarly we have contests for Film Writing, Novel Writing, Short Stories. The best literary work also gets translated into English, Japanese and Chinese so that it can get International Exposure.  We have also instituted awards for best writing in various genres, this is a very new project but we are very serious about grooming our local independent talent that communicates the voice and culture of the Thai youth of today.

For the King’s birthday this year, we commissioned 4 short films to be made that were used as part of the content and communication for nation-wide festivities, these included live action as well as animation films.

You also mentioned funding and Market Promotion?
Yes of course.

For 2010 the government announced a funding program of about 200 Million Baht (US $ 5Million) for 6 categories including Feature film, Short film, Animation, TV dramas, Documentary and Games. A Total of 88 projects were supported with this fund. This included Companies, Inde Film Makers and also to the University students as well.  There are specific juries and sub committees for awarding projects that can avail of the funds.

In terms of markets, our office participates at HongKong Licensing Show, Thailand has a few Iconic characters to take there.  We also support quite a few of the private players to come there. We take our visual artists to the Venice Biennial, and take our film producers to the Cannes Film Festival where we promote the business side of films as well as the locations side where the tourism ministry deals with International Film Producers to offer them the best deals to come and shoot in Thailand.

Do you also organize a lot of events?
Generally most events are organized by the private sector while the Ministry of Culture supports every event including some funding as well as logistics.

However there is one interesting event coming up in which we are more deeply involved which is the Asian Content Business Summit. It is the first time that this event will be hosted in Thailand and we are hosting this jointly along with the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industries of Japan.  It is being held from the 20th to the 22nd in Pattaya and will have more than 7 countries participating. It will be focused on trade policies for sectors like Film, Animation, Games, Ebooks, Social Media and will also include the private sector and business matching.  The 20th edition of the Thai Subhannahong Film Awards will happen concurrently

So it seems that there is a lot going on?
Definitely, in fact there’s lot more. Keep talking to us and we will let you know.