Tom Waller, well-known Thai film director and co-producer of ‘Patong Girl’, says Pattaya is a very film-friendly destination
Thai-British filmmaker Tom Waller is a well-known name in Thailand’s film industry, both as a co-producer of international productions (Elephant King, Soi Cowboy) and a director of Thai indie films (Mindfulness and Murder, The Last Executioner). He has worked in many parts of Thailand, and his most recent project Patong Girl—a German co-production—was shot in Pattaya. In fact, Waller has shot many films in this beach town and says it’s one of the most film-friendly places in the country.
Why did you shoot ‘Patong Girl’ in Pattaya, when the story is set in Patong, in Phuket?
Well, Pattaya is much closer to Bangkok, so we could bring the cast here more easily, without the extra expense of flights to Phuket. We could also bring in more equipment and crew. The German and Thai crews stayed at various hotels in Jomtien Beach, and they all totally enjoyed their filming experience in Pattaya. As for the plot of the movie, it didn’t make much a difference to uselocations in Pattaya, instead of Phuket, as it would not make much difference to a German TV audience for whom the film was commissioned. We filmed mostly at the bars and outlets of downtown Pattaya Klang, near the famed Walking Street. We also did some sequences at the Tiffany’s Cabaret Show, the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, and other Pattaya landmarks.
What makes Pattaya a good city to shoot films in?
Pattaya is very film-friendly. There are lots of hotels at various levels to choose from, including luxury five-star for the film’s leads, and basic hotels for the film crew. It’s only two hours from Bangkok and easily accessible by motorway from the airport. Pattaya is a seaside resort which means beaches, a beautiful island nearby—Koh Pai—and plenty of nighttime entertainment!
How many films have you shot in Pattaya so far?
Apart from this film, I shot the rock music drama Glory Days in Pattaya. I also shot a substantial part of the mega-Hollywood movie Mechanic: Resurrection there, at the Ocean Marina, with big stars like Jason Statham and Jessica Alba, which will be released this month.
‘Patong Girl’ won a big German TV Prize. Can you tell us about that?
The film was primarily funded by ZDF, a German television station, so the big Grimme-Preis award came about from the TV broadcast. This is a very prestigious TV award. In fact, the lead actress Aisawanya Areyawattana attended the prize ceremony in Germany and seems to have won many hearts!
What are some of the “hidden gems” in Pattaya that people might not know about?
There are amazing beaches on Koh Pai which has clear water that rivals the Andaman. The island is maintained by the Royal Thai Navy, but you can pay a visiting fee and enjoy pristine sandy beaches. I always hire a speedboat to take my family there, and we stop at Koh Larn on the way back for seafood.
Is Pattaya a favourite holiday destination for you and your family as well?
Yes, I like to take my family down to Pattaya on a long weekend, to do some sailing. One has easy access to the Gulf of Thailand from Ocean Marina and the Royal Varuna Yacht Club, and it’s great!
So, Pattaya does not deserve the ‘bad’ reputation that it has?
It does not. Some people always have a very negative opinion of Pattaya, citing it as a place just for “sexpats”, but actually there’s something for everyone there, and I think it’s really quite family-friendly. Some great restaurants like Bacco on the Beach can keep you well away from Walking Street if that’s not your thing!
What film projects are you working on now?
I’m actually working on another film set in Pattaya for a Chinese producer. They love the place, and already the Chinese are coming in droves