This article is also available in Vietnamese.
With the rise in the number of production houses making SEA a challenging landscape, Vietnam is on its way to stand out as one of the most preferred players.
“We look to Vietnam once in a while for its cost-effectiveness and locations. But in recent years, the standards there have gone up to a really high level”, Daniel Ho, Executive Producer of Prodigious Singapore observed.
Indeed, it is safe to say that the production industry in Vietnam has been growing steadily in recent years, constantly coming up with innovative solutions to optimize the working process and enhance its quality.
Production reliability is one of the most attractive factors for any TV Commercial Production. Assisted by up-to-date technology and solid experience, some Production Houses in Vietnam are able to compete with the main players in the region.
“I have been amazed how the Vietnam production industry has been growing slowly but solidly in the past years. We have seen suppliers getting more professional in their dealings, crew getting more training, and equipment getting more updated. The quality of output has been improving significantly both from storytelling to aesthetics.”, shared Sarah Sayas-Tolentino, Director for Production, BBIC AMA Region, P&G commented. “And it’s not anymore just the foreign directors who are contributing but there is an emerging tribe of local directors who have shown they can deliver quality films too”.
Vietnam’s unique scenery and its world-renowned tourist attractions also offer rich diversity in shooting locations, from long sandy beaches to pristine rain forests, from mountainous areas to bustling metropolitans. Imbued with cultural values and aesthetics, commercials produced in Vietnam are truly unparalleled.
A SONY commercial line produced by Echo for Abundant Singapore showcases Vietnam’s breathtaking landscapes.
In addition, an unwavering drive behind the successful works created by the Vietnam production industry has to be a pool of young, dynamic talents who are professionally grounded but creatively unrestrained. They are as much well-trained, technology-equipped professionals who can work in an internationally collaborative environment as they are free souls in the creative field, bringing new ideas and perspectives to the table.
“Vietnam's production industry is extremely reliable with high technology available and affordable solutions. The expertise in post-production is also quite high which allows us to align during the shooting to anticipate the challenges in the next steps of the project.
The teams are very well trained and are used to working remotely which helps to make the whole team confident no matter where they are based. There is a rich location diversity (urban environments, mountains, beaches, deserts…). In the southern region of the country, there are only 2 seasons, which is very helpful to anticipate the needs in Western markets.”, Geraldine B., Head of Production of Orès Agency, France, praised.
Meaningful messages meet top-notch production expertise in Ariel’s TVC for International Women’s Day by Echo x Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore.
With detailed planning and solution-oriented budget management, cost efficiency is another deciding factor that truly sets Vietnam aside in the eyes of global partners.
“Cost efficiency is also an attractive factor, not only because of the currency rate, but also the productions' ability to work around budgets. I've experienced crew members coming up with brilliant alternatives and creative ideas to execute the same result with a lower cost. Production reliability is about fast and detailed communication every step of the way. The quick-responding production culture in Vietnam makes it easy for foreign directors like myself to feel confident that we are working as a team towards the same goal”, shared Naoko Tajima, TVC Director, Japan.
Undeniably, Vietnam’s Production Houses enjoy certain advantages when it comes to remote shooting. However, there exist several barriers hampering Vietnam from fully flourish in the ever-expanding playground of commercial production.
Difficulties in pre-production, which involves casting, rehearsal with stand-ins, on-set pre-lighting, etc., remain prominent in remote shooting. Distance and time differences make it challenging to ensure adequate pre-production preparation from both ends.
“The main challenge can be when there is a casting involved. This kind of situation requires enough time during pre-production. However, the benefits of shooting in Vietnam are numerous! On our latest job with Echo and Ginger Shots, we had the chance to work with international teams which make the communication smooth and easy with everyone: agency, clients, etc”, said Geraldine.
“There are, of course, some challenges to overcome: Casting is one of them when it comes to servicing Regional Productions, since the pool of talents to satisfy the Pan-Asian look is very limited still, communication can be also another issue when working with some local Directors, so production teams need to fill the gap. For the positive aspects, I would say: professionalism, strong production support in logistics and design, local laws allow for great logistics for shoots, deep pool of available locations, can-do attitude of the Vietnamese people, strong network (great for remote supervision), and…. the food!”, shared Sarah Sayas-Tolentino.
Difficulties in pre-production, including casting, rehearsal, on-set pre-lighting, etc., remain prominent in remote shooting. (Photo: Behind the scenes of Echo’ Lux cosmetic TVC shooting (for the Chinese market) for JWT Singapore.)
Despite often having an international team, language differences also pose a noticeable challenge in communications. “Language will always be an issue shooting in and around SEA. But with good referencing and a good English-speaking production team, that problem is negated. The positive aspect of shooting in VN is the can-do attitude. You really can get a lot of bang for your buck there,” Daniel Ho explained.
“Communication still has room to improve. The positive aspect is that people are willing to learn and they are fast learners. Once you have a solid team, then the rest is easy”, Brandon Loh, TVC Director, Malaysia added. “Young energetic production workforce is key to success for Vietnam production. There are lots of optimism here. Pre-production is in "TURBO" mood: while the usual production schedule takes a month back home (KL), here the usual timeline is 2-3 weeks maximum. I like the fast working pace, it always keeps me on edge”.
A Pantene TVC line produced by Echo for Passion Pictures BKK.
The COVID-19 situation has given the industry a chance to prove its resilience and showcase its potentials amid difficult times. Yet, pandemic or not, remote shooting is becoming the new normal. Vietnam has to continue sharpening its advantages and eliminating the obstacles in shooting commercials remotely to make it a reality.
Naoko Tajima commented: “Fast-moving production, cost-effectiveness, and international standard would be the positive aspects of shooting a commercial in Vietnam. For example, once I brought a project from Japan in which we had to shoot in 2 weeks’ time. It didn’t take long for the production to agree to take on the job, and I was on a flight heading over in a week, shooting the next week. This, for sure, is not possible in many countries, especially Japan. So I am amazed at how quickly the crew can get things ready. Staff and crew’s high motivation is also nice to see in Vietnam. Due to the population curve and young market factor, people are creatively ‘hungry’ and there is always positive energy on set. I like to be in the energy of an exciting, rising, young market.”
There is certainly still room for improvements in remote shooting, and in the long run, reinforcing the competitive edge of Vietnam’s production industry. And this is precisely where innovative boutique production houses like Echo come in.
Echo’s values and working style are perfectly summed up by Sarah Sayas-Tolentino: “One of the best in the region… Well-prepared, strong communication set up and flow, open to dialogue every step of production. Lots of add-value by director and production team in the different stages of production. Great post-production partnerships too that deliver sharp-looking CGs”.
To tackle pre-production limitations, Echo has been leveling up its resources to strengthen its agility to function effectively under any conditions and contexts. By making remote shooting more convenient, more seamless, and more effective, Echo is striving to meet increasingly higher global standards and blurring the line between local, regional and global works, one step at a time.
Daniel Ho’s experience with Echo acts as a solid proof of this: “We enjoy shooting with Echo, especially on our latest project with its sister company and its studio/tabletop set up (Ginger Shots). The equipment they have is one of the best in the region. The process has been seamless. I have been shooting remote around the world over the last 18 months and shooting remote with Echo has been a dream. There is no difference now between shooting remotely in Vietnam and shooting in Singapore, the production team there did a great job during PPMs and shoot. The only thing we miss is being able to fly to shoot!”.
At Echo, the key to successful lucrative relationships with global partners is building trust. Starting from breaking down any barriers during remote shooting to actively proposing new initiatives to optimize performance, Echo is relentlessly bridging the geographical and communicational gap between Vietnam’s Production Houses and global partners.
“Remote shooting is definitely gaining some momentum now. My experience with Echo was smooth, we know each other and most importantly we have a solid team”, Brandon Loh affirmed.
Geraldine added: “The remote shootings require much more preparation. As none of the clients or agencies will be on the set, we can not really improvise and every little detail needs to be validated before the shooting day. The good thing is that shootings seem to be more efficient than anticipated and we are not wasting much time on set. Thanks to the international team, everything was very smooth. The process is well organized, from the preparation of the shoot, the test of the live shooting solutions, and the management of the shooting itself, everything is really easy with Echo Team”.
From local works (Echo x Mirum VN for ASUS shot in Slovenia, Europe)....
…to regional works (Echo x Saatchi & Saatchi Singapore for Downy regional).
Regarding communications, the Echo team’s efficiency in technicality and English-based practices ensure that long distances and languages do not come between all involved parties. “I recently did a few remote shoots with ECHO. The client and agency were in Singapore, myself in Japan, and ECHO in Vietnam. In the beginning, I was concerned about the technical and communication challenges, but the producers and production managers were excellent in keeping the entire team tight. All kinds of devices (Zoom, Teams, Whatsapp, Emails) were used to communicate every day, and there was not one moment where I felt my thoughts were not transmitted to the agency or crew members clearly and thoroughly.”, Naoko Tajima commented on working with Echo Production House.
“Another factor that made the shoots smooth, was Echo’s efficiency in technicality making the shoot stress-free. The production also made sure that I had direct communication with the cameraman on set, so it almost felt like I was physically there, despite being continents away. I have done remote shoots in Japan during the pandemic, all of which went successfully, but this experience with Echo and the Vietnamese crew was an eye-opening experience. The pandemic has pushed technology to the next level and as excited as I am, I fear that we won’t be traveling anymore for shoots overseas!”, she continued.
A multinational / multi-lingual collaboration between Korean Air, Echo and Pandora Films Australia
After years of applying “agility” as their core philosophy, Echo’s now stretches beyond borders to foster new global collaboration opportunities. Echo leverages the strengths of Vietnam’s production industry while taking action to overcome existing challenges, making Vietnam a go-to option in the SEA region with remote shooting as the new normal.
Hiền Phương / Advertising Vietnam