Republic of the Union of Myanmar, or Myanmar as we all know it (unless you are Jeremy Clarkson – who still insists on calling it Burma) has only recently ‘opened’ up to international film crews. By ‘opened’ up, I mean the sort of access that is similar to it’s SE Asian neighbours, such as Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam.
When considering to shoot in Myanmar – there are 4 things that you MUST have. These are:
2. Patience to receive those permits and the tenacity to complete all the necessary documentation – and waiting for feedback
3. A substantial budget to pay for the permits, logistics, accommodation and transport – it’s not a cheap location!
4. A locally registered fixing and travel service
I was lucky enough to work with Griff Rhys Jones and Modern Television on the following documentary – the permit and pre-production of this shoot took approximately 12 months (it was pretty much the first overseas tv/documentary crew to have filmed in Myanmar in quite sometime):
Permits: Don’t even consider shooting guerrilla style in this country. You’ll not only loose your equipment and footage – you could lose even more. Incarceration would definately be on the cards. The ‘bush telegraph’ system and obedient nature of most citizens would mean that your production is known of, before you even change your first battery!
Arrange all your documentation prior to arriving – this will include overview/synopsis of your project; your company introduction with credit list; crew list; passport scans; equipment list; shooting schedule; full itinerary; flight arrival and departure information – you’ll need a fixing service to help you complete all the necessary documentation and have it translated before submission to the Ministry of Motion Picture Enterprise Department (MMPE).
Patience: Permit application will take a minimum of four weeks to complete. Longer if you haven’t got a full ‘package’ submitted. There may be some ‘back and forward’ information passing, whilst you work out what you actually need to submit. Again – i advise going through a local fixing service.
Substantial budget: I don’t mean ‘Waterworld’ size budget for filming. But do expect some of your funds to be channeled into acquiring the permits for filming. The minimum cost of permits in Myanmar (as of March 2014) is US$5000 – and that will only get you one location in Myanmar. For multiple location shoots, you are looking at an average of US$2000 per every additional city/state. *Author note: Since late 2014, some of the pricing has come down, but it still is the most expensive country to shoot in SE Asia.
Infrastructure is limited, and therefore accommodation and transportation is approximately twice the amount that you would pay in Thailand. So ensure that you know where you need to shoot. Again, hire a local fixing service to help you work out your schedule, so you’re not back-tracking and you’re using your limited time efficiently.
Registered fixing and travel services: The MMPE won’t touch an application directly. They insist on a locally registered Myanmar company to be engaged as the ‘agent’ on behalf of any overseas production. (It saves them the heartache of trying to understand the project in a foreign language) The ‘fixer/travel company’ will package up the information, fill out the necessary forms, translate documents and submit the application, liaising with the MMPE when required. Fortunately we have a registered travel entity in Myanmar, so we can sponsor and handle all the applications through the relevant ministries.
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