I think one of the reason Vietnamese film industry is struggling is that they try too hard to make movies like Hollywood, especially with how much money they are spending. I’m not saying the amount of money is the same in Hollywood. Compare to Vietnamese film standard, the budget is still huge. If you spend 1 million USD to make a film then most likely you will lose money showing it in Vietnamese theater, unless you can tap into the Television and Internet market as complimentary platforms. Vietnamese films have a very small exposure window, for example during the brief TET period. Coupled with limited marketing therefore they have very little chance of monetary return. If a Vietnamese film failed at the theater in Vietnam then that’s it. At least with American movies if they don’t do well at home, they can still show overseas to recoup cost. That’s not the case with Vietnamese films. Therefore, I think it’s imperative to reduce cost in making a Vietnamese film. Throughout history, Vietnamese are very efficient people who are resourceful (see Vietnam War) so I don’t see how we can’t implement the same way of thinking into filmmaking. I think with less money one can get even more creative.
Vietnam is still a poor country. Private production companies in Vietnam tend to put all their eggs in one basket. That’s risky. Instead of investing all their money into one or two highly risky films, they have to spread their butter thinner on the bread.
How to reduce cost? One of the ways to do it is in using Technology. Right now most feature films in Vietnam are shot on RED cameras. I don’t think they shoot with 35 anymore. It’s the same camera used in other industries. They are still very expensive to rent and the workflow is also expensive to maintain, use, and support.
I am going to “briefly” touch on three new camera bodies that will help the pockets of many producers in Vietnam.
First, there is the Black Magic Production Cinema Camera for a fraction of the price. The body alone is $4000. It shoots in 4K and 12 stops of dynamic range. This is a great opportunity for Vietnamese film industry to take advantage of. Of course it’s not as good as the Red or Alexa but for a fraction of the price you can’t beat it. The image quality is pretty close with similar lenses. Plus, a typical audience won’t notice the difference. Another camera that competes with the BMC is the Digital Bolex. It has lower resolution with smaller censor and can use cheaper lenses (c-mount). This is great for documentary filmmakers since c-mount lenses are cheaper and have relatively wider depth of field than other lenses therefore easier to focus when shooting handheld. The other one is the KineRAW for under $7000. It’s the S-35 that we’re talking here. It also should be a great alternative for filmmaker who works on a limited budget.
What this mean is that it encourages more people to own their own camera? Therefore have greater control on production logistic and be more technically efficient. This will help train a lot more cinematographers in Vietnam when instead of renting their cameras they can buy them.
Google these cameras for sample footage. (Make sure to filter out the result for the most recent). In the mean time these are the specs.
BLACKMAGIC PRODUCTION 4K:
I think Vietnamsese filmmakers should embrace their lack of resources. Low production value does not mean its a bad thing as long as you make it a unique characteristic of the type of films you're making. For example, Dogma 95 and Mumblecore are independent film movements worthy of inspiration. The point I am trying to make is that the Vietnamese film industry needs an indie film movement that is backed up by rigorous experimentation of the art of cinema. Without an experimental foundation in the art, that art form is not fully grown. That is what Vietnamese filmmakers lack - an experimental root.