Perfume, champagne… Action!

Koh Samui Diaries: Location scouting for wannabe movie directors
by Adrian Rawle

FADE IN: I was beginning to feel my Koh Samui experience was turning sour on me when I had an unexpected call from a company that I have not worked for in ages. They had just taken on an American director and were selling him to the advertising agencies in London. He was a stills photographer in New York and did a lot of work for Chanel and Vogue magazine. As I understood it, the new director was going to shoot a TV commercial for a new perfume called Aqua Soleil.

My mission, should I choose to accept it, was to find a luxury motor yacht to film on and have it anchored in a beautiful bay which would act as the backdrop. They would be flying in a top female model and a male model with a small crew, a camera assistant, one grip/lighting technician, make-up, hair and wardrobe/stylist and a propman to handle the product, as well as the client and agency producer. I felt quite excited about this one and immediately agreed to do it. However, after my excitement had died down the reality set in.

Thinking this through I had to find a big enough motor yacht to comfortably hold the whole crew, yet give plenty of room in which to film.

I suddenly realised that not only did the motor yacht have to be big enough; it had to be stable at anchor, which would require the sea to be calm. As with all jobs, when you break them down and think about it, they all have their unique problems.

Another issue to think about is the female model. My main concern for her would be the make-up. At this time of the year it is hot and humid and the last thing we need is the make-up melting. The model will have to be in air conditioning until we are ready to shoot and therefore, I would need a stand-in for the set-ups.

It did not take me long to find out that there are no big luxury yachts on Samui. First problem…and a big one! I could bring one in from the mainland, but this would be problematic and expensive. The cost to hire and run these yachts is high and I don’t think the budget would cope with this. There had to be another way.

I made some phone calls and then I had that Eureka moment. If I cannot bring the yacht to Samui then we must go to where the yacht is. Phuket was the obvious choice. Since the Thai government had reduced the import duty on foreign yachts Phuket has become a yachting haven. I decided I would visit the Royal Phuket Yacht Marina. I already had contacts there and I knew they would be able to help.

After a successful visit, I left Phuket with a new concept that I would have to sell to the director. What if we combined luxury yachting with luxury living? A condominium that houses a private yacht berth within the residence itself!

In the Royal Phuket Yacht Marina they call this the Aquaminium and it is the world’s first. They also have a luxury Sunseeker offshore cruiser, which we could use. My idea would include shoots in two locations: the yacht anchored offshore in a beautiful bay and the yacht arriving back to the Aquaminium and berthing within the residence.

The indoor yacht berth has a stunning fully furnished lounge area with a large B&O flat screen TV, a pool table and bar. You step off the motoryacht and step right into luxury living.

I e-mailed my ideas and photographs to the producer. To my surprise the director e-mailed back with a lot of questions. I answered them as best I could and waited with my fingers crossed. Did I have a plan B? Not exactly.

The first day of filming went as planned. We took advantage of the clear blue sky and headed out on the early morning tide in the Sunseeker to Koh Phi Phi. We arrived at Tonsai Bay and anchored just offshore.

The backdrop was the spectacular soaring limestone cliffs. Within a short space of time the crew got to work on the first set-up. Despite the confines of the boat, the crew worked well and soon got into the rhythm of filming. We shot some stunning pictures on the foredeck of the Sunseeker with the model before returning to the marina later that day.

The director made good use of my suggestion to shoot the Aquaminium and I can’t think of any other TV commercial where you can see a yacht parked in someone’s living room!

I had scheduled to shoot the sunset at Kata beach, on the west coast of Phuket, on the last day. We arrived in Kata Bay in plenty of time and anchored just off the beach in shallow water. Straight away, we prepared for the sunset shot, a two-shot of the models drinking champagne seated around a table on which there is a bottle of Aqua Soleil. I chose this location because the view of the sunset from this bay is glorious and it can be seen setting behind the island at this time of the year.

The director liked the set-up so much that he decided to also shoot the pack-shot of the perfume with the sun setting behind the bottle. However, I knew this was going to be extremely tricky because when the sun starts to sink it goes down very quickly and we would not have time to change the setup for the pack-shot.

Thinking on my feet, I suggested we shoot the pack-shot first, and then shoot the two-shot with the models at magic hour from the beach, when the sun changes, in a very short space of time, to a golden orange colour.

Fortunately, we had two cameras and the propman had a bottle of perfume labelled and ready to go. I suggested that we send the camera assistant ashore with the second camera and frame for the two-shot. We would have to be quick with everyone in their positions ready to go and my cueing would have to be spot-on. I handed the camera assistant a walky-talky and he took the boats tender to shore.

At sunset time we were not disappointed. The light was perfect and when it came to shooting the two-shot I thought we were shooting a champagne commercial it all looked so good.

With both shots in the can and the director looking rather pleased with himself we prepared to go ashore. I had arranged accommodation for the night at Mom Tri’s Boathouse on Kata beach. With its award-winning wine cellar, I knew the client and crew would be very happy. FADE OUT.

Adrian RAWLE is a Film and TV Producer/Director and Writer based in Hong Kong. His company GOtv LTD and its partners specialise in new media concepts for Broadband TV. E-mail: gotv (at) netvigator (dot) com.