In the waterways outside Bangkok, a subculture of turbo longtail boat racers converge to see who’s the fastest.
Credits / Collaborators / Cast
Production Company: Lanna Films
Creative Director: Paul Travis
Exec Producer: Luke Farrell
Producer: Paul Travis
Director: Tobias James
Cinematography: Parinee Buthrasri
Cinematography: Tin Guyson
Fixer: Parcha Joule
Assistant Edit & Translator: Fern Sripungwiwat
Edit: Tobias James
Sound design: Thomas George
Colour: Kieran Clancy
Music (in order) by Rasmee, Gitkin & Yin Yin
Sponsored by Speedboat Bar, in association with JKS restaurants
The story behind the film
“Paul, the producer, who’s a friend and colleague based in Thailand had been immersing himself in subcultures in the region. He found these racers through some of his contacts also based out there and called me saying it was unlike anything he’d seen before and we had to make a film. A bar/restaurant had just commissioned a team to make a boat so he asked if we could use the journey of their boat for a rough narrative structure: Build the boat, test the boat, race the boat. They said yes and I flew out.
We quickly found that we had no control over what was happening. The stages of the boat build had to be done in a very specific time frame depending on everything, including the weather conditions of the day. So we’d sometimes turn up a day late or get a call saying, ‘they’ve started painting!’ and we’d have to drop everything and get over to them. It was very freeing – we just had to let go and just go with the flow. Immerse ourselves fully in their process. We were with them for about 4 days over the space of a week and a half.
At the race the first thing that hits you is the noise of these engines. They’re modified racing-car engines, bolted to the hull of the boat and left exposed. On the boat we would hit 130kmph – that’s them keeping the speed down with us and the camera on board. The real top speed is closer to 170-180. One comment was ‘it’s 500 brake horse power on a toothpick’, which is a pretty good way to describe how it feels to be on one. The level of craft and of care put into these vessels is incredible. They’re very well built and beautifully decorated. Seeing all the teams with their individual boats converge the water was amazing, they’re all unique with tons of character. They’re rivals, but they have respect for each-other and there’s a deeply spiritual element to their races. They bless their boats before each race and also pay respects to the spirits in the water that they believe will keep them safe.
We used mics going straight into the cameras as only one of our crew could be on a boat at a time. We took that in turns. The mics peaked quite often during the racing sections but that adds to the intensity of the edit and it’s close to the sensory overload we experienced when on the boat with them. The result we wanted was to make people feel as if they were ‘in it’, opposed to just spectating.
In post it became clear that we would be making something more stylised than a usual style of doc. The racers were a bit psychedelic so we leant into that with some of the colour and music. We worked hard on the pacing of the film, switching it up ever 45 seconds or so to represent the speed at which the atmosphere changes over there. One minute it’s completely calm and serene, the next it’s so loud you can’t think straight, and everything in between.
I offset the my flights and an estimation of our boat’s fuel using AdGreen’s offset scheme.”