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Full or abridged? Opinions differ on foreign film script submission

By Hoang Thuy, Son Ha   March 30, 2022 | 10:30 pm PT
Full or abridged? Opinions differ on foreign film script submission
A scene from Kong: Skull Island (2017), which was shot in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment
The culture ministry wants full scripts submitted for foreign films shot in Vietnam, but National Assembly (NA) delegates feel such stipulations can push filmmakers away from the country.

At a Tuesday National Assembly session discussing a draft Cinema Law, Nguyen Dac Vinh, head of the Committee for Culture and Education, sought opinions from delegates on film production by foreign individuals and organizations in Vietnam.

Vinh said several delegates proposed that foreign individuals and organizations shouldn't have to submit film scripts to authorities, or only need to submit them when using Vietnamese actors or shooting in Vietnam.

The committee said approval documents currently required for film production in the country only require abridged versions of the full script and detailed scripts for scenes shot in Vietnam. But the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, which has compiled the draft law, wants submission of the full script for evaluation.

Given the differences in opinions between the ministry and NA delegates, the committee said both options can be considered.

NA delegate Nguyen Thi Viet Nga said amendments to the Cinema Law should aim to resolve issues that have troubled the industry for years and to create new policies and mechanisms for Vietnamese cinema to develop further.

Attracting foreign organizations to Vietnam to make films therefore is vital for enhancing filmmakers' skills and promote Vietnam's image, she said.

Nga said requiring filmmakers to submit full scripts would deter them from coming to Vietnam even if there are tax breaks and other forms of support. Full script submission would risk copyright infringement, as film plots and other details might be leaked and copied even before the films hit theaters.

"What will happen if people have yet to see the film, but the plot has already been copied and stolen?" she asked.

Additionally, like many creative processes, a script is a mere starting point in making a film and details can always change during filming. Therefore, requiring scripts to be submitted "doesn't have a lot of meaning," she argued.

Echoing Nga, delegate Tran Van Lam from the NA Finance and Budget Committee said Vietnam wants to attract more foreign filmmakers to use Vietnamese scenery and promote the country's image, but current regulations are too harsh.

"I believe we should only require abridged scripts and detailed scripts for scenes shot in Vietnam," he said.

As long as films don't violate the law, for example promoting terrorism, they should be allowed to shoot in Vietnam, he added.

Culture minister Nguyen Van Hung, however, stuck to his ministry's demand for full scripts.

He cited a recent example of an American film with a scene shot in Vietnam depicting a soldier. While the scene shot in Vietnam was fine by itself, another scene shot in the U.S. had characters saying the Vietnam War was "senseless". While Vietnam banned that particular film's distribution in the country, it could be viewed in other countries.

"If we don't know what the full script entails and only evaluate the parts shot in Vietnam, who will take responsibility when it affects national political security and defense in the future?" Hung asked.

Amendments to the Cinema Law are expected to be considered by the National Assembly for passing at another session starting May.

 
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