Last month, two strangers were dropped deep in the Koh Kong jungle and left to survive alone and naked for three weeks – all in the name of entertainment.
Their endurance test was captured on film for an episode of the second season of Naked and Afraid, an American reality TV series by the Discovery Channel. The show pairs one man and one woman together for 21 days, fighting to survive in challenging conditions across the globe.
Previous settings have included the plains of the East African Serengeti and the swamps of Louisiana in the US, but for Cambodia’s episode, producers chose a remote area in Koh Kong province, after extensive assessments by location scouts.
To ensure the shoot went smoothly, a medical team with a local translator was on hand, and two security guards were hired to deter illegal loggers from entering the area, according to Richard Currie, production coordinator at Hanuman Films, the local production company that assisted with the shoot. A helicopter flew the contestants in and out of the site.
Currie said the choice of the Discovery Channel to film in Cambodia represented recognition of the high production quality available in the country. It comes on the heels of other reality TV series also filmed in the country, including The Amazing Race, which airs on the American channel CBS.
“These are big, big production companies who are putting their faith in the Cambodian film industry,” Currie said.
“We are delivering, and we know that when they leave Cambodia, they’re going to have a very positive view of the Cambodian film industry,” he added.
Recent months have brought high-profile productions to the country, including the ongoing filming of Indochine director Regis Wargnier’s adaptation of Francois Bizot’s memoir The Gate.
Cedric Eloy, chief executive officer at the Cambodian Film Commission (CFC), said that the technical competence of those in the local industry had improved greatly in recent years, with more than 60 projects hosted last year, twice the figure from five years ago.
“It is not only one or several performing companies that help production activity to grow, but it is the evolution at all levels, such as easily processed film permits, quality crew, professional equipment and low costs,” he said.
In collaborating with the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, Eloy said that the CFC’s Film Lab and apprenticeship-training program have qualified more than 300 trainees with teaching in all fields of filmmaking.
“There is now four to five times more crew than there used to be in the past and it helps Cambodia to host more and more demanding projects with a trained crew,” Eloy said.
Two other reality shows, a French version of Survivor, and The Amazing Race, “exported” a team from the Kingdom to Malaysia and Laos respectively, because they consider Cambodian film crews to be the best in the region, he added.