Six weeks after the first episode of â€’Big Trouble in Thailand” set off a firestorm around Thailand’s jet-ski rental industry, the show’s creator has finally admitted that a scene during the televised scam of British Marines by a jet-ski vendor nicknamed â€’J.J.” was fabricated.
â€’In the program that was broadcast, the audio over the scene where J.J. produces a gun is different to the audio on the raw footage from that day,” said Gavin Hill, who produced and directed the eight (now) six (uh, now) seven eight-part mini-series. â€’When it comes to that particular scene the audio was, in my opinion, faked.”
â€’The audible reaction of the marines to J.J. with the gun is not genuine,” Hill said.
The audio swap is just one of many liberties with the truth Hill claims Vera has taken with a series that has enraged Thai officials and he’s taken to the Web to make his case that it’s not only not his fault, but that it was not his intent. On Internet message boards, blogs and in e-mail he is complaining far and wide that Vera broke earlier agreements, has froze him out of the editing and now is now threatening a lawsuit to silence him.
â€’The edit taking place in London has been described (publicly) as ‘overly creative,’ and that’s by the executive producer,” Hill said. â€’It’s coming down to bashing the shows out as quickly as possible and we’re seeing the result.”
Among the many â€’creative” changes to the truth were falsely implying a woman who fell off her hotel
balcony was raped, intentionally mislabeling Pattaya’s foreign tourist police assistants are regular officers, showing nude dancing inside a Pattaya go-go bar despite a written agreement not to and â€’racist blurring,” or blurring the faces of foreigners who didn’t sign a release form but not Thais.
â€’You’d have thought after the BBC/RDF â€’Queengate” affair that production companies and broadcasters would have cleaned up their act,” Hill said, adding he plans to lodge a complaint with Ofcom, the U.K.’s communications regulatory body. â€’I’m not sure if I will be the first producer to complain about his own TV series.”
With some of what’s been shown in the first five
episodes, Hill may have grounds for his complaint. Ofcom’s rules on â€’Harm and Offense” state that â€’factual programmes or items or portrayal of factual matters must not materially mislead the audience” and that â€’that views and facts must not be misrepresented.”
Hill said even the series’ opening monologue stating that 288 Britons were â€’killed’in Thailand last year break those rules. So does purposefully giving police volunteers the wrong title, as was done in Episode 5 with Pattaya Foreign Tourist Police Assistant Howard Miller.
In an Aug. 18 e-mail to Carrie Fletcher, head of production at Vera, Hill reiterated that Miller and other foreigners were only volunteers, not full police, and urged Vera to label them truthfully. Fletcher’s reply, the same day, vowed the company would.
â€’The Thais are being slightly pedantic about misrepresenting the Brits as being actual ‘police,’ but if that is what they want then we are not in a position to argue if it might cause repercussions,” she said.
But with Hill now frozen out of the editing discussion, BTIT Executive Producer Dean Palmer changed it back the way he originally wanted.
It’s a small point that even Hill admits Ofcom won’t really care much about. But they might be more interested in Episode 5’s story about a drunken Full Moon Party-goer supposedly raped after falling off her balcony when, in fact, she wasn’t.
As the woman is being transported to the hospital, the show cuts to Tourist Police Volunteer Louise Rawlings telling about another drunk woman who was, in fact, raped in her hotel after a Full Moon Party – a year beforehand. The original edit of the show, Hill said, made it impossible to know who Rawlings was talking about.
â€’I was asked to sign off on Vera Productions’ attempt to fabricate a storyline. There was no suggestion whatsoever she’d been raped on the raw material (of which I have copies) sent back to Vera for editing,” Hill said. â€’Vera then go further by editing in an interview I conducted with Louise who talks about an Australian who was raped, although the rapist was convicted and sentenced to ten years.”
â€’I was horrified and protested,” he added. â€’As a result, they were forced to abort this attempt at falsification but still manage to get the facts wrong about the Australian girl not pressing charges. She did, helped by her father, and the man got ten years.”
For its part, Vera and Virgin Media are withholding comment on Hill’s claims. But even some media professionals who know Hill think he may be blowing the seriousness of what is, in the end, a very minor television show, way out of proportion and that the changes are not really that substantive.
“Yes, he is in dispute with the production company and I don’t think he should have let it get that far to be honest,” one colleage involved in some of the Thailand shooting said in an e-mail this week. “Even though they did screw around with the edit there were no serious breaches which would lead a viewer to the wrong conclusion.”
â€’This kind of thing goes on all the time,” former BBC sound editor and Thailand blogger Richard Barrow wrote on his Paknan Web Forum. â€’I agree it is not good to dramatize something that could lead to an arrest. But then, at the same time, the Thai police shouldn’t have jumped the gun to arrest J.J. without checking the evidence.”
For Hill, however, it’s a matter of integrity, particularly when in cases, such as he did with Shane Wheatley, the former owner of New Living Dolls One, he promised that, if he were allowed to film dancers in the Walking Street go-go that no nudity would be televised, as it was in Episode 5. (See the 6:44 mark in the video below.)
As I speculated earlier, the women shown have found out they were on the Boob Tube and are not pleased.
It’s also why Hill is making well known that someoneuploaded the raw, uncut video of the gun scene involving jet-ski vendor Winai to YouTube. While Vera reportedly is threatening copyright and breach of contract lawsuits, it arguably gives Winai legal grounds for not only exoneration, but a criminal libel and defamation case against Vera.
â€’Vera doesn’t like the release of any footage which shows how they doctored sound which contributed to a man’s arrest and imprisonment,” Hill said. â€’Now, whoever uploaded that video to You Tube did so in the public interest because I would imagine who ever did believes in professionalism, balance and fairness; and that factual entertainment shouldn’t be at the expense of factual accuracy. I would imagine they also believe that their credibility and that of the series is compromised by factual inaccuracy, attempts at fabrication, misleading information and the unnecessary dramatization of very real events.”