The BBC’s most popular show, Top Gear, is wowing millions of viewers this week with its two-part special on Burma (Myanmar). In the programs, Jeremy Clarkson, Richard Hammond and James May buy three decrepit Burmese trucks. They are tasked with driving up through Myanmar to Shan State to the Golden Triangle and then down to the River Kwai in Thailand, where they have to build a bridge.
There are calamites, mishaps and petty infighting around each corner. Part one, which aired in UK on Sunday and Monday attracted favorable reviews. One critic said the show (350 million views per week in 170 countries) would do more to attract tourists to Myanmar than any official tourism campaign.
The program took 17 days to shoot on location in October with eight weeks of pre-production by the fixers. Twelve vehicles and 40 crew worked behind the scenes to capture each dubious misadventure along the way.
Top Gear’s production team turned to Asia Film Fixers (AFF) and Khiri Travel to get the show made. AFF and Khiri Travel provided pre-production assistance, location scouting, permits, government liaison, location management, logistics, transportation, accommodation, catering, guides, translation, purchasing, and itinerary advice.
The job involved the entire Khiri Travel Myanmar office as well as Terry Gordon, Chris East and Stephen Blaxhall from Asia Film Fixers.
AFF and Khiri Travel secured special permission from the Myanmar Government for the Top Gear team to drive between Taunggyi in Shan State and Tachileik on the Thai border. It may have been the first time foreigners have made that particular trip since World War II. On the catering side, Khiri Travel brought in a Yangon-based social business called Yangon Bakehouse. The Bakehouse provides young and disadvantaged Myanmar people with life skills and employment.
The mayhem continues in part two, due to be broadcast in UK on 16 March and on BBC Knowledge shortly there after. Khiri Travel CEO Willem Niemeijer said: “With AFF we’re ready for more outlandish TV and film assignments in Southeast Asia. The crazier and more challenging the better.”