Add “location” to the well-known “lights, camera, action” adage and the focus for the travel industry becomes film tourism. Many destinations know the allure this growing niche has for movie-lovers to walk in the footsteps of a favorite star or to stand in a location where world-class Hollywood and international filmmakers created a scene.
A country putting more pizzazz into the film tourism push is Czech Republic with the hope locals and visitors will experience Prague and the rest of the country differently – as a film destination in addition to a beautiful place to visit. Recently, they linked several film-related activities that movie and TV series devotees can undertake as a full-blown cinematic entity or enjoy singularly.
The Prague Cinematic project makes it possible to stand in the original building where Nazi propaganda films were made. In another building, rent a costume once worn in a film. Under the Charles Bridge, experience the whimsical museum of a Czech filmmaker who combined animation with real action long before the age of computers.
Top off the day or night with a Segway or walking tour of famous Prague film locations. Or download Czech Tourism’s new film tourism app to create a country-wide itinerary suited for the individual traveler. And what better way to see some film locations than on a boat cruise with Prague Steamboat Company.
Moviemaking at Barrandov Studios
Some call Barrandov the “European Hollywood” due to its enormous size and for the number of blockbuster films created here such as Mission Impossible, The Bourne Identify and Casino Royale.
Located outside of central Prague, it’s worth the 20-minute tram, bus or taxi ride to visit its ten studios (four elsewhere) when they are not in use. Tours are available and last about two hours. Walking the back lots means wearing comfortable shoes and having stamina.
Do see the building built in 1942 destined to be the German film industry hub and where 80 Nazi propaganda films were made. Many present-day filmmakers like to film here since the building is made of wood and is quiet.
The Costume Department is overwhelming with more than 260,000 costumes, hairpieces and accessories that range from prehistoric through present day. Most can be rented by the public (restrictions apply, such as none from Amadeus). Next door is the Props Department with furniture from all eras, carpets, fabrics, props (65,000 items) and so much more.
An extra-special souvenir at Barrandov Studios Costume Department is to don a costume, wig, have period make-up applied and a photo taken. It’s printed on a professional machine and given to the person on the spot. Great holiday or promotional card!
Karel Zeman’s Fantasy Lives On
Tucked under the Charles Bridge is the delightful and intimate Karel Zeman Museum filled with flights of fantasy, interactive exhibits, tablet guides in seven languages, costumes and just plain fun.
Located on one floor with black walls throughout, the museum highlights the life and works of Karel Zeman, a Czech mastermind of cinematic special effects begun before Disney.
The individual rooms replicate movie studios, complete with a flying machine to ride. Zeman’s most significant films are Journey to the Beginning of Time and The Fabulous World of Jules Verne, both honored in detail. A superb gift shop sells Zeman’s films on DVD and other items. Available online.
Special treat is to descend a few steps in the museum to its private dock. A boat takes visitors to and from the museum along the Vltava and Čertovka Rivers (reservation needed).
Segway Movie Tour
See film locations up close and mobile with Segway Experience, a three-hour guided tour on a Segway. For skittish riders, 30 minutes of training are included or the tour can be done on foot. Since the guide uses an iPad to show movie clips shot at the Prague location, it’s best to take this tour at night. Of course, Amadeus is featured and other blockbusters. Many filmmakers use Prague as a setting but in the movie it can be Budapest, Vienna, Rome or other location. This tour is the perfect way to get the “behind the scenes” scoop about Prague and films shot there.
Czech Film App Now Available
It was bound to happen what with social media today’s norm, which eventually produced the free Czech Film App, available through Google Play and iTunes. Two years in the making and helped along with extra EU monies, 45 feature films (more to come) covering the last 20 years of film-making in the Czech Republic make up the app. Not only is Prague included, especially since it has 75 locations related to film, but the entire country is as well.
The app user can play a sequence from the film and explore what’s relevant in an area. Google maps and a pre-defined film itinerary are some of the app’s levels. More features will be added in the future but more movies unlikely.
Sadly, not many blockbuster movies are made in the Czech Republic of late. In the past, it was the only country in the region to offer production incentives, plus first-class know-how. Now neighboring countries do the same thing. What they can’t offer the movie-goer is Czech Republic’s rich cinematic history nestled in a country beautiful as a fairy tale, on or off the screen.
If you go
First stop should be the Czech Republic North America and follow the links in this article. A perfect small and renovated hotel in Prague is the Hotel Clement located close to Old Town. Added bonus is it’s walkable to Palladium shopping mall.