People of Prague

Behind the Lens: Filmed in Prague

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Prague’s still-in-tact historical beauty and low costs have long lured productions to film in Prague instead of Paris, Berlin and other European cities whose architecture was largely destroyed by the World Wars. One year ago Musa Bektaş started Filmed in Prague, an Instagram project highlighting all the movies, series and ads that have been filmed in this beautiful city.

Musa takes pictures of the screenshotted scenes in front of the buildings and landmarks they were filmed at, showing the differences and similarities between how the location appeared in film vs. how it exists in modern-day reality.

From Czech classics like The Good Soldier Švejk to Hollywood blockbusters such as Mission: Impossible, Musa hunts down the exact locations and angles to recreate the scenes and share a bit of informational trivia about the location. We sat down with the [add in age] photographer in-between exhibition openings in his home country of Turkey. 

How did you become interested in photography?

I was always interested in photography. During my childhood, I had so many chances to observe nature and wanted to capture some special moments. I didn’t take any photography classes, I learned everything myself. And photography is my biggest passion, I never get bored while shooting . 

Do you do other types of photography as well?

Considering that my camera is always with me, – it’s like part of my body –  I try to capture interesting moments and noteworthy moments. Besides that, I do travel and event photography. But I like to work based on the project, like what I’m doing now.

You launched FiP a year ago, what was the inspiration behind the project?

“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with” – This is one of my favourite quotes, because mostly I do experimental photography and some of my friends give me ideas or support me to continue with it. 

When I was living in Istanbul, I shot photos of historic places during day and again at night and then I combined them in one with photoshop, so you can see the same place during the day and at night. I always was thinking to do something like that for Prague. I already came across so many movie sets but the movie Edmond and my dear friend Özgür Karataş, who also supported my Day&Night project, inspired and supported me to start the Filmed in Prague project. I like to have such people around me to develop something and create synergy. 🙂 

What’s your method for finding the films that have Prague places in them, and how do you recognize exactly where the shots were taken? 

The Internet is like an ocean to find something, there is always the possibility to get lost. I mostly find movies through search and database of IMDB. Old and original cities have special signs to recognise. Skyscrapers at Manhattan, Eiffel Tower in Paris and much more samples. For me to recognise the scenes if they shot in Prague is street lamps 🙂 Plus, I walk a lot and observe, finding unique signs about the places. I have a photographic memory, so places are a bit easier for me to remember. 

What’s your process for taking the pictures, and how difficult is it to line all these shots up perfectly with the places they were taken, recreating the scene? 

I use a Canon 650D for shooting. Firstly, I search for movies shot in Prague. While watching the movie I find the scenes shot in Prague and then taking the screenshot of that specific scene and print them out. One of the most important things is light. It’s also taking time to find the right angle, sometimes I need to wait for people and vehicles. If I’m lucky enough it’s like 5 mins, on the other hand sometimes it takes up to 2-3 hours to shoot one photo. 

Why do you think so many movies filmed scenes in Prague?

First of all the budget. Prague is a quite cheap place to shoot any kind of movie compared to the western cities like London, Paris, Berlin, etc. Especially movies about old times and science-fiction. Prague is the one of the only cities well protected, that’s why the old part of the city is very wide. Thanks to Barrandov Studios filmmakers were able to shoot, and Czech sound engineers are also talented. 

Are there specific areas in Prague where most of the filming takes place?

After all my shooting I can say that Charles Bridge, Hradčanské náměstí, Prague Castle and Rudolfinum are pretty famous places for shooting. These places offer a nice background which you can use for almost anything. For example, I’ve seen Rudolfinum as a hotel, metro station, university, and temple.

How many shots do you think you’ve taken since you started FiP?

I’ve shot around 110 photos for this project and published 102 of them on Instagram. From the published photos, 80 are depicting movie scenes, 20 of them are different series (among others Genius: Einstein, Outlander, Burning Bushes, and Istanbullu Gelin) and 2 are taken from Ads.

What is your goal with FiP, what do you hope to accomplish? 

I started this project as a hobby and didn’t really expect this much interest. I would like to continue the same project as a video format, still thinking about it. I don’t have a specific goal, just using this project to keep alive my love for Prague. 

Are you a lover of film yourself, or just mainly photography?

Yes, I love all kind of art. But cinema is special. You can combine all the art in cinema, that’s why it’s 7th art for me 🙂 I like independent movies and I don’t like to categorise any kind of art, so I have favourite directors. I watched very few movies shot in Prague, to find the scenes I’m skipping every 3 seconds. 

What’s your favourite shot you’ve ever taken?

Hmmm, that’s a tough question. But, I think I know which one is my favourite. This one. Here my favourite author Sunay Akın is telling a story about love and singer İlhan Şeşen is waiting for his turn to sing. Sunay Akın is an amazing storyteller for me and he has stories all around the world about everything. That was a very special shoot for me. The best shoot for FiP is Kolya (on the iron bridge) and Burning Bush (in the cemetery) photos. Because I had to spend extra effort and had to break the law. 

You grew up in Turkey, how did you end up in Prague?

Yes, and I grew up in the countryside. So, I was more involved with nature and challenges. My first overseas experience was in Poland thanks to the Erasmus exchange programme. I had 3 trips to Prague and simply loved the city. After graduation, I had a chance to do an internship in Prague for 6 months. At one activity I met my current boss, Yalın Yüregil who’s also coming from Adana. When I got another chance to do an internship I contacted him and he accepted me for his company Yeye Agency and I’ve been working there since June 2017. 

You just finished one exhibition and are about to attend another in Turkey? 

These exhibitions are organized by the support of the Czech Republic Embassy in Ankara and Turkish Education Association (TED) which I am a scholar of. I’m really excited about the exhibition which will be held in my hometown, Adana. My city is organizing the biggest open-air/street carnival in Turkey, called Orange Blossom Carnival, from April 5-9. I’m so happy to see and host all my family, friends and people at my exhibition. This is such a honour I can’t express right now. Another exhibition will be in Ankara from April 15-19 in Ankara at TED University. 

What other hobbies do you have besides FiP? 

Besides photography, I join the Regular Sunday Language Exchange meeting to get to know more people. Aldo hiking trips to discover the Czech countryside and I’m involved in cooking events to learn world cuisine. I’m learning Czech, and Prague is such an amazing place to do a lot of things. 

What projects are in your and FiP’s future? 

I’m working on some video projects about Prague. One of them is about street musicians and another one is more showing the city through drone with a local eye and unpopular places in Prague. I want to get the reaction “OMG, is this place in Prague?” from people who’ll watch 🙂  I’ll continue Filmed in Prague with shooting and most probably It will be evolved to the videography. Let’s see! 

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