Dienstag, 22. Dezember 2015

Forget Star Wars - we're all stars in Munich's film world

Think Munich and you probably think Oktoberfest, Hofbräuhaus and naked sunbathers in the famous Englischer Garten. Yet Munich isn't just beer, brezels and bare bits. It's also home to one of Europe's largest film production centres.

It's a cold dank December morning and I'm visiting Bavaria Filmstadt, a theme park where world-famous films such as Never Ending Story and Das Boot - Germany's biggest ever box-office smash hit - were shot. A good half-hour tram and underground ride out of town, the studios are set in leafy Grünwald, Munich's most upper-crust district. I've signed up for an English tour with my students of Tourism Management, whom I'd normally be teaching Oral Skills at this time of day. We're joined by Claudia, our guide, who seems slightly surprised to hear everyone speaking German. "You really want this tour in English?", she asks.

First stop is "1-2-3. tv". I've never heard of this shopping channel, but apparently it receives 15,000 calls a day. Through the enormous glass window we watch a cashmere shawl being auctioned live on air. "Nice winter scarf anyone?" asks Claudia. Most of us would actually be glad of it - the TV studio, just like the rest of Bavaria Filmstadt, is bitterly cold.

Next up we're in an interactive studio being invited to try out the "Green Screen". This is the technology that, using a skin-neutral colour, enables directors to superimpose subjects onto virtual backgrounds. I join volunteers on stage, where we find ourselves riding virtual rail tracks through mountain tunnels and alongside hair-raising cliff tops.    

Another green screen allows us to try our hand as weather forecasters on the set of  "Tagesschau", German TV's nightly newscast. Our volunteer, Manuel, slips into the role like a pro.
Round the next corner we're greeted by Limahl's Never Ending Story playing and suddenly we're all lead actors in the epic fantasy. We soon have volunteers riding Falkor The Luck Dragon, doing a "disappearing" act. That's the illusion filmmakers create using a blue screen backdrop. It's rather chilly in here too, but rocking to and fro on Falkor certainly warms us up a little bit.    
After the group shot on Farkor I'm afraid I rather lose the overview. Claudia takes us on a whirlwind tour of other blockbuster filmsets, like Vampire Sisters, and Ludwig II. We're also shown behind the scenes of several afternoon soap operas, like "Tempest of Love", none of which I've ever heard of, but the students all seem to know.  
It's not until we reach the filmset of Das Boot that I'm back on familiar ground - it's one of the first German films I ever saw. Claudia tells us that the actors of movie had to spend several weeks actually sleeping in this model submarine from Wolfgang Petersen's 1981 film. I'm feeling claustrophobic in there after just a few minutes. 
You don't have to be great movie buff to enjoy this tour. This might not be Universal Studios, but at least you won't hear a single reference to Star Wars. Besides, the visual effects are great fun, and at the end of the tour you can buy a DVD film of yourself playing on set. While I can imagine there's loads more going on in summer (outdoor stunts and kids' programmes), it's an  interesting place to spend a few hours in winter too. Just make sure you wrap up warm. And don't forget your scarf.
Many thanks to my Tourism students - you're all stars. 

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