Every year, around 60 million people are inspired by TV and Movies when choosing their travel destination. Being passionate film fans, Distiller-residents Pennie Hunt and Stefan Roesch recently launched FilmQuest, a film tourism site showcasing the world's iconic film locations
Stefan’s background is in destination marketing and market research, while Pennie is a writer and filmmaker. "We have found that this right brain – left brain combination works really well for us as a team."
FilmQuest is a film-inspired travel site that features iconic film locations, film tourism experiences and stories about people and places seen on screen. We also consult destinations on how to benefit from film tourism. Some of our consulting work includes film tourism projects and marketing campaigns in Jordan (The Martian), Northern Ireland (Game of Thrones) and the Republic of Ireland (Star Wars - The Last Jedi).
How did you come across The Distiller?
We first heard about The Distiller at a start-up event in town. That was in January 2017.
How do you start your day at The Distiller?
Stefan: I make sure that I have two essentials with me: the adaptor for my German laptop (it’s nine years old and the battery is stuffed) and my reading glasses, which I had to start using about two years ago. Forgetting either of those means going all the way back home to Port Chalmers… It usually doesn’t happen anymore.
Pennie: With a 10-week-old baby I’m working from home at the moment, but the drill is the same nevertheless. I write down my to do’s for the day, and being the procrastinator I am, I start with the easiest first. It makes me feel productive!
How do you choose locations for FilmQuest?
We only feature film locations that are accessible, recognisable and have a story to tell. As with experiences, they need to be of top quality which means they have to fulfil certain criteria to feature on FilmQuest. Ultimately, we showcase places and people that have a story to tell.
Where is the next location FilmQuest is going to visit?
In January, we will visit some locations in and around Queenstown and participate in a couple of film location tours. Stefan is also going on a helicopter flight with Alfie Speight one of the world’s most experienced aerial filming pilots. From May 2018, we plan to tour a number of European countries, in collaboration with the European Film Commissions Network EUFCN.
What movie/TV series did you watch most during your childhood?
Stefan: I grew up in Germany and we all loved the US-series The Fall Guy with Lee Majors. It screened between 1981 and 1986. Strangely enough, it was never popular in the States. And then there was Star Wars, of course. I still remember the day when my babysitter smuggled me into the theatre to watch The Return of the Jedi. I was seven years old at the time – and immediately captivated by the magical world that George Lucas had created.
Pennie: As a child of the 80’s I was hooked on all the TV classics – MacGyver, Knight Rider, The Dukes of Hazard. One of my favourite childhood movies was Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory with the wonderful Gene Wilder. I still adore that film. Those Oompa Loompas!
What recent films/TV series would you recommend to other people?
Stefan: I would say Gomorrha, which is an Italian TV series about the mafia in Naples. It’s based on the book with the same name by Roberto Saviano who published his work in 2006. After the book was released, the Camorra announced to kill him with a car bomb. Saviano had to go incognito and has been running from the Mafia ever since. I also enjoyed a German mini-series called The Same Sky, which is set in West Berlin during the Cold War. And I love the documentary The Barklay Marathons. It’s wonderfully quirky. And then there is Narcos, a Netflix production about the drug lords in Colombia.
Pennie: I loved Netflix’s Anne with an E. It is based on the Anne of Green Gables books, but has been updated for a modern audience. It is so beautifully cast, and the production values are incredible. I’m also pretty obsessed with House of Cards and the Danish/Swedish crime series The Bridge.
What film location have you talked about most with other people?
Stefan: That would be Chott el-Jerid in Tunisia. It’s the largest salt pan in the Sahara Desert – and the home of Luke Skywalker in the very first Star Wars movie from 1977. The famed igloo-shaped dome of Luke’s home was recreated in 2002 for Attack of the Clones and left behind by the film crew. It’s a true pilgrimage site for fans from all over the world.
Pennie: Cape Campbell in Marlborough, the location for The Light Between Oceans. The movie itself was far too melodramatic for my taste, but the location is truly out of this world. It goes to show you don’t have to be a fan of the film to love a location.
Have there been any locations you have loved on screen but haven't been as enthralled with in person?
Stefan: It’s all about the thrill of standing at a film location so – no.
Pennie: If I travel to a location I want to be able to truly experience it. Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland was one of the signature locations in The Da Vinci Code. When we turned up there the carpark was full of coaches and the place was literally teeming with tourists. Add to that the fact that renovations on the chapel were being undertaken, and we couldn’t even see half of it. That was very disappointing indeed.
Are there any common mistakes cities or governments make in trying to get the most out of their film locations?
The most common mistake is to not make use of the opportunities generated by film productions in the first place. This happens for several reasons. Sometimes, the responsible tourism bodies are not aware of the benefits of film tourism. And in other cases, tourism managers are too sceptical to invest. But most of the time, tourism marketers simply don’t have the expertise in the area. This is where we come into play.
What is something you consider absurd that you do?
Stefan: I have an absurd obsession with check lists. This could have to do with my German genes, perhaps. Anyway, I find it quite useful in order to prioritise my day. For me, it really works.
Pennie: I have probably checked out every cookbook in the Port Chalmers library. I find reading recipes (and sometimes cooking them) so grounding and relaxing.
Finally, If you could put anything on a billboard what would you choose?
Stefan: Free education for everyone.
Pennie: Does it spark joy?