Location Scouting

In “Moonlight Sonata”, the locations are as much characters as the people. It is the locations that will communicate the difference between the worlds of the day people and the night people. We start in a coffee shop, aggressively bright, busy, filled with elevator jazz and noises we’ve all learned to ignore, or at least accept. Then there are the night places — dark, shadowy, uncertain, filled with the music that touches the soul. Getting the right places will be extremely important for communicating ideas that in a written story can come from the narrator. On top of that, I really want to draw Prague tightly into the narrative. On Thursday our quest began.

Enter zlato. The dude gets around. He’s been to dozens of the right sort of places over the years, but better than that, he’s personal friends with the management of many of these places. Finding a good place is only a fraction of the battle; even more difficult is getting the owners to allow us to shoot there. A good word from a friendly source can make a big difference.

fuego, zlato and I met at the Globe, a coffee shop/bookstore that is entirely too comfortable for the opening location. fuego had another objection as well, he knew that the owner of the place would want to be in the movie. Apparently fuego has seen his auditions enough over the years to know that he’s not right for this project.

While I had a sandwich we asked zlato if he knew any old grizzled bluesmen. It turns out he doesn’t, but he does know an international-calibre jazz trio that has their own space, which is only open once a month or so when they play. Could we score one of our venues and a band all in one go? In an amazing coincidence, they are playing tomorrow night. fuego and I will be there.

We spent some more time planning, and off we went into the balmy (almost up to freezing!) Prague afternoon.

After a couple of stops to look at coffee shops I tried to clarify the sort of place we wanted. “Soulless,” I tried. “The kind of place you wouldn’t normally go.” We tried a few more places, but they all had soul. Dang city! The candidates for the dark subterranean bar were all closed; it was too early in the day (good news when it’s time to shoot, but inconvenient today). We stopped at Latin Art Café, where zlato was greeted enthusiastically by the owner. Apparently zlato’s own cobbled-together band with the ever-changing name has played there, and was more than welcome back.

While we sipped hot spiced wine I had the bright idea to let zlato actually read the story, which improved his understanding of our needs quite a bit. Go figure. We continued our quest, but did not find the ideal spot. We ended at a place called Jet Set, a very modern place, with chrome and geometric furniture and fancy rose-tinted lighting. We made our way through to a side area, and zlato objected. “Why are we sitting up here? It’s way cooler down there. It’s pink.” I took the fact zlato didn’t like the side area as a hopeful sign. It is soulless to the point of being barren — there is a large blank wall that looks like it ordinarily has art hanging on it. It’s not really what we were looking for, but in a pinch it will do. The area was fairly empty so we could probably shoot without costing the business too much, but that doesn’t mean they’ll agree to let us do it.

We sat and sipped another round of spiced wine while we discussed our findings. It was not a terribly successful day. We considered alternatives we knew about. Nearby, in a mall, there is another place that fuego and I know. It would fit the bill nicely, but it seems like an incredibly long shot to get permission to shoot there; and the mall might add its own hassles. Still, as we’ve learned in the past, it never hurts to ask. Searching for the right ‘dark’ bar will have to wait until we can visit them at night.

We all hopped on Tram 7, and the driver was really bad at his job, twice stopping so abruptly that people fell. Finally fuego and I arrived alive if not well back in my neighborhood to watch some hockey at the Budvar Bar Near Home. We had perhaps a couple more beers than strictly necessary, then after the game I stuck my head in at Little Café Near Home to see if Martin was there. (I probably should give him a code name, but everyone is named Martin or Tomaš.) Fuego joined me and we ordered beers. fuego realized at some point that he really shouldn’t drink his, so I inherited it as well. Fun was had by all.

Martin has lots of film school connections. “Remember,” he said, “it only takes one student to make it a student film.” We have a limited time and fuego has lots of friends in the business, and with something like this the difference in student-lit vs. pro-lit can be make-or-break, to cite one example. I learned also on Pirates that extra crew running around can really get in the way. Nevertheless, a student could come in very handy when negotiating for places or other favors, especially if the student is a pretty girl. We shall see.

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