Perspectives from abroad: Filming locations and the misconceptions they create


Sascha Sebastian Rühl/The Chart

Blue rock candy, which is colored to look like the crystal meth seen on the AMC TV series Breaking Bad, can be bought in Albuquerque, New Mexico, where the show takes place.

For movie fans like myself, road trips to filming locations can either help us fall even more in love with our favorite movies and TV series, or they can destroy our perceptions. One of the most popular film locations at the moment is the little town of Forks, Washington, where the Twilight movies were filmed. Of course, I don´t care about those movies. I’ve got other favorites.

One of my first stops after I arrived in the US was Albuquerque, New Mexico. As a big Breaking Bad fan, I had to drive around to several locations, like Walter White´s house, which plays a major part in the series about a high school teacher who starts to cook crystal meth. There, I met Francine, who actually lives in the house. Thousands of tourists have stopped at her house in the last few years and taken pictures. Some have even walked through her garden or tried to throw pizzas on her roof. “So far they respect the little bit of privacy that´s left and our property, we enjoy that,” she said. Generally, Albuquerque felt familiar to me – the main roads, the mountains, the buildings. Those who saw each episode know the city better than they might expect. I ate in a fast food restaurant that was featured in the series, visited each location and realized that they’re all where fans would expect them to be. Houses and businesses are often close to each other, and dirtier places are in poorer parts of the city, like fans would expect. Visiting all of these spots brought me and the series closer together, but that´s not always the case.

Last week, I travelled to Chicago. As a fan of The Blues Brothers, I had to visit the “Windy City.” You might remember the beginning of the movie when the two brothers Jake and Elwood leave the Joliet Correctional Center — which is a museum today — and head to the orphanage they grew up in to visit a nun and along the way, jump a drawbridge in their car. I would have loved to have taken the exact route, but all of these places are far away from each other, not just a few minutes apart like it seems in the movie. The dirty and old downtown Chicago, which can be seen in the ‘80s movie, doesn’t exist anymore. The poor and criminal who populated the downtown in the movies are as impossible to find as a parking spot in front of each building. By the end of the trip, I realized that the movie captured the atmosphere of the ‘80s Chicago, but used Hollywood methods to create the illusion.

Next week, I will drive to Georgia to see some locations from The Walking Dead. I’m pretty sure it will be the same, and likely the last film location trip for me. I prefer to keep my illusions.