Not your average tourist—She turned her passion for film and travel into this digital business
Hamburg’s Andrea David has what any would deem a dream job: traveling to legendary film locations around the world, taking shots and sharing them on Instagram. For the past 18 years, she’s pursued her passion, where she visits many a far-flung locale and places a still of a famous movie scene in front of its original setting. It’s unique, captivating and won over hundreds of thousands on IG—including Will Smith. OMR talked to David about how she transformed her hobby into a business, how she came to have over 800,000 Instagram followers and if she’s able to make a living off it.
Sometimes Andrea David is jokingly referred to as a jet setter because of her job. As if she were flying from set to movie set in a private plane. How nice that would be, but true that is not. David flies commercial like the rest of us and she doesn’t visit film sets either, “only” places where movies have been shot. “I visit the locations of film productions—sometimes decades after the movie was a hit,” she told OMR.
Andrea David is a film tourist and her aptly-named Instagram account “filmtourismus” (kraut for film tourism) has been followed by 800,000 people. She also runs the eponymous blog—the largest German-language online resource for information about films and their locations. And recently, she published her first book. All told, David has visited over 1000 film locations in the past 18 years, but she can’t say exactly how many. One thing is certain: David is Germany’s most successful film location blogger and one of the few of her kind in the world.
“If you’ve searched for film locations, chances are you landed on my site.”
There are no reliable sources on how many people travel to film locations. The fact is that countries and cities benefit immensely from international productions in their home countries. According to the Croatian Tourist Board, the town Croatian city of Dubrovnik alone, population 40,000, where parts of the fantasy epic Game of Thrones were filmed, recorded more than 1.4 million tourists in 2019, almost twice as many as in 2013. The country earned almost USD 12b from tourism that year—more than ever before.
David founded her blog in 2007—years before Game of Thrones made Dubrovnik a pilgrimage site for fantasy fans around the world. At the time, she was working for the state of Bavaria in tourism marketing. She loves two things: traveling and movies. With her blog, she wants to create the first database of film locations. Anyone interested in a particular film should be able to find a list of all the places where it was produced. Film locations are a topic that far fewer people were interested in a decade ago than today. And with a dearth of websites, the lack of resources is David’s gain. “Since there was hardly anything about it online, I quickly ranked very high on Google. If you searched for film locations, chances are you landed on my site,” she says.
Seven years on, her blog was getting about 20,000 hits a month. Buoyed by the early success, she decided to pursue it full-time and quit her job as an online marketing manager for the state of Bavaria. Her first client turned out to be none other than New Zealand’s tourist board, which booked a banner on her blog to promote the filming locations of Lord of the Rings. Soon after, she had her first press trip to North Carolina, where she visited locations from the fantasy series Tribute to Panem, among others, and published articles about them on her blog. The next step is what eventually catapults her to the next level: she starts using Instagram. Unbeknownst to her at the time, it launched her into the mainstream consciousness. Media from all over the world reported on her and even prominent actors like Will Smith and Michael J. Fox start following her.
Shot for shot around the world
Today, she reaches millions of people with her content. In addition to her Instagram account with 800,000 followers, she also runs a Facebook group with almost 25,000 fans. Her blog receives up to 150,000 visitors a month. If scroll through on her social media channels, you’ll find David’s calling card everywhere: When she visits a film location, she holds up a photo of the film scene in the landscape. So expertly, in fact, that the contours usually blur into one another. “I’m fascinated by the nostalgia of such places,” David says. Many places she visits are from movies she saw in her youth, in the 80s and 90s. She wants to know: What does the neighborhood look like today? Is that house still there, that street?
The idea to print a photo of a movie scene and take it with her when she travels happened by coincidence, she says. “I was in Thailand and wanted to find the location for German cult classic ‘Fack Ju Göhte.’ No one understood me, so I showed the photo. People immediately recognized the location and showed me the way,” David says. Today, it’s her trademark. When she went to Ko Phi Phi, where Leonardo DiCaprio goes spearfishing in “The Beach” she holds up a still. In Tyrol, where Daniel Craig as James Bond in “Specter” trudges through the snow in front of an Alpine panorama, armed of course, she has a still in hand. Or in the eerie hotel corridor in the Rocky Mountains, which served as the backdrop for the film version of Stephen King’s “The Shining.”
A fan in Will Smith
The idea is unique and very much Instagrammable. So much so that movie and series fan sites are starting to share posts of their own. Some of these have millions of followers themselves, like the Instagram profile “gameofthronesnotofficial.” But special interest communities like the architecture magazine “Architecture and Design,” which has 31 million Facebook fans, are also sharing photos, such as of Harry Potter at the famous Platform 9 3/4. Even Reddit users talk about her photos in threads. And then there are the media inquiries. Radio stations from Chicago, Danish dailies, even CNN have asked to talk to her. All the exposure has led to regular “reach spikes” because people share her content.
One of the biggest reach boosts comes from Hollywood a-lister Will Smith star sharing one of her posts. It’s a nondescript basketball court somewhere in Philadelphia—and simultaneously featured in the intro for the “Prince of Bel Air.” Smith, star of the sitcom of course, shared the photo with his Instagram followers, who, at the time, numbered around 40 million. That alone added 50,000 followers to her account. Back to the Future actor Michael J. Fox has also shared one of her photos.
The movie fluencer
While her Instagram account is mainly followed by international fans aged 30 to 40, her blog is almost exclusively for German-speaking people, who click through the databases, searching for films, film locations and reading reports and features from David’s travels. Some do, however, also use it as a source of inspiration. The blog has around 600 posts, about 100 of which are ads, that is, posts for which she has been paid, such as a post about Malta as a filming location for “Game of Thrones” or “The Midnight Express.” Clients are usually the respective tourism centers.
David monetizes her reach like any influencer: sponsored articles on her blog, on Instagram she offers stories and posts—of course always with content related to the filming locations. In addition to tourism boards, her clients include production companies, film distributors and, ¸ecently, streaming service providers such as Disney+. They usually want to use David to promote new films or series. Sometimes, however, they also fall prey to nostalgia, in which case they want to re-advertise classics, such as the US cult series “Dallas” for its 40th anniversary. With her photos, David says, she keeps such films and series alive.
She is not getting rich off of all this. She says she earns a mid-five-figure sum a year. Nevertheless, going back to an office job is no longer an option for her. David loves movies and traveling. She travels up to eight times a year, sometimes visiting several locations at once, like this summer in Chicago. There she held her photos in front of the sets of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”, “Home Alone” and “The Dark Knight.” To the precise locations, she sometimes walks for hours through the virtual streets of Google Street View, comparing what she sees with the movie scenes that flicker across her TV. Because being a film tourist sometimes also means being a detective.