Cappadocia, a fascinating region of central Turkey, is another destination where we’ve filmed a video before, at the end of 2015. If you remember that first Turkey series being released, you would be one of our original 70k subscribers!
Back then, a lot less planning went into the way we travelled. Turkey was selected pretty much at random, basically because it was cheap to fly there. We landed in Istanbul with no accommodation booked and developed a plan from there.
During that trip we spent only one night in Cappadocia, which is famous for its ancient networks of underground tunnels, churches, and cave homes carved out of strange rock formations called fairy chimneys. At dawn, hundreds of hot air balloons take off and fill the skies, drifting over the weird and wonderful landscape. It’s an amazing sight. We managed to catch just one sunrise with the balloons that time (watch it here), and it was enough for us to realise the potential of this surreal location. We vowed to go back at some point.
The idea of filming a parkour POV every sunrise with the balloons came to us during a team brainstorming session, when we were in Italy working on Michael Bay’s 6 Underground. It was the kind of idea that was so exciting it didn’t matter how challenging the logistics might be.
So in June 2019, we returned to Cappadocia. We arrived in the afternoon, dropped off our luggage at the cave house Airbnb we’d booked, and headed straight out to catch the sunset at one of the locations we’d discovered during our original visit.
The rock formations and caves were even stranger than we remembered them. It was weird to come back to the same place and find where all our jumps and runs were from the previous video. Our movement style was different back then, and it was more difficult to find the kind of long runs and efficient parkour we are used to doing now.
During the course of that afternoon, we honed in on an area of the rocks that was most interesting, and began to plan a route that would be our first shot of the POV. We would start shooting the following morning. The run involved dusty slides, jumps to a grass slope, and ended cascading through the dusty tunnels in the cave. Of course, at this point we had no idea where the balloons would be, or if they would be close enough for our shot. It was a bit of a stab in the dark and we would learn a lot the next day.
The alarm went off at 4.30am, we piled into the two hire cars and headed over to the spot we’d identified last night. On the way, we saw our first glimpses of balloons, which excited the whole team. The balloons were further away from our location than we had wanted, but fortunately some were being blown in our direction.
The POV squad organised themselves into start positions, and we waited and watched as some balloons came close to the rock face. Unfortunately, by the time we decided to go, we had missed the best of the balloons – they move way faster than we had expected. We got the shot but it wasn’t as balloon-heavy as we’d intended.
This first morning shed light on the scale of the challenge we were undertaking. The balloons were a completely unknown quantity, in a similar way to the monkeys in India. We had to rely on weather conditions and wind direction in order to get close to the balloons, but we also had to find good long parkour runs in extremely difficult terrain. That combination proved to be very difficult to obtain.
After filming, we continued to scout the area where we’d seen the balloons take off. We had breakfast then returned home to have a midday nap. We decided that this was quite an efficient schedule – film at sunrise, eat and nap during midday heat, and in the afternoon we’d scout locations for the following morning. In the evening, we went and found our favourite restaurant from the last visit, and surprised one of the staff who was still working there and remembered us!
Luck was on our side the next morning. The run we’d scouted the previous night was right under the balloons as they were taking off. The group energy was so good as we were running across the desert at dawn to our start positions, we knew that this could be the shot we needed.
This run involved a heavy gap for three of us and a technical spin down some levels for Benj. We absolutely nailed the shot and all ran back to the cars grinning. That really helped the momentum of the project, getting a perfect clip so early on – we knew now that it was possible.
That afternoon, a fan on Instagram offered to arrange a hot air balloon ride for us. We knew we wanted to end the video by running and jumping into a balloon as it was taking off. The people who ran the booking office seemed to think this would be possible, so we paid up and booked a ride for the following morning.
Arriving at the take-off zone, none of our contacts from the booking office were there to explain things to the pilot of the balloon. He was hesitant to help with our request as he was concerned about safety. Nevertheless, we still needed to film an outro so we ploughed on anyway. The shot wasn’t what we were promised, the balloon was still tied into its trailer and it touched the ground once we’d climbed in. That left us with a feeling of disappointment towards the whole hour-long ride; it was underwhelming to say the least. But we got a shot, and we had to make do.
The next morning, we arrived at our location to find there were no balloons taking off. The wind speed was too strong, apparently, although only 6-mph. We couldn’t film anything.
The relatively high winds remained for three mornings in a row. We would get up early each day to make sure, and continued scouting for runs, but this seriously delayed our schedule. We had planned to make a video in Mardin, on the border with Syria, after leaving Cappadocia, but we knew we had to stay until this POV was complete.
During those lost days we found two really solid lines, which were very close to where the balloons would normally take off. In order to get enough footage, we realised we’d need to get two long shots in one morning when the wind was still. Both runs were long and technical, and we knew we would need to rehearse thoroughly to be able to bang out these shots. By this point, we were balancing on a thin line between fatigue and preparedness.
Tuesday morning, we awoke to great weather conditions for the balloons. We got up and out even earlier than usual, and were ready at our start positions as the balloons were just beginning to rise. They are only in the air for around one hour, so we had to use our time efficiently.
The initial run was done in two takes. We got back to the cars and hiked up to our second location in record time. The balloons were perfectly positioned here as well, and after some slip-ups on our first take we nailed this one too. 60-seconds in the timeline in one morning! We knew we were over the hill, the hard part of this project was behind us, we just had to pick up the intro and some extra snippets with our remaining time there.
This project was really difficult for several reasons. Firstly, the terrain was some of the most challenging we had come across in years – slippery jagged rocks and steep inclines aren’t your typical parkour set-up. And secondly, the balloons were effectively a natural phenomenon, beyond our control – they would be cancelled or change location literally minutes before they were due to take off.
Often though, it’s these unexpected difficulties that make completing a challenge even more rewarding. It’s another satisfying example of taking a STORROR vision and turning it into reality through teamwork.
We are all agreed, Cappadocia is one of the most mysterious, exotic and beautiful places we have ever been. To describe what it’s like to see hundreds of hot air balloons in the sky at sunrise, over the amazing landscape of fairy chimneys and cave houses is almost impossible. If we were able to capture any part of that feeling in our videos then we have done ourselves proud. Hope you enjoy watching the series of three, which starts here!