Dear listeners, I would like to welcome you to the next episode of the De Facto podcast, a podcast of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Today we’re bringing you again an interview with a successful graduate, Honza Mikulka. Honza studied marketing communication and media studies at FSV. He participates in the successful Honest Guide project, which aims to show Prague through slightly different lenses. Literally, because he’s behind the camera. Honzo, welcome.
Thank you for a nice welcome.
Is it true that Honza Mikulka doesn’t like to be called Jan?
That’s right, I don’t really care for it. ‘Honza’ is so much nicer and in fact even the teachers never told me “Jan, come to the blackboard,” it was always Honza, so I prefer it. I even managed to push through Honza to be on the book we published, which makes me happy to this day.
In any case, loyal Honest Guide fans certainly know the name Honza Mikulka, but maybe few people know his face. Not that this would be much different in today’s podcast. Why do you hide behind the camera and never appear in front of it?
I feel better standing behind it. I don’t know if I would necessarily call it hiding, I just happen to be behind it. To put it another way, to create the show, someone has to hold the camera. In this case, it’s me, but I don’t mind that at all, quite the contrary. I’m not extravagant, I don’t need to be seen, and actually – I’m not able to do it. There should be someone in front of the camera who has a gift and a feeling for that, and that is undoubtedly my colleague and buddy Janek.
What is the cooperation with Janek like?
The best, really the best. It has been going on with the Honest Guide project for five or six years, and we have known each other for about 12 years. In the meantime, we did other shows together, such as the gastronomic show “Peklo na talíři/Hell on a Plate,” where we both were behind the camera. Or the show “Jak na to/How to,” which were tutorials, for example on how to delete a profile on Facebook. So we have been working together for a long time, I still enjoy it tremendously and find it largely fulfilling, Janek is an incredibly inspiring and interesting person, in my opinion one of the most creative people there are. Not from those who I know, but from those who are around us, so I really enjoy it, day after day.
And why did the Honest Guide project emerge?
I really enjoy travelling, but while travelling one may sometimes experience unpleasant things as well. And this is where my light passion for two things came together, and that is travelling and video shooting. Janek and I discussed that something was missing here that would show Prague the way we both see it, as boys living in Prague. Because we are boys from Prague. And we wanted to show it to the people who come here. We felt a lot of commotion around us involving exchange offices. The sign 0% is lit everywhere, but you go in and suddenly you’re charged a 42% fee, it’s just hidden. And we didn’t like it and we wanted to help. When you stand outside and see a girl and a boy crying there, cursing and banging on the glass and saying, “You took almost half of our money!” then you want to help them. You don’t want them to leave your city, which you think is a great city, saying it’s a terrible place.
You have a million subscribers on YouTube, almost 35 million viewings, these are definitely very nice numbers that you must be happy about. But can you tell if people have saved a lot of money thanks to you? Maybe thanks to the closed-down exchange offices?
They have for sure. We cannot calculate it, but it must be an incredible amount of money that we have helped people to save. And not only did they save money, but it was also the money that we passed on to the city. The fact that you don’t get ripped off in the exchange office means that you take the money and spend it in a nice café, in a nice restaurant, and that’s something we also show. The Czechs often see our episodes that are sort of explosive. When we chase a crook on the street or when we close down exchange offices, but we do a lot of episodes like where to have a pee, about nice cafés, we have a tip on where to go for good cheap Czech food in the center. And those people are happy to be warned that they might be ripped off somewhere. Plus, they won’t take the money away, but will go out for a great meal, go to Světozor, have a sandwich or an ice cream and take it to Františkánská zahrada/the Franciscan Garden, and that’s what makes me very happy.
Do the boys from Prague still have something to shoot here in the metropolis?
Yeah, always, there are so many topics here. And this is actually one of the biggest advantages of the Hollar building, where FSV is located, that we have a beautiful view of the Prague Castle right from here, we are in the center, we are next to the National Theater. When you walk around there are loads of things that open up to you, it’s actually a beautiful entrance to the center in here. There are hidden beautiful cafés here. I think that students who start going to the Hollar building will discover Standard Café very quickly.
Apart from Honest Guide, you’re also involved in other projects, so what else are you shooting or directing, or producing?
I’ve cut down on them a lot, Honest Guide takes a lot of our time, we try to make the videos of high quality to have an interesting editing. We also run the Kluci z Prahy/the Boys from Prague channel, which is the Czech version of the Honest Guide. It’s a little different, because foreigners still need to be explained some cultural differences, while the Czechs can be easily told about what and how in a single sentence. In addition, there are a number of people who like our work, and we do two special episodes a week for them on the Patreon platform. All added up, we have about 150 episodes a year. Besides, I also help the Czech Olympic team with larger events – the Olympic Games or the European Games. I shoot there, too and manage to make 150 videos in 30 days.
Why didn’t you go to the university to study video-making, or filmmaking? Why did you choose FSV, why did you choose MKPR/Marketing Communication and PR?
I did apply to FAMU but was not accepted. I thought I would try it the following year, but in the end I liked FSV so much that I stayed there. At FAMU, art is being created there and I’m not really an artist. I much more prefer the internet. It’s a free medium, you can find your own authentic direction there in some way, change in some way, you actually do a new episode every week, you can do it completely differently every week and you’re searching for your own way. That’s what I like about the Internet. And I’m actually glad that I set out on this path, FSV gave me enough space and opportunities to move in these directions – for example, how it works in terms of promotion, how to reach more people, how to show it to more people, simply how to find the people to show it to. So I found it as a very good alternative and a path, and then I didn’t even want to go back because it really was the right thing for me.
When you say that FSV was the right thing for you, what exactly made you stay here?
For sure the fact I had enough time to do other things in my leisure time. And I don’t want it to sound silly. Look, medical students have it completely different, they will probably find themselves immersed in university books from the very morning until the evening. This is not the case here, here one has to work on oneself enough to move ahead a bit, which is great. Of course, if someone does not have good morale and discipline, it is possible that they will just get through the school and eventually find out that they know nothing. But it was great for me. I probably need to do more things at once, and the idea that I’m just looking at some blood vessels and arteries from the morning until the evening drives me crazy. I need to jump from one topic to another.
During your studies at FSV, you also lived actively as a student, what projects did you participate in here?
We did a few things, we launched an initiative thanks to which there is a café in Hollar today. Another of the larger events was the Pavlač Festival. We took over the whole school, I was in my early twenties and I got the keys to the whole school, I could organize a festival here on Friday night, I invited bands from Pardubice and Zlín, there was a DJ and it was really awesome. Today, events take place here in Hollar quite often, even such madness like the Boiler Room.
You also stood at the birth of the Creative Camp student project. What’s that about?
Together with friends, graduates, Jirka Štefek and Ondra Kolek, we did a Creative Camp and it was a reaction to the fact that we lacked practical subjects here at school. There is a lot of theory here, which doesn’t do that much harm, but we wanted to “get the real feel” of something. So we took 20 students outside Prague for the weekend, they were tasked with an assignment there, for example that Komerční banka would like to be on TikTok. And those students really work hard, they have the brand guys there or someone from the digital team of Komerční banka who assists them there. And they prepare a concept, present it, and can try out four big different brands that weekend and learn in the process.
Honzo, what about you and your stays abroad during your studies?
I went to Cardiff, Wales and it was absolutely phenomenal, I would recommend it to everyone. It’s a great experience, you get to see a different culture. The faculty offers quite a few study stays, places to go. And if I should recommend where to go, then out of a big city. I could have chosen London or Berlin, but it’s boring, everyone goes there. Cardiff was great in that it’s like in the backwoods and a life of the locals is more visible there.
If you were to compare a normal student day at the university here in Prague versus a normal student day at the University of Cardiff, then how was it different?
I had less work at school in Cardiff. I only got credits for three or four courses, I attended the other ones voluntarily and I didn’t get anything for it. So, I wasn’t really slacking off. What I really enjoyed about my life there was that I would constantly go out to discover Cardiff. The whole time I was there I never took a bus. I walked everywhere to get to know the city as much as possible. And the great thing was as the Welsh people have a very thick accent, so sometimes it was harder to understand them, and that was a lot of fun. You met someone on the street and he mumbled something and you tried to find out for 5 minutes what he was saying.
Let’s go back to Prague, to the Czech Republic. I wonder what you wrote as your bachelor’s and master’s theses?
I wrote about advertising that is included in school textbooks. We found out that people who study at a hotel school or to become cooks have an advertisement for Vitana, for example, in their textbook. That if you make a sauce, you can make your work easier by using a semi-finished product. And there was a huge advertisement for Vitana powder broth covering the whole A4 paper format. I also went to the Ministry of Education, I dealt with the deputy there, she didn’t care, she said: “So what? It fits in the kitchen, better than if there was an advertisement for a Škoda.” I thought – is she serious? And in my master’s thesis, I extended it to all the textbooks. For example, in a math textbook, there was an advertisement for a calculator. You do probably need a calculator, but on the other hand – should this have its place at school? Should children be exposed to this advertisement?
Let’s lighten up the topic a little at the end. What does Honza Mikulka do in his free time?
I put my heart in traveling. I really enjoy it, even though it’s a little more challenging now. A week ago, I came back from America, which opened its borders last month and it was great. If someone is listening now and says they don’t know if to go anywhere – then do go! It’s always a good idea to travel and especially now the places that are packed with tourists in the high seasons, so now you can see them without people, without tourists and it is worth it. It’s great.
And which of the places you have already visited really impressed you? Or which one did you like the most?
Definitely New Zealand. A great, wonderful place. South Africa, I fell in love with Cape Town, I really liked it there. And now, for example, Kauai, it is one of the smaller Hawaiian Islands. They call it a terrible nowheresville. That’s funny, you’re in a place you think is one of the most beautiful places in the world. And the person who lives there will tell you it’s a terrible nowheresville. And you’re just watching the sunsets there over the palm trees and the waves splashing and that person is thinking – what is it like to be, for example, in a city with castles and churches?
Honzo, thank you so much for coming to our podcast today. I wish you a lot of successful videos, although on the other hand I wish there were as few negative ones as possible about Prague. Thank you and see you.
Thank you so much.