Switzerland has much to recommend it as a filming location. Famous the world over for its Alpine landscape, it is also home to beautiful lakes, medieval towns and exquisite villages.
If there’s a downside it’s the cost of filming – which is way in excess of what you’d have to pay in Eastern European territories. For this reason, it tends to appeal more to movie-makers that international TV or commercials producers.
Having said this, the cost of shooting in Switzerland is offset to some extent by the quality of the country’s infrastructure, the can-do attitude of its crews and the fact that Switzerland is small, which means everything is within easy reach. There is also good support to be had from The Swiss Film Commission, which can make the permit process easier and also has a directory of production and equipment companies.
Over the years, Switzerland has had its fair share of films with mountains in (The Eiger Sanction, Where Eagles Dare, North Face, Touching The Void). It has also hosted five Bond films. Other films to have touched down here include Contagion, The Golden Compass, The Muppets, Syriana and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. The latter filmed a train scene in Triengen (though it is worth noting that the Reichenbach Falls finale was created in London using VFX after scouting in Switzerland and Norway didn’t manage to locate a high enough waterfall).
Perhaps the most high-profile recent feature to use Swiss locations is espionage thriller Our Kind of Traitor, which filmed in 2014, starring Ewan McGregor and Damian Lewis and directed by Susanna White.
Echoing the situation with other developed markets like Germany, there is not much incentive for TV and commercials producers to come to Switzerland unless they have a specific editorial goal. For example, Nick Ryan’s feature-length documentary The Summit told the story of a human tragedy at the top of Himalayan mountain K2. As part of the story, Ryan filmed reconstructions in the Jungfrauand Eiger regions of Switzerland (much easier than trying to do this around K2).
In terms of ads, Hollywood director Peter Berg was in Switzerland to film stunning mountain scenes in early 2014 for a series of commercials for Coors Light.
A Mercedes commercial (Reach The Top) was mostly shot in New Zealand but came to Switzerland to do a day’s filming with Tennis star Roger Federer. The finished ad cut together shots of a Mercedes car driving around rugged New Zealand roads with images of Federer playing tennis and (the shooting day) sitting in the car. The purpose of the ad was to show the car’s ability to perform on different surfaces.
Switzerland is a film-friendly place which is generally pretty quick to facilitate permits for shooting in public places. Film Location Switzerland says: “Filming permissions are easy to obtain in Switzerland and Film Location Switzerland negotiates with local authorities on your behalf. Unlike many other European countries, Switzerland has a very open approach to filming in public areas, on streets or on highways.”
There are a number of studios in Switzerland with good quality facilities. Some of these can be found on the Film Commission website, an example being Studio Gutenswil, 20km outside Zurich. Others of note include the studio facilities connected to Switzerland’s public broadcasting system. Television Suisse Romande has a number of studios, the largest of which (Studio 4) is 900m2. The next biggest is 360m2. The KFTV website also lists a number of studios including Dinemec Studios in Geneva which has a 600m2 space available to rent.
kameramann.ch is a service production company that is specialized in TV and corporate communication. They offer four post-production suites with all the tools for editing, motion as well as inhouse sound design.
There’s no question that Switzerland has many great locations. The kind of locations on offer include: magnificent snowy peaks, stunning lakes, lush meadows, vineyards, forests, castles and pretty villages. Cities like Zurich, Lausanne and Geneva are also very evocative, combining historic architecture with contemporary builds.
Not to be overlooked either is the fact that Switzerland is home to numerous international organisations which can play significant roles in film plots. Angels and Demons visits nuclear research centre CERN while Contagion features the World Health Organisation in Geneva. For a range of interesting location ideas click here. Categories covered include churches and castles, cities and towns, lakes and rivers, and mountains and landscapes.
There are a number of companies which can aid with the search for locations. These include MP-Production which can advise on anything from high Alpine to sites for car shoots.
Switzerland has all the equipment you would expect from a sophisticated Western territory. Anything not easily available can be sourced from neighbouring territories. Companies well-known for providing rental equipment include Megarent, Lightscope and Luxan but a more comprehensive list can be found on the Film Location Switzerland website or on the KFTV website.
Specialist skills like art department and set construction are to a good standard but expensive compared to Eastern Europe. That said, Swiss audiovisual professionals are of a high standard and are noted for their can-do attitude (for a directory of producers, click here). For post-production contacts explore the KFTV website.