Finland - what it offers filmmakers
The Nordic nation of Finland is an extraordinary country with a unique physical landscape and one of the highest per capita incomes in the world. With the help of an expert's insider knowledge, we take a look at what it has to offer filmmakers and TV producers.
A range of backdrops
Finland is probably the least well-known country in the Nordic region. But like Sweden, Denmark and Norway it boasts an array of spectacular scenery, says Teija Raninen, head of the West Finland Film Commission. “Finland is unique in the sense that it has a lot of untouched nature. The countryside is filled with vast beautiful fields, large forests, lakes, valleys and Finland’s archipelago is one of the biggest in the world.
“Old wooden towns, lighthouses, historical castles, stone churches and large national parks all sum up coastal Finland in a nutshell. Meanwhile the cities are clean and well-kept and offer a mix of modern architecture and beautiful 19th century buildings. Finland has doubled several times, for example the capital, Helsinki, has often been a Russian city.”
Permitting and practicalities
In terms of practicalities, permitting is straightforward, though requires a little more time where national parks and historic monuments are concerned. Raninen adds: “Finland’s roads are kept under constant maintenance by the state. Options for accommodation can be found in all parts of the country. Even the most simple and affordable options are clean and functional.”
Sunlight and snow
“The country also offers many possibilities for different kinds of shoots. The best time of the year to film depends on the needs of the production. The sunniest time is July to August and the snowiest is from November to March. Summer is vibrant with no night time and everything is in bloom. Fall foliage is in its prettiest around the second week of September while winter at its best covers everything in white. Lapland in the north offers magical scenery for summer and winter shoots. It is guaranteed that Lapland has snow during winter time. This is why big commercials like to go there.”
One issue often discussed by visitors to Finland is mosquitoes, which can be a problem in summer, especially in the north and in remote rural areas. However there is repellent available and they should be seen as a nuisance rather than a hazard or a bar to filmmaking.
Recent projects, crew and facilities
Recent projects to have been shot in Finland include Hanna, The Girl King, Snow Queen, Our Kind Of Traitor, The Nymphs and Clownwise. According to Raninen all productions benefit from high-quality local crews: “We have very professional and skilled crews. English is taught in all the schools from junior high, so Finns get along with the language fine.”
In terms of other film and TV infrastructure, Finland has plenty of modern equipment, studios and post-production companies, mostly located in the area around Helsinki. “The studios are not very big so co-operation with Sweden could be a wise move,” adds Raninen. “Then you can access funding from both countries.”
A move towards tax incentives?
Perhaps the one thing that is missing is tax incentives for filmmakers, but Raninen is hoping that will change soon. “This has been discussed a lot in Finland lately and it has been pushed forward for consideration by the government. We hope to have it dealt with in the near future with the new government being elected a few months ago.”
In the meantime, she says that “Our regional film commissions work constantly on making it as easy and as profitable to shoot here as possible. There’s the opportunity to apply for different kinds of funding in the country. The Finnish Film Foundation is the biggest funder and financing can also be applied for from some regional commissions (there is for example funding for co-productions involving Finnish firms).”
For anyone interested in filming in Finland, she says: “Contacting the Finnish Film Foundation or the Finland Film Commission gives you access to all regional film commissions. Also contacting Finnish production companies is a way of saving yourself a lot of the trouble of finding everything out by yourself. The film industry is ever-growing in Finland and everyone is eager to co-operate with new people.”
For more on filming in Finland, head over to our production guide.