Estonia is located in northeastern Europe, and is bordered by the Baltic Sea, Russia and Latvia. It's a three-hour flight from most major cities in Scandinavia, Europe and Russia.
With over 700 km of coastline and over 600 km of land borders, Estonia also offers more than 3,000 lakes and islands. Forest is plentiful, with around half of the land mass covered in trees. The temperate climate has clearly defined seasons, often with heavy snow in the winter and light conditions similar to other Nordic countries. In fact, Estonia’s nature strongly resembles the southern parts of Scandinavia and eastern Russia.
Daylight hours vary considerably, with just five hours between sunrise and sunset in June – during this period the nights are described as ‘white’. January provides around six hours of daylight, but it is often enhanced by the reflection from the snow.
Finnish, English, Russian and German are widely spoken, as well as the official Estonian.
In general, shooting in Estonia is estimated as being around 30-40% cheaper than in other Nordic countries and 20-25% cheaper than in Hungary.
The feature film Living Images (2013) directed by Hardi Volmer, was filmed in the historic old town of Tallinn. Kadri Kõusaar’s The Arbiter (2013) used the castle of Alatskivi and the hotel Ammende Villa, while Hella W (2011) filmed at the manor houses of Palmse and Sagadi.
Other recent productions include Kertu (2013) directed by Ilmar Raag and Purge (2012) directed by Antti J. Jokinen.
Estonia is also a popular hub for the production of commercials.
Filmmakers and crew from EU member states, the European Economic Area, the US and many other areas do not need work permits or visas. However, you will need a permit to shoot in a public space in Tallinn. An application needs to be submittted 40 days before filming if public transport is affected; 30 days if the event ends after 11pm and 14 days in advance for other cases.
Once in the country, special permits are not needed for filming in Estonia, although you will need to apply for one if you need to close streets off or stop traffic. The authorities can commission a temporary traffic scheme, with a small charge.
A filming or public event permit might be needed for a film shoot in a bigger town, and is always needed in Tallinn.
A collective of Estonian production companies plans to launch a new studio in Tallinn in 2018, which will be the largest of its type in the Baltic Sea region with three separate stages.
Downtown Studios in the centre of Tallinn provide a central location with plenty of space. There are two audio studios and two video studios, providing high-end video editing technology and a graphic post-production studio.
XL Studios is a 10 minute drive from Tallinn Airport and 20 minutes from the old town. The complex contains various sized studios, covering 400sq m in total. Facilities include a make-up room, lounge, show and accommodation for up to four guests.
Other studios in Estonia include Joosti and Estonian Raahaaling.
Apart from its natural landscape Estonia also provides a varied range of architectural heritage, with many examples of European styles dating back as far as the 13th century. If you can’t exactly find the type of building you need, a set can be built, as with German drama The Poll Diaries (2010), which required a manor house on stilts to be erected in the sea.
Tallinn’s architecture dates back to the Gothic style, and can easily pass for small Bavaraian towns such as Rothenburg. On the waterfront in the centre of Tallinn is Patarei prison, a former barracks which has been used for features such as King of Devil’s Island (2010).
With well over 1,000 islands and many sandy beaches, Estonia has provided the backdrop for many features and TV series over the years. Kertu (2013) used the beaches of Saaremaa, while historic TV series Tuulepoealne maa was filmed at fishing village Altja.
Regional production technology is advanced with modern telecommunications networks and a high level of IT and technological literacy. Local film crews are also readily available, often speaking several languages.