Iceland

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Overview and productions

Iceland has long been an attractive shooting destination for many reasons: other­worldy landscapes, a location midway between the US and Europe, skilled, hardworking crews and a solid 25% incentive. 

For 2020 and beyond, Iceland has two more feathers in its cap: it now boasts a long-awaited studio, Reykjavik Studios, and it also was one of the first territories up and running with film shoots following the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Reykjavik Studios, founded by Icelandic filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur, is a 215,000 square foot complex, located a 15-minute drive from downtown Reykjavik. The shell of a former fertiliser factory is now an open studio with a 16 metre high ceiling and a floor heated by geothermal water pipes. Kormakur has already used the studio himself for TV series Trapped as well as for his Netflix series Katla; major US studios are in talks to use the space later in 2020.

Kormakur hopes it will become a hub for film companies and other creative outlets. The Kukl and Exton equipment rental companies are already based at the site along with Irma props firm. Musician and filmmaker Dagur Kari has a recording studio nearby.

The launch of the studio is welcome news to Iceland’s film commissioner, Einar Hansen Tomasson. “[Reykjavik Studios] can make a big difference for international shoots. Absolutely it is a great help.” 

Tomason hopes there will be more facilities added in coming years: “We are missing a number of smaller stages that could facilitate a TV series.” Talks are ongoing with several companies. “There is opportunity to do more in Iceland, especially to bring in projects for the longer term,” says Tomasson.

The 25% incentive has been steady but many local companies would like to see it increased — a group of producers is lobbying the government to increase it. For now, the silver lining is that the Icelandic kronur has fallen against world currencies, meaning local spend goes further.

Skilled crews are accustomed to working 12-hour days, six days a week. “It’s our friendly DNA mix of Vikings and fisherman,” says Tomasson. “We are hard working and do long hours.

“Our Icelandic crew [base] is getting bigger and stronger and more experienced. They’ve been doing this for more than 20 years now.” 

Rental houses and service companies are growing too — recent additions to the many production service companies include Frostfilm and Polarama. 

Shoots in 2019 and early 2020 include NBC TV series Blindspot, George Clooney’s sci-fi film The Midnight Sky, The Tomorrow War starring Chris Pratt and Netflix’s Eurovision Song Contest: The Story Of Fire Saga starring Will Ferrell. The streamer’s actioner The Witcher has been doing post-production in Iceland.

Tomasson expects late 2020 to be especially busy, with Hollywood shoots set to come in from late summer. The country’s prime minister Katrin Jakobsdottir has helped approve special permits and safety guidelines for foreign film crews coming into the country. “That tells you the support we have at highest levels,” Tomasson concludes. “It gives a lot of confidence for productions coming in.”

More members of the European film community are expected to discover Iceland in December 2020, when the European Film Awards are hosted in Reykjavik for the first time.

Infrastructure and crews

The new Reykjavik Studios has hosted shoots for local series and will welcome its first international productions later in 2020. Crews are hard-working, highly skilled and speak perfect English; still most studio productions bring in their own heads of department. Leading production service companies include Truenorth (truenorth.is), Pegasus (pegasus.is)
and Sagafilm (sagafilm.is). Reykjavik has an array of hotels at every budget to house cast and crew, as well as an impressive array of dining and entertainment options. 

Size matters

Iceland’s small footprint make the country easy to traverse via road or quick internal flights — it is only 40,000 square miles (smaller than Colorado). Even just a few miles outside of Reykjavik, Iceland offers landscapes where filmmakers can find stunning waterfalls, glaciers, mountains and lava fields. International flights arrive at Keflavik airport, a 45-minute drive to Reykjavik. 

First person to call

Einar Hansen Tomasson, film commissioner einar@invest.is

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