Iceland has been a booming Nordic shooting territory since its incentive was launched in 2001, which now stands at a 25% rebate for qualifying spend.
Situated midway between the US and Europe, the country boasts stunning otherworldly locations — from glaciers to waterfalls and more — and an abundance of skilled, hardworking crew. “The diversity of our nature is what attracts so many people — you can have different worlds without travelling far,” says Iceland’s film commissioner Einar Hansen Tomasson.
The territory has also fared well during the pandemic, both for its general population and with little pause in productions in 2020 or 2021. “It’s a big country with few inhabitants so international producers know there aren’t crowds,” suggests Tomasson.
Prolific local filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur had a busy 2021 producing Netflix’s feature film Against The Ice, show-running the third season of Trapped, and directing his new Netflix series Katla. The latter is shot partly on the south coast near the titular volcano, and partly at his facility Reykjavik Studios.
“There is a lot of interest [from international producers] in Baltasar’s studio,” says Tomasson, who adds that an investor group is also exploring further studio infrastructure.
“It looks good for 2022, I’m optimistic this will be a good year,” says Tomasson. “There is a lot of interest, a lot of emails and calls, not only from the US but from other places. India has been in touch about a number of projects. Also from elsewhere in Europe and Asia.”
Gunnar Sigurdsson's first English-language feature, Northern Comfort, starring Timothy Spall, Lydia Leonard and Sverrir Gudnason, is filming at lake Myvatn, before moving to Reykjavic; Hulu series Washington Black is filming in East Iceland and at the Reykjavic Studios; and Netflix/BBC film Luther, starring Idris Elba, recently shot on the Svinafellsjokull glacier.
Skilled crews are accustomed to working 12-hour days, six days a week. “We have seen with a series like Game Of Thrones, HBO was always cutting down on the crew they brought in, as they found the crew in Iceland was very talented,” Tomasson asserts.
There are hopes the incentive could increase above 25%, but for now it is stable. “We always make sure there is no gap in the legal framework,” says Tomasson. “There is full cross-political support.”
Producers praise the straightforward nature of the incentive — paperwork is simple and payments sometimes come through within three months.
Iceland offers an abundance of striking filming locations, including black volcanic beaches, white glaciers, volcanoes, geysers, hot springs and lava fields.
"You can duplicate everything in Iceland, including Mars. We have canyons in the north east, which blow peoples minds, but also cities that can double for Chicago," says location manager Alfred Gislason, who worked on Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Oblivion.
"The contrast of the Icelandic nature and sheer beauty can be overwhelming many times for the directors and the creatives when going on a location scout. It's like taking kids to the toy store. They want everything, and then change their selection again and again," says Bui Baldvinsson at experienced local production servicer providers Hero Productions. "Accessibility to our glaciers and ice caves can be fairly easy with the correct transportation and short distances between locations is what makes Iceland perfect for filming."
"We shot Love on Iceland all over the country at the glaciers and lagoons," says US producer Andrew Gernhard. "We were able to capture the country in all its glory. We even took helicopters to an ice cave without any problems."
Getting permits is generally straightforward, but can be a challenge in protected locations, which is why it's best to "team up with a local production service provider who can assist you with the incentive applications and location permits, saving your project a lot of time and money," says Hrefna Hagalin at local production service providers Arctic Productions, who have been assisting with commercials, documentaries and a Japan TV travel show that filmed in the ice caves on Vatnajökull glacier.
Reykjavik studios is a 215,000 square feet complex located a 15-minute drive from the centre of the capital. The shell of a former fertiliser factory has been turned into an open studio with a 16-metre-high ceiling and a floor heated by geothermal water pipes.
The local crew are hard-working, highly skilled and speak perfect English.
"I fell in love with the local crew on Game of Thrones. We were filming on a glacier, which can be dangerous. But the locals know who to call. You get mountain climbers with you and they know where is safe to shoot and what to look out for," says Bernie Caulfield, a producer on the popular HBO series.
"We have top of the line equipment, great infrastructure and transporting around Iceland is generally straightforward. We can get modified jeeps to go on the glaciers and 4x4s for the highlands, and there are good highways around the tourist spots," says Baldvinsson.
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 contact
Einar Hansen Tomasson, Iceland film commissioner @ firstname.lastname@example.org