If you’re looking for stunning scenery and high levels of professionalism, then Sweden is up there with the best. But it's not a country to shoot in on a tight budget.
The locations vary from the exquisite city of Stockholm to the majestic beauty of Lapland. As for talent, the existence of a strong indigenous film and television industry means that there is no shortage of great producers, directors, crews and facilities. This is, after all, the home of Ingmar Bergman. Being so far North, Sweden can’t boast a Mediterranean style climate. Its winters are bitterly cold, but it does get long sunny days in May and June.
Head for the Arctic and you can even see the fabled midnight sun. The best time for filming the Aurora Borealis is between September and March. In terms of overall image, Sweden has benefitted enormously from a run of hit crime series. Having succeeded in print, Henning Mankell’s Wallander and Stieg Larsson’s Millennium have sparked a wave of film and TV production. Not to be overlooked either is the quality of the country’s infrastructure. Good roads, regular flights and good, but expensive, hotels help explain why Sweden attracts business.
A good starting point for further information is the Sweden Film Commission.
Sweden has a sophisticated domestic production business, largely built around its popular Nordic noir TV series (produced by companies including Yellow Bird).
In terms of international projects, it has hosted an English-language adaptation of Wallander (starring Kenneth Branagh), an English-language version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the Indian production 1920: Evil Returns and George Clooney movie The American. “My experience in Ostersund Sweden on The American was wonderful,” said The American producer Anne Carey. “The local labour was top-rate, the infrastructure was solid. The working conditions were very professional and comfortable. The hotel was perfect for the needs of the cast and crew. It could not have been a better experience.”
Lars Von Trier regularly films in Sweden with classics such as Dogville, Breaking Waves and Dancer in The Dark all filmed partly in the country. His box-office hit Melancholia, an apocalyptic drama starring Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland, was shot almost exclusively in Sweden.
The uniqueness of Sweden is part of its appeal. 1920: Evil Returns was filmed partly in Skåne in the south of Sweden because Mumbai director Bhushan Patel wanted to show Indian audiences something they hadn’t seen before. Since Patel’s film, Skåne has also provided the set for four Indian movies with tons of action and romance. Connecting Bollywood, Mirza Askari’s production house, deals with arranging Scandinavian film locations for Indian filmmakers.
While Sweden has a strong domestic commercials business, its high cost and short summer means it is not a big player in terms of international service work. A good illustration of the problem is a McDonald’s ad that was designed to promote the company’s work with Swedish farmers. It had to be shot in the Czech Republic because Sweden was covered in snow. That said, some recent campaigns shot in Sweden include Volvo – Made By Sweden, a beautiful piece of film, and Heading North, a showcase for the Camel Active Autumn/Winter collection.
Emerge Film Solutions says: “Sweden has a film friendly and streamlined permitting process. There are no extraordinary restrictions or rules.” For specific details, go via the Sweden Film Commission website to the local regions. The Stockholm Film Commission gives specific advice on when you will need a permit to shoot in the city and how far in advance you should apply. For example, it advises that “for closing off a street, apply for a permit three to four weeks in advance”.
Sweden has a number of studio facilities around the country. These include Ystad Studios in the south, which is 20 minutes from Malmo airport and 65 minutes from Copenhagen in Denmark. There is also a studio in Lulea, in the north, and Trollhattan in the west. Trollhattan, 70km from Gothenburg, is Sweden’s film capital and is affectionately known as Trollywood.
Other studios include Stockholm-based Botkyrka Kommun and CineStar Studio, 2.5 hours away from Stockholm in Kumla. There is also Independent Studios, a full-service rental studio, offering client- based solutions within all areas of film and TV-production. With 900sqm. of available studio space, their services consist of two modern and fully equipped soundproof film studios (specifics available on their website). Oscar-nominated movie As It Is In Heaven was shot at Studio Kronan.
Swedish capital Stockholm is a delightful city blessed with the gorgeous old town of Gamla Stan, beautiful waterways, pretty parks and modern architecture. It’s also home to Skansen, a superb outdoor museum that has a collection of traditional Swedish houses dating back to the Viking era. Head out of the city and it doesn’t take long before you reach the Stockholm archipelago, a group of thousands of mostly uninhabited islands.
Filmmaking happens from the northern tip to the southernmost point of Sweden. In the northern province of Lapland there are mountains and snowy wildernesses. The north is also the place to see the midnight sun and the spectacular northern lights. One favourite location is the famous Ice Hotel in Jukkasjärvi.
While summer is the most popular time for shooting, it is possible to shoot year round. The autumn colours are very vibrant while winter provides spectacular snowy scenes. Filming on location in Sweden is partly determined by the season you're in - for example, during winter, sunrise in the north is not until mid-morning - but conversely summertime offers very long filming hours. In terms of finding locations, the Sweden Film Commission has four branches across the country that can provide local guidance [Swedish Lapland, Stockholm, West Sweden and Oresund].
As you’d expect, Sweden isn’t short of equipment rental companies. Among the best-known is Kameraten, a Stockholm-based firm that stocks a wide range of cameras and lenses. Other companies of note include Ljud & Bildmedia, Dagsljus and the multi-national operation Best Broadcast Hire.
Swedish crews are very good and are experienced in cold weather shooting. This is worth keeping in mind when thinking about whether to parachute people in. Art departments and set construction are of a high standard but set construction has been described as fairly expensive. Despite good locally-available kit, some specialised equipment needs to be brought in from abroad.