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Iceland's filming locations are hot right now

Based perfectly in the middle between Europe and the US, Iceland has had its fair share of TV and film coverage lately. This time not as the epicentre of the financial crisis but purely for its great variety of filming locations that have been used in various television series and Hollywood movies.

With attractive tax incentives and a dedicated film commission this isn’t likely to stop anytime soon, a point highlighted by the fact that a big US film production team carried out a location scout on the island not long ago and has expressed a huge interest in basing its shoot there.

Speaking to KFTV at the Berlinale, film commissioner Einar Tomasson can’t yet say which movie this is only that it will be something  ”interesting for Iceland to have in its portfolio”.

The BBC, National Geographic and Discovery are in Iceland on a regular basis to film there, which considering its geographical value is perhaps not that remarkable, but the film commission says it sees a clear rise in productions and enquiries which seems to remain this way, it appears, for at least another year or two.

Recently Iceland’s locations made the press when they were shown in The Secret Life of Walter Mitty and the extremely popular fantasy drama Game of Thrones. Another television series with a large audience currently shooting in the east of Iceland in the town of Reydarfjordur is Fortitude, starring Michael Gambon, Sofie Grabol and Stanley Tucci. The series, which is using local crew, will wrap late May/June.

“European producers are following Hollywood’s example,” Tomasson says, “We have more and more productions coming over from the UK, Germany and the Nordics for example. It makes sense - we have good tax incentives and a devalued currency, so you get almost double the value. The rates are therefore very competitive.”

The tax incentive in Iceland is simple; by setting up a local production company, audio-visual productions can see a return of 20% of their total local expenditure - there is very little small print.

Another great selling point is the fact that for most of the year you could shoot for six days per week and enjoy the luxury of at least 12 hours of light per day.

With its futuristic-like glaciers, Iceland is popular among sci-fi producers but in the past it has doubled not only as ‘the future’ but as other, perhaps some surprising, locations. In the afore mentioned film The Secret Life of Walter Mitty for example, the country featured not just as itself but also stood in for Afghanistan, Greenland and the Himalayas. In other productions it has functioned as a stand-in for Minnesota, Alaska, Siberia, Russia and even as a sunny beach location (yes, Iceland has beaches as well).

Recently the horror film sequel Dead Snow 2, which was supposed to be set in Norway, filmed entirely in Iceland.

“We have it all,” says Tomasson, “lakes, mountains, glaciers, volcanos and beaches. “And”, he adds with a proud and wide grin that removes any doubt you might have about a statement like this, “we are fun people and on your days off Icelanders will show you a great time.”


Want to know what else Iceland has to offer filmmakers? Check the country’s production guide on KFTV.

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