Q&A with Truenorth's Leifur Dagfinnsson

Truenorth founder Leifur Dagfinnsson on making 'True Detective: Night Country' and being at the forefront of sustainability since day one. 

By Sponsored Content 23 May 2024

Q&A with Truenorth's Leifur Dagfinnsson
Leifur Dagfinnsson; Courtesy Truenorth

Truenorth’s Leifur Dagfinnsson speaks with KFTV about their groundbreaking work on HBO's True Detective: Night Country, which won the 2024 Global Production Award for Sustainable Production Award, as well as balancing the perfect shot and respecting the country's natural, and eroding, landscape. 

How do you balance finding a location for a producer and respecting the natural environment in which you’re filming?  

Is our top priority that we access the locations with respect, that we do not leave any marks on the environment. And the same goes with buildings, whether those buildings are governmental or individual’s homes.  

We also put sustainability factors into place, using the green energy that is available here in Iceland and implementing that on a higher level than we had been doing up to date, for True Detective: Night Country. That was a huge step and kind of set a new kind of foundation for future productions to use.  

We put more effort financially to make sure that we do not damage a sensitive location. 

There are definitely places that are just very sensitive and you just don't really get access to. Some of our landscape is that sensitive, but the way Truenorth has worked, taking so much care not to spoil anything, we usually manage to get access. 

Do you find that you have to educate incoming productions on the diversity of Iceland’s landscape? 

In my experience is that when we scout with the directors and the production designer or the directors of photography, it's just mind blowing. They are just blown away with the variety of locations that they can film on. The problem becomes ‘how can we narrow it down to make it work’. There is a selection anxiety when it comes to picking the locations.  

To what extent have you seen the effects of climate change impact your work? 

We see it just by watching the glaciers here. They are receding and are disappearing at an enormous fast rate. There are few locations that that we have been visiting for the past 30 years and it's incredible how they change. I mean it's just astounding. So yes, we see that, and we feel that. 

It's a very important point because you know we are known for the accessibility to snow year round. So during wintertime we have snow basically more or less all over, and in the summertime we can bring big units of people up on a glaciers. 

But we always bear in mind that what we do has a footprint. We're trying with the technology that is available today, to be better. Every small thing helps in a way. 

Photograph by Michele K. Short/HBO

How do you see Iceland’s government as being involved in this effort? 

I believe the government is fully aware of the opportunity that Iceland has, globally, to be the leader in sustainability and green energy because we have the geothermal power plants. I think Iceland has the opportunity true leaders, to show the rest of the world how we should operate, how we should take care of nature and how we should use nature in a way that benefits the mother Earth and the people that are renting it.  

You know, we don't own the planet. We’re just here for a short period of time and we have to be respectful of the planet. 

How do you balance the increasing demand for virtual production with Iceland’s reputation for being an on-location shooting destination? 

One of our veteran producers says, 'the audience is so educated now, that they can tell the difference between what are visual effects versus what's on real location.’ Authenticity with real locations has become more important. The audience appreciates that.  

But having said that, we understand the technology and we would like to implement that technology here in Iceland as well, to marry both the extreme locations and also virtual productions, because you need both to create a film.

What we did on True Detective, we were able to convince HBO to film an entire series in Iceland that was not only location for a few weeks, but an entire series that included 112 days filming both on stages and on location. 

The 35% cash rebate allows these types of productions to take advantage of this kind of opportunity to film longer shows on stages and location. We see virtual production, with the LED screens, as part of the future, building that into our stages. 

Photograph by Michele K. Short/HBO

Have you seen the tax incentive having a real material impact on your work? 

Yes, definitely. I've been in this business 30 years, and I've seen it grow tremendously and I must say it was a very proud moment to enjoy the results of our work on True Detective on a big screen with our Icelandic collaborators and friends.  

HBO, too had a huge impact, alongside Truenorth, in convincing the government that this could be the case, that this could be the future for Iceland. We had to prove ourselves, and the crew did a tremendous job in proving that what the hell I was talking about was sound and solid. 

To see that what we've been growing for the past 30 years, and now we can wholeheartedly say ‘yes, we can shoot a high budget, high quality film or TV series entirely in Iceland’ and with a nearly fully Icelandic crew; that has now been proven. 

What’s next for Truenorth? 

We have set up shop in Norway, when they started their tax incentive, and we've been extremely busy there since 2016 having done 3 Mission Impossible Films, one James Bond film. Our next destination is Finland, now they have tax incentives, and strangely enough, we also do operate in Spain and we have done one project on the Canary Islands with Netflix, The Midnight Sky.  

Our latest achievement was setting up in Greece. So now we have Truenorth Greece. 

That must be very different.

The snow melts much faster in Greece!  

But you know, it’s the Truenorth DNA that we want to take implement in other countries where we partner with a really strong local partner, that has a local experience similar to our experience in Iceland.

We bring in our relationship with the studios and make sure that it's fully in line with what they are used to, whether they shoot in Iceland or Norway or elsewhere.

Latest news & features

Featured profiles

Promote your services with KFTV

Choose from three profile types - Basic, Silver and Gold

Create Profile

We offer a range of display advertising opportunities.

Learn More