Iceland, quite simply, looks like no other place on Earth, with lava fields, black sand beaches, fjords, glaciers, icy mountains and waterfalls. Productions drawn to its spectacular, other-worldly landscapes over the past 18 months include Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Fast & Furious 7, Justice League, Vikings, Game Of Thrones and the second season of Fortitude.
It is not just the spectacular scenery that is a draw; there is also the film tax rebate, recently raised to 25% from 20%, a reputation for minimal red tape, experienced crews and a location smack in the middle between the US and Europe. Extra hours of daylight or darkness are also useful to some productions.
A new film complex spearheaded by leading local filmmaker Baltasar Kormakur will open in late 2017 or early 2018. It will enable incoming productions to be based in the territory for an entire shoot. Kormakur acquired the former industrial site outside Reykjavik at the end of last year and is building an entire “film village” with sound stages, production offices and accommodation.
Additional reporting by Melanie Goodfellow.
Iceland has recently raised its incentive to 25% from 20%, mainly in response to competition from new rebates in neighbouring Norway and Finland. Producers can apply for reimbursements from the state treasury of 25% of the costs incurred in the production of films and TV.
Full details on financial incentives in Iceland: Film in Iceland
Infrastructure and crews
Icelanders are known to be hard working and straight talking, and crews are non-unionised. “It’s a straightforward, cut-to-the-chase attitude that people love here,” says Leifur Dagfinnsson, chairman and founding partner of production services company Truenorth, which looks after many of the big-budget titles coming through.
Baltasar Kormakur’s new studios will be built on 20,000 sq m of land outside Reykjavik. The only other indoor facility in Iceland is one 200 sq m soundstage near the international airport in Keflavik. Kormakur’s production company, RVK Studios, also has a sister post-production facility, RVX, which proved its mettle on the effects for Kormakur’s Everest, and a production services division led by Game Of Thrones veteran Petur Sigurdsson.
Iceland has a compact but experienced crew base, able to serve two to three productions at once. The dozen or so production companies operating in the territory liaise carefully to maximise crew availability across the projects shooting at any one time.
Marco Giacalone, supervising location manager, Sense8, says:
“The crew are great and their knowledge of the island is fundamental to execute our work.”
Iceland covers 103,000 sq km (40,000 sq miles). Reykjavik is a 45-minute drive from the international airport at Keflavik. Local flights from Reykjavik airport can reach a great diversity of nature within two hours.
First person to call
Einar Hansen Tomasson, film commissioner
Need to know
- DO enjoy the vibrant nightlife in Reykjavik.
- DO plan for the weather. Film crews can get great deals on outerwear from beloved local brand 66°North.
- DO enjoy some privacy. The paparazzi culture is not frantic in Iceland, and locals mostly leave stars alone.
- DON’T expect to import horses for your shoot. Iceland has strict laws to protect its famous Icelandic breeds.
Karl Sigurdarson, Truenorth
Why does it make sense to shoot a commercial in Iceland?
“Iceland offers a variety of diverse locations within relatively short distances. This enables a production to shoot different landscapes and backdrops without being too far from the next hotel, restaurant or town, and having whatever support is needed. We have glaciers, geothermal locations, black sand beaches, waterfalls, highlands, lakes, mountains, moon-like roads and towns. The local crew here have gained valuable experience on several Hollywood blockbuster films that have been shot here over the last decade.”