Written by Shona Smith on May 4, 2020. Posted in General Interest

Iceland attracts Hollywood interest as way out of production deadlock

Iceland has seen decisive action on coronavirus including rigorous testing, tracking and isolating to counter the spread of the outbreak in the country. Current restrictions are being lifted in the country that makes production feasible once again, and production giants including Netflix are eyeing the country as it plans how to resume filming activity.

According to Iceland's Film Commissioner Einar Tomasson from May 4 larger gatherings will be limited to fifty people, instead of twenty and all foreign nationals with immigration status in Iceland or another Schengen State (EU/EEA, EFTA or UK nationals) are allowed to enter Iceland, and other foreign nationals will be able to enter after the 15th May.

All incoming travellers will need to undergo a quarantine period but proposals have been made by the Icelandic Film Commission to the authorities "for shooting crews coming to Iceland that include the need for production teams to be screened on arrival in the country and then quarantined in an empty hotel until they get their results. These could take just 24 hours" says Kiljan Paoli, Production manager at Comrade Film. The fast-tracking of film crews would mean much shorter waiting times for crews, removing the need for the two-weeks of quarantining. "We should have answers on that this week." says Kiljan.

Hollywood has long been drawn to Iceland's dramatic landscapes and 25% production incentive, having hosted productions including Game of Thrones, Noah and Star Wars. Now the country's popularity might soar again as it offers productions a way out of the coronavirus deadlock that put a break on the industry.

These locations may be even easier to access at the moment, according to Bui Baldvinsson, Executive Producer at Hero Productions Iceland. "Almost every location in Iceland is accesible now without tourists. Everything from the largest waterfalls to the glacier lagoon is free of people. As Iceland has been a very popular place for tourists and filming, many of the locations have been hard keep clear from people while shooting, but not any more. We are getting great deals on hotels and transportation hires for the filming to come, as prices have gone down and will stay that way until the tourism starts booming again".

Netflix production Katla has restarted at RVK Studios in Iceland. The news comes after Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos announced that it was currently in production in Iceland, alongside South Korea during its first-quarter earnings call, as the streamer looks into options on how to restore filming production in a safe and regulated way. Sarandos said that it will implement what it learns in these territories as other filming hubs start to open.

"We have seen an increase in proposed productions over the Summer and into Autumn" says Steve Lewis, Executive producer at The Empire. "As our company is based in Siglufjörður, in the North of Iceland, it's the most remote location, in contact with few people and least affected by the virus. We are working creatively with producers and directors to develop concepts that were initially even to be shot in tropical locations" says Lewis, whose service company specialises on filming in the regions extreme conditions. "Our services are almost always focused on taking our clients into pure nature and I think that this is appealing to producers at the moment to be able to shoot outside of civilisation and away from the hotspot of Reykjavik"

Comrade Films operates across the Nordic countries, and production has begun already in Norway on high end commercials with health and safety protocols. Restrictions on size of gatherings is expected to be lifted to fifty by the 7th May says his partners in Norway. But Iceland's isolation is working in its favour in the current climate says Paoli. "The main difference is that Iceland is more isolated so more difficult to access. Iceland has also a much lower population count than the rest of the Nordic countries with only 350.000 people, 70% of them living in the capital Reykjavík and surrounding cities. With travel restrictions on tourism that gives an unique opportunity to shoot in the incredible Icelandic landscapes with absolutely no human interference, just completely alone in nature".

"We are also aware that Iceland is becoming a hotspot for productions right now, we feel it's our job to present unique and unknown locations to our clients, giving them a different look and feel than the classic South Coast Iceland which is relied upon so heavily" adds Lewis. "It is a country with so much geographical variety, we see it as a positive at this time to really push exploration and deliver outstanding results". The Empire are still advising on smaller incoming crews to limit potential disruption. "Our advice is to bring as little foreign crew as possible, just producers and directors and have them work with the talented Icelandic DP's and their teams. It minimises the risk of a member of the crew being turned around when a viral test is conducted upon arrival in KEF International".

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