International Film Producers Look To Finland For Movie Locations
Wild scenery in Lapland, advance technology, and security major advantages in competition
By Jussi Ahlroth
The beach sand of Iwo Jima is black in the Clint Eastwood film Flags of our Fathers. The reason for this is the volcanic earth.
However, the beach is not in the Pacific. The film was shot in Iceland.
Leifur B. Dagfinnson is the founder of Iceland’s largest production service company. He brings foreign film productions to Iceland. Business is good. For instance, scenes for films such as Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, Batman Begins, as well as two James Bond films, and Stardust, which comes out later this year, have all had scenes shot in Iceland.
So what about Finland? Certainly, says Jan Korbelin, producer of the Oscar-winning Crash. “The movie business constantly needs places that have not been seen.”
Korbelin, Dagfinnson, and Nick Reed, main agent of ICM, the largest manager office of the film business, visited Finland to scout locations in Helsinki and Lapland.
So things are on the move?
“There are no concrete plans yet”, Korbelin says.
Film production services are a business that Finland is stepping into.
The most successful country has been New Zealand, where the Lord of the Rings trilogy by Peter Jackson has brought money, new economic activity, skilled producers, and overall international interest.
“At best, everybody benefits. The scenery supports the filmmakers’ artistic vision, and the movie project benefits the local economy”, Korbelin says.
Dagfinnson says that when a large production crew arrives in the area, twice as many people are needed to handle catering, accommodation, and other services.
Reed ponders the effect in mental images: “A film can open a person’s eyes to see a place in a different way. In addition, it can bring in tourism. When I saw the fist ten minutes of Crocodile Dundee, I decided that I have to visit Australia.”
Everyone wants to be a part of the movie world nowadays. When a big film is made in one’s own country, people get excited.
Finland’s strong points include the landscapes of Finnish Lapland, high technology, a widespread knowledge of the English language, and reliability. However, it is also an expensive country.
“Our situation is a bit similar to what New Zealand had. We are looking for our place”, said a cautious Antti Jokinen, who convened the gathering.
Jokinen, who has made it into the big leagues as a director of music videos, is moving into directing feature films. His solution is to plan international-standard film projects which simply must be shot in Finland.
One project in the works is a movie called Son of the North Pole, which is about the childhood of Santa Claus, produced in the spirit of Harry Potter. The film Kalevala tells the story of the hero Kullervo of the Finnish national epic. These films simply have to be shot in this country.
Reed feels that about two commercial Hollywood movies should be shot in Finland each year – with low budgets by Hollywood standards, but large ones by Finnish standards – a few million. It should not be in any way obvious that they were shot in Finland.
In this way professional camera crews would emerge in Finland, who could be hired by production companies, as well as skilled actors, and post-production specialists.
In recent years, the production of films has spread from the United States to all over the world. Countries compete with tax deductions and services offered to film production.
In Iceland, the tax deduction was initially 12 per cent. Now it is 14 per cent, and Dagfinnson feels that it could be 20 per cent.
In New Zealand it has been calculated that one dollar spent on film production – in tax deductions, for instance – brings back 1.30 dollars for the economy.
Jokinen feels that Finland needs to implement such a support system.
PHOTOS BY: MATTI BJÃ–RKMAN / LEHTIKUVA