Location Scouting in Iceland
A LAND OF (UN)EXPECTED WONDER
I recently flew out to Iceland to meet with the Icelandic Film Centre as well as to location scout for our new feature film Dear Darkness. The trip was hosted by our excellent co-production partners Spier Films, whose recent producing credits include Young Ones (Nicholas Hoult, Michael Shannon, Elle Fanning) and The Salvation (Mads Mikkelsen).
First impressions of both Iceland and Reykjavik itself were very positive. With a population of only 120,000 Reykjavik is surprisingly cosmopolitan and in the centre of town you tend to hear as much English as you do Icelandic. The locals come across as very friendly and it seemed like just about everyone knows each other – making the city appear like one big friendly village.
The old town core, also known as Reykjavik 101, is compact and easy to get around on feet. It’s also home to numerous great cafes, which come in handy when the weather makes a sudden U-turn. According to locals, you can experience all four seasons in a day. Based on my brief scouting trip, I agree. On one particular day we experienced a warm sunny start followed by autumnal winds, which brought in a brief snow storm. A DoP’s dream scenario.
FROM FOREST AND RUGGED MOUNTAINS TO GRASSLAND PRAIRIE
When imagining an Icelandic landscape, it’s easy to think of barren rocky shorelines and rugged mountains with the odd volcano and hot spring thrown into the mix. What surprised me was how varied the Icelandic landscape actually turned out to be. You can find pine forests and lakes, prairie-style grasslands and snow-capped mountains to rival the Rockies – all within a day’s drive from Reykjavik.
TROLLS, DEMIGODS AND BLOCKBUSTER LANDSCAPES
With such a wealth of landscape in a relatively contained area, it is no wonder that Iceland remains a popular shooting location for big Hollywood productions. Most summers an epic star-studded fantasy vehicle such as Prometheus or Thor can be found filming in some part of the island. And I must admit that seeing the vast lava fields and geothermal springs first hand, I found myself tempted to rewrite our Nordic Noir into an action fantasy featuring elves and trolls. Maybe next time!
SEEING THE FOREST FOR THE TREES
A good part of Dear Darkness features scenes in a forest, beside a forest or near a forest. And the first question (or statement, rather) most people have asked is whether Iceland has any trees. I’m happy to report that it does.
While Iceland may not exactly have never-ending swathes of the green stuff, there are various smaller patches dotted around the island. And let’s face it, it doesn’t take a whole lotta woods to get lost in it. Rumour has it that some scenes from Darren Aronofsky’s Noah (starring Russell Crowe) were filmed in a tiny forest-like cluster of trees in Reykjavik itself. And I bet you’d never even know.
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