Why film crews are zooming into Finnish Lapland
Two Hollywood location scouts tell us why northern Finland is making a scene as a top spot for summer film productions.
How is the summer light in Lapland? Film location scout Lori Balton takes a pause from her quintessential Lapland-style dinner of Arctic char and fresh vegetables and considers the question. It is nearly midnight at the Elves’ Hideaway “Experience Village,” way above the Arctic Circle in northern Finland. But the stubborn sun is hovering above the horizon with no intention of sinking beneath it.
“The fact that you don’t lose the light here is incredible,” says Balton. “And the clouds: I have never seen such beautiful clouds.”
Award-winning Los Angeles-based Balton and her location manager colleague Alison Taylor are visiting as guests of the Finnish Lapland Film Commission and are being treated to a full range of Lapland’s summer delights.
“The fact that you don’t lose the light is incredible.”
This part of Finland is well established as a versatile venue for winter film productions. Its potential at other times of the year, especially the light-flooded summer, is less celebrated but is being shouted to the rafters by House of Lapland, the promotional parent body of the Film Commission.
Big picture, small details
Location scouting and management are highly valued roles in the industry but remain publicly unsung arts of filmmaking. Think of your favourite movie. Now think about the locations and landscapes against which the action and drama are set. These are the bare bones of a production.
New Yorker Balton has an impressive CV of movie location scouting credits to her name, including Inception, The Dark Knight Rises, There Will Be Blood, and Pirates of the Caribbean. Taylor’s similarly high-profile reference list includes Training Day, Ally McBeal, and Straight Outta Compton.
Lapland has endeared itself to hikers and winter fanatics as Europe’s last real wilderness, a vast expanse of rugged fells, tumbling rivers, and placid rivers, home to exotic wildlife and transforming in colour and character through the seasons.
Balton becomes animated as she describes these landscapes. “If you combine that big sky with the rainbows and the light, it’s stunning. We took a helicopter ride over the fells and it seemed like a glacier had gone through just ten minutes before. You could even see the Ice Age scratch marks on the rock. It blew my mind!”
Alison Taylor enthuses about the variety of the landscape and the diversity of the National Parks, including its marshlands, fells, forests, and lakes.
“We found out that there are all sorts of competences here.”
“We did white water rafting, which was great, so we’ve seen the scale of the rivers. Today we were at a lakeside, a perfect calm reflection in the water, and I said to Lori, it’s like a painting, and she said at exactly the same time, it’s like a postcard,” says Taylor.
Film friendly Lapland
From the practical filmmaking perspective, the pair experienced at first hand the extensive and seasoned Film Friendly Network nurtured by House of Lapland across the region to support productions. This covers everything from Finnish production units and equipment rental companies to transport operators, other logistics, caterers, and hotels.
“At first we wondered if it would be possible to support a sizeable production here,” admits Taylor. “Then we found out that there are all sorts of services and production competences and resources other than those needed for tourism, such as movie trucks, equipment rental, portable toilets, and on-set catering.”
Balton adds, “We got the feeling that it’s a serious business. It’s clearly very successful in the winter but there is so much more here. It was smart to bring us here: We’re from LA, we talk a lot! So we’re going to go back to California and tell everyone about Finland and Lapland. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who has been above the Arctic Circle before!”
Text Tim Bird
Photos Tim Bird and Lapland Material Bank