Horse Training Team Fired After Abusive Video Surfaces

The Icelandic Horse, Iceland

A team of horse trainers working under the auspices of an upcoming television series directed by famed Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur have all been fired, RÚV reports, after a video showing one of the trainers beating one of the horses spread widely on social media.

Training shut down immediately

The Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) were tipped off about animal abuse where the horses were being trained and immediately put a stop to all horse training being conducted there, in South Iceland. Guðni Halldórsson, director of the Icelandic Equestrian Associations, was also informed of the horses’ treatment and reported it immediately, while also contacting Baltasar Kormákur, as he is part of the television series team that the horses are being trained for.

New trainers to be hired within Iceland

“We decided to immediately fire, not just the rider [who was abusing the horse] but the entire team, seven people,” Baltasar told reporters. “These are people who received really good recommendations, having worked on a lot of productions, such as Gladiator and Game of Thrones.”

He added that this team had been informed ahead of time that they had to train these horses in accordance with Icelandic animal welfare laws. “Not that we expected anything else, but we nonetheless made this clear to them. This [treatment] is obviously not at all within those guidelines, but far outside of them.”

Baltasar said that a veterinarian has examined the horses and found no physical injuries, fortunately, and expects that they will resume training using Icelandic trainers soon.

Baltasar’s New Series Recreates Battle of Hastings in Iceland

Katla Netflix

Baltasar Kormákur’s RVK Studios is collaborating with CBS Studios to produce King and Conqueror, a mediaeval series set in Britain. The ambitious project, which will feature the famous Battle of Hastings, will involve extensive preparations and filming in Heiðmörk, with a significant build and dismantling process.

King and Conqueror

Last week, it was reported that Baltasar Kormákur and his production company, RVK Studios, were set to create a mediaeval series with CBS Studios, centred around William the Conqueror and King Harold II of England.

Titled King and Conqueror, the series will feature James Norton and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in the lead roles and will be filmed in Iceland, both in studios and around Reykjavik. Michael Robert Johnson, known for his work on the television series Sherlock Holmes, will write the series.

Read More: IR profile of Baltasar Kormákur

“This is one of the most extensive projects undertaken here and is particularly complex because it’s set in mediaeval Britain, mostly,” Baltasar told RÚV last week.

The filming period is scheduled from February to July next year. RVK Studios has applied for a filming permit in Garðabær for shooting in Heiðmörk, a conservation area on the outskirts of Reykjavík, popular for recreational activities. The company plans to construct a small village, the size of which is yet to be determined, on a gravel plain at Hjallaflatir in Heiðmörk.

Battle of Hastings

As noted by RÚV, the preparation time would span two to three months, with shooting lasting two weeks, followed by one to two weeks for dismantling. The parking area would not be accessible during the preparation, filming, and dismantling phases.

RVK Studios has also applied to film the famous Battle of Hastings on the fields at Hjallaflatir. Defensive walls would be erected, and the scene would depict 180 people fighting and between 50 to 70 horses. The preparation for this would take two to four weeks, filming would last five days, and dismantling would take a week.

Lindsey Martin, Vice President at CBS, described the series as innovative and featuring world-class actors in a recent interview with Deadline. “We are incredibly proud of what the production team has already achieved and can’t wait to see the final product on screen.”

Against the Ice Receives Half a Billion in Production Rebate

Still shot from 'Against the Ice'

The State Treasury reimbursed ISK 500,000,000 [$3.58 million; €3.58 million] in production costs for Against the Ice, an historical survival epic produced for Netflix by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur. RÚV reports that this is one of the largest film and television production reimbursements that the government has ever made—on par with the ISK 500,000,000 received by Fast 8 in 2017.

Two other productions, the TV series Washington Black and Stella Blomkvist, also received substantial reimbursements: ISK 217 million [$1.55 million; €1.55 million] and ISK 170 million [$1.22 million; €1.22 million], respectively.

See Also: True Detective Series Will Be Largest-Ever Foreign Investment in Icelandic Culture

All of these reimbursements pale in comparison, however, to the one that will be made for the production of the fourth season of HBO’s True Detective, which will film over nine months in Iceland with a budget of around ISK 9 billion [$64.8 million; €63.9 million]. Per the Icelandic Film Center’s reimbursement scheme, “Producers can apply for reimbursements from the State Treasury of 25% of the costs incurred in the production of films and television programs in Iceland, or 35% for production projects that meet given conditions.”

Based on a true story, Against the Ice is set in 1909 and follows two men’s trek across the Greenland ice cap to recover the records of the ill-fated Denmark expedition, which set out years before to chart the geography of Greenland. Beset by troubles of their own, the pair must survive in the Arctic while waiting for rescue that may never come. The film was directed by Peter Flinth, and stars Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (Game of Thrones) and Joe Cole (Peaky Blinders). The film was shot predominantly in Iceland, although some filming was done in Greenland as well.

Two Additional Film Studios to Rise in Reykjavík

Katla Netflix

Reykjavík Studios Purchases a 4,000 square metre building in the Gufunes district of Reykjavík yesterday in which the company plans to build two state-of-the-art film studios, RÚV reports. Director Baltasar Kormákur says that when renovations are completed, it will be possible to film blockbusters like Harry Potter in Iceland. The project is expected to cost around ISK 1 billion, [$7.7 million; €7 million], and Baltasar hopes it will be completed by the end of the year.

Baltasar’s production company Reykjavík Studios has made a name for itself with many successful television series and films, including Trapped and Katla. The company already has a studio next door to the purchased building, where this year’s Söngvakeppnin competition was filmed. That studio is one of the largest in Europe, and too big for certain projects, according to Baltasar, which is why the new building will be split into two smaller film studios. “There will be a sound-proof wall between them, and there will be two smaller studios that will be more useful for the Icelandic film industry than [our other studio].”

The new studios could also house concerts and events, Baltasar says, but there is much work to be done before that will be possible. “I’m hoping I can put it to use this year,” Baltasar stated. “We are ready to go all-in into construction.”

The studio’s success depends on the government fulfilling its promises regarding reimbursement of film production costs. The current government policy provides a 25% reimbursement of all filming production costs incurred in Iceland, both for local and international production companies.

Controlant Receives President’s Export Award

Guðni Th. Jóhannesson presented the President’s Export Award to innovation company COntrolant at the Bessastaðir presidential residence yesterday. He also gave an honorary award to director and producer Baltasar Kormákur.

At a small ceremony at Bessastaðir yesterday, President of Iceland Guðni Th. Jóhannesson presented Controlant CEO Gísli Herjólfsson with the President’s Export Award. Gísli co-founded Controlant, whose real-time supply chain monitoring technology proved very useful when Pfizer used its services to deliver its Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine globally.

Guðni also presented director and producer Baltasar Kormákur with an honorary award, acknowledging his cultural impact. On Twitter, Guðni stated: “Thanks to both for invaluable contributions in the fields of technology and culture, in Iceland and beyond.”

Read more: Baltasar Kormákur in Iceland Review (subscribers only)

Trapped Season Three Premieres in Iceland

There’s something for both local and international viewers in the third series of popular Icelandic TV show Trapped, which premiered in Iceland last night. Familiar faces from Iceland’s music and media scenes will impress Icelanders with their handling of minor roles while beautiful landscape shots will charm Icelandophiles abroad, the guests of a new RÚV podcast on the series argued. Ólafur Darri Ólafsson stars as usual in the role of Detective Andri, this time investigating a murder committed on the property of a religious cult in North Iceland.

The creators of Trapped began working on the third season of the show as early as December 2018. Filming finally began in Siglufjörður, North Iceland in September of last year. Shooting was subject to COVID safety protocols: cast and crew had their temperature taken daily when arriving on set, and a COVID safety supervisor was on set at all times to make sure distancing and mask-wearing regulations were followed.

Eurovision and hip-hop stars feature

Among the musicians featured in the show is former Eurovision singer turned yoga teacher Ingibjörg Stefánsdóttir, who is convincing as a meditation guide at the cult. Rock DJ Andrea Jónsdóttir, well-known to locals in Iceland, appears in a bar scene, while hip-hop artist Flóni also appears in the show.

It remains to be seen whether the show’s third series will enjoy as much success as the first two.

On Dry Land

Katla Netflix

In 2002, Baltasar Kormákur stood on the red carpet in San Sebastian in Spain. He was dressed in his best suit and smiling at the cameras, having just sold the distribution rights to The Sea to America and the UK. It was the biggest distribution deal that any Icelander had signed for a single movie. He was 36 years old. In demand – and miserable.

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Icelandic Series Katla Premieres on Netflix Today

Katla Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir

Just ten years ago it was unthinkable that a foreign company as big as Netflix would be interested in producing an Icelandic TV series for the global market, according to director Baltasar Kormákur. Icelandic series Katla, co-written and co-directed by Baltasar, premieres on the streaming platform today. The fictional drama takes place in Vík í Mýrdal, South Iceland, during a volcanic eruption so intense it starts melting a glacier from which “mysterious elements” start to emerge “with consequences no one could ever have foreseen.”

Katla is the first Icelandic television series produced by Netflix in collaboration with Reykjavík Studios. Containing ten episodes, the series was written by Baltasar along with Sigurjón Kjartansson, Davíð Már Stefánsson and Lilja Sigurðardóttir. Lilja and Baltasar also directed the series alongside Börkur Sigþórsson.

“It’s an idea I got quite a long time ago and was playing around with,” Baltasar told RÚV. “What if the glaciers would melt and we have no idea what’s under them. Then it developed. I knew it wouldn’t be easy because it’s heavy in production.” Then Baltasar received a call from Netflix and the idea suddenly became a real possibility.

Baltasar describes Katla as a combination of folktale, science fiction, and psychological “noir mystery,” a form he says provided lots of freedom. “We stuck to a certain realism in terms of what the situation would be like after one year of a volcanic eruption. But then we let go of the reins and it was as if the team filled with energy, it was a lot of fun.”

Netflix Gives First Glimpses of Upcoming Icelandic Series Katla

Katla Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir

Netflix has released the first photographs from the upcoming series Katla, its first-ever original series from Iceland. Created and directed by the award-winning Baltasar Kormákur (Trapped, Everest), the eight-part drama takes place in Vík, South Iceland, following a violent eruption of the volcano Katla.

“One year after the outbreak of a violent eruption of the subglacial volcano Katla, the peace and tranquility in the small town of Vík has been dramatically disturbed with the eruption still active,” a Netflix plot summary of the series reads. “The ice near the volcano has been melting, the area has been evacuated and only a few remaining people manage to provide the necessary community service in the village, which is now only accessible by crossing the Markarfljót river. The grand area has turned out to be somewhat apocalyptic and Vík is declared a danger zone. Mysterious elements, that have been deeply frozen into the glacier from prehistoric times, start to emerge from the melting ice with consequences no one could ever have foreseen.”

Katla Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir
Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir.

Katla stars Guðrún Ýr Eyfjörð, better known as the musician GDRN, Íris Tanja Flygenring, Ingvar Sigurðsson, Þorsteinn Bachmann, Sólveig Arnarsdóttir, and Swedish actors Aliette Opheim and Valter Skarsgård. Filming began early last year but had to be suspended due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. It resumed later in the year with a reduced crew and social distancing precautions.

Katla Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir
Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir. Director Baltasar Kormákur (left) and starring actress Guðrún Ýr Eyfjörð on set.

Though the premise of Katla is fictional, it’s not at all far-fetched that an eruption from the volcano could have catastrophic consequences. A Katla eruption in the year 822 AD was likely responsible for widespread famine, plague, and freezing temperatures across Europe. An eruption at nearby Laki in 1783 affected the climate across the northern hemisphere for a year, and is now believed to have been a catalyst for the French revolution.

Katla Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir
Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir. Ingvar E. Sigurðsson of Trapped fame is also in the series.

Baltasar Resumes Filming of ‘Supernatural Volcano Drama’

Baltasar Kormákur is set to resume filming his eight-part Netflix series Katla, RÚV reports. Described as a “supernatural volcano drama,” the series stars Guðrún Ýr Eyfjörð, better known as the musician GDRN, Íris Tanja Flygenring, Ingvar Sigurðsson, Þorsteinn Bachmann, Sólveig Arnarsdóttir, and Swedish actors Aliette Opheim and Valter Skarsgård. The Everest director is releasing the series through his own production company, RVK Studios.

Katla follows the lives of the residents of Vík, on the south coast of Iceland, a year after the Katla volcano erupts. As a glacier near the volcano begins to melt, many in the village are forced to evacuate, while the stalwarts who remain try to keep the village, which has largely become a ghost town, alive. The melting glacier uncovers long-hidden secrets, however, all of which have unexpected consequences on the characters.

According to a recent interview with Deadline, Baltasar began working on the series before the COVID-19 pandemic reached the Nordic countries and was able to complete a few weeks of filming before having to put the production on hold. He anticipates needing three additional weeks to complete filming, which will conclude in July.

The production has been able to resume with a reduced crew and social distancing precautions. The sheer size of RVK Studios is a particular boon in circumstances such as these; at 45,200 square feet, it’s one of the biggest studios in Europe and is located in an isolated area. “So, we could control very easily, or actually very clearly, the number of people in the space,” Baltasar explained to the film industry publication. “I came up with kind of a colour-coded spacing system so that people wearing the same colours know which group they are and they are only allowed in certain spaces. There will never be more than 20 people with the same colour. This way, we could segregate the studio down to four main spaces and we minimised the crew and try to keep the two-metre distance.”

The cast and crew were also all tested for the virus before filming resumed, the set and equipment are regularly sanitised, and everyone’s temperatures are checked every morning. Baltasar said he believes his cast and crew are “honestly…more safe on that set than anywhere else. I live with four children so we vary from six to eight at home and you can’t keep them in the house. I think that because of the quarantine and the measures we did on set, it actually became a very safe spot.”

Asked how filming amidst the coronavirus crisis compares with other challenges that he’s faced on previous projects, Baltasar told Deadline that “It is in some way very similar. When I was making Everest, I remember saying, let’s bow our head to the mountain and accept what it gives you. You can’t fight nature, you have to respect it and work with it, unafraid. And the same goes with the ocean in Adrift and The Deep. And now with the virus.”