Icelandic Film Industry Sees 80% Growth in Ten Years

Katla Netflix/Lilja Jónsdóttir

The operating revenue of the Icelandic film industry has grown by 80% over the past ten years. “A giant leap in a relatively brief period of time,” the editor of the trade publication Klapptré told RÚV.

Considerable growth

In the last ten years, the Icelandic film industry has grown by ISK 15 billion ($107 million / €99 million) in operating revenues. As noted by Statistics Iceland, the operating revenue of the Icelandic film industry totalled ISK 12 billion ($85 million / €79 million) in 2012, compared to ISK 27.8 billion ($198 million / €183 million) in 2021.

Operating revenue refers to, “the total amount that a company registers to its books during the reference period and corresponds to the sale of goods or services to third parties, including export earnings.”

“A giant leap”

“There are fluctuations between years, but over a ten-year period – this is quite the leap,” Ásgrímur Sverrisson, editor of the trade journal Klapptré, told RÚV.

As noted by RÚV, the film industry is by far the largest cultural industry in Iceland today. Following closely behind is the media sector, with a turnover of approximately ISK 18 billion ($128 million / €119 million). Design and architecture have also experienced significant growth over the last decade.

The growth within the film industry is exemplified by the substantial increase in the number of operators, which now stands at nearly 800. “Just the other day, there was a general meeting of the directors’ association; before there were a few dozen directors. Today, there were around 200 people,” Ásgrímur remarked.

Besides the state’s reimbursement policy, and the efforts of employees and production companies, streaming services have also played a significant role in the growth of the Icelandic film industry: “They have certainly played their part in all of this, most notably the production of Katla, which was domestic content produced by Netflix.”

When asked if this meant that the long-awaited “summer of Icelandic film” (i.e. golden era) had finally arrived, Ásgrímur replied: “The fact is, that it has been spring, summer, autumn – and then winter, again and again.”

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.

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

The upcoming series of HBO Max television show True Detective will be filmed in Iceland over a 9-month period for a budget of around ISK 9 billion [$64.8 million; €63.9 million]. The project entails the largest-ever foreign investment in culture in Iceland’s history. Minister of Culture Lilja Dögg Alfreðsdóttir says the project is proof that government initiatives are helping put Iceland’s film industry on the map.

Fourth season set in Alaska

While it will be filmed in Iceland, the fourth season of True Detective is in fact set in Alaska, where the story follows detectives Liz Danvers (played by Jodie Foster) and Evangeline Navarro (Kali Reis) as they investigate the disappearance of six men from a research station. True Detective has received praise from critics and audiences – and won five Emmy Awards.

Film rebate raised from 25% to 35%

Iceland’s government recently raised the repayment for production costs for films and TV series shot in the country from 25% to 35%. Iceland’s Culture Minister Lilja Alfreðsdóttir presented this and other initiatives to members of the film and music industry on a recent trip to Los Angeles.

“I feel a lot of support here in Los Angeles with the initiatives we have been implementing in the last year or so to promote creative industries in Iceland,” Lilja stated. “The True Detective project is the largest foreign investment in the field of culture in Iceland’s history. With a clear vision and multifaceted actions, we are succeeding in making our country a highly respected partner in the world of cinema. International film companies are ready to invest in bigger, longer-term projects than they did. It is a huge victory for Icelandic culture and economy and confirmation that what the government is doing matters.”

Daði Einarsson Wins BAFTA Award

The Witcher / Twitter

Icelander Daði Einarsson has won a BAFTA award for Special, Visual, and Graphic Effects in the Netflix show The Witcher. Daði won the award alongside his colleagues Gavin Round, Aleksander Pejic, Oliver Cubbage, Stefano Pepin, and Jet Omoshebi. The Witcher also won in the category of Make-up and Hair Design at the annual awards last night, held by the British Academy of Film and Television Arts.

Daði is a visual effects supervisor known for his work on the films Everest (2015), Gravity (2013) and Adrift (2018). He was the executive visual effects supervisor for ten episodes of Trapped between 2015-2016. His credits also include two Harry Potter movies, where he worked as an animator and visual effects supervisor.

Daði is not the first Icelander to win a BAFTA award. Musicians Ólafur Arnalds and Hildur Guðnadóttir have both won BAFTAs, for their composing in the TV series Broadchurch and the film Joker, respectively.

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.

Lamb to Be Iceland’s 2022 Oscar Submission

lamb dýrið noomi rapace

The Icelandic Film and TV Academy has chosen Lamb to be Iceland’s submission to the 2022 Academy Awards, or Oscars, RÚV reports. Lamb (titled Dýrið in Icelandic) has already snagged two nominations and one award at Cannes and is already the highest-grossing Icelandic film to be screened in the United States.

The film is directed by Valdimar Jóhannsson, who wrote the script alongside Icelandic author Sjón. Lamb stars Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason, who play María and Ingvar, a childless couple in the Icelandic countryside who discover a mysterious newborn on their farm. While at first, “the unexpected prospect of family life brings them much joy,” it ultimately destroys them.

The jury of the Icelandic Film and TV Academy praised the film’s strong imagery and originality. “From the first moment, the viewer is captured and hypnotizes through a mysterious and exciting adventure,” the jury wrote. Their statement called the film a “careful study of human nature, sorrow, and loss.”

Lamb is currently showing in Icelandic theatres.

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.

Lamb Has Become Highest-Grossing Icelandic Film in US

lamb dýrið noomi rapace 2

Icelandic film Lamb (Dýrið) earned over $1 million [€ 864,000; ISK 130 million] in ticket sales in the United States last weekend, according to Box Office Mojo and has grossed $1.13 million worldwide. It was the seventh most popular film in US theatres last weekend. These figures make the film the highest-grossing of any Icelandic film screened in the US.

Directed by Valdimar Jóhannsson, Lamb is a supernatural drama that follows a childless couple, María and Ingvar, as they “discover a mysterious newborn on their farm in Iceland. The unexpected prospect of family life brings them much joy, before ultimately destroying them,” a plot summary of the film explains. Valdimar wrote the script alongside Icelandic author Sjón.

The film stars Hilmir Snær Guðnason alongside Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, who learned to deliver a lamb for the role. Lamb had its world premiere at the Cannes film festival earlier this year, where it won the Un Certain Regard prize, granted for originality. It is currently showing in Icelandic theatres.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GOQ8QWk1icc&ab_channel=MovieTrailersSource

The Garden Sweeps Up at Iceland’s Edda Awards

gullregn the garden Icelandic film

Iceland’s Edda Awards ceremony took place last night, handing out accolades to the best film and television produced last year. Ragnar Bragason’s film The Garden (Gullregn) swept up at the ceremony, taking home 9 awards from its 12 nominations. The film won in the categories Best Film, Best Director, Best Script, and Best Actress.

The Garden tells the story of Indíana (Sigrún Edda Björnsdóttir), who lives in a council estate, where she tends to an award-winning tree. Her world is turned on its head when her son Jónas (Eyþór Gunnlaugsson) turns up with a foreign girlfriend (Karolina Gruszka).

Another notable winner was the Stöð 2 TV series RAX Augnablik, focusing on the career of photographer Ragnar Axelsson. Ólafur Darri Ólafsson of Trapped fame took home the Best Actor award for the leading role in The Minister (Ráðherrann). Comedian Ari Eldjárn’s Netflix special Pardon My Icelandic took home the award for Best Comedy Show.

The Icelandic trailer for The Garden can be seen below.

Húsavík, Iceland Rolls Out the Red Carpet for Oscars Ceremony

Húsavík Oscar

Residents of Húsavík have literally painted the town red for this Sunday’s Academy Awards ceremony, which features a musical performance filmed in the North Iceland locale. A girls’ choir from the town will take part in the ceremony in a performance of the Oscar-nominated ballad Húsavík, featured in the Will Ferrel film Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga. The other four nominated songs will be performed from the roof terrace of Los Angeles’ yet-to-open Academy Museum of Motion Pictures.

Húsavík residents have made the most of the nomination, painting a red carpet on the main street and launching a campaign called “An Óskar for Húsavík,” where they implore the world to help the ballad win an Academy Award. The campaign is part of town residents’ efforts to open a temporary Eurovision museum, in collaboration with the European Broadcasting Union and Iceland’s national broadcaster RÚV.

The song Húsavík – My Home Town can be heard in its entirety below.