A Guide to Film and Photography Production in Iceland
In 2016 I had the pleasure of working with the incredible team at Ueno while I directing a video for their new website redesign.
I filmed the team members at the Ueno offices in New York City, San Francisco, and Iceland. In order to keep the look consistent in each city we would film in a studio and used specific lights for each shoot.
The shoots in New York City and San Francisco were really easy to plan and produce. In New York we filmed at the studio of Stoltze & Stefanie. They had all of the grip equipment I needed located at the studio and I rented some additional lights from CSI.
However, the planning for the shoot in Iceland was a little challenging because I had to find a studio space that was large enough to give me space for lighting the backdrop. Most film production that happens in Iceland is outside, not in a studio, so I had to spend a lot of time researching and emailing rental companies in Iceland in order to locate a space. I wanted to share all the resources I found, in case anyone else ever needs help in planning their own production. :)
I was fortunate to find Kukl, a rental company that had a small photography studio space in their building. This made it incredibly convenient for me because I didn’t have to worry about transporting lights and grip equipment from a rental house to the studio. I highly recommend Kukl if you ever need to rent equipment for a production in Iceland. Not only is it more cost-effective to rent locally, but they also have almost any kind of camera, lighting, or grip equipment that you will need, including trucks, vans, and mobile generators.
Twilight and Media Rental were two other rental companies I talked with, but they were busy on the dates I had set for filming. Sagafilm is another company that rents equipment and they can also help with producing. Jón Páll also has a studio that would have been large enough, but I didn’t find out about them until after the production. YAKEU also has a photo studio with rental equipment, but they didn’t have the film lights I needed.
The studio at KUKL also had all of the seamless paper backdrops colors that I needed. This saved a significant amount of money in our budget since paper backdrops were not only difficult to find in Iceland, but they were more expensive than in the United States and we needed a large quantity. I recommend BECO, if you ever need to buy seamless paper locally in Iceland.
I was able to produce everything myself, but I have some friends that have worked with On the Rocks to get producing help on bigger productions. Rvk. Studios, ArticOn, Pegasus, True North, and Hero are other production companies I came across in my research. Ólafur Haraldsson produces aerial video and photography in Iceland and he was the one that pointed me to some of these production resources in Reykjavik.
If you ever need models or actors, the two major agencies are Dottir Management and Eskimo. 101 Model Agency is another one I came across in my research. I didn’t need to scout for on-screen talent since everyone in the video worked at Ueno, but I wanted to mention those resources for the benefit of those reading this guide.
Once the rentals and studio space were worked out I just had to rent my Airbnb, car, and buy my plane ticket. My Airbnb was an apartment located near the main bus terminal in Reykjavik. It was more affordable and a lot nicer than some of the Airbnb locations I’ve stayed at in the United States. I rented my car from Go Iceland. They were incredibly helpful and I recommend them to anyone that is renting a car for their Iceland trip. I purchased a really cheap flight on WOW Airlines, but I had to pay fees for my overweight camera bag and an second bag with props.
I made sure to unlock my iPhone before I left the United States so that I could purchase an Icelandic SIM card. There’s a store at the airport next to the luggage pickup and they sell two types of SIM cards. They’re very affordable and I was able to get by with a 2GB card for the entire week. Iceland has incredible cell service. I drove the Golden Circle after production wrapped and I never lost cell service, even when I was in the crater of an extinct volcano.
This production ended up going smoother than the ones in the United States, since I didn’t have to deal with traffic and gear transportation. The two days of filming went by without any hiccups. KUKL was incredibly accommodating and helpful. The only issue I forgot to plan for was light flicker. The electrical power frequencies are different in Iceland, which caused the lights to flicker when they were filmed on my NTSC video camera.
I hope this guide gives you the resources and confidence to produce your own project in Iceland! If you ever want to hire a director or DP that has experience working in Iceland, definitely feel free to reach out. ;-)