Anyone can edit a Wikipedia article, so it can be hard to keep the facts straight. Here are answers straight from Lapland just to clear up some misconceptions about filming here.
Lapland was once part of Ultima Thule, a mystical, metaphorical land at the north of the world. And sometimes, based on what people online think of Lapland, it’s still this frozen land at the north pole. Like Antarctica, but with more reindeer. So let’s set the record straight on a few of the more common notions people have about Lapland, and specifically, filming in Lapland.
1. It’s Always Winter Here
This is probably one of the most common misconceptions people have about Lapland, in no small part, due to the tourism marketing of Lapland as a winter wonderland. The truth, like many truths, is a little more complex. From late December to early April, Lapland absolutely is a winter wonderland, often snowing for days on end, with subzero temperatures, and the glorious Northern Lights in the night skies.
The rest of the year … well, it’s more common in Lapland to talk about eight seasons—only three of which are “proper” winter. Late spring is marked by the break up of the ice in rivers and lakes and the end of the snow. Summer is the time of Midnight Sun when Lapland goes green and warm. Harvest is the end of summer when temperatures drop and night falls once again. Ruska is the colorful autumn season. The first snow marks the beginning of winter, with subzero temperatures and short days.
2. We have access to the Arctic Ocean
We understand this one, really. When the internet conspiracists try to convince the world that the country of Finland doesn’t even exist, it can be hard to know where we are, who our neighbors are and what we connect to.
Despite what people may say, Lapland does not have any borders on the Arctic Ocean. However, the Arctic Ocean is only about a 45-minute drive from the northwestern border to the tip of the Lyngen fjord in Norway. On the nor’eastern side of Lapland, the Tarenger fjord in Norway, which opens to the Barents Sea, is about 30 minutes away the EU’s northernmost village. Both these fjords are accessible via European highways all year round. If it’s Arctic waters you’re after, however, the Baltic Sea begins in southern Lapland; Lake Inari (called the Sámi Sea) is Finland’s 3rd largest lake, and there are countless rivers and lakes throughout Lapland.
3. We have glaciers and icebergs
Another common misconception about Lapland concerns our glaciers and icebergs. But it’s hard to have icebergs without an ocean or a sea. And as mentioned earlier, Finland doesn’t have direct access to the Arctic Ocean or the Barents Sea. However, the vast majority of lakes and rivers in Lapland, including the northern Gulf of Bothnia, freezes over every winter. And in late spring, the ice in the rivers and lakes breaks up, often sending giant floating chunks of ice downstream. They might not be skyscraper-sized icebergs, but that’s why the Germans created a forced perspective.
The Ice Age ended about 12,000 years ago, taking with it Lapland’s glaciers. Instead, Lapland is home to Ice Age remnants called fells. Many of these fells are home to ski resorts in the winter, and stony ravines and green forests in summer. In lieu of permanent mountains of blue ice, we have 200 days of glistening snow cover.
4. Polar bears! Polar bears everywhere!
Finland is cold. Northern. The Arctic. Hence … polar bears? In reality, there are only a couple of polar bears in Lapland, and they both live at the Ranua Wildlife Park in southern Lapland. In Europe, they are rarely seen more south than northernmost Norway. However, Lapland is home to other wildlife, such as lynxes, wolverines, wolves, owls, elk, and of course, reindeer. (Remember: every reindeer in Lapland belongs to someone, which means no hunting. But that also means it’s easy to find reindeer, farms and herders to work with film productions.)
5. It’s difficult to film here
Lapland has the most accessible Arctic filming locations on the planet. Period. This is more than just marketing hype—it’s the result of decades of industry and tourism that have kept even the most remote locations in Lapland open and accessible all year-round. Lapland is home to five airports, with a few more just under the border. Two-lane highways stretch from the Gulf of Bothnia to the Scandinavian mountains, and from the Home of Santa Claus to northernmost Finland—and beyond.
But what about the costs of filming here? Filming in the Arctic can be expensive, sure. But even that’s relative. It’s unrealistic and unfair to compare filming in the Arctic to Romania, for example. But among Arctic filming locations such as Alaska or Iceland, Lapland is one of the most cost-effective. According to Worlddata.info, the cost of living in Finland is lower than Iceland, Norway or Sweden, and that translates to lower costs for filmmakers.
There are a few other reasons Lapland is an affordable Arctic location. First is the infrastructure that crisscrosses Lapland and connects us to the world. Another is the 25% national film incentive. And perhaps the most useful are the production companies and skilled, knowledgeable people that live and work in Lapland who know how to best take advantage of the polar night, vast snowscapes, Midnight Sun and more.
Here are some numbers (per 2019) to consider when filming, for example, scripted television: