Unless you need it to be, of course.
You’d never mistake Rovaniemi: Hometown of Santa Claus for Paris: City of Love. But what about Enontekiö for Scotland? Ivalo for Siberia? The snowcapped forests of Posio for Hokkaido, Japan in winter. (With maybe a matte-painted mountain or two in the background.) Lapland can stand in for many exotic locations on Earth, with comprehensive film support services and well-maintained infrastructure to ensure your production rolls smoothly.
The Arctic on Film
Most films feature stand-in locations, and when you need certain locations, it’s easier to hop a 4 hour flight to Lapland than it is to fly halfway around the world.
When you think Lapland, you think snow. And for good reason. Winter lasts almost 6 months in Lapland, with snow falling first in November and usually lasting until May. When you need real snow, not soap flakes, for your Christmas movie set in Norway, towns like Posio and Utsjoki deliver. No need to travel to the far-flung corners of the world to capture the Northern Lights. They look the same over the village of Utsjoki as they do over the small twinkling towns of Alaska. The difference, of course, is that you can easily fly directly to the Ivalo airport from London (in the winter).
Across Lapland’s eastern border sits the vast and complex country known as Russia. Because it’s not always inexpensive, easy or safe to travel to and through regions like Siberia, Lapland makes a great alternative stand-in location! When you need isolation and boundless nature, the forests and lakes around Ylläs are perfect—not to mention more convenient with connections through the Kittilä airport.
But what about the other end of the world? The vast snowplains of Antarctica are virtually impossible to traverse without years of planning, not to mention the cost. Fortunately, Lapland has 20,000 lakes, most of which freeze over in the winter, offering a flat, snow-covered surface indistinguishable from the bottom of the world. (Throw in a few CGI penguins and you’re golden.)
Snow isn’t everything
Lapland is covered by snow for more than half the year. But summers in northern Finland offer just as many, if not more, variation and possibilities. In addition to the 24 hours of daylight (lasting more than three months in the north), the natural characteristics of Lapland cannot be overstated, especially for stand-in locations. The endless forests and backwaters will transport the viewer to New England for your horror film. 2000 rivers and the aforementioned lakes are perfect stand-ins for the Great Lakes bordering Canada or northern Quebec, or the Yenisei river basin at the edge of Asia.
In the near future, it might be more difficult and costly for European film crews to shoot in the UK. Luckily, the rocky fells and river valleys of Enontekiö feature the glens and straths you’re looking for. Just ask Sauli Vanhapiha, the operator of the Tundrea Resort. The Resort offers its services several times a year for commercials and location scouts.
“There’s a real resemblance to Scotland here in the Kilpisjärvi area. Maybe it’s the lack of trees. We have trees here–birches–but they’re small. We’ve a lot of mountains, different kinds of scenery. And the landscape changes quite drastically. Nowhere else has the same kind of vegetation we have here–it’s rougher here. Nature moves and recovers quite slowly. You can still see some bunkers and wreckage from the war that nature hasn’t yet reclaimed. It’s rough, rural. Sometimes in winter, when you come here, it looks like the moon. There are no trees, just white snow covering the mountainsides, and these holes in the ground. No distractions here.”
Enontekiö is also a great place to shoot “Norway” without the expenses normally associated with it. And the northern end of the Scandinavian mountain range rises just over the border, offering verisimilitude.
Infrastructure and Support Services
Just because your film is set in the middle of Siberia doesn’t mean you have to film there. Thanks to Lapland’s growing tourism and industrial sectors, there are modern and maintained roads. Lapland has five airports, and depending on season, direct international flights from all over Europe and even Asia.
And thanks to Lapland’s prominence and preference among filmmakers, there are dozens of support service companies, ranging from the luxuries and full-service conveniences of Lapland Hotels to light and camera equipment rentals by Angel Films to full film crews from Flatlight Creative House.
Ready to put Lapland in your lens? Contact Film Lapland – the Finnish Lapland film commission – and let’s get those cameras rolling!