Behind the scenes of Arctic Circle, filmed in northern Finland
Photo by: Lapin Kansa

Blood & Snow: Filming Arctic Circle in Northern Finland

Arctic Circle is a crime thriller set in the village of Ivalo, Finland, about 300 km north of the Arctic Circle. The series follows a local police officer and a German medical researcher as they investigate a series of murders and a deadly virus that threatens to spread far beyond the borders of Lapland.

Directed by Hannu Salonen, Arctic Circle (Finnish: Ivalo) is a co-production of Yellow Film & TV and Bavaria Fiction. The production filmed in northern Lapland for 43 days in 2018, using the heavy snowfall and vibrant polar night colors to their full advantage.

According to production designer Antti Nikkinen, the story was always set in Lapland, though not everyone in the production was familiar with the region.

Arctic Circle was my first time working in Lapland. When the production first came to Lapland in spring 2017 for a recce (tech scout), director Hannu hadn’t been here before, and I had only been here once. Initially we had grand ambitions. We wanted to film across Lapland, from northeast to northwest. But on our first trip to Ivalo, we realized how big Lapland was, and we adjusted our expectations.

Antti worked alongside local location scouts and location managers. Local expertise and assistance was critical in gaining trust from the communities in which Arctic Circle filmed.

— We needed to create a few locations, like the fictional hotel, but we discovered some excellent locations that we didn’t even know we needed! We chose a local location scout, Ilkka Mukkala, from Kemijärvi, who has worked in this area many times before. Everyone in the production liked the idea of using a local, not just for the northern sensibilities he brought, but also to impress on the locals the value of our production. Working with the locals was really important for us—when you ask locals for permission to film near them, it opens a lot of doors.

The production filmed in northern Lapland, home to the largest national parks and wilderness areas in Finland. Working closely with Metsähallitus, the government organization that administers government-owned land. According to Tuomo Kokkoniemi from Metsähallitus, “Arctic Circle arranged filming permits with Metsähallitus to film on state-owned lands. We also contacted the area’s reindeer herders for approval to film. In Inari and Utsjoki, the northernmost municipality in Lapland, almost all the wilderness scenes were filmed on Metsähallitus-controlled land.”

Director Hannu Salonen discussed how Lapland expressed itself in front of the camera.

— Lapland is absolutely irreplaceable. It cannot be recreated digitally, even with lots of money. The atmosphere here is quite different and freezing cold, too. Lapland is so physical, and that pushes the actors to another state, because it’s so genuine. Plus the scenery and even the weather are so beautiful in their own way, or even dramatic at times. And this setting—Lapland—you can’t recreate in the south. In Arctic Circle, Lapland itself is definitely one of the main characters.

Arctic Circle premiered in Finland in late 2018 and has its premieres in other European countries throughout 2019. According to Yellow Film & TV producer and head of fiction Jarkko Hentula, the Arctic Circle concept was quite popular among sales agents.

— We were able to choose the best sales agent for this series. Germany has been an active partner in Finnish television series, and we knew that snowy Lapland locations would really resonate with them. There was a lot of interest from different companies, but Bavaria Fiction was the best fit for us and this series.

Jarkko sees a bright future for the thriller series, with international rollouts.

Lagardere Studios is handling the international sales, and our joint aim is to sell the series worldwide. We expect Lagardere to be able to sell the series to most territories in the world. The sales process is very active and ongoing. The show has premiered in Poland, Spain, Netherlands and China. The German TV premiere takes place this spring on ZDF. And Elisa Viihde is bringing the show to Russia as well.

Behind the scenes on Arctic Circle, filmed in northernmost Finland
Photo by: Lapin Kansa
Behind the scenes of Arctic Circle, filmed in northern Finland
Photo by: Lapin Kansa
Behind the scenes of Arctic Circle, filmed in northern Finland
Photo by: Kirsikka Paakkinen | House of Lapland