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Location Spotlight

Beyond Santa’s Workshop: A Guide to Production in Lapland

Grillifilms EP and MD Hanna Tuovio on why you should bring your shoot to the far north

Beyond Santa’s Workshop: A Guide to Production in Lapland

Lapland is on our minds around the world during this festive time of year. It’s where Santa Claus lives - a peaceful, icy idyll in the far north of Finland and Sweden - and right now it’s full of tourists visiting Santa Claus Village and the famous ICEHOTEL. But there’s much more to it than Christmas cheer. It’s got small cities, villages, ski resorts, hills, big and small rivers, frozen lakes and car test driving centers for car commercials. Oh, and the Northern Lights.

Executive producer and managing director of Helsinki-based Grillifilms Hanna Tuovio takes us on a trip in a virtual one horse open sleigh through the landscape of Finnish Lapland.

Why Shoot Here?

Q> How would you pitch Lapland to any production companies or agencies looking to shoot in the region? 

Hanna> If you are looking for snow November to March, Finnish Lapland is the right place for it.

Q> What are the main qualities of the area?

Hanna> The infrastructure and the accessibility of the area are good. There are four airports in Lapland, a good network of decent roads, and nice hotels.

Visit Finland / Jaakko Posti

Q> What would you say are the most interesting locations in Lapland? 

Hanna> The wilderness is really beautiful, both winter and summer. Lapland is an area of the size of Austria, so there are different kinds of wilderness areas: with dense forest varying to open wilderness. Small cities, villages, ski resorts, “fells” and high hills, big and small rivers…Frozen lakes and car test driving centres are often used for car commercials.

Visit Finland / Elina Sirparanta


Visit Finland / 
Harry Tarvainen

Q> Tell us about the climate and the best or worst times to shoot there? The light must be a huge factor in both the summer and the winter! 

Hanna> Lapland is mostly located above the Arctic Circle, which means that the daylight hours are short around the end of the year. But the light can be magical, because of the sun being at a low angle, and the white snow reflecting it. Then you have the Northern Lights, which can be seen between August to April, when it is dark, and skies are clear. Some hotels have Northern Lights alarm system in the rooms, but it is ok to turn it off!

And during the summer, there is constant daylight, in the northernmost point of Lapland, Utsjoki, the sun does not set for 75 days.

Visit Finland / Miikka Niemi

Visit Finland

Q> What specific work permits / visas are required to shoot in Lapland?  

Hanna> No work permits are needed from a EU citizen.

It is quite easy to shoot in Lapland, because we have Everyman´s Rights, which allow you to enjoy the Finnish countryside. But together with these wide-ranging rights comes the responsibility to respect nature, other people, and property. Special regulations in national parks and many nature reserves additionally limit activities such as the use of motor vehicles, and access to sensitive areas during the nesting season. 

Even though you have to apply for permits for Nature Parks, and privately owned land, the procedures are quite simple and fast.

Visit Finland / Markus Kiili

Q> How is the infrastructure in Lapland for supporting large productions?

Hanna> The high season (happening around Christmas, winter holidays in February, and Easter) can be a bit tricky, since Lapland is very popular among tourists. It is advisable to arrange quite well in advance, if a larger crew has to be accommodated.

Most crew and equipment travel up to Lapland from Helsinki, the capital. The distance means around 1000km of driving, flying, or taking the train.
 
Visit Finland / Matti Koutonen

Q> Lapland is famous for being where Santa Claus lives. What impact has that had on the area?

Hanna> A lot of people want to meet Santa, and during the Christmas time, hotels in the Arctic Circle are usually fully booked all the time!

Q> What have been your biggest or most interesting productions in the area to date?

Hanna> It has to be the spots for Audi and Shell, which we serviced on March 2017, in Rovaniemi area, to Carnage Films, and the fabulous duo: director Mark Jenkinson and producer Tom Farley.  

Visit Finland / Jani Karppa

DOs and DON’Ts in the Region

Q> For an outsider, what would you say are the biggest Dos and Don’ts in the area?

Hanna> Do dress according to the weather. Or let the locals help you to do that. We use multiple layers, and dress sometimes in overalls meant for ice fishing. Rubber boots with woollen boots inside keep your feet warm. It can get really cold!  

We all want to work in a sustainable way, and will not leave traces on Lapland’s pristine nature. This is very much appreciated when in Lapland.

Visit Finland / Juho Kuva

Q> What would be your number one tip to anyone coming to Lapland to shoot a campaign/film?

Hanna> As everywhere in the world: always trust the locals!

Grillifilms on a shoot for Shell

Insider Recommendations

Q> Where would you suggest a foreign production stay while they are in Lapland?

Hanna> Based on my experience, it is quite convenient to stay in many of the ski resorts in Lapland. All services are nearby, and you could maybe find the time to ski slopes or cross country.

Q> Where are the best bars/restaurants? Any hidden gems you could suggest? 

Hanna> My favourite is Nili in Rovaniemi, which serves excellent Lappish food.

You should also visit one of the ice bars, there are several in Lapland.

Crazy Reindeer Arena in Levi is the biggest place in the area boasting 1600 people, and they arrange concerts, where it can really get crazy!
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