With few coronavirus cases and plans to restart local filming, Iceland is looking to ease restrictions on international arrivals, including foreign film crews, starting June 15.
With the closing of the Schengen borders, Iceland, like other European countries, has been imposing a mandatory two-week quarantine to international (non-European) travelers. But starting June 15, Iceland will give travelers the option of being tested upon arrival in order to avoid a 14-day quarantine period.
“This will apply to international production crews, filmmakers and talent and will allow them to come and go in Iceland,” said Laufey Guðjónsdóttir, the head of the Icelandic Film Centre.
One of the most popular destinations for high-profile film shoots, Iceland is hosting production on the next instalment of the “Fantastic Beasts” franchise, among others, though the shoot has been delayed due to the pandemic, according to an industry source.
“Iceland’s strategy of large-scale testing, tracing and isolating has proven effective so far…We want to build on that experience of creating a safe place for those who want a change of scenery after what has been a tough spring for all of us,” said Thordis Kolbrun Reykfjord Gylfadottir, minister for tourism, industry and innovation.
Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson, Iceland’s minister for foreign affairs, said that with “only three cases of the virus diagnosed in May, (the country is) once again ready to carefully open our doors to the world.”
“We’re optimistic as a country that we can successfully begin our journey back to normality,” added Þórðarson.
“Everest” filmmaker Baltasar Kormákur already resumed weeks ago the shoot of “Katla,” his eight-part supernatural volcano drama for Netflix in his 45,200 square-foot studio near Reykjavik.
Also currently filming is “Black Port,” a series set in a small Icelandic fishing village in the 1980s and based on true events, which Gísli Örn Garðarsson is directing with Björn Hlynur Haraldsson. “Because the two main actors in the series are husband and wife (while also playing a couple in the show), they can do scenes without the mandatory two meters,” said Guðjónsdóttir.
She said the country recently lifted the lockdown but is still banning gatherings of more than 50 people and imposing a two-meter distance between people on set as well as in the country’s movie theaters, which were permitted to reopen earlier this month. “The question is how long will they keep that cap…(Our authorities) will evaluate the situation every three weeks,” said Guðjónsdóttir.
Iceland will host several shoots this summer, including season three of Kormakur’s hit series “Trapped” and Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson’s drama “Chicken Boy.”
Kormakur, who was the first to venture back into filming right in the middle of lockdown in Iceland, said he and Netflix came up with a sanitary system that will likely inspire other film crews around the world. Besides testing everyone on the cast and crew, checking temperatures every morning and maintaining a two-meter distance, Kormakur created a color-coded system for the studio’s four main spaces in order to limit the number of crew members in each area to 20.
“A lot of people and guilds are talking to us,” said Kormakur. “We’ve been approached by other filmmakers, producers, from studios to talent agencies like Endeavor, who are interested in learning more about the system we have put in place and we’re happy to help in any way.”
The filmmaker said he was also able to set up the shoot of “Katla” during the pandemic because his studio is in a secluded location, though the easing of travel restrictions to allow cast and crew to travel outside the country will be a key step in “getting the wheels turning again.”
Kormakur said he had several high-profile U.S. projects in the pipeline, including “Arthur the King,” an adaptation of the 2017 novel “Arthur: The Dog Who Crossed the Jungle to Find a Home,” which is set to star Mark Wahlberg.