The five nominees for the annual European Film Commissions Network Location Award showcase the stunning array of locations, communities and industry hubs the continent offers.

'Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning'

Source: Paramount

‘Mission: Impossible - Dead Reckoning’

The European Film Commissions Network (EUFCN), established in 2007, aims to be a gateway to Europe for thousands of film­makers across the world. The non-profit association represents 100 European film commissions from 32 countries, and supports and promotes the continent’s film industry and culture.

Members share information and experiences, and play a pivotal role in fostering collaboration between filmmakers, local authorities and the wider film community. Great importance is placed on helping to create a more sustainable and efficient film industry across Europe.

The seventh annual EUFCN location award is being presented at a ceremony during the European Film Market (EFM) in Berlin on February 18.

“The location award is an opportunity for EUFCN members to showcase their locations and success stories, not only to the international filmmaking community, but also to the general public,” say EUFCN co-presidents Carlota Guerrero and Adrian A Mitchell. “The five finalists of this year’s award are proof of the key role that locations play when setting the tone and mood of a production, adding an extra layer of meaning to what we see on screen.”

Each EUFCN member film commission is able to nominate one location in its territory. This year, 24 locations were nominated by 24 EUFCN members.

The award goes to a location/film commission for a specific production shot on that location. For this EUFCN award, “location” carried a flexible definition, ranging from a specific place, a whole village or a city to a monument, a building or a natural beauty spot. It could not be an entire country or region.

Any location proposed must have played a significant role in the story and/or in the visual impact of the production and have been used for a feature film or a high-end TV series.

The production must have premiered in cinemas, festivals, TV, online or on digital platforms between October 3, 2022 and September 11, 2023. In addition, the location should be open to the public for visits at least partially.

An external jury consisting of five film professionals whittled down the 24 nominations to five finalists that are in contention for the European filming location of the year prize. This year’s jury comprised Filmtourismus travel blogger Andrea David; Wendy Mitchell, Screen International contributing editor and film festival consultant; Jerry Odlin, sales director of UK-based publishing and design house Boutique Editions;

Alison Taylor, location manager and first vice president of Location Managers Guild International; and Venia Vergou, producer and member of Crew United Greece.

The five finalist locations are subject to a public vote via the EUFCN website. During the EFM ceremony, EUFCN will pick a name out of a hat from the web vote casters, who win a €500 ($540) voucher from EUFCN for tickets plus accommodation for two people — offered by the film commission from the winning location — to visit the place where the production filmed.

“EUFCN wants to shed light on the wide spectrum of landscape and environment which can be found in Europe, both for future productions but also for film tourism,” notes Vergou. “It may be a basement, a castle, a bridge, a factory, a field or a street. Without a location there is no film or TV production.”

In a display of the sheer strength of one country as a location, three of the five finalists hail from Norway. “Helsetkopen, Jotunheimen and Romsdalen Gondola were so strong and unique that they rose to the top,” noted the jury. “It felt appropriate to celebrate these different locations, which played a significant role in three very different productions shot in Norway.”

The jury said it was impressed by how filmmakers endeavoured to make such creative use of a spectacular array of landscape, architecture and cultural heritage found in Europe in their productions.

Together with Portugal’s compelling Hotel Parque do Rio and the fascinating Irish island of Inis Mór, the finalists all reflect the importance and value of filming locations as essential characters in a story.

Norwegian Film Commission

'Misson: Impossible - Dead Reckoning' in Helsetkopen, Norway

Source: Christian Black / Paramount Pictures

‘Misson: Impossible - Dead Reckoning’ in Helsetkopen, Norway

The towering 1,246m Helsetkopen mountain, which is located within the jagged Sunnmore Alps in northwest Norway, was nominated by the Norwegian Film Commission. The peak lent a jaw-dropping backdrop for what has been billed as “the biggest stunt in cinema history” during the filming of Paramount Pictures’ Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning.

The stunt, performed by producer and star Tom Cruise, saw the actor perform a thrilling motorcycle leap from the mountain top before parachuting to safety into the valley below. Cruise, who had been wanting to do such a stunt since “he was a little kid”, said he and the film­makers had been planning the sequence — combining a motorbike leap with a base jump — for years.

Director Chris McQuarrie required Cruise to do the stunt six times on the first day of principal photo­graphy. For the jump, everything from scaffolding and platforms to generators and concrete elements for securing equipment were transported up to the mountain plateau. All in the face of extreme weather and wind conditions throughout production.

In addition to Helsetkopen, other Norwegian locations included Andalsnes, Hellesylt and Trollveggen as well as the Rauma railway, heralded by tourists and tour operators alike as one of Europe’s most beautiful train lines.

The Norwegian landscape stood in for the Austrian Alps as the Orient Express hurtled past. Previous franchise instalment Mission: Impossible — Fallout saw a Norwegian summit double for the dramatic mountains of Kashmir.

Dead Reckoning shot over six weeks in mid-2020. The crew lived in a Covid-safe bubble aboard a cruise ship. Truenorth Norway managed the production locally and wrangled more than 900 personnel for the shoot.

Close to Helsetkopen is the Unesco world heritage site of Geiranger­fjord — one of the longest and deepest fjords — with steep, crystalline rock walls towering 1,400m from the Norwegian Sea and extending 500m below sea level. The region is visually stunning and attracts plenty of adventurous travellers, as well as an increasing number of daring filmmakers.

Portugal Film Commission

The Hotel Parque do Rio in 'Bad Living'

Source: Berlinale

The Hotel Parque do Rio in ‘Bad Living’

Hotel Parque do Rio, located on the north coast of Portugal, was the sole location for Joao Canijo’s Bad Livingand Living Bad, a diptych of films both set in a seaside hotel that has seen better days near Porto.

Built in the late 1960s, the hotel’s modernist architecture — cement, wood, large windows, layered indoors and outdoors — provided the perfect setting.

The first part of Bad Living charts the bitter daily co-existence of five women from the family that runs the hotel. In the narrative, the building became a character in itself, playing the part of a beautiful monster that is strangling the women’s lives, preventing their freedom of choice and forcing them to postpone their dreams.

“Many of the scenes were invented just to take advantage of the perspectives the location offered. The hotel is the character that sticks this family together,” notes Canijo.

The second film, Living Bad, turns the perspective inside out to follow the stories of three groups of guests.

Both titles were selected for the Berlinale 2023: Bad Living screened in Competition and won a Silver Bear jury award, while Living Bad unspooled later in the festival’s Encounters section.

Bad Living spent three weeks of preparation and then a subsequent 12-week shoot at the hotel in the early months of 2021, during the second Covid lockdown. This meant the hotel became both home and workplace for the cast and crew for more than three months.

The pandemic confinement helped the team build the claustrophobic mood the film required, says Canijo. And because there was nothing else for these people to do, all focus was on the filmmaking.

The Portugal-France co-production was a collaboration between Midas Filmes with Les Films de l’Après-Midi and French distributor UFO Distribution. Financial support came from the ICA, the Portuguese Film Institut, the public television channel Radio e Televisao and Fundo de Apoio ao Turismo e Cinema, the Portuguese cash rebate scheme.

Eastern Norway Film Commission

The mountains in Jotunheimen, Norway were the setting for 'Troll'

Source: Screen file

The mountains in Jotunheimen, Norway were the setting for ‘Troll’

Jotunheimen in Norway is “the home of the giants”, boasting the highest mountains in northern Europe.

The dramatic peaks provide the epic setting for Troll, directed by Roar Uthaug and produced by Motion Blur for Netflix. The film is inspired by Norse mythology, and is one of the most watched non-­English-language titles in the world on Netflix, according to the streamer.

Netflix backed the Norwegian-language action movie via Oslo-based Motion Blur, owned by leading Nordic film outfit SF Studios. Troll is produced by Espen Horn and Kristian Strand Sinkerud of Motion Blur.

The film’s tagline “mountains will move” cheerfully foreshadows an iconic scene that sees the mountain awaken and an ancient troll reveals itself. A fearless paleontologist must stop the monster from wreaking deadly havoc.

“The incredible Jotunheimen mountain range is not only used as a backdrop, but the location becomes alive and plays an active part in the story,” Uthaug notes. “The natural beauty of Jotunheimen also inspired us in the selection of surfaces and colours that were implemented in creating the character of the troll.”

Eastern Norway Film Commission was established in 2022 to attract large-scale international film and TV productions. A Troll sequel is set to film in Jotunheimen later in 2024.

The location played a crucial part in shaping the scripts, adding value to the story and credibility to its characters. “It set the size and tone of the film; it’s visually stunning,” notes producer Sinkerud. “Wherever we filmed, the weather was always on our side. If we needed sun, we got sun. When we needed wind, we got wind. We believe this happened because of the film’s theme about respecting and caring for nature.”

Location supervisor Audun Skarbovik noted Jotunheimen and the entire Lom municipality was a very film-friendly area where everything is possible. “You can expect spectacular scenery and a positive and welcoming vibe from the locals,” he affirmed.

Western Norway Film Commission

Succession at Mount Hoven, Norway

Source: ©HBO Max / Warner Bros Discovery

Succession at Mount Hoven, Norway

The choice of Norwegian filming locations for the final season of HBO series Succession lent a striking visual backdrop to the show. The Romsdalen Gondola, a state-of-the-art electric cable car that transports people 1,679m to the summit of Mount Hoven from the fjord in Andalsnes, plays a significant role in a pivotal scene.

The rugged mountains, crisp architecture and dramatic fjords were a compelling counterpoint to the opulence of the show’s Roy family, enhancing the series’ thematic depth and serving as a metaphor for the rich terrain of human power struggles.

Succession was the first production to shoot at the Romsdalen Gondola, which opened in 2019, but it was far from the first high-profile production to shoot in western Norway.

The region has also hosted Mission: Impossible — Dead Reckoning, Black Widow, Dune, No Time To Die and the upcoming The Gorge, as well as European co-productions such as Wild Men and More Than Ever.

While in western Norway, Succession also shot at the striking Juvet Landscape Hotel, previously nominated for the EUFCN Location Award for its defining role in Alex Garland’s Ex Machina.

Western Norway film commissioner Sigmund Elias Holm is enthused by the growing synergy between blockbuster productions and the local industry. “These international collaborations not only elevate the profile and capacity of our region, but also provide a boost to local producers and projects,” says Holm. “It’s thrilling to witness our skilled crews earning international recognition, exemplified by nominations for the Location Managers Guild International Award for their contribution to projects such as Succession.”

The industry in western Norway is backed by two regional film funds, Zefyr Media Fund and Western Norway Film Fund, as well as the national cash rebate and selective funding programmes managed by the Norwegian Film Institute. The Norway segment in Succession was serviced by Truenorth Norway and supported by the country’s 25% cash rebate.

Screen Ireland

'The Banshees Of Inisherin'

Source: Disney

‘The Banshees Of Inisherin’

Inis Mór, the largest of Ireland’s Aran Islands, is a 40-minute ferry ride from the west coast of the Emerald Isle. This beautiful, sparse island was a key location for 2022’s The Banshees Of Inisherin, serving as another character for writer/director Martin McDonagh.

The darkly comic 1920s-set Irish drama follows two friends — played by Colin Farrell and Brendan Gleeson — who end up bitter enemies, and explores themes of masculinity, loneliness and longing.

McDonagh notes he intended Inis Mór to represent Farrell’s character Pádraic, embodying his sweet, simple nature — juxtaposed against his rival Colm’s rougher, more lyrical personality, which was represented by Achill Island in County Mayo.

Inis Mór, an Irish Heritage site, was the setting for Pádraic’s stone cottage, perched atop the island and offering breathtaking views of the cliffs and surrounding ocean. The building was built from scratch for the film in the port town of Gort na gCapall, because McDonagh wanted the dwelling to have a sea view.

Throughout the film, late summer sunsets illuminate the island’s unique rocky karst landscape, scattered with scenic ruins and hand-built limestone walls. An ancient Bronze Age fort Dun Aonghasa was the setting for a key scene between Farrell and co-star Barry Keoghan — and permission to shoot at the historical site was generously granted by Ireland’s Office of Public Works.

A 14-km-long island, Inis Mór posed logistical challenges for the transportation of crew, equipment, vehicles and sets — all resolved successfully with the co-operation of local residents. Its Irish and Celtic cultural significance includes numerous heritage sites, a native Irish flora and fauna habitat and a thriving Irish-language-speaking culture.

Inis Mór’s first appearance on screen was in one of the earliest Irish films ever made, 1934’s Man Of Aran. The Banshees Of Inisherin is a fitting testament to a location steeped in Irish film history.

The picture was produced by the UK’s Blueprint Pictures in association with Film4 and TSG Entertainment. Searchlight Pictures had US theatrical distribution rights with Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures, releasing it in cinemas across the UK and Europe.

Contact: Screen Ireland
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