The village of Sæbø, in the Norwegian province of Møre og Romsdal, has less than five hundred inhabitants. So when the Marvel movie Black Widow was filmed here in May 2019 and suddenly a film crew of two hundred people were walking around, it was big news.
Scarlett Johansson at the neighborhood supermarket
Mats Riise, owner of local supermarket Joker, was also on set, as his small neighborhood supermarket was shot down. The scene in which lead actress Scarlett Johansson settles something with him at the box office didn’t save the film, but it was quite an experience nonetheless.
“I understand now why making a movie is so expensive,” Riise says of the circus that once came to her village. Two weeks before shooting, lighting technicians arrived from England. “To look at my fluorescent tubes.
The day after the shooting, Mats saw a woman and her son taking pictures outside the store. “They had traveled 500 miles to take a picture of my shop.” He can’t quite reach it himself, but fans sometimes travel halfway around the world to see filming locations.
Filming locations as the reason for a beautiful journey
Some places are even flattened by visitors. For example, Croatian Dubrovnik could barely handle the crowds after Game of Thrones. But it really won’t be that huge in Sæbø, says Anne van Oorschot van Adventures in Norway†
The tour operator offers ‘self-guided tours’ in this vast area and Sæbø is one of the places people come to on the Black Widow tour. “We mainly see the filming locations as an opportunity to allow visitors to take a beautiful journey through this region.”
For example, Sæbø is located on the Hjørundfjord, a spectacular fjord where Norway Adventures also likes to go with its kayak tours. “Precisely because there are so many fewer people here than in the famous Geirangerfjord, where all the boats, cruise ships and ferries drive you crazy in high season.”
Tax advantage for film productions
Van Oorschot moved to Norway in 2000 with her husband Rogier. The outside beckoned. A place where peace and space set the agenda. They chose the Norwegian fjords because of the special landscape. “And there hasn’t been a day that we’ve regretted that decision.”
Filmmakers also fall in love with Norway’s natural beauty. The tax advantage offered to them by the government subsequently convinced the big productions: they obtained 25% of the costs incurred in Norway.
This arrangement makes greater use of local people and services, which benefits the economy. Security, catering, logistics, hotels, but also local guides are deployed.
Waiting to save Tom Cruise
In recent years, film crews have left more than 19 million in the sparsely populated Møre og Romsdal, which has just 266,000 inhabitants. For example, the guide Helge Kvam Karbø van nature of the fjords contributed to the action movie Mission Impossible 7.
It points from the village of Hellesylt. “There Tom Cruise left the mountain with his motorbike.” For this particular scene – seen at the end of the trailer – a huge ramp was built, from which the actor launched himself.
Helge was part of the rescue team standing near the water if Cruise’s parachute landing didn’t go as planned. The guide Erlend van did the same Uteguiden†
Kayaking on the fjord near the village of Valldall, it shows where Tom Cruise lived during the weeks filming in Norway. “He stayed in a house overlooking the fjord, then flew by helicopter to the various filming locations.”
A mere mortal visits these places by car, but it is anything but a punishment. From Valldal you can during the summer months National Scenic Route 63 take direction Trollstigen – the Trollenweg. A beautiful course which ends with eleven hairpin bends and which is part of the Mission Impossible Tour†
Along this route is also the special Juvet Landscape Hotel, where the film Ex Machina was filmed. This remote place, where modern architecture and wild nature rub shoulders, was taken over by the film crew for a month.
“There were cables everywhere and people were walking,” laughs hotel manager Chris Schønefeld. The film not only gave him a lot of publicity – if you want to sleep here you have to book at least six months in advance – but also a second deal.
Since Ex Machina, many music videos and commercials have been shot here. From Ferrari to Siemens. “We now have a few free weeks a year for film productions,” he says.
But how do the filmmakers find these beautiful places? That’s partly thanks to Steve Røyset, who works as a set manager and scout to sell Norway to Hollywood.
Icelandic and New Zealand competition
“This area is ideal because you will find lots of spectacular scenery here and Ålesund Airport ensures that all people and supplies can be transported properly,” he explains.
It starts with the request from a production company. “They indicate what they are looking for and the scouts start working in different countries. Then I do a presentation of the places in Norway, but at the same time it happens in Iceland, Switzerland and New Zealand”, explains Royset.
He sees the number of international film and series productions in Norway increasing in recent years. This is also apparent from figures from the Norwegian Film Institute.
The number of productions increases by 20% per year. The popularity of this particular province comes as no surprise to Røyset. “This piece of Norway is visually spectacular.”
Van Oorschot agrees: “We have now explored the whole country and continue to find this area the most beautiful.”
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