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Estonia: A Flourishing Haven For Filming


By: Leon Zhi Wei Chen


Estonia is quickly becoming a popular destination for global productions, evident from Nolan’s choice of shooting Tenet there. One of the greenest countries in Europe with forests covering nearly 50% of the land, Estonia is a dream for nature lovers. Over two thousand islands, all nearly untouched by civilization, places where travelers can see the land for what it really was and truly is.


Photo Source: Gannett


Back to Tenet, arguably the biggest film to shoot in the country was heavily accommodated by the film institute and government to ensure a smooth production process. The amphitheater used for the opening scene was rebuilt by Nolan’s crew, repairing large sections of the structure that served the 1980 Moscow Summer Olympics. 3000 Estonian extras were on set that day. The city of Tallinn also shut down 4 miles and six lanes of the busiest highway that connects two main urban centers for Nolan’s chase scene.


Though what was truly a deal sealer was the tax credit of Estonia. A rebate scheme was placed in 2016 where production is allowed up to 30% cash rebate on local expenses, with the full 30% applied if the crew was locally sourced and is set in Estonia. As such Nolan did both and was able to film the scene with lesser complications and greater returns as Tenet as a fifth of the country’s total population ended up buying a ticket. Though movies in Estonia were never a new thing to begin with.


Since 1896, moving pictures have been played in Estonia for the enjoyment of the citizens. Heavily influenced by Russian cinema due to the Soviet occupation, Estonia has a rich history and culture of filmmaking already in place since the 1940s. Though it limited the content produced, it also allowed the country’s cinema industry to thrive. The collapse of the Soviet Union in the 1990s also led to a decline in productions as the cost of filmmaking skyrocketed. As such, the Estonian Film Institute (EFI) was founded (used to be Estonian Film Foundation), aiding the local film industry to return to its former production frequency.


The efforts of EFI have clearly paid off, incentivizing Nolan to shoot in Estonia has been the greatest feat acted upon so far. By having an A-List director utilize the location, EFI has essentially gotten a $200 million IMAX film in return, advertising the beauty of Estonia to the producers of the world. This all started from the foundations laid, incentivizing global productions to utilize the country. Now with other pre-released films like Erna At War being watched due to the attention, it paves way for newer films such as Kalev to be shot in Estonia. Though at the end of the day, Estonia filmmaking is hoping, with the assistance of other global co-productions and the spotlight garnered from them, to become more visible and competitive in the global marketplace.