It sounds like the plot of a classic Hollywood disaster movie: a quiet fishing town on the coast of Iceland is threatened when a long-dormant volcano suddenly awakens, causing thousands of earth tremors that have ruptured roads and wrecked houses while residents attempt to flee the impending lava.
For the inhabitants of Grindavik, a small fishing town on Iceland’s southern peninsula, this isn’t a film but, as of last weekend, real life. According to reports, on Saturday morning almost 4,000 residents were evacuated from their homes in the town, which is only an hour’s drive from the Icelandic capital of Reykjavík, after the Fagradalsfjall volcano began threatening to erupt last week. Reports say there is “a river” of magma beneath the town which is coming perilously close to breaking through to the surface.
While normal life in Grindavik has come to a stop, for now the wider Icelandic screen industry has been unaffected. “So far as I am aware no film production has been put to a halt,” says Icelandic production manager Beggi Jonsson, who just wrapped on the second season of Icelandic political drama “The Minister.” “At the moment, Grindavik has been evacuated, as the volcano magma is just 500 meters under the surface and they believe it will erupt in the middle of the town. Already, we have started putting up barriers to protect the electricity power station that provides nearby towns with electricity and water. Grindavik is one hour away from capital of Reykjavik, so we are not expecting to get too much effect.”
Jónas Margeir Ingólfsson, who co-founded Nordic production company Act 4 earlier this year, echoed Jonsson, saying he had not heard of any disruption to film or TV production. “All productions in Iceland, as far as I know, are uninterrupted,” he tells Variety from Reykjavík. “All inhabitants of Grindavík have been evacuated due to a high probability of an eruption in that area. It has been truly beautiful to witness the support and solidarity of Icelanders during the evacuation, both in terms of support in providing accommodation and logistics for those affected but even more so in spirit.”
Eva Georgsdottir, who is head of production at Icelandic media conglomerate San (which operates Vodafone Iceland as well as numerous TV and radio stations), says she too had not been impacted by the volcano. “There have not been any disruptions on production that we are aware off so far.”
With its jaw-dropping natural beauty and proximity to both the U.S. East Coast and Europe, Iceland (which is located almost exactly between New York and London) has increasingly become a top destination for U.S. film and TV productions. Among recent shows that have shot on location there are “The Witcher: Blood Origin,” Gal Gadot thriller “Heart of Stone,” “True Detective” Season 4, which wrapped earlier this year and Brit Marling’s recent limited series “A Murder at the End of the World.”
A number of Icelandic film and TV executives tell Variety they do not expect any knock-on effects on production insurance, even with the disruption Fagradalsfjall was causing on the coast. “The risk is very geographically defined and therefore avoidable,” says Magnús Ragnarsson, VP of Media at Icelandic broadcaster Siminn.
Fagradalsfjall, which is situated on the Reykjanes Peninsula, was dormant for 800 years until it began exhibiting activity again in 2021. Experts believe an eruption is now certain but they do not predict the kind of global impact experienced in 2010, when a volcano on the Icelandic ice cap of Eyjafjallajökull caused the largest air-traffic shut-down since World War II.
Air travel was disrupted for almost three months after the volcano belched out an enormous ash cloud that proved dangerous to aircrafts. Among the industry events impacted by the 2010 ash cloud were the premiere of “Iron Man 2,” which was relocated from London to Los Angeles to ensure the cast could attend, and the Cannes Film Festival, which saw attendees’ travel plans thrown into chaos with many flights delayed and canceled.