Estonian Animal Farms
“Making a movie is the easiest thing in the world…” said no one, ever.
Scouting locations is just the beginning of the bizarre and wonderful adventure that is movie-making. Great location scouts know that it’s not just where you are, but how a place represents a story that’s important. The perfect locale can add an unexpected element to any story—not only visually but also emotionally.
But what happens when you get an unexpected request for a whole different species of actors as part of your scenery—animals, for instance? You’re going to face a whole set of new challenges. (Remember when PETA made a stink about the use of a live elephant, even though the actual movie was about animal rights? That’s an extreme example of complex consequences, but a relevant one nonetheless.)
Traditional zoos can offer a whole new world of possibilities to any movie set, and besides being downright fun, they can also add a certain juxtaposition to create an uncomfortable or even spooky atmosphere. Who could forget that horrifying zoo scene from The Omen, where even the animals were terrified of little Damien?
If you do find yourself in a bind looking for the best place to film with feathered or furry creatures, you’ll want to keep your mind open to a range of affordable locales not limited to traditional zoos. Location scouts looking to film near Estonia should know that there are plenty of animal-based settings in the country that are not only affordable, but extremely unique.
First off, there is a single zoo in Estonia, located in Tallinn. Founded in 1939, it currently houses around 548 different species of animals, and is home to about 13,000 animals.
Location-wise, animal farms can be superior than zoos and petting zoos. Not only do they offer a more specific type of fauna (and thus feeling), they can be more entertaining and hence cinematic—here are a few suggestions for unique animal sets.
A parrot center, about an hour from Tallinn Airport, could create an exotic and colorful backdrop to help define a quirky character or situation. And for those seeking a different level of aviary charm, the Estonian Parrot Center also runs a bird hotel.
If you’re looking for an entire animal park, you’ll be pleased to know that there’s one in Alaveski, an hour and a half from Tartu, the second largest town in Estonia. The Alaveski Animal Park, home to 90 different animals including bears, squirrels, foxes, pheasants and deer, can add a country-like or even woodsy feel to a scene.
And have you ever thought about adding an ostrich farm to a scene? Estonia is home to quite a few, with Sassi and Muhu Ostrich farms being among perhaps the best known.
Rabbits are another symbolic creature which can add an element of magic, connote a theme of fertility or even add a hint of humor to any script. From the lovable Bugs Bunny to the creepy scene in Fatal Attraction (but no, you’re not allowed to harm these bunnies), there are plenty of options for a surprise scene in a rabbit farm. If you’re curious about the look and feel, consider taking the crew to Angora Rabbits Tours, a farm with about 80 pure-bred English Angora rabbits just ready to be cast.
And last but not least, there’s always room for man’s best friend. Even if there are no dogs in your script, in many cases you can create a space for them. An hour from Tallinn Airport sits a Huskypark sled dogs farm, home to 10 purebred Alaskan malamutes and 30 Siberian huskies who are impatiently waiting to be cast in your blockbuster film.
Estonian animal farms can be superior alternatives to traditional zoos for film sets, and the unique backdrop can add an unexpected emotional impact to any type of film. Have you ever considered filming in Estonia? If not, you should know that it comes with some major perks, like saving up to 30 percent on eligible production costs.
A huge thank you to Film Estonia for the cash-rebate incentive!
Photos: Visit Estonia