After more than 100 hours spent flying in a helicopter above, across and over Iceland, Rick Rothschild is still amazed. On assignment as FlyOver Iceland's creative director, he says it's been a constant show of delight and surprise.
Jagged coastal fjords, towering peaks, vast glaciers and expansive braided rivers abound. "I swear every time we go somewhere, we see something interesting, unique, extraordinary and awesomely beautiful," he says.
This team of visual creatives, professionally dedicated to capturing the beautiful, has experienced each flight as an aesthetically rewarding and pure exploration. And their sense of wonder comes through clearly in the awe-inspiring flight ride they created.
Rothschild says from the Iceland flight ride’s earliest stages — when he and the film's director Dave Mossop, along with local guidance from Pursuit's local Icelandic team, first began putting a list together of potential locations for FlyOver Iceland — a clear theme came to the forefront. He likes to call it "the extreme and the unexpected Iceland."
They started with a strong list of potential locations where filming could work, where there'd be the right mixture of dramatic landscape and humanity moving through that beauty. But Rothschild says the entire process has been much more like an evolving journey than a simple checklist.
Along with Mossop and a talented and nimble team, the film crew knew early that they couldn't presuppose what the story would be. After extensive research into culture, history and landscapes, with guidance from Pursuit's local Icelandic team, they homed in on the spirit of Iceland and its people.
"Iceland is not a big place but it's an extraordinarily remarkable place," Rothschild says. After weeks and weeks of scouting and filming from the helicopter, he came to appreciate the island country in a way few ever have. "I think what I most like about Iceland is the rawness of nature that's exposed there."
There's a "constant stream of water that's everywhere" and (unlike other places) it's not hidden by canopies of forest. Everything is exposed. There's the tectonic complexities and volcanic evolution happening right in front of your eyes. There are extremes in daylight and colours, from 24-hour light in mid-summer to the depths of the dark winter.
The team received ample warning about the notoriously unpredictable weather in Iceland. "Everyone kept saying, 'Don't forget about the weather!'," Rothschild says.
You can't plan a trip to Iceland, no matter the logistical complexities, without doing so.
But, fortunately, in the end the crew lucked out with great weather for a vast majority of the shoot, he says. And “good weather” isn't always going to be blue skies. Rothschild says "a lot of these places are very beautiful when the sun is shining, but they're equally lovely when there's an amount of cloud work in the sky." Dramatic and stormy skies can be more interesting.
Iceland has a population of only 335,000. Reykjavík's population of 120,000 is almost the same as Newhall, the 'small town' in California where Rothschild lives. It's a country that's known to be like a village—almost everyone knows one another. And even though many people live in isolated areas and experience great solitude, there's a tremendous sense of community, he says. That has rubbed off on the film production crew, which includes a number of Icelanders. Location experts, including Bui Baldvinsson, Alfred Gislason and Anna Dís Ólafsdóttir, have proven invaluable.
And the crew's helicopter pilot, Jón Björnsson, knows Iceland extremely well. "He knows the ground, the weather and how to fly in it," Rothschild says. "He's helped us find extraordinary and remote places only a pilot could know. The guy is a legend."
Ultimately, Rothschild and the talented crew are aiming to give people a collective experience unlike anything else, seriously raising the bar for tourist experiences not just in Iceland, but on a global level as well.
"I think this will make a lasting impact on people and really connect them to Iceland," he says. "It's all coming together and it's a real privilege."
"I think this will make a lasting impact on people and really connect them to Iceland," Rothschild says. "It's all coming together and it's a real privilege."