Norilsk is an industrial city in Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, located 400km (249 miles) north of the Arctic Circle. It is the world’s northernmost city with a population over 100,000. It is also one of the world’s most isolated cities. Dating back to the 1930’s, Norilsk started as a mining-metallurgic complex and gulag labour camp for Stalin’s prisoners.
Today it is one of the world’s most polluted cities. It is surrounded by a nickel factory in the south, copper factory to the north, and the Nadezhda metallurgical plant to the east. Needless to say, environmental regulations are lax. A 2016 industrial spill in from Norilsk Nikel led to the river running red. Inside the city locals live in brutalist concrete Soviet-era apartments, some of the earliest built in Russia, or in pre-fabricated Gostinka apartments built in the 1960’s. Norilsk has several interesting unfinished buildings, as well as buildings that were abandoned due to the melting of permafrost. Driving just outside the city visiting productions will find a vast treeless tundra, made even more apocalyptic by dead vegetation, killed off by acid rain. In a scene most visitors would find shocking, during the freezing winter months some locals go swimming in waters warmed by steam from a power plant.
When To Shoot?
Norilsk is one of the coldest cities on earth. Winters are long, and extremely cold with temperatures averaging -30°C (-22°F) and falling as low as -55°C (-67°F). Snow cover lasts for almost 300 days each year, with about half of those days experiencing snow storms. The polar night when the sun never appears runs from 30 November to 13 January (45 days). Locals are said to combat these dark months by filling their homes with plants, switching on strategically placed lightbulbs to imitate sunlight, and regularly visiting one of the many city solariums. Start here for some ideas to consider when planning on filming in extreme cold.
Summers are very short and mild. The midnight sun is above the horizon from 21 May to 24 July (65 days).
Norilsk has no ground links with the rest of the world, so all film crew and equipment need to be flown in. The city is served by Alykel Airport and Valek Airport. Given the number of snow storm days, expect that it may take several days of cancelled flights before you get to or from Norilsk.
Norilsk is a closed city and special permission is needed for travel. Larger footprint shoots may require several levels of permitting from local authorities and Moscow.
Note, the Nickel factory was closed in 2016. Investments are being made to modernise manufacturing. Thankfully, we are moving into a world of greener energy, but that also means the industrial apocalyptic aesthetic will not be around forever. Go film in Norilsk while it still exists.
Russia Production Service Support, Fixer & Film Crew
For larger footprint shoots you will need a Russian production service company and film crew which are based in the major cities of Moscow and St Petersburg. For smaller shoots, Norilsk has a local fixer who can help arrange local access.
If you are a film studio, brand, media company, ad agency or production house looking to shoot your movie, tv show, online content, commercial, or other creative content in Norilsk or anywhere else in Russia, contact us for recommendations.
Images courtesy of Christophe JACROT.