From De Sica’s Bicycle Thieves to Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, Italian films have always been a major force in world cinema. Italy’s long filmmaking tradition has over the years earned the vibrant country the highest number of foreign film Oscars and countless accolades.
With long sunny summer days, breathtaking scenery, stunning architecture and world class filmmaking community, Italy ranks high as a filming location.
Italy has a reputation as being expensive to film on location, but in reality, production costs are often competitive with Spain. That said, when it comes to accommodation and locations, shopping around is paramount as many costly locations can often be replicated in the more affordable Croatia and Romania.
There are 16 active regional film commissions from Turin to Sicily, all keen to host foreign crews and boost investment. These offer free of charge logistic assistance, access to financial resources, help with arranging permits, finding talent and locations. A good starting point is the Italian Film Commission.
In 2008 Italy introduced tax incentives to support joint projects involving Italian and foreign production companies filming all or a part of their projects in Italy.
These incentives currently apply to features, documentaries and animation but TV is set to be added by the end of 2014. The 25% tax credit system is said by local production companies to be efficiently run and easy to use.
Due to the consistently high level of international productions taking place in Italy, there are many skilled, English-speaking professionals who are accustomed to working with foreign crews. There is a highly regarded art/construction community and locally available equipment. Companies wishing to bring equipment into the country will benefit from Italy’s ATA Carnet country status.
Home to the legendary Cinecitta Studios, Rome is the capital of the Italian film and TV industry, Milan is more geared towards commercials production while Venice, has which has some local crew and equipment, is supported by Rome and Milan.
A major new big screen version of Ben-Hur starring Jack Huston filmed at the legendary Cinecitta Studios in Rome and on location in Matera and Bari in early 2015 and Steven Spielberg is scheduled to film his historical feature The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara in the country in early 2017.
Bond film Spectre was one of the first productions to come to Rome after Italy's tax credit was boosted, and filmed a centrepiece car chase through the streets of the capital in 2014.
Italy is not a difficult place to get permits but procedures and regulations vary from one city/province to another, so it is advisable to give authorities plenty of notice where possible. Local know how is paramount in Italy and foreign productions are advised to use qualified native companies to manage bureaucratic matters.
Permits are granted by relevant city halls with regulations and fees varying from one area to another. It is possible to negotiate directly with private property owners, but to film in public areas and buildings you need the relevant city’s authority.
Some locations such as the Vatican and Roman Forum are near impossible to get permits to film in but local production companies can advise on affordable and accessible alternatives. Panorama Films can also advise on permits and locations within Italy.
Italy has numerous studios – but none is as famous as Rome’s Cinecitta Studios, aka The Dream Factory. Founded in 1937 by Benito Mussolini, this 99-acre studio complex hosted classic productions like Ben Hur (both the 1959 Charlton Heston blockbuster and the 2014 Hollywood remake starring Jack Huston). La Dolce Vita and Cleopatra.
Italy has pretty much any location you could ask for. As the Italian Film Commission points out, there are “mountains, villages, parks, lakes, coasts, beaches, historical cities, 20 national parks, 7600 miles of shoreline, the Med…” and so on.
In terms of finding a specific look, the IFC is in contact with 16 regional film commissions, which can provide on-the-ground information about everywhere from Sicily to Lombardy, the Italian Alps, the renaissance cities of Florence and Siena and a multitude of locations in between.
Italy is well-equipped to handle international productions with Milan and Rome providing the great bulk of producers’ requirements.
For companies which can supply a range of kit, start by clicking here. Leading companies include Milan-based Cinenane, which offers everything from tabletop studio services to aerial photography. Another trusted firm is Panalight, which offers a range of cameras and accessories.