Iconic scenery, top-end production crews and an abundance of art, culture and history have been among the main draws for international productions selecting Italy as a filming location in past years. Yet today, the eye wateringly generous, recently hiked 40% tax credit tops that list of attractions. “Italy is an extremely varied territory, with a rich cultural, scenic and architectural heritage that includes places that are very unusual and little known to the cinema world and can be transformed into extraordinary sets,” says Italian Ministry of Culture executive Bruno Zambardino, who heads the Cinema Directorate General’s European affairs division. “Italy also offers one of the most convenient tax credits in Europe.”
Among those enticed by the package is Steven Zaillian’s Ripley series for Showtime, which has been shooting in Rome, Venice, the Amalfi coast, Naples and Capri since July 2021. Part of Fast X, the latest in the Fast & Furious series, will be shot in Italy in May, along with Book Club 2, the sequel to the hit 2018 romantic comedy. Other features scheduled to begin production include Catherine Hardwicke’s Mafia Mamma, produced by Vocab Films, Idea(l) and New Sparta Production; Unthinkably Good Things, Hallmark’s first movie under its Mahogany banner; and Disney+ series The Good Mothers, which is scheduled to film in Calabria. In addition, the latest seasons of Epix Studios and Tiger Aspect’s Domina, HBO’s The White Lotus and Netflix’s The Witcher are all set to start shooting this year in the territory. “Italy is an open-air museum and adds value to all the productions that come here,” says executive producer Enzo Sisti who has worked on a host of projects shot here including No Time To Die, The Two Popes and, currently, Ripley.
“Our climate is good, there’s our cinema history and excellent production crews,” he continues. “You can find the same technologies in Italy that you find in other countries, as well as great hotels and cuisine. However the industry is well aware the reason for the increasing attention is our tax credit.” Sisti says it is “particularly favourable” and means international productions operating in Italy need “lower cash flow here”. Over and above the “important and competitive tax credit”, productions that locate to Italy benefit from a “brand recognised around the world, in combination with the qualitative effects tied to a positive perception”, notes Francesco Rutelli, head of Italy’s motion picture association Anica.
To this, the industry also contributes “substantial economic value, including production and organisational capacity, inclusive of all the specialised craftsmanship such as set design and decoration, costume, hair styling and make-up, and all the things that make Italians protagonists at an international level”.
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Italy has many “wonderful locations to fulfil any kind of request”, insists Federica Mugavero, assistant producer at local outfit Recalcati Multimedia, which recently shot an ad campaign for drinks company P31.
There’s everything from the spectacular Amalfi coast to the beautiful historic cities of Rome, Florence and Venice, and from the striking snowy Alps to the Tuscan hill towns.
With these wonderful locations, many productions choose to shoot Italy as itself, but it can also easily double for other countries. The south can double for Greece, while Rome and Milan can be shot for Paris and New York, Naples and Matera for Jerusalem, and there are desert settings in the quarries around Rome.
“If you shoot on the Sardinian coast, as we have done, the seaside is just so amazing that it can double for the Caribbean or any exotic place,” enthuses Claudio Pintus, executive producer at local production service outfit Dude Film.
As the country recovers from a difficult early period of the Covid virus, a “new normal” is emerging, with productions getting back into full swing (albeit under tight protocols supervised by Covid managers), and it is possible to secure permits again.
It is important to note, however, that procedures and regulations vary from one city and province to another, so it is best to get in touch with them ahead of the shoot and “request a permit seven to 10 days before you start,” says Pintus.
Local know-how is paramount for productions and some locations, such as Vatican City and Rome’s Roman Forum, are near-impossible to film. But local production companies can advise on affordable and accessible alternatives.
Italy has a reputation for being an expensive place to film but producers report costs are often competitive with Spain. Indeed, the 16 regional film commissions from Turin to Sicily are all keen to host international crews and boost investment after what has been a difficult few months with the Covid-19 pandemic.
International production services and crew providers include Cattleya, Panorama Films, 360 Degrees Film, FPC, Film Production Consultants, Lotus Production and Mestiere Cinema, with support ranging from permit provisions and authorisation requests to full-scale production, filming and location services.
Rome’s iconic Cinecitta Studios is undergoing a massive $325m (€300m) revamp aimed at making it one of the leading complexes in Europe. It has already been pre-booked to 80% capacity for 2022.
Italy is a peninsula of 300,000 square kilometres. Mountains make travelling between regions easiest by plane. Each region has its own film commission. The least red tape can be found in northern Italy while Roma Lazio Film Commission is the most experienced in working with international productions.
Boot-shaped Italy runs more than 1,100 kilometres from Switzerland down to the south of the Mediterranean. It spans more than 300,000 square kilometres and covers scenic and varied landscapes including two independent states within Italy’s borders: the Republic of San Marino and Vatican City. It has a total coastline of 7,600 kilometres. Travel and transport are fast and efficient.
Italy is a member of the EU and is part of the Schengen Agreement. Its currency is the euro.