International producers once headed to Italy purely for the iconic scenery; now they come for the scenery, yes, but also the decent financial incentives and state-of-the-art facilities.
Last year saw projects as diverse as Terrence Malick’s The Last Planet shoot in the outskirts of Rome, Michael Bay’s Netflix actioner 6 Underground take advantage of locations in and around Florence, and Eon shoot scenes for No Time To Die in Maratea and Matera in southern Italy. Additionally Tuscany hosted part of the third season of Netflix’s Money Heist and Paul Verhoeven filmed Benedetta between Tuscany and Umbria.
The shoot for No Time To Die featured a high-speed car chase around winding streets. “People said the historical architecture and bureaucracy would rule out a James Bond car chase, but this proves we can do anything,” says Ivan Moliterni, head of the Matera film board.
Sky’s historical drama series Romulus, produced by Cattleya, recently filmed in Rome, with sets of two ancient cities built for scenes involving thousands of extras and 700 stunt professionals.
Additionally, the BBC’s four-part comedy drama Us, an adaptation by David Nicholls of his bestselling book, shot for a few days in Venice. “We shot on location with a mixture of our crew and local crew, who were also very good,” says series line producer Pat Lees. “We used boats to move the kit around the city, which was very efficient.
“Local production service company 360 Degrees Film were excellent. They obtained permits and achieved our shooting requirements very well and at times with short notice. I would definitely use them again.”
Italy can easily double for other countries. “The south can double for Greece, while Rome can be shot for Paris and New York, Naples and Matera for Jerusalem, and there are desert settings in the quarries around Rome,” suggests Ute Leonhardt, vice president of Milan-based production services company Panorama Films.
Experts point out there is still much of Italy that remains unfilmed — even Italian directors are continually discovering new locations and local location scouts are crucial. It is not difficult to secure permits, but procedures and regulations vary from one city and province to another. Local know-how is paramount 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.
Local filming has already restarted and international productions are expected to be able to return in June and July.
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. Local know how is paramount in Italy and foreign productions are advised to use qualified native companies to manage bureaucratic matters.
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.
Cinecitta Studios has 24 stages located just 11.5 kilometres from central Rome. The studios offer extensive production offices and dressing rooms, and a large outdoor water tank.
Videa Studios in the Veio Reserve near Rome offers six stages over a 15,000 square meter space, as well as 20,000 square meters of virgin forest and greenery that can be used for productions.
Studios S.r.l., also in the capital, provides eight sound stages and two backlots over 25,000 square meters.
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.