International producers once headed to Italy purely for the iconic scenery; they still come for the view, yes, but also the decent financial incentives and state-of-the-art facilities.
The biggest project to arrive in the country post-lockdown and amid tight Covid-safe protocols was Paramount’s Mission: Impossible 7, which shot in and around Rome in October.
“We have attached an extra technical Covid person, a trained nurse and a compliance officer with a medical background, as well as two location assistants who have gone around supporting with putting up signs, refilling hand-sanitiser machines and so on,” says Matt Spooner, the film’s production safety supervisor. “Then there are a couple of additional medical people. It’s a slightly larger team than normal.”
Joe Wright’s Cyrano, starring Peter Dinklage, Haley Bennett and Ben Mendelsohn for Working Title Films and MGM, is also shooting in Italy on the island of Sicily.
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’s No Time To Die, which shot scenes 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.
Christopher Nolan’s Tenet also shot partly in Ravello, overlooking the Amalfi Coast. Some sequences in the film see a luxury yacht sailing to Vietnam, but these, too, were filmed off the coast of Italy.
Additionally, the BBC’s four-part comedy drama Us, an adaptation by David Nicholls of his bestselling book, filmed for a few days in Venice. “We shot on location with a mix of our crew and local crew, who were very good,” says series line producer Pat Lees. “We used boats to move the kit around the city, which was very efficient.”
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.
Decades of international productions coming to shoot on Italian soil have trained a generation to work in the English language with international standards and methods. There are also 16 regional film commissions ready to help with permits, locations and incentives.
Italy boasts an impressive array of studios, including the following….
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.
“In our local crew there are many professionals with a lot of experience who are able to handle major productions, including Brian De Palma’s latest film Domino, which we co-produced,” says Mugavero.
There is a highly regarded art/construction community and locally available equipment. Although, Mugavero recommends international producers bring in much of their own equipment as rental costs are above average. Those that do, will benefit from Italy’s ATA Carnet country status.
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.