Italian region invests in facilities, production

MILAN — Buoyed by the success of high-profile titles such as “Il Divo” and “Vincere,” the northern region of Piedmont is fast becoming the place to film in Italy.

The area, with its green rolling hills, celebrated cuisine and Belle Epoque cities, all framed by the nearby Alps, is certainly an attractive place to work. But Stefano Della Casa, president of the Piedmont Film Commission, said new facilities and novel financial initiatives, including a unique public-private transatlantic funding scheme, are the real reason the area is now a European movie hotspot.

“There’s a feeling of optimism in Italy, but particularly in Piedmont, which has the joint private-public funding. We’ve invested not just in the facilities but in the (national cinema) museum, the Torino film festival, so you have all this stuff together, and we have the financial incentives, so the region is a great place to make films,” he said.

The U.S.-Italian public-private deal, announced last year, is probably the one development that got people talking. The Piedmont Film Commission together with Los Angeles-based Endgame Entertainment has set up a $32 million fund that will contribute to mid-range projects with 75% of their budgets in place.

The fund will provide up to the remaining 25%, with a $6 million cap and the proviso that 20% of the budget be spent in Piedmont. Applications to the fund are judged on cultural value — and box office potential — which should give English-language pics an edge.

Like other regions of the country, Piedmont benefits from tax credits Italy introduced last year that can provide as much as 25% of a film’s budget for a total of up to E5 million ($7.2 million) per pic for foreign production companies filming in Italy.

In 2008, the region hosted 40 productions — a figure the commission hoped will be beaten this year. On Sept. 14 local helmer Lucio Pellegrini will begin shooting his new drama “Figli delle stelle” (Children of the Stars) in the region’s capital, Turin.

Other films backed by the Piedmont Film Commission that have wrapped, or are due to wrap this year, include Marc Cambogiani’s  “La cosa giusta” (The Right Thing);  Renato De Maria’s drama “La Prima Linea” (The Frontline), about terrorism in 1970s Italy; and Antonello Grimaldi’s  drama “The Monster of Florence,” based on a true-life serial killer.

Nicola Giuliano, who produced 2008 Cannes jury prize winner “Il Divo” and “La Doppia Ora,” which is unspooling at the Venice fest, is a fan of Piedmont. “It one of the few regions in Italy where there’s a genuine strategy in place for the film industry,” he said.

“The commission is extremely effective. It’s provided funding and facilities, the things you need to make movies,” he said. “As a result, some very successful films have been made here, and a more are going to be made. It’s created a sort of virtuous circle.”

As filmmaking in the region becomes more established, Piedmont has also been able to build up a roster of technicians, electricians and other support staff with real expertise. “Before you’d have to bring people from Rome. Now you don’t have to,” said Giuliano.

Another plus is the mammoth facility Cineporto — opened this past December — which is touted as the largest production support structure of its kind in Europe. Located in a former two-acre cotton factory, Cineporto comprises production offices, props and wardrobe offices, a restaurant and screening room. Since soundstages are located elsewhere, it is used mostly for external shoots and can accommodate up to five productions concurrently.

“Vincere” producer Mario Gianani said Cineporto further adds to Piedmont’s appeal. “All this, plus the wonderful lack of bureaucracy, have really created a good impression. I also like that lack of traffic and crowds, which means you can film more easily,” he said.

A Roman by birth, he expects to be working in Turin and surrounding region a lot more in the future.

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