Three years after launching a truly innovative film commission, Apulia, the southeastern region on the heel of the Italian boot, is gaining prominence as a prime film and TV production spot, as attested by four titles unspooling in Venice that shot there, as well as recent Bollywood hit “House Full.”
Boasting Italy’s highest density of prehistoric sites and ancient architecture, hamlets seemingly frozen in time and bustling industrial cities, the biggest of which is Bari, Puglia has landscapes ranging from the Monte Gargano promontory to the Adriatic and Ionic Seas, and to the Salento peninsula where, incidentally, Helen Mirren and Taylor Hackford have a 16th-century hideaway.
Salento increasingly has been featured in high-profile Italo pics, most recently Ferzan Ozpetek’s “Loose Cannons,” centering on the comic struggle of a local pasta industrialist’s son to reveal to his family that he’s gay.
“Cannons,” which scooped a Special Jury nod earlier this year at Tribeca, has been a local hit and sold well internationally.
“The big plus that Apulia has to offer is that you get tremendous support, both economic and logistical, and that these days you can find top level crews on site,” says “Cannons” producer Domenico Procacci.
Procacci, who is a Bari native, also praises Apulia’s newfound film-friendliness, which he largely ascribes to the region’s current left-leaning governor Nichi Vendola.
Vendola has been instrumental in setting up the Apulia Film Commission which, besides offering incentives to lure productions, is busy boosting the film industry in the region with various initiatives, including a move to set up a local arthouse loop.
As for incentives, Apulia has an approximately $2 million film fund that can guarantee up to $200,000 in gap financing to feature films shooting in the region, plus, in some cases, as much as $130,000 toward local accommodations.
Those incentives are on top of Italy’s generous and recently introduced tax credits that give international productions a 25% deduction up to a maximum of $7 million, payable through an Italian executive producer.
The Italian tax incentives are structured as an immediate return, rather than a rebate, on production expenses, provided they do not exceed 60% of a film’s overall budget.
But the Apulia commish has also invested in infrastructure, and offers free use of two new Cineporto service facilities, one in Bari, with the main airport and seaport, and one in Lecce. The two facilities provide productions with offices, makeup, props and wardrobe rooms, casting studios, a restaurant and a state-of-the-art digital screening room for dailies.
The service facilities are not just production structures, but year-round venues for all sorts of cultural activities.
Mere monetary matters aside, the region boasts a unique atmosphere.
“A distinguishing aspect of what we have to offer is the light in Apulia,” enthuses the commish’s general director, Silvio Maselli. “Apulia is Italy’s most eastward region; the sun rises first here and this generates a very particular light that all filmmakers who have shot here have noticed.”
Proof of the Apulia aura can be found by film buffs in several pics that have been making the fest circuit rounds since the mid-1990s, including Edoardo Winspeare’s Salento-steeped “Pizzicata” and “Live Blood,” Alessandro Piva’s “LaCapaGira,” Sergio Rubini’s comedy “Soul Mate” and “Loose Cannons,” which “has single-handedly done plenty to publicize Salento internationally,” says Procacci.
In a classic case of location placement, albeit with a twist, the Apulia Film Commission, in its deal memo with Mumbai-based Nadiad Grandson Entertainment, insisted that the protag at one point exclaim “Welcome to Apulia!” in the Hindi comedy “House Full,” which shot in the Gargano promontory.
At the Venice fest, Apulia features in Mario Martone’s competition costumer “We Believed,” Giorgia Cecere’s “Il Primo Incarico” (the 1950’s-set tale of a teacher sent to a Salento hamlet) and Giada Colagrande’s “A Woman,” starring Willem Dafoe and Stefania Rocca, also set in Salento (both are unspooling in the Controcampo Italiano section). Apulia also features in doc “La Svolta. Donna contro l’Ilva,” by Valentina d’Amico, who shot in the city of Taranto, site of a gigantic and highly controversial steel mill.
“We have lots of ancestral settings, but also no lack of modernity,” Maselli says.