With Italy gradually lifting some lockdown restrictions, local film and TV producers are busy drafting safety protocols to start shooting again, with June targeted as the start of the industry’s road map to recovery.
With close to 30,000 deaths, Italy has the second deadliest coronavirus outbreak in Europe, behind the U.K., but is now flattening the curve. On May 4, it entered its so-called “phase two” with some workplaces reopening.
The same day, the central Lazio region, which is the Italian industry’s main hub comprising Rome and Cinecittà Studios, announced that productions could start up again, prompting some premature trumpeting in local media that physical production of films and TV series has already restarted. However, the reality of reviving production is a far more complicated picture.
“Production activity as a whole can indeed restart, but there are many aspects to this, including preparation and opening offices again,” says Francesca Cima, president of Italy’s main film producers’ org. She notes that before cameras can roll again, the government and unions need to sign off on the country’s set of safety protocols for shoots, which are now being drafted.
“At the end of the day, almost each set will have a different protocol,” Cima says, pointing out that it’s obvious that safety requirements to film a lavish costumer will be different from those for a kitchen sink drama.
But the head of Italy’s producers is optimistic that June is a realistic goal for some shoots to go forward, especially some of the roughly 40 shoots — 17 feature films, 19 TV series and some shorts — that were halted in March when Italy went on lockdown. These have priority under a national rescue plan for the Italian film and TV industry. Among these is season three of crimer “Suburra,” the Netflix Italian original produced by ITV-owned Cattleya that in early March was days away from wrapping.
As for new film and TV productions, the problem is, as director-producer Matteo Rovere (“The First King”) puts it: “What can you shoot?” That will depend on specific details of the protocols that are still unknown, he says.
Both Cima and the head of Italy’s TV producers, Giancarlo Leone, have pointed out that swab tests are crucial, especially in situations where social distancing isn’t possible. The speed at which results emerge — particularly positive tests — is also essential.
In Italy’s unscripted TV arena, some entertainment shows are already in production, most notably Fremantle’s “X-Factor,” for which online auditions are underway with plans to air live on Sky Italia in September. Others, such as “Dancing with the Stars,” produced by Ballandi Entertainment for public broadcaster Rai, are on hiatus but expected to start up soon.
For scripted productions, one thing that’s quite clear is “some production companies will opt for shoots in big studios such as Rome’s Cinecittà (pictured), where (required sanitary measures) can more easily be guaranteed and certified,” says Sardinia Film Commission chief Nevina Satta.
Satta is hoping that the island known for its Emerald Coast, which is a major magnet for national and international productions, in October will host the shoot of a still untitled coming-of-age drama produced by Simone Gattoni’s Kavac Film, the prominent shingle behind Marco Bellocchio’s “The Traitor,” to be directed by up-and-comer Adriano Valerio.
Meanwhile, Cima is adamant that Italy’s production sector must move swiftly to get back on its feet. “There is a huge demand for content and the first countries to start up again will reap the benefits from that,” Cima says.
“If we don’t get in there, others will. We can’t afford to have other countries start up again, and be stuck at the starting blocks. That would be a tragic mistake.”