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Sardinia, a longtime a magnet for international productions spanning from James Bond classic “The Spy Who Loved Me” to George Clooney-directed TV series “Catch-22,” is ready for its close up again.

Following a hiatus due to the coronavirus crisis, the Italian island known for its emerald coast and ancient monuments is now hosting shoots for food and travel TV shows while scouting is under way for prospective big productions, including several from global streaming giants.

“We are doing lots of location scouting with Netflix, Amazon and Disney,” says Nevina Satta, head of the Sardinia Film Commission, who has long been a champion of eco-friendly best practices on set.

She has been busy training local executive producers in COVID-19 safety protocols alongside previous “green set” directives that the film commission had in place. Incidentally, during the pandemic, Sardinia had the lowest rates of coronavirus infection in Italy.

“COVID can actually be an opportunity to improve the implementation of other types of protocols and try not to lose the ties between eco-sustainability and security on set,” Satta says.

Though anything coming from Hollywood is kept tightly under wraps due to non-disclosure agreements, sources say Disney’s live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid” is expected for extensive shooting in Sardinia starting in January, after it resumes production at Pinewood Studios in London. Satta had no comment.

The next indie feature set to shoot in Sardinia will be coming-of-age drama “Pantera,” set against the backdrop of a tribal carnival ritual. Directed by Adriano Valerio, whose debut “Banat” (“Il Viaggio”) was in the 2015 Venice Critics’ Week, the sophomore outing follows two Sardinian teens who are Romeo and Juliet-like lovers, but also involves “panthers and dead bodies,” says its producer Simone Gattoni, head of Kavac Film, the shingle behind Marco Bellocchio’s “The Traitor.”

Shooting of “Dry Land,” a drama by Polish director Agnieszka Woszczyńska, whose short film “Fragments” was presented in the 2014 Cannes Directors’ Fortnight, is also now set to start in Sardinia in September after being postponed.

It’s a drama about a married Polish couple on holiday who are initially unfazed when a man drops dead in front of them, though this incident subsequently takes them “out of their comfort zone,” according to promotional materials. “Dry Land” is being co-produced by Poland’s Lava Films and Italy’s Kino Produzioni.

These pics will tap into Sardinia’s local co-production fund and hospitality cash rebate on top of Italy’s 30% tax credit (with a roughly $22 million cap) that also has a cash-back structure allowing producers to use 80% of the incentive while they shoot.

Besides Hulu’s “Catch-22,” which Clooney directed, starred in and produced, recent productions shot in Sardinia include Brian De Palma’s political thriller “Domino,” which opened the Filming Italy Sardegna festival last year; Laura Luchetti’s “Twin Flower,” which launched at the 2018 Toronto fest; and thriller “5 Is the Perfect Number,” directed by native Sardinian Igor Tuveri, the illustrator-turned-film-director who goes by the name Igort.

The emerald island is also looking to cater to the global animation industry, having forged a partnership with Canada-based software maker Toon Boom, which makes software used by Hollywood studios such as Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks and Nickelodeon. They set up specialized workshops to create a local production-ready workforce. This training did not stop during the pandemic and just spawned its first certified 2D animation specialists.
Next year, Sardinia will also host Cartoon Digital the European digital animation professionals’ confab.