Production of TV dramas is back on track in Italy after a pandemic-prompted pause just as several hot new Italian shows, such as Luca Guadagnino’s “We Are Who We Are,” are hitting international screens and markets.
Pay-TV platform Sky Italia, which partnered with HBO on Guadagnino’s “We Are Who We Are,” has a slew of shows in various stages, including two very different ancient Rome skeins. One is “Romulus,” the mythical tale of Rome’s founding by twins Romulus and Remus — which was shot in archaic Latin — that will air in Italy in November; ITV Studios is selling it internationally.
The ancient Rome-set series is “Domina,” looking at Roman history from a female prism. Drama stars Kasia Smutniak (“Devils”) as Livia Drusilla, the wife of Emperor Augustus, played by Liam Cunningham (“Game of Thrones”). “Domina” had shut down production in early March but resumed in July and recently wrapped. This lavish period piece co-produced by Sky Studios with the U.K.’s Fifty Fathoms is expected to premiere next year.
Meanwhile, Sky has greenlit a second season of financial thriller “Devils,” toplining Patrick Dempsey and produced by Lux Vide and Big Light Productions. Show launched at Mipcom last year and will premiere in the U.S. in October on The CW Network.
“We are growing our investments in originals,” says Sky Italia’s executive VP of programming Nicola Maccanico, who notes that Sky’s goal is to produce 12 Italian original shows per year, “at least three of which are high-concept shows conceived for the international market from the outset.”
Lux Vide in August wrapped shooting on its lavish “Leonardo” skein, starring Aidan Turner (“Poldark”) as the Renaissance genius, which was co-produced with Big Light Productions and Sony Pictures Television and pan-European initiative The Alliance, which was established last year by prominent European pubcasters RAI, France Télévisions and Germany’s ZDF. The ambitious show created by Frank Spotnitz was one of the first large-scale productions to resume production after the coronavirus crisis.
Unfortunately, Italy’s RAI, which was instrumental to getting “Leonardo” made and until recently had been a key Italian industry driver, is now hamstrung by a bureaucratic impasse following the departure in June of former RAI Fiction chief Eleonora Andreatta, who is now with Netflix and has not been replaced. It’s also unclear whether RAI Fiction will maintain the same level of production investment, roughly 200 million euros ($232 million a year), going forward.
“RAI is becoming less competitive and there is a risk they will be marginalized,” says producer Rosario Rinaldo, whose Cross Prods. just started production on season three of its widely exported anti-Mafia drama “The Hunter” with RAI on board even though the contract is not formally signed.
The big problem posed by a possibly weakened RAI, says Ronaldo, is that Italian TV producers “risk having to turn to the platforms as our main resources,” and the streaming giants fully finance projects, but “don’t allow producers to hold on to enough rights,” he notes.
That issue is currently the subject of negotiations between Italy’s TV producers association APA and Netflix, Amazon and Disney Plus.
Meanwhile, Netflix is stepping up production of Italian originals. The streamer’s new projects in Italy include “Zero,” which will mark the first Italian series centered around the present-day lives of Black Italian youths, and is currently shooting; “Fedelta,” an adaptation into series of a bestseller by Italian author Marco Missiroli; and a series based on “My Brilliant Friend” author Elena Ferrante’s latest novel “The Lying Life of Adults.”
Amazon, which in April hired young producer Davide Nardini — formerly with Palomar (“The Name of the Rose”) — as its Italian scripted content chief, is moving into Italian originals with a largely local slate. The standout title most likely to appeal to its subscribers outside Italy is “Bang Bang Baby,” a Milan-set mob drama with a young woman at its center, produced by The Apartment and Wildside, the Fremantle-owned shingles behind “The New Pope” and “My Brilliant Friend.”