Italy, which has always been attractive for international film and TV productions, is now making huge strides as a shooting destination mainly due to its COVID safety measures and smart rebate, on top its stunning locations.
The number of high-profile Hollywood shoots that since the pandemic have flocked to Italian sites — from the Alpine Alto Adige area to Sicily and Sardinia — has increased exponentially.
Productions taking advantage of Italy’s attractive incentives and deep crew base include “Mission: Impossible 7,” Netflix’s Dwayne Johnson-starrer “Red Notice,” Amazon’s “The Wheel of Time,” Disney’s “The Little Mermaid,” “Indiana Jones 5” and also Ridley Scott’s “House of Gucci,” Showtime’s “Ripley” series and Joe Wright’s “Cyrano.”
These last three productions have the distinction of being lensed almost entirely in the country.
Foreign production spend this year in Italy is estimated at roughly $250 million and is expected to double in 2022.
“Italy was one of the first countries [in the world] where [during the pandemic] the industry collectively came up with a protocol to go back to work swiftly,” says line producer Marco Valerio Pugini, head of the Italian Assn. of Production Service Cos. (APE), whose Panorama Films serviced “M:I7,” “Red Notice” and “Gucci,” among others.
Pugini proudly points out that “Gucci” was entirely shot in Italy in locations including Rome, Milan, Lake Como, and the Alpine resort of Gressoney. Though the Italian capital, which also stood in for New York, was the film’s main shooting site.
The game-changer, Pugini notes, is the country’s tax rebate, which during the pandemic was raised from 30% to 40% of up to 75% of production spend incurred in Italy. It allows producers to get cash back during production, month to month, and reduce costs as they go along.
This rebate has prompted Italy to pivot “from being a location for a portion of the shoot to being the base for the entire movie,” he says. “This tendency is growing.”
“Italy has always been attractive, but what’s happening now is that screenplays are being written for stories meant to be shot entirely in the country,” says Italian line producer Enzo Sisti, pointing as an example to “Ripley,” the Showtime series he is currently servicing that’s written and directed by Steven Zaillian (“The Night Of”) and based on Patricia Highsmith’s novels.
“Ripley” will shoot more than 30 weeks in Italy using an almost entirely domestic crew in sites including Capri, Pozzuoli, Naples, Venice and Rome, where the production is based at Cinecittà Studios.
Cinecittà, meanwhile, is undergoing a major overhaul involving new state-of-the art soundstages, including a pool for underwater filming, thanks to a multimillion euro cash injection provided by the European Union’s post-pandemic recovery fund. The storied facilities are now aiming to become continental Europe’s top production hub.
Another foreign production shot entirely in Italy is MGM’s “Cyrano,” toplining Peter Dinklage. Director Joe Wright picked Sicily for the shoot — specifically, the 17th-century baroque town of Noto and Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano.
The beauty of Sicily is particularly important to local film commission chief Nicola Tarantino, rather than something else it is known for.
“For decades Sicily was where you would come to film stories that were centered around the Mafia and organized crime; but now this is changing,” Tarantino says. Only 10% of the roughly 45 projects supported by the commission this year have anything to do with the mob, he adds.
Other standout pics shot this year on the island include a substantial portion of “Indiana Jones 5” and the entirety of Jessica Woodworth-directed drama “Fortress,” which is adapted from Italian writer Dino Buzzati’s 1940 surreal novel “The Tartar Steppe” and stars Geraldine Chaplin and Dutch actor Jonas Smulders.