As one of its first Italian originals, Disney+ has commissioned a still-untitled TV series about Sicily’s Florio family, who, during the 19th century, built an economic empire on the island and became known as the merchant princes of Europe.
Casting is now underway for this high-end period epic, to be directed by Italy’s Paolo Genovese (“Perfect Strangers”) and produced by Rome-based Lotus Prods., a unit of Leone Film Group. The Sicilian skein, which is expected to start shooting in July, is based on local bestseller “The Lions of Sicily,” by Stefania Auci, that has been translated in several languages.
Cameras rolled in October in Palermo, the Sicilian capital, on Amazon Studios’ dark Mafia comedy “The Bad Guy,” which is being produced by Indigo Film, the shingle behind Paolo Sorrentino’s Oscar winner “The Great Beauty.”
The series revolves around a Sicilian public prosecutor named Nino Scotellaro, played by Sicilian thesp Luigi Lo Cascio, who devoted his whole life to fighting Cosa Nostra and finds himself accused and condemned of being a mafioso himself. He then pulls off a Machiavellian revenge plan, becoming the “bad guy.”
Netflix was also recently in Palermo for its strictly local Italian original “Incastrati,” starring Sicilian comedy duo Ficarra and Picone. It dropped in January and has already been renewed. And around the same time, Italian director Roberto Andò was in Palermo shooting a miniseries for Italian pubcaster RAI on Letizia Battaglia, the late, world-famous photographer who boldly documented the brutal Mafia wars of the 1980s and 1990s.
Showtime and Endemol Shine are expected to arrive in Palermo soon for Steven Zaillian’s “Ripley” series based on Patricia Highsmith’s novels. The high-end show starring Andrew Scott and Dakota Fanning is being shot almost entirely in Italy using several other Italian locations and an almost entirely domestic crew.
While none of these productions is tapping into the roughly €3.5 million ($3.7 million) pot of small but significant Sicilian incentives that last year supported 45 other Sicily-shot projects, they did benefit from Italy’s tax rebate, which during the pandemic was raised from 30% to 40% of up to 75% of production spend incurred in Italy. This rebate allows producers to get cash back during production, month to month, and reduce costs as they go along.
Sicily Film Commission chief Nicola Tarantino points out that, aside from incentives, the commission provides logistical support and plenty of help in clearing red tape, especially in bigger cities including Palermo, Catania and Messina.