Italian Commissions Offer Big Incentives for TV Productions

Nick Vivarelli

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Italian TV is traveling around the world as never before, and giving audiences a deep dive into the country’s locations. They range from storied cities such as Rome, Venice, Naples and Milan to classic countryside backdrops, including Tuscany and Umbria. There is also the southern sensuality found in Apulia and Sicily, and, of course, the Mediterranean coastline and the Alps.

Almost all of which are making their way into long-form narratives of different scopes.

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Stefania Ippoliti, who heads the Tuscany Film Commission and concurrently presides over umbrella group Italian Film Commissions, says the org’s 17 member regions have joined forces “to make our services more homogenous, even in terms of [streamlining] applications.”

Besides on-the-ground assistance, Italy’s film commissions also manage local funds of different types and sizes that offer up roughly €60 million ($66 million) a year in soft money on top of Italy’s 30% cash-back tax credit with a $22 million cap.

“The great thing is that we have that very Italian quality of being able to come up with tailored solutions,” Ippoliti says.

Global content producers are starting to take notice, and all Italian broadcasters are now thinking internationally, including Mediaset, which had until recently remained more insular since it runs a generalist network and, being private, keeps its economic bottom line firmly in mind. Mediaset recently expanded its largely local mindset by joining forces with Amazon Prime Video on “Made in Italy,” about Milan’s rise as a global fashion capital from the 1970s onward.

Pubcaster RAI, which is Mediaset’s main generalist rival, is keenly aware of the importance of showing off the country’s many different facets.

“RAI Fiction’s basic storytelling philosophy is centered around the idea of narrating Italy and the diversity of the country’s territory,” says the pubcaster’s head of drama Eleonora Andreatta. “Not just as backdrops, but as the pervading sprit from which these stories spring forth.”

Case in point is Elena Ferrante adaptation “My Brilliant Friend,” the second season of which, titled “The Story of a New Name,” has been shooting near Naples, the bustling port city with which the novel is inextricably tied.

Ever since “Gomorrah,” which is a Sky Italia original, Naples has become a major production hub. Interestingly, in the TV sphere, the country’s more rural, underdeveloped south stands at the forefront, ahead of the more industrial north.

“My Brilliant Friend” marks a “crowning achievement” for RAI, says Andreatta, because it not only pairs the big European pubcaster with HBO but is also the first HBO series without English dialogue. It’s actually not even in even in Italian, but rather in 1950s Neapolitan dialect.

Andreatta cites two other shows as milestones: “Medici” and “The Name of the Rose,” which she says have marked a turning point in the pubcaster’s quest to become more international.

“They display strong national identity; were produced and shot in Italy, and leverage our homeland using Italian talent in front of and behind the camera,” she says.

“Medici,” which is billed as a Netflix original in the U.S., and “Rose” also make major use of non-Italian talents. The saga about the Renaissance rulers was conceived and shepherded by U.S. showrunner Frank Spotnitz and starred Dustin Hoffman, Richard Madden and Daniel Sharman. “Rose” was directed by Italy’s Giacomo Battiato, but starred John Turturro as William Baskerville, the Franciscan monk investigating a series of mysterious murders in a 14th-century Italian monastery.

Next up for RAI and production company Lux Vide, which originated the “Medici” saga, is “Leonardo,” a co-production between RAI and its fellow pubcasters France Télevision and Germany’s ZDF, that will soon start shooting in Tuscany and in Northern Italy and will portray the Renaissance genius in new ways, including as a gay outsider, also with Spotnitz as showrunner.

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