The region of Sicily in Italy has now closed applications on what looks to be a successful first edition of a $6.2m (Euros 4.25m) film fund.

The Sicily Film Commission says it intends the fund to be annual, although it will be subject to approval in the annual regional budget.

Project proposals for the second round of funding should be accepted in Spring 2009, Alessandro Rais of the Sicily Film Commission told Screen Daily.

The $6.2m fund is entirely financed by the region and is comparable with that of Italy's strongest film commissions in Northern Italy.

It is on a par with the Turin-Piedmont Region's annual $5.9m (Euros 4m) contribution to cinema production.

And it is four times the amount offered by Friuli-Venezia-Giulia, which currently has a fund of $1.75m (Euros 1.2m) annually.

Turin-Piedmont, however remains Italy's leader with multiple financial initiatives for filmmakers.

Sicily has been working to increase its audio-visual pull and attract both national and international productions to the region.

The funds will be a direct contribution (rather than soft money or discounts) for productions that showcase Sicilian culture and/or its natural beauty.

First time filmmakers will also be taken into consideration.

Funding is provided on a sliding scale that ranges from $14,700 (Euros 10,000) for projects that shoot in Sicily for one week for up to a maximum of $367,000 (Euros 250,000) for projects that shoot on the island for seven weeks.

Sicily is no stranger to providing support to foreign productions however.

Recent international shoots that the region has coordinated on include Wim Wender's Palermo Shooting.

In a separate initiative, Sicily has co-financed three 2008 documentaries including John Turturro's Sicilia which took the actor/director back to his family roots in Sicily's Agrigento province, and which underlines the link between Sicilians and North America during the 20th century.

The long format documentary is co-directed by Turturro and theatre expert Roman Paska. Marco Pontecorvo (director of Pa-Ra-Da) was the documentary's DOP.

According to the Sicily Film Commission, Turturro's doc has peaked the interest of Berlin's Dieter Kosslick who asked that the documentary remain unseen and that only a teaser of Turturro's documentary be revealed at a premiere screening of Sicily's new documentaries in Palermo this week.

Eligibility criteria for the Sicily region of Sicily film fund includes:

- the shoot will wrap within one year of receiving the funds.

- the project will be completed within six months of completing the shoot.

- the production will hire a certain number of locals for the duration.

- Regione Sicila must be thanked in the credits.

- Productions in Sicily for five-seven weeks must assure 20% of the film's exteriors are Sicilian and that Sicily appears in 30% of the final edited version.

- The required presence of Sicily in the final cut drops to 10% if shooting on the island is for less than 5 weeks.

- A copy of the film is to be left with the Film Commission for non commercial (promotional only) use and the filmmaker must agree to hold a press conference, among other criteria.