All roads may no longer lead to Rome but Italy’s network of regional film commissions and a generous tax credit are putting the territory and its producers firmly on the international production map. Sheri Jennings reports

Italy’s breathtaking physical beauty has long provided international producers with enough cinematic bang for their buck to keep them coming back for years.

But film producers cannot live on Renaissance architecture, (very) ancient monuments and bucolic rolling countryside alone and the country’s recently rebooted tax incentive has ensured the bottom line on budget sheets can be as visually appealing as any Tuscan town.

The past few years have seen productions such as The Tourist, The American, Eat Pray Love, Letters To Juliet and Somewhere shoot in Italy. This summer, foreign-language Oscar winner Susanne Bier will head to the Amalfi Coast to shoot her family saga All You Need Is Love for Zentropa with local co-producers Teodora Film and Lumiere. Woody Allen’s grand European tour is set to hit Rome this July, while two films based on real-life Italian incidents are also heading to the country: Fox 2000’s The Monster Of Florence, about a crime writer and a novelist who attempt to track down a serial killer in which George Clooney has signed to star; and Michael Winterbottom’s take on the media frenzy surrounding the Amanda Knox murder trial, possibly with Colin Firth in the lead, based on the book Angel Face.

If a foreign producer has an official Italian co-producer this can trigger a cascade of additional funding

Large-scale productions can work with an Italy-based executive production and services company to access a 25% tax credit on the Italian portion of the shoot. Or, if a foreign producer chooses to work with an official Italian co-producer this can trigger a cascade of additional Italian funding: state, regional and a 15% tax credit.

The Mountain, produced by Brazil’s Tres Mundos Producoes and Primo Filmes and directed by Brazilian film-maker Vicente Ferraz, is about a group of Braz-ilian soldiers fighting in the Second World War and is shooting this spring in the Northern Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. Daniele Mazzocca’s Verdeoro is on board as the local partner.

Mazzocca has accessed funding from the country’s regional film funds as well as additional financing from Italy’s national arts fund via the Italian culture ministry. Through Mazzocca, the project will also be able to tap into the 15% tax credit, available to Italian productions and co-productions. In this case, the percentage is applicable to the Italian spend of the shoot, for up to $4.8m (€3.5m).

National and regional funds

Similarly, Roberto Faenza’s Italy-US co-production Someday This Pain Will Be Useful To You, produced by Jean Vigo Italia and Ron Stein’s New York- based Four of A Kind, was able to straddle schemes available in each territory.

The Italian tax credit, first introduced in 2008, also encourages the participation of a non-cinema entity as equity investor. Paolo Sorrentino’s $28m English-language debut This Must Be The Place swept in a hefty $3.1m (€2.5m) in financing from Italy’s Intesa Sanpaolo Bank, while Faenza’s Someday has secured a solid $560,000 (€400,000) from Banca Nazionale del Lavoro.

Thanks to a second passage of tax incentives, confirmed through to 2013, Italian co-producers and executive production services are now well-placed as international players, despite a strong euro. In late March the government also assured the future of the national arts fund, which includes some funding for film, by a levy on petrol prices.

Beyond Rome

The country’s network of around 20 film commissions is also more sophisticated and efficient. Turin-Piedmont is the strongest and most established commission, offering financing on a sliding basis and production facilities with its Cineporto studio. The region officially hosted 13 features in 2010, including Fausto Brizzi’s local blockbusters Men Vs Women and Women Vs Men. Inward investment to Turin reached $44m (€31.6m) in 2010.

The well-organised Friuli Venezia Giulia film commission offers cash grants of up to $196,000 (€140,000) per project to those that shoot in the region, while new funds include the $7m (€5m) one which has recently cropped up in the autonomous northern region Trentino-Alto Adige.

Further south, the Apulia region has a film fund worth approximately $2m. One project to take advantage of the region’s whitewashed buildings, olive groves, picture-perfect beaches and even its industrial cities was the Tribeca prize-winner Ferzan Ozpetek’s Loose Cannons, produced by Fandango.

Italy by numbers

Total population: 60.3 million 

Total box-office gross 2010: $734.9m

Total admissions 2010: 110 million 

Market share of local films 2010: 32% (including co-productions)

Highest grossing local film of 2010:  Medusa’s Welcome To The South, $39.5m 

Highest grossing film of 2010: 20th Century Fox’s Avatar, $84.7m

Theatres: 2,000 

Screens: 4,000

Digital 3D screens: 700 (approx) 

Average ticket price 2010: $9.30 (€6.68)

Sources: ISTAT, CIA World Factbook, ANEC, Cinetel