A location beyond time and any geographically specified space”. This is how we will see the Valle d’Aosta in “Sui generi” the new TV series by Maccio Capatonda for Sky. This is the definition provided by Erica Mazzucchelli, production coordinator for Lotus Production, who filmed one of the eight episodes dedicated to fantasy in the Aosta.
“We were looking for a castle and we wanted real, not constructed locations which bore the mark of a blockbuster and had an air of internationality that wouldn’t make people think of Italy. The Film Commission showed us lots of places and we chose Castel Savoia in Gressoney, a very Disney-like castle with its pointed towers. It was really important to get the location for free thanks to the intermediation of the Film Commission and, in general, to have the ongoing help of Monica Amato and Alessandra Miletto. Their presence gave me peace of mind, we always felt supported when looking for hotels, recommended professionals…”.
In fact the crew, made up of around forty people, also made use of local expertise: “for example the Carnevale Storico di Verrès [Historic carnival], which has experience of dressing up in medieval clothes, Andrea Gallo, a drone operator who also acted as our location manager, grips, electricians, local runners and around thirty extras.”
Gianluca Leurini, the line producer on “Kingsman: the Golden Circle”, the Marv Entertainment blockbuster filmed in 2016 with the Italian executive production service by Eagle Pictures, also talks about the uniqueness of the locations. Some sequences of the movie directed by Matthew Vaughn with a star-studded cast (Julianne Moore, Elton John, Colin Firth, Je Bridges and Channing Tatum) were filmed on the Skyway of Courmayeur, “one of the most beautiful cable cars in the world”, a masterpiece of high altitude engineering. A high adrenalin action scene was filmed here featuring a shoot-out and a cabin breaking away…
“It wasn’t easy to obtain the use of the Skyway” and the intermediation of the Film Commission “was a precious help”. Leurini had already had a relationship with the structure led by Alessandra Miletto in 2014 during the shooting of another action blockbuster filmed in Valle d’Aosta: the remake of “Point Break”.
“We chose the Valle d’Aosta also thanks to the support of a very expert alpine guide Matteo Pellin: here we have global excellences in the field of providing services in the snow and at high altitudes”, emphasizes Leurini, adding: “It was actually the Film Commission that contacted me again when the production company behind “Kingsman: the Golden Circle” got in touch with them looking for a line producer to coordinate 6 days of very intense production that required helicopters, a company to cover the cable car with snow, accommodation for 300 people and almost 200 extras.”
The line producer returned to the region last summer when he accompanied some British producers who were location scouting: “they needed castles for a Western product and I immediately thought of here, these places where truly wonderful things could be filmed”.
This is also the second experience of the Valle d’Aosta for Marco Mastrogiacomo, the general organizer of “Rocco Schiavone”, the television series produced by Cross Production for Rai starring Marco Giallini in the role of the gru and cynical deputy police chief from Rome stationed in Aosta, created by author Antonio Manzini. Following the successful first season, broadcast on Rai 2, the crew returned to shoot the second season in Valle d’Aosta for 5 weeks at the end of October 2017.
“Practically half the amount of time we spent there compared to last year, firstly because there were only 4 episodes and not six and then because we set one and a half episodes in Rome in order to tell the story of deputy police chief Schiavone’s previous ten years: we investigate him going back into his past until before his wife was killed. We had to film in Rome in September and in Valle d’Aosta in October: seeing as there was not much snow we concentrated on the city of Aosta and, except for a few shots using drones near the Gran Paradiso, we portrayed a more autumnal landscape”.
Usually drones have to be speci cally for theatrical filming “they have to be able to make the film camera panoramic, for example,” explains Mastrogiacomo, “but when I heard that there was a drone operator in Aosta – Luis Cinalli, from Monte Bianco Droni in Quart – I contacted him and we realized it was feasible, it was just a question of getting a bit of experience. In the end I took him to Friuli as well for the last week of filming, and if I go back to Aosta I would like to work again with him and his operators, Mattia Fabiano and Ivano Guglielmi”.
Filming the first season was, on the other hand, very di cult and involved high altitudes, as one of the main locations was Pila, the mountain of Aosta: “it is already a 45 minute drive just to get to the base camp but in order to reach the runs we had to use snow cats, motorized sledges, special forms of transport that were provided for us free of charge. This was also made possible thanks to the intermediation of the film commission which opened up the channels for us with the various administrations and also gave us a big hand when filming in truly extreme places”.
The first season of “Rocco Schiavone” also laid the foundations for the training of local workers “make-up artists, costume designers, grips, electricians, assistant cameramen, people who had never done that type of work before, most of whom we have had back working for us again this year. We have also used a lot of extras, around 400. In Aosta, in general, we have encountered a high level of collaboration among the people which took me back in time a bit to the atmosphere I found in Gubbio, when I was working on the TV
series “Don Matteo”, where the kindness and support of the community was extraordinary”.
The lming also saw the involverment of the author of the novels on which the series is based: “Manzini knows every corner of Aosta and of the valley in general, and is extremely precise about the locations in his writing. He followed the filming at first hand and gave us valuable assistance”.
A deep knowledge of the region has revealed another theatrical, more intimist face, of the Valle d’Aosta which, through force of circumstances, is linked to the experience of local filmmakers who, thanks to the opportunities provided by the fund, are acquiring even greater professionalism and visibility.
“It is a question of proximity: portraying a region becomes more signi cant if you know it or it has transmitted something important to you, above all because this is not a place that can be ricreate”. In the words of Alessandro Stevanon, the promising young director from the Valle d’Aosta, this is also the reason for the documentary vocation of the region that has, in fact, dedicated an ad hoc fund to documentaries that has been active since 2012: “lots of little big stories have remained hidden in these valleys about peoples who, also for environmental and geographical reasons, have not had many exchanges with the outside world: surprising and unexpected stories. A receptacle that, until now, seemed limitless and that has resulted in the majority of filmmakers dedicating themselves to documentaries”.
The very first Doc Film Fund gave Stevanon international recognition for the short documentary “America” which was premiered at Clermont Ferrand, the only Italian in competition. The Italian premiere was at the BiFest in Bari where it won the Michelangelo Antonioni award for best short film and it attended over 100 festivals in 21 countries, winning 23 awards: “ the call created a more industrial approach to cinema, professionalizing the local talent: before then regional public funding did not require planning, so many, even really good products were funded and made but were then le without any distribution. The call, on the other hand, forces you to also think of the possible distribution before putting in the application, to make contact with festivals and TV stations. This has brought excellent results: many of the documentaries funded have made the rounds of the national and international festivals and have moved on to television, even abroad”.
Another distinctive feature of the Val d’Aosta is its borderland. And this, on an audiovisual level, favors national and international co-productions: an important factor given that the majority of filmmakers in Val d’Aosta also produce their movies.
Stevanon confirms this: “I work a lot with Swiss television and, in Italy, with Piedmont: it was actually the Piedmontese Daniele Segre and Daniele De Cicco at Redibis Film in Turin who produced my ‘return’ to ‘fiction’, “Il Tratto”, the short which won the Bando Migrarti and which, after the premiere at the Venice Film Festival and the presentation at the Torino Short Film Market, began its journey around the festivals and international distribution (Editor’s note: the foreign sales were handled by Lights On in Turin)”.
Another cross-border product is “Sagre Balere”, the on-the-road story set amidst the dance halls of northern Italy which involved 6 regions and 5 Film Commissions: Valle d’Aosta (which provided support amounting to € 15,000), Lombardy, Liguria, Piedmont and Emilia Romagna; it was premiered at Visions du Réel in Nyon, and won the Bellaria Film Festival.
The Doc Film Fund’s most recent call, which expired on 18 December, will support a new documentary work directed and produced by Stevanon and filmed in Aosta on the topic of addiction to smoking and tells the stories of eight people looking for a solution.