Ticino Film Commission, the region that includes Locarno, is hoping to put Switzerland on the speed-dial of the world’s leading location managers.
Ticino, an Italian-speaking Canton in southern Switzerland, is the home to a Swiss first. Ticino Film Commission, created in 2014 as a non-profit organisation, is the first such government-backed body for the famously neutral nation. Located in the heart of Europe while remaining outside the European Union, Switzerland’s film industry has long regarded the established subsidy structures and funding networks of immediate neighbours Italy, France and Germany with envy. Despite having a trio of internationally recognised film festivals in Zurich, Locarno and Nyon, and established film location offices in Lucerne and Zurich, Switzerland is late to the party in comparison to its Eurozone neighbours.
Ticino Film Commission hopes to attract as many productions as possible — international and local — to the Swiss canton, boost collaboration with neighbouring Italian film commissions and make Ticino Film Commission the first in a network across Switzerland. Backed by the Canton’s administration, there is also the ambition to establish a meaningful film and TV production fund within the next two years. But so far the country’s only nod to attract production is a fund set up and administered by the Swiss Federation of Culture’s cinema section. It pays out up to 20% of a production’s expenses incurred in Switzerland, and a Swiss co-producer is a mandatory requirement. With an annual budget of $5.5m (SFR6m) the fund is a drop in the ocean of incentives currently offered by rival territories across Europe and beyond.
“Switzerland is known to be fast and efficient when it comes to bureaucracy and we can also offer special deals with hotels and catering because Switzerland is expensive,” says Ticino Film Commission director Doris Longoni. Ticino’s Lugano airport is a 20-minute hop from Swiss international hubs Geneva and Zurich, with Milan’s airports also easily accessible. Recent projects that have shot in the Canton include Sinestesia by Erik Bernasconi, Everybody Sometimes Falls (Tutti Giu) by Niccolo Castelli and The Nest (Il Nido) by Klaudia Reynicke, which competed in Locarno’s Filmmakers of the Present section this year.
Location scouts will be attracted to the small cities, impressive rivers, architectural gems encompassing contemporary buildings and grand 19th century houses — such as the Grand Hotel in Locarno — and lake beaches. And the mountains, of course. “We are known for helicopters. We use a lot to transport crews up and down the mountains,” Longoni says.