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Essential Tips For Shooting in Rome: What You Should And Should Not Do When Shooting in Rome

Get a good driver (and keep an eye on the van)!

When shooting in Rome, you’re likely working on capturing general views (GVs) for a documentary or a similar project. The importance of having a driver is twofold – not only for safeguarding your equipment from potential theft but also for securing a driver who is vigilant and familiar with the city’s intricate layout. Many of these drivers possess special license plates that grant them access to any part of Rome.
It’s advisable to identify and arrange for a dependable driver before your shoot. Never underestimate the significance of a competent driver when filming in Rome. What you should absolutely avoid is leaving your gear unattended, even momentarily. It’s a general precaution in any city, but the risks are especially high in Rome. A cautionary tale involves a van parked outside a restaurant while the driver remained vigilant inside. Despite their watchfulness, the crew fell victim to a group of thieves who swiftly pilfered everything from the van, including cameras, props, and costumes for the actors.

Security, Security, Security

To emphasize, never leave your gear unattended, not even when grabbing a meal. A personal experience underscores the need for constant vigilance – during lunch, with the camera beside me under the table, a bold thief managed to slip in, retrieve the camera from between my feet, and exit the restaurant undetected. Always keep a watchful eye on your equipment, have it within arm’s reach, and ensure it’s never left unattended, especially when near the van. The team should adopt a system to ensure the van is never left alone with valuable gear.

Know your traffic zones

Beware of areas referred to as an ZTL areas (Zona Traffico Limitato = ZTL), designated as a restricted traffic zone. The access is regulated, with certain times of the day when it opens and others when it closes. This became an issue for us during a shoot for ITV when a car was rented, and the talent was required to drive. Unfortunately, this detail was overlooked, resulting in fines for driving in restricted areas. It’s crucial to be aware of this, especially because cameras that record footage can be used to enforce traffic violations. Obtain information about these zones or consult local authorities to secure a special filming permit to avoid such complications.

The best seasons to shoot in Rome and why

In my opinion, the optimal season in Rome spans from spring, roughly from April to the end of June or mid-July at most. This is because, beyond this period, the city tends to become exceedingly hot, making filming a sweaty and challenging endeavours, especially when lugging around water. Moreover, dealing with the side effects of excessive heat can lead to irritable talent, adding an extra layer of difficulty.
The period from the beginning of September to the end of October remains a favourable time for filming. Conversely, I would discourage shooting in December, January, February, and March, as Rome tends to be gloomy and grey during these months. The city doesn’t fare well under overcast skies, unlike Milan, which is less affected. Rome thrives under a blue sky; otherwise, the monuments lose their luster, and the vibrant colours don’t pop, contributing to a somewhat disheartening atmosphere—at least that’s how I perceive it. I’m curious about your thoughts on this, Mark.
Mark concurs, highlighting that this timeframe is indeed the best due to perfect weather, clear skies, and stunning sunsets with leaves still adorning the trees. Spring adds another layer of charm with the blooming pink flowers of the Alberta de Juda trees, turning the city into a vibrant spectacle. Even during our shoot around the Colosseum, the view from the park showcased a captivating scene with flowers, creating an illusion of being in the countryside. It was quite remarkable.

What should you bear in mind when it comes to transport or getting around Rome?

In Rome, relying on taxis for transportation is not a reliable option due to unpredictable wait times—sometimes as long as half an hour. While Uber is available, it’s not as efficient as in other European cities. It’s passable but not outstanding. The better alternative is to have your own van or arrange for someone to pick you up, as waiting times can be prolonged otherwise.

Building a good rapport with a few specific drivers is highly recommended. We consistently use certain drivers whom we know well; they’re almost like family. These drivers are reliable at any time, take good care of our gear, and genuinely look out for our interests without overcharging. This local knowledge is crucial in Rome, where being taken advantage of is a common concern. This is why having a fixer is essential—they connect you with reliable people who are accustomed to working with crews and understand the specific demands of transporting film equipment.
Some of the drivers we work with go above and beyond, helping carry gear, setting up light stands, and assisting with various aspects of the shoot. This level of cooperation is not universal, so finding individuals who are accustomed to working with film crews is key to avoiding logistical nightmares. The same principle applies when filming in other cities like Paris—finding people who understand the unique needs of a film crew is essential for a smooth experience.

Ultimately, these drivers are more than just transportation; they become trusted guides who not only assist with logistical challenges but also provide valuable insights into the best places to eat, drink, and park conveniently while we’re on the job. They are an integral part of the entire filmmaking process, contributing significantly to its success.

Be nice to the locals, it will be repaid

People are generally respectful and kind. On occasion, I even managed to halt some renovations for a film shoot in a park by treating the workers to coffee. Their willingness to accommodate us increased, and they extended their break to about 2 hours instead of the initial 30 minutes. They were appreciative, and a small tip persuaded a group of musicians to temporarily pause their performance. Italians are cooperative and helpful when treated with kindness. So, being friendly, smiling, and showing kindness will go a long way, and they will assist you in any way they can.

Are there any times of day or times of the week when it’s just not worth it to shoot?

Avoid shooting during midday as the sun is exceptionally intense during that time, especially considering most buildings in Rome are constructed with white limestone. This becomes particularly challenging when capturing scenes with people or enemies on camera. If you attempt such shots, you’ll likely need additional lighting equipment, attracting the attention of the police and consuming valuable time. It’s advisable to steer clear of midday when the sun is at its zenith.
Additionally, be mindful of specific days when filming iconic locations such as the Vatican or Via Della Conciliazione. Wednesdays pose a challenge due to the Pope’s audience, leading to increased crowds, making it less ideal for an empty shot. Similarly, Sunday mornings could be crowded due to religious ceremonies. To ensure smoother navigation without excessive crowds interfering with your shots, it’s recommended to avoid filming during these specific times.




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