Cinzia TH Torrini • Director of Fino all’ultimo battito
“Strict protocols allowed us to continue filming”
- The Italian director talks about the lengthy filming process involved in the TV medical thriller series, caused by the introduction of Covid-safe compliance
Shot between October 2020 and March 2021 in various Apulian locations over a period of 22 weeks, the TV series Fino all’ultimo battito, directed by Cinzia TH Torrini, has racked up more weeks of filming than any other in the country. “It was filmed entirely in Apulia, in terms of both internal and external shots, with the exception of three days of filming in Cosenza”, the director confirms.
Fino all’ultimo battito is a medical thriller consisting of six episodes which will be broadcast on RAI Uno, unsurprisingly, in the autumn. The series is co-produced by RAI Fiction and Luca Barbareschi’s Eliseo Multimedia, and stars Bianca Guaccero, Violante Placido, Marco Bocci, Fortunato Cerlino and Loretta Goggi in leading roles. Kept carefully under wraps to date, despite its broader lines now being common knowledge owing to indiscretions on the part of the local press, the story revolves around the ambiguous relationship which exists between a crime boss and a cardiac surgeon who is trying to maintain his professional dignity.
We didn’t discuss the series’ story with Cinzia TH Torrini. Instead, we focused on the filming process and the fact that the health crisis doesn’t appear in her work, despite the series being primarily set in a hospital and the shoot unfolding in the midst of a pandemic: “It was a decision made by the production team”, explains Torrini, who recollects that “ironically, we held our first meeting with the screenwriters on the first day of lockdown, in March 2020” via Zoom.
They encountered a variety of anticipated problems during the shoot - which extended across two seasons and involved various hospitals - on account of the introduction of Covid-safe regulation (“strict protocols, which nonetheless allowed us to carry on”), as well as a raft of unforeseen issues which were brilliantly overcome by executive producer Claudio Gaeta (“a real strategist”). The director also recalls that: “we were supposed to film in a private clinic in Bari, but at a certain point we had to change location because the hospital needed to be used for Covid treatment purposes”.
The intensive care unit was totally reconstructed in another hospital in Acquaviva delle Fonti, but the final part of the shoot took place in the new A&E department (DEA) of Lecce’s Vito Fazzi hospital.
Cinzia TH Torrini is keen to reassure us that the series shoot didn’t get in the way of the medical response to the health crisis, and recalls that despite sudden and often adventurous relocations, “it was thanks to the expertise of set designer Massimo Santomarco that we managed to preserve the main “red” thread running through the story – or rather the orange thread”, jokes Torrini, “which is the colour we gave to hospital facilities which opened their doors to us, and which we found in the DEA, an excellent hospital whose chief medical officer Rodolfo Rollo gave us access to areas which had never been used before - such as the operating theatre which resembled a spaceship - before they’d even been officially opened, pending the return of the bright young minds who were working abroad!” Also, Torrini confesses superstitiously, “Orange is my favourite colour”.
True to Cinzia TH Torrini’s style, the story is deeply rooted in the series’ surrounds: “I wanted to show the typical features of the region, but I always ensured they were relevant to the story”. The director offers up a wintery version of Apulia, contrasting with the usual picture postcard representations.
The series shows Bari and its seafront but, first and foremost, “I tried to showcase the towns and villages around the capital, ranging from Polignano to Conversano, and from Bitonto to Molfetta, with its beautiful yet little known dome”. Many of Torrini’s actors are also Apulian (“I really wanted to give a flavour of the area through language, too”); in addition to the series’ protagonist Bianca Guaccero, there’s also Michele Venitucci, Michele Spadavecchia, Mimmo Mancini, Gaia Masciale and so many others, “as well as Violante Placido, if we take her roots into account”.
The region also provided the larger part of the series’ technical staff, resources which productions are now well-used to finding in Apulia, as well as the services of the Apulia Film Commission who, as of this year, are also in charge of the Regional Fund from which Fino all’ultimo battito won support following a call for submissions.
The long wave of fiction which has recently lent Bari great visibility, via the broadcast of the series Il commissario Lolita Lobosco and the potential reinvigoration of interest in wider Apulia this autumn via Fino all’ultimo battito, is a source of much satisfaction for the Apulia Film Commission’s chair Simonetta Dellomonaco, who is aware of the strong impact series can have on local areas. Indeed, the role of film commissions isn’t just to attract productions to the area and to provide services, it also involves “convincing policymakers”. And how do they do this? “According to a recent study which we ourselves commissioned on the average impact of TV series on local areas, the direct and indirect impact is 1:9”. It’s an eloquent response which speaks for itself.
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(Translated from Italian)
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