Our appointment is scheduled for 3 p.m. in Piazza Mercato in the heart of Naples, on a hot September day that feels like August. It is a sunny, deserted and quiet place where three large trucks and two vans are parked. The crew is busy preparing the scene. The handles, working in religious silence, position the camera on a trolley for a tracking shot. We are on the set of The sea behind, season four of the hit series produced by Rai Fiction and Picomedia about the lives of a group of children in juvenile prison. The show was the most successful of all time on RAI’s streaming platform. The first three seasons – now also available on Netflix in Italy – generated 220 million views (in a country of 60 million inhabitants).
We are welcomed by the director Ivan Silvestrini. This is the longest tracking shot of his career, he says, pointing to the handles when setting up the dolly. The protagonist of the scene is one of the recurring faces of the series: a girl who, after a period of freedom, makes another mistake and ends up behind bars again. It’s hot on the pitch and the crew is busy setting up. It is a young group, the average age is around 30 years, around 50 people in total.
A small group of teenagers gather in a corner of the square, shuffling their feet on the ground. About 15 in total. They wear flashy clothing The sea behind-Style outfits: miniskirts, crop tops and bright shirts – a look that is becoming increasingly popular among Italian teenagers thanks to the show. They are the extras and play in the background. For some, this is their big screen debut. Others are series regulars. They’ve been called to the set but haven’t been told what to do yet. They’re not too worried. “After all, we just have to walk around,” says one.
Cinematographer Francesca Amitrano explains how light works The sea behind.
“Ivan [Silvestrini] is interested in natural light, which means we sometimes have to wait for the right conditions to take photos. But not always,” she notes. “This season in one episode I had to recreate the light of a dream to give it movement. A series like this, based on emotion and gut feeling, is all about amplifying emotion with light.”
The star on today’s set is Silvia (Clotilde Esposito), one of Sea beyondrecurring characters. She’ll come when everything is ready. Dressed in pink, with makeup and hair, huge sunglasses and a driver holding her bag and an umbrella to protect her eyes from the sun.
“Today we’re filming an arrest scene – always a classic in the series. We always show how and why our children ended up in the juvenile detention center.”
He quickly cuts off the scene with Esposito and the other actors, including those playing the police and the one they call “Rattuso” (Pickpocket). Blocking and timing are done on site. Esposito has the script and knows what she has to do. The rest have to catch up quickly and spontaneously remember Silvestrini’s instructions. It’s two hours of technical adjustment and then…
“Roll and – action!”
But where is Rattuso? He’s not in the picture. Take two! Rattuso blocks the shot. Take three! Silvestrini moves Rattuso into the scene: He wants reporting from a different perspective. Take four! Maria Grazia, the assistant director, takes Esposito aside and urges her to “parade” instead of walking. Take 5 is spoiled by a plane overhead. In shot six, one of the police officers forgets to question Esposito. Grazia steps in to explain the scene again…
Take seven! It goes well, but the cameramen aren’t sure if it was clean. Be careful! The director decides to have Rattuso tie his hair back so we can see his face better, but he misses his mark. Take nine! Rattuso stays at the scene after his attempted pickpocketing instead of running away. Take 10…cut! Technical error. Take 11! Rattuso comes into the picture a little too slowly. Take 12! This time he comes too quickly. Take 13! Finally everything is running smoothly. This is a wrap. The crew moves on to the next setup.
Thirteen shots for the last 30 seconds of the first episode of season four. Grazia, the first assistant director, is the real heroine of the day. She tirelessly positions the extras and actors again and again: she screams, warns, encourages and controls the mob with the power of her impressive vocal cords. “I don’t use a horn, I like to get everyone going with my own voice,” she says with a smile.
Martina, the script supervisor, explains that they have to shoot eight to ten minutes of footage every day. It took over three hours to shoot the first 50 seconds of footage. If every shoot goes like the first, they’ll be on set for 24 hours today.
The new set is in prison. The director visits the naval base at St. Vincent Pier, which has been converted into Italy’s most notorious juvenile prison. The back door was converted into the main entrance to the fictional prison. The boy and girl sections are actually in the same location, just shot from a different angle.
In the make-up room we find Edoardo, played by Matteo Paolillo, his version of the The sea behind The theme song, “O’ Mar For,” can be heard from bars, clubs and car windows across Italy these days (the show’s influence on culture is so significant that the Napoli soccer team won the Italian league last season). The crowd spontaneously began singing the theme song. Just behind it is the costume department, a large room with a row of clothing racks, each with the names of the main characters on them. Rossella Aprea is the costume designer.
“This year I had fun creating the look of Donna Wanda, who will be a praying mantis, dressed in black, latex, leather and metallic. Rosa Ricci will also have a rockier and darker look,” she says. “Of the boys, Pino will be even more stylish and super colorful, while Cardio Trap will be [more] urban Neapolitan.” She showcases the cast’s endless wardrobe. She then holds up a series of customized T-shirts, each with the likeness of the show’s characters.
“The T-shirts with the actors’ faces are a gift I gave the boys so they could wear them in their free time between scenes when they’re eating or putting on makeup,” she says. “As for the costumes, we decided to immerse the protagonists in the reality of the Neapolitan neighborhoods. I tried to bring the fashion of Scampia, Sanità and Forcella here into the juvenile detention center. Assigning each child their own personal style.”
In one of the cells in the men’s department, assistant director Giuseppe Eusepi directs Carmine (Massimiliano Caiazzo) and Pino (Artem) in a scene in which Pino freaks out and Carmine tries to calm him down. It’s a “simple” scene that the two actors quickly get through in just a few takes. According to Silvestrini, the material they shot over 18 weeks (plus two weeks from the second unit) for Season 4 is so good that some episodes may have a longer runtime than planned.
We discover Antonio Farina, The sea behind Set designer who built the cells and interiors of the prison.
“We transformed the naval base into a large stage set,” explains the master craftsman. His team is currently setting up a new stage set in the prison chapel, but that is off limits for us for now.
You notice how young The sea behind Crew is, at least compared to most Italian film shoots. Even the director, the adult in the room, is only in his forties.
“One cannot yet speak of a real generational change in film and television [in Italy]but these new series were the introduction for me and other colleagues my age, including [producer] Ludovico Bessegato (Fraud, prism) or Stefano Ludovichi (The process),” says Silvestrini. “These series created strong demand [for younger stories] just as we waited for an opportunity that never seemed to come. We realized that we are the perfect generation, ready to do something completely different from the Italian arthouse cinema of yesterday.”
Even though these 40-something directors are getting their start in television series, they all still dream of the big screen. Silvestrini plans to return to the cinema as soon as possible, even with The sea behind.
“We will show the first two episodes of The sea behind “We released the fourth season in theaters as a test to gauge the audience’s reaction on the big screen,” he says. “After all, it is one of the most anticipated television events of the season.”
The first two episodes of the fourth season of The sea behind will have its world premiere at the Rome Film Festival next month, with cast and crew walking the red carpet. It is an unexpected success, especially for Rai. The public broadcaster is enjoying new popularity among younger viewers, an audience the station has struggled to attract in the past.
This all looks like a dress rehearsal for a planned event Sea beyond Motion pictures. Picomedia’s Roberto Sessa suggested at a recent television program presentation in Naples that a feature film version of the series was in the works. And Maria Pia Ammirati, director of Rai Fiction, confirmed that, in addition to plans for a fifth and sixth season of the series, the producers are “in full swing” working “on a more ambitious project that will appeal to a young but also old audience expected all over the world.” Family spectrum. We are making good progress on this.”