by Mel Balac, Creative Director of Anton and Gio’s Adventures in Spain, which launched this week

Taking talent from a show as much loved as Strictly Come Dancing and creating a brand new entertainment format with them at its heart is something the team at BBC Studios Entertainment had wanted to do for a while. But for this to be successful, it had to be the right vehicle and most importantly the right authentic casting.

The stars aligned when we developed Anton and Gio’s Adventures in Sicily. Anton Du Beke and Giovanni Pernice were a duo that Kate Phillips and Jo Wallace were interested in us developing further into a classic “chalk and cheese” pairing for a travelogue. What’s more the boys had fostered a genuine bromance over many years working closely together on Strictly.

Away from the ballroom, Anton and Giovanni were also used to living out of each other’s pockets touring with their two man theatre show Him and Me up and down the country. So the concept of taking them on the road and letting our cameras follow them made total sense.

This, coupled with the fact that we were all coming out of the pandemic and audiences were desperate to travel and see the world open up, again influenced our ideas and so Anton and Giovanni’s Adventures In brand was born.

What makes the series unique is the strong biographical element to it. As well as learning about the country they visit, we also learn about the boys personal journey and their experiences growing up.

From commission to the start of filming series 1 we had just 8 weeks. The Exec Producer Kelly Lynn, Series Editor Sam Simon and I spent a great deal of time plotting the route that would take viewers around Sicily and tell Gio’s story.

The team spent hours on the phone to Gio and his family and researching his roots. Both series have had lots of input from the talent which makes it so personal and life affirming.

Series 2 and Anton and Gio’s Adventures in Spain shifted the focus from Gio to Anton whose mother Conchita comes from a small village in Northern Spain which Anton hadn’t visited in 40 years.

In just 17 days the crew travelled from Seville in the South to Bilbao in the North and visited over 20 locations across mainland Spain.
For both series we had to shoot within the very small Strictly gap – when the pro dancers finish their own personal commitments such as dance tours but before they begin the juggernaut that is Strictly Come Dancing.

Shooting in August certainly came with its challenges, it was incredibly hot for one – not that anyone was complaining, often shooting in 41 degree heat and in peak tourist season.

The logistics of getting Anton and Gio from A to B also took much longer than we would normally account for in destinations like Benidorm and Marbella as we had to factor in autograph and selfie time.

As well as our UK crew we also had a team of local fixers and drone operators – there’s no way a series of this scale and complexity could have happened without them.

A lot of logistical planning went into shooting in Spain. Alongside building Anton’s editorial route in the most economical and scenic way, the production team had to navigate the challenges of red tape and endless permits that filming abroad throws up. We also wanted to lessen our carbon footprint for S2, using 100% electric cars for the cast and crew. That was a huge undertaking, but I’m proud to say we achieved it. There was a point where we nearly didn’t. The star car at one point wouldn’t charge due to a loose connection in one of our stop overs. Our Production Executive Clare Huggins volunteered to sleep in the car in the hotel car park overnight to ensure it charged. Thankfully it never came to that and she slept very soundly in her bed instead!

The cast and crew were a real tight knit unit working closely with each other and the talent. There is a lot of trust that goes into making a series of this nature and it was a big deal for Anton and Gio to let us into their lives and meet their families.

The boys had to be off camera and learn to ignore the cameras which for two artists who have spent their whole life performing on camera was totally alien to them at first. But it all worked out beautifully and I think their genuine relationship shines on screen.

If I had to offer some advice to anyone considering making a travelogue it would be to always have a plan b, to stay hydrated and to try your best to avoid shooting in August!

Anton and Gio’s Adventures in Sicily is made by BBC Studios Entertainment. Watch all three episodes now on BBC iPlayer




Pippa Considine

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