EMILIA ROMAGNA/Why culture is a Business

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“The last legislature’s culture budget – €17.5 million – is equivalent to the cost of 700 linear meters of  motorway”. This astonishing yet effective parallel was drawn a few years ago by Massimo Mezzetti, the councilor responsible for culture, youth policies and legal policies for Emilia Romagna[ER]: it is a good place from which to start discussing the results of the study entitled “Economia arancione in Emilia Romagna. Le industrie culturali e creative- Orange economy in Emilia Romagna. The creative and cultural industries”, now that the budget for the current legislature has been more than doubled.

The most evident piece of information to emerge from the study is that the creative industry in Emilia Romagna is growing more than the other economic sectors and that this growth is led by cinema and audiovisuals.
Firstly I should say that the +18% employment in the audiovisual sector recorded actually only refers to the first year and a half after the Law came into operation, between 2015 and 2016. I am convinced that the increase will be even bigger in 2018.
The parallel with motorway costs – costs that I verified personally– was the only possible response to the usual clichés about spending on culture.

Returning to the study, we received confirmation that investment in culture and creativity is a productive investment. What made the difference was the path taken by the regional administration and put into practice through the Cinema Law: having the signature of 4 department heads made it possible to put synergic interventions in motion that from culture then spread out to other departments, from employment training to tourism, generating a fallout effect on the region’s entire economy.
I should admit that this outcome was facilitated by the ongoing commitment for two consecutive legislatures.

Already back on the eve of the millennium in the European bureau there was a conviction that we would only be able to get out of the economic crisis if we had the far-sightedness to also invest in culture and creativity which would not replace but stand alongside the manufacturing industry.
Culture, environment and welfare were indicated as the sectors to be targeted, the very ones in which Italy, unfortunately, stopped investing, condemning us to still be at the tail end of the recovery today.
In 2015 ER signed an agreement with all the social and economic categories for the development of the economy and employment in Emilia Romagna: for the first time it was written down in black and white that the fundamental drivers of development had to include culture and creativity.

Another detail to emerge is that the CCIs [Cultural and Creative Industries] are concentrated between Bologna and Modena, the same area that has the highest density of mechanical industry. Is this a coincidence or is there a connection?
I think that the creative industry has a very broad perimeter embracing various trades and sectors. Creativity also infuses sectors that are not directly cultural and contributes to their development because it generates ideas i.e. innovation. Therefore the creative industry that is placed alongside the manufacturing industry can influence and condition classical industry in terms of innovation.
In other words it can contribute to building an intelligent environment within which traditional industry can also find inspiration and resources for growth and renewal.

To simplify, do you mean that cinema and audiovisuals can also help the manufacturing industry grow?
I’ll answer that with an example: when Italy exports a made in Italy product – whether it is fashion, food or a car – first and foremost it exports a brand where the emotional component is prevalent and recalls the Italian creative genius. Next year we will be celebrating 500 years since the birth of Leonardo da Vinci who combined art with science and craftsmanship. Investing in CCIs in Italy and in Emilia Romagna, in particular, is an attempt to recreate this climate of great humanism in which the industry’s manufacturing capacity is combined with Italian invention and creativity.

So the manufacturing industry has good reasons to invest in CCIs and in audiovisuals in particular?
I remember that the impetus for equipping the Region with a Cinema Law also came
from private individuals who urged the regional administration to be more courageous.
They said: if the state invests, we are also ready to put resources on the table.
I took up the challenge and proposed the creation of two parallel and autonomous Funds with a shared ‘control room’, believing that a fund without state participation would have allowed them to take advantage of tax incentives. We created our own state Fund, we’re still waiting for the private one. But I remain confident…

With regard to the 133 projects financed by the Fund in the three year period 2015/2017, regional productions were favored in the first year whereas in the second and third year we can see a progressive growth in the number of national and international productions.
After a year of “breaking in” there was a decisive opening up to the outside, even though the attention to our Region remains constant: we always have two open calls, a regional one and another national/international one.

The fact that the region has recently hosted the filming of the new season of “Gomorra” is news but perhaps the installation of Palomar in the Reggio Emilia Tecnopolo is more interesting
If, as I hope, the Palomar project goes ahead it will open up new prospects: no longer just hosting productions that come to film in our region, but developing a production base through a public-private collaboration that I hope we will be able to achieve in the shortest possible time.

Unlike other similar regional bodies the Film Commission, the operational arm of the Region, is not a Foundation but a de- partment inside the Regional government. Does this limit its ability to act?
There is an obligation in the regional law that does not permit the creation of and participation in new external Foundations. The positive side of this “compulsory” path is that having an internal Film Commission has allowed us to concentrate all the resources on the product, training and promotion. Moreover having excellent in-house professionals, under the guidance of Fabio Abagnato, has made it possible for us to heavily accelerate our work. We were a bit behind compared to the Film Commissions in other regions, but in three years I must say that – to adopt a cycling metaphor – we have managed to reach the main group and maybe even overtake some of them.

Nella sezione: Focus on italy