LEGGI IN ITALIANO “A five million Euro Film Fund and a paradox: the difficulties encountered by production companies wishing to invest in the region. At least in the first phase of establishing the Fund”. These are the words of Patrick Kofler, president of the FAS (the association of filmmakers in the Alto Adige region that contributed to the birth of the BLS) and an expert on the region’s audiovisual sector.
His production and communication company, Helios, is a partner in the new Panalight Südtirol which was set up in Bolzano just a few weeks ago offering technical equipment and transport for film and TV.
“Production companies drawing on the BLS Fund commit to spending 150% of the amount they receive in the region but, in the beginning, it was difficult for them to invest due to the absence of services for audiovisuals.
Now that equipment is also recognized as a “local expenditure”, things have changed”.
Added value for a region that is growing and to which productions are increasingly turning (eights projects from the end of May to July, half of which of European origin) but which, up until two years ago, did not have any local rental services meaning that companies had to bring along their own equipment from outside the region.
“Panalight”, explains Kofler, “contacted us because we know the territory: the aim is to introduce the project into the local environment in a sustainable way, working towards achieving economic spinoffs as well as know-how”. Panalight Südtirol is one of the latest companies to set up in Alto Adige – offshoots of the historic technical equipment hire companies based in Rome or Milan. Phase two of the growth process of the region’s audiovisual industry will involve one of the essential elements for realizing an audiovisual product: technical services.
In order to encourage the entry of specialist companies and deter sham firms, the BLS Film Fund & Commission, a brand controlled by the Autonomous Province of Bolzano, dedicated to territorial marketing, has established a series of rigorous criteria – from the use of local staff to training courses to company solidity – to ensure that there is an economic spinoff in the region.
“Given the obligation to spend the contribution in the region”,emphasizes Carmen Cian, Head of Film Production & Location Services at the BLS, “there is a risk that some companies could set up sham offices with a zero economic spinoff. This is a young entity and we want to start off well, with no half measures. The requisites that we have set down will guarantee an effect on the region and test the investment intentions of anyone setting up here”.
The companies that are recognized by the BLS become part of the regional network, working with the structure in various fields, including training activities. “Until just a few years ago, the local film sector was almost exclusively focused on the documentary genre, due to the presence of the historic Zelig school. Then, when the Fund was launched, theatrical production companies arrived but there was no equipment rental service. The Film Fund is creating the infrastructure needed for audiovisuals”.
Sector industries are attracted by the stability of the Fund and the impressive succession of productions being made in the region, as well as the vicinity of German-speaking markets and the potential expansion of demand. “By using local people who also speak German”, says Car- men Cian, who has also announced a Location Tour in October and the third edition of the scriptwriters’ project “Racconti” in the fall, “it is possible to track down foreign productions along with the national ones. In Alto Adige,on average, two thirds of the movies made are Italian productions and the other third are in- ternational products, 80% in German (from Austria, Switzerland and Germany)”.
This dual market has been a strong incentive for one of the new entries to the region: Movie People Südtirol.
“Alto Adige is a point of contact between the north and south of Europe”, says Alessandro Trettenero, “and we are interested in the German market which demands high quality standards at the same prices”.
The MPS brand is a blend of Movie People, a technical rental service based in Milan, Leur Trasporti and two post-production experts – Marcello Buffa and Alessandro Trettenero. “The idea is to export from the Alto Adige region all the technology and know-how that is developed here. In this phase we are finalizing the design of a mobile post-production and data transmission unit that can broadcast live images from the camera in real time to any part of the world. The provincial government is planning various concessions for companies settling here, particularly those that operate in the research and innovation sector (in which contributions reach levels of 75% and more), and this is an added value”.
Rec Alto Adige Südtirol, which has been operating for six months in Merano, has opted for a different model: renting cameras and using a local company, recognized by the BLS, for all the extra services.
“Ever since we have been in Alto Adige” says Daria Avenia, who represents the second generation of the historic brand from Rome, “we have worked with clients from Rome and with foreign productions, sometimes in co-production with Italy.
But the problem we are now facing is the opposite of the initial one: there are now too many rental companies for the region’s potential.
I hope this excess will not produce a boomerang effect”.
Rec is one of the companies involved in technical training activities for the sector, which is vital for the development of the audiovisual segment: “Until two years ago, Alto Adige had no cinema industry personnel at all”, continues Daria. “Now Zelig (to which we provide our cameras free of charge) is running many more courses for assistant cameramen and DITs (Digital Imaging Technicians). Because there is no point in offering cameras and technical equipment without specialized personnel”.
Hannes Hofer, a professional photographer, head of the new Merano branch of the German brand Maier Bros, a rental company with over thirty years of activity specializing in electrical materials and equipment for the cinema and audiovisuals, is of the same opinion.
“We offer one year internships in our Cologne offices to learn the trade of key grip and electrical technician: MB pays the interns a monthly wage and the BLS offers logistical support for students from the region”.
The idea of monitoring the Alto Adige region began in 2010, “when we understood that things were moving”, explains Hofer. “Until now we have focused on Austrian, Swiss and German productions, but we are willing to open up to Italian productions as well. The two markets do not present substantial price fluctuations and, in terms of the systems used, there are only slight differences, that’s all”.
Maier Bros have invested in technology to strengthen their presence in the region:
“We have purchased a generator to take to the mountains and special crates for transporting equipment to high altitudes. Here the locations are situated at different heights: they range from 300 meters in the valleys to 4,000 meters, so the technical equipment has to be able to adapt to different requirements”.
We ask Hannes how he views the recent proliferation of technical companies in the region: “Everyone has to find their own niche,” he replies, “their own market segment”.