By the end of the year, Emilia Romagna will have it very own Audiovisual Fund: €6 million from the European Structural Funds (ESF) to spread over six years.
But perhaps the real news here is that this is the first time such an initiative has resulted from a joint effort by three administrative councils in a territory: Culture, Production Activities and Tourism.
At the conference “La Regione per il cinema. Quando il film è un investimento” [“The Region for cinema: When a film is an investment”], held January 16 in Bologna and organized by the Consorzio Digicittà, regional Culture Councilor Massimo Mezzetti knew he could count on the participation of his colleagues Gian Carlo Muzzarelli (Production Activities Councilor) and Maurizio Melucci (Tourism Councilor) in launching the project.
The very title of the conference moreover belies that the discussions were more than just “cultural” (film as a remunerative product). In fact, Mezzetti spoke about “rebuilding perspectives” and, paradoxically (for a Culture Councilor), is inciting a change in culture.
In fact, Emilia Romagna (which spawned Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni and Bernardo Bertolucci) is a region rich with film tradition and culture; the latter contributes significantly to its wealth. According to data from ERVET, the regional agency for territorial development, 33,000 regional companies work in the culture and creative sectors; they employ 78,000 people and account for 5% of the region’s GDP. If you add tourism, that number jumps to 19% of the GDP.
The sector creates annual revenues of €7 billion. Under the umbrella of the European Union, whose new approach to culture once again places focus on the value of creative, film and television businesses, Emilia Romagna is shift- ing gears.
Cinema & Video International asked Councilor Mezzetti how the institution behind the Fund would implement this new approach to audiovisual projects.
The first step, says Mezzetti, will be a regional law establishing a film commission (the current one operates from within the Council) that can manage and allocate the Fund. “We’ll also have to create a specific law indicating the financing channels. We’ve indicated an average of €1 million from the ESF, but I think this amount will increase with money from other European funds, for training and education. So the fund will grow to over €6 million.”
How long will it take?
We’re hoping the law will be approved within six months, so that we can start dispensing the Fund by the end of 2014. We will involve industry professionals and other interested parties in the process.
What do you think should be the criteria for allocating funds?
As I said, we will establish the criteria with others. I think those projects that most involve local talent – be that production or technical – should be awarded. Quality, independent projects should be favored. We should strengthen documentary filmmaking, which is very strong in our region.
The Fund’s priority goal is to create the structural foundations for a film industry in our region. So, outside projects are fine as long as they use local workers. For example: if a local company must hire 50% of its crew locally in order to obtain a certain number of points, anoutside company will have to meet a higher quota, of 80%, to obtain the same score.
Do you think in this way you risk becoming less appealing to outside projects?
This is public fund, which loses money because it receives no direct returns on the allocated capital, so in order for it to be justified it must have structural elements. That is, it must work to ensure that some of the experience gained in the territory remains in the territory. Therefore, outside projects are great for professionalizing local workers, local productions, so they can grow. Moreover, the Fund I want to create must ultimately help build the filmmaking chain, i.e., post-production, distribution and everything else.
There was also talk of a private fund at the conference.
Yes, we’re working to also promote the creation of a private capital fund that would flank the public Fund, because it can attract more commercial product and can also participate in the profits.
It will naturally have to work autonomously, even though it would be useful for [the two funds] to share a headquarters.