Enthusiastic figures alternate with catastrophic visions when we speak about exports of Italian audiovisual products.
If we exclude the (small) number of co-productions for which Italy (the Rai) is the project leader, the historical-biographical series about saints, emperors and internationally famous people (popes, artists, sportsmen and women), often filmed in the language of show business, English, the horizon looks very barren: although the percentages indicate a positive situation for exports, compared to other non-English speaking European countries (France, Germany) we still have a long way to go.
This is another reason why the opportunities have multiplied for spreading (at least) knowledge about the “market rules” on this subject and, vice versa, about our productions and production skills abroad: this is more or less the function of the Fondazione Rossellini, the screenings and pitch dates that accompany the Rome Cinema and Fiction Festivals, which both came from the same idea of informing people around the world about Italian products.
But that alone is not enough.
Opinions clash when both commissioning broadcasters and executive producers do the talking.
One the eve of Mip TV, Sesto Cifola of Raitrade, who has traveled around the world for at least two decades selling titles produced by the Rai, is very satisfied: he sustains that never before has he presented such interesting and tempting products to the market.
He continues to heap praise on “Barbarossa” which, outside Italy, leaves behind any political connotations to become what it really is: Â«a cloak and dagger movie, filled with special effects, with some great international actorsÂ».
Also very exportable (so much so that they have already been requested) are some titles which are “fresh off the press” like “La mia casa è piena di specchi “” My house is full of mirrors” (about and starring Sophia Loren!) which will be premiered in Cannes on Tuesday 13th, “Sant’Agostino “” St. Augustine” the latest chapter in the “Imperium” series, with Alessandro Preziosi, “Le cose che restano – The things that remain”, a kind of sequel to “La meglio gioventù- The best of youth”, produced by Barbagallo, with screenplay by Rulli and Petraglia, directed by Gianluca Maria Tavarelli, and a cast that includes Cortellesi, Santamaria and Fantastichini.
Luca Milano who, in his position as RaiFiction‘s marketing and animation manager, oversees future productions, is convinced that Italian drama has a successful recent past (“Pinocchio”, “Sissi”, “War and Peace”, “Coco Chanel” and “Sotto il cielo di Roma “” Under the Roman Sky” about Pope Pius XII during the War) and a great future ahead of it.
He lists some series currently in pre-production for which he will be looking for partners at MipTv: a biopic about the boxer Tiberio Mitri, who almost became world champion in the 50s, to be made with Cristaldi, the Ciao Ragazzi “Caruso” project, the anthological series about violence against women also from Ciao Ragazzi (there is talk of Margarethe von Trotta directing one of the episodes), studio projects with the French state network about “La certosa di Parma “” The Carthusian Monastery of Parma” and “La figlia del capitano “” The captain’s daughter”, the detective series “Il segreto dell’acqua “” The secret of water”, that Magnolia is preparing to film in Palermo with Riccardo Scamarcio and “L’isola “” The island” which will be filmed in Tunisia and the island of Elba, and takes a look at the work of the Coast Guard, which will be replacing “Gente di mare “” Sea people”. Â«The number of European co-productions generated by Italy in which we play an important role are growingÂ», he explains.
Â«Our editorial policy continues to believe in the two part mini-series, a formula which has collapsed in other countries. We are also expanding our range of long running series which, although they do not occupy the prime time slots (US or domestic products, where they exist, continue to be favored everywhere), are still very well received, also out of love for the Italian locations Â».
The tune is very different when you speak to the producers who are find themselves crushed between the “devil” of costs and the “deep blue sea” of buyers.
Â«The Italian paradox Â», explains Carlo Degli Esposti, producer and founder of Palomar, coordinator of the Roman TV Screenings, former president of the Apt “” Italian Association of TV Producers – Â«is that broadcasters only care about domestic viewing figures.
If an independent producer invests in the planning of a series or a format, he might not cover his expenses: when the product is broadcast he loses ownership of it, it becomes the property of the broadcaster who holds all the exploitation rights.
So it is better to buy a format on the market and just position it.
This is an Italian anomaly: unlike the rest of Europe, where legislation protects the independent producer’s ownership rights, we have nothing and so our work is taken away from usÂ».
The only possibility is, therefore, to contact international buyers during the pre-production phase, to create a direct working relationship and sell the rights before the ownership of the same passes to the domestic network.
Â«At Palomar we have well-established relationships with Sweden and Spain and are working on new co-production agreements with France, Germany, Vietnam and India (we are preparing “India-Naples”, a 26 x 50′ episode series, with Fox India, which is currently being written). This demonstrates the importance of screenings (to show off our qualities) and pitch datesfor talking about projects.
Carlo Bixio, of Publispei agrees wholeheartedly: in the past he spoke about his conviction that making coproductions (with the recent “Sissi” as proof, and the program on “Grace Kelly” as confirmation) and creating long “formatable” series (“Tutti pazzi per amore “” Mad about love”) is an excellent way to get out of the networks’ suffocating embrace.
Some formulas for the best content?
That is much harder to define, there are the biopics for which the Rai is, justly, now famous, the long-running soaps (not for prime time but suitable for non-Italian viewers: “Capri”, “Incantesimo – Enchantment”, “Agrodolce – Bittersweet”, the second series of which has now been financed after a period of uncertainty), and the detective series, another genre networks are “greedy” for in order to fill their schedules: in addition to “Montalbano” and Terence Hill in “Don Matteo”, “Ris. Delitti imperfetti “” Imperfect Crimes” by Taodue has exported very well, also as a format.
“Coliandro” has done well too (although the series will be coming to an end with the two episodes broadcast on Raidue in March, officially because Raidue will no longer be broadcasting and, thus, no longer “producing” domestic drama), and so has the anthological series “Crimini – Crimes”.
The common, winning elements?
And the locations as well (just take a look at the strong relationship some of these series have with the territory).
Â«Local wins over global, especially when the latter mimics a presumed internationalityÂ», declares Degli Esposti, on the strength of the success of “Commissario Montalbano” which has launched Sicily as a tourist destination, another 4 episodes of which will be filmed in the spring. However, one thing is certain, we still have to reflect more deeply on what is truly exportable.