Cuts have been made to the Rai’s drama budget and they are starting to be felt: 400 million Euros have been allocated to drama for the 2011-12 season.
Along with sport, this is the sector that receives the greatest amount of investment from the Rai, but the figure is still lower than in the past. Since Rai 1 needs 110-120 hours of original productions per year, it is clear that something has to be done: reduce production costs, cut down on products for the non-flagship networks or resort to the co-production market.
So after a lengthy period in which this solution was more or less absent from the Rai’s projects, the option of dividing costs with other international broadcasters has now become a particularly hot topic.
So Rai Fiction is going to Mip to sell (although this is actually the job of Rai Trade, which returns to the Rai fold from 1st March 2011), but above all, to talk to confirmed or possible partners about co-production agreements and long term plans.
These are Luca Milano’s objectives as he prepares for the next Mip. Â«We will be in Cannes to work on co-productions: necessity dictates that there will be a relatively limited number of titles, but they will still be very importantÂ».
Whilst the Rai’s objective continues to be to produce series and mini-series for the broadest general audiences (currently it produces 70% long-medium series and 30% two-part mini-series), we should not forget the recent success of its two record-breaking series “Le sorelle Fontana” and “Il commissario Montalbano”.
Â«These prove that, by tackling big historical and social themes, or literature, you can get good results.
Not many programs can achieve this.
In recent months, “Vieni via con me” by Fazio and Saviano and the Sanremo Festival were the only programs that managed to unite the whole television audience Â».
Having said this, Rai Fiction is moving in a very clear direction in the co-production sector.
Â«The first and most important production that we are going to talk about in Cannes is “The Charterhouse of Parma” by Stendhal, a project by Roberto Levi’s Tangram: an equal co-production with France 2, directed by Cinzia Th. Torrini, which will be filmed in Italy in the late spring and summer.
This is a return to great literature.
A colossal like “War and peace” was in its timeÂ».
Collaboration projects are also being set up with the British and Germans.
Milano mentions a relatively unknown fact that occurred during the Second World War (which has been greatly romanticized), “The hidden Olympics”: in 1944, soldiers of various nationalities in a German prison camp decided to organize the Olympic games that the war had prevented from taking place.
Â«This Casanova project will be ready for 2012, the year of the London Olympics, and the BBC has shown some interest in itÂ».
There are two projects involving German partners: a detective series with ZDF inspired by the “˜Ndrangheta massacre of Duisburg.
Â«We will use this event to explore how the Mafia has infiltrated Europe. The proposal came to us from Germany and Iter Film, in Italy, is working on itÂ».
The other project involves Beta Film and is a comedy.
Â«An Italian university professor with a German wife who has lived in Germany for many years has to return to his hometown in southern Italy. The theme is a bit like that of “Benvenuti al Sud”: a clash-cummeeting between two different culturesÂ». But co-productions do not just mean mini-series: there is the so-called “Titanic project” by De Angelis’ Dap.
Â«This consists of six 100Â» episodes about the building of the transatlantic liner, and is set in Ireland. It will be broadcast to mark the centenary of the tragedy which took place in April 1912Â».
There are other projects which are still being studied and have not yet been approved by the Rai for which Mip will still be the best place for sounding out the market.
Milano mentions “Anna Karenina”, and the biopics about Pavarotti and Grace Kelly (Â«although this was one of Carlo Bixio projects and a lot depends on what will happen to his companyÂ»).
Another subject which needs to be discussed (although it does not directly concern Rai Fiction) is the appeal of Italian products on the international market.
However, there are a number of titles that are ready and due to be broadcast in the near future which could be quite successful, such as “Cenerentola” by Lux (a co-production albeit a minority one) starring Vanessa Hassler, “Violetta” by Magnolia, directed by Antonio Frazzi, with Vittoria Puccini, a revisitation of “La Traviata” and “The Captain’s Daughter”, based on the novel by Puskin, directed by Giacomo Campiotti, also starring Vanessa Hessler, produced by Edvige Fenech’s Immagine e Cinema (in which she plays a small role).
As well as the four part series “Un corpo in vendita” [A body for sale], produced by Claudia Mori’s Ciao Ragazzi, due to the subject-matter tackled – violence against women – as well as the prestige of the directors involved (Margarethe Von Trotta, Liliana Cavani, Marco Pontecorvo).
Once again, just a few titles but all very important and interesting.