An ambitious idea.
The simplicity of the project has been tried and tested.
The novelty is the objective: to turn a soap into a school of cinema and a driving force for economic development.
The product will (also) use financing provided in accordance with regional and European legislation that aims to create production activities in economically depressed areas, in this case, audiovisual activities.
This is what Giovanni Minoli, the current director of Rai Educational and the creator of an impressive series of TV programs, from the docu-reality show, “Davvero”, to “Mixer”, “Blitz”, “Report” and “Elisir” (he has also been the director of Rai Tre), has done with “Agrodolce”, following the success of “Un Posto al Sole”.
“Agrodolce” is a daily weekday soap which, placed in the early evening slot on Rai Tre between “Blob” and “UPaS”, is about a community living in Sicily, the different social classes, the production activities, the territory, the socio economic problems.
It focuses on the lives of around twenty people whose stories are intertwined.
The ambitious idea “” in terms of both education and economics “” is to turn the production center created in Termini Imprese (where there used to be a Fiat factory “¦) into a training school for new technical-artistic professionals, repeating the experience of Naples which began with “Un posto al sole” and, at the same time, creating an industrial structure rooted in the territory which will remain even after the production which generated it has come to an end.
Not the usual fleeting presence offered by programs filmed on location.
The project was launched a few years ago and was co- financed by the Rai and the Regione Sicilia “” involving the Cultural Assets Department and the Film Commission.
It finally came together at the end of 2007: filming began on 12th November, and will conclude mid December 2008.
The first season of “Agrodolce, which has been on air since September 8th (with an average share of 5%), will have 230 x 30′ episodes and was realized with an investment of 24 million Euros (around 108 thousand Euros per episode).
The future of the series will be decided in December, not so much in terms of its production, which is pretty much guaranteed, but the narrative line, the development of the stories and the characters, as well as the new topics to be tackled.
In these months, around 150 people have worked regularly on the soap “” excluding extras and satellite industries. There are three productions units “” outdoor, indoor, mixed “” which rotate around 4 directors working simultaneously, alternating with each other over blocks of 5 episodes (working time: 1 week each for the preparation, location shooting, studio scenes, editing-postproduction).
Â«When the soap first went on air, at Termini we were living in a kind of splendid isolation, considered to be strangers by the local people.
Now their attitudes have changed, there is more curiosity and warmth Â», says Reneé Cammarata from the production team.
The project has, however, aroused a certain amount of controversy: there has been bitter criticism of the unproductive use of public funds for a futile activity such as television drama (whereas when money is given to make movies, which are considered a more “noble” cause, no doubts are raised), as well as the quality of the end product, before a single frame had even been seen (a result of preconceived opinions about the genre of soaps in general).
Something similar happened a few weeks later in Spain with regard to the financing given by the city of Barcelona and the Catalan region to Woody Allen for “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”.
The creation of a theatrical pole to encourage audiovisual productions to come to the area, the development of new professional skills, the increasing of satellite industries, the expansion of tourism, starting with the localities in which the series is set “” that’s quite a lot for a “simple” soap.
Â«I managed to get state involvement through the Ministry of Industry and Economy”, explains Giovanni Minoli, “so that we could create a modern serial drama industry, also with the help of EC financing destined for entrepreneurial initiatives in economically depressed areas: local products for a global market.
These are real jobs, not sterile, subsidized ones: at the moment, nearly all the people working on the series are local, as are two thirds of the protagonists and most of the actors involved.
Moreover, in order to promote the territory, at least 40% of the shooting is done on location: a lot for a soap, essential for our purposes, excellent in terms of the quality of the product which is of a cinematic standard.
We have signed a three year agreement with the Regione SiciliaÂ».
At the origin of this project, was a promise. Â«I owed Elvira Sellerio a debt of gratitude: when she was on the Rai Board, she helped me with “Un Posto al Sole”.
She was the only one to do so, no one else believed in it.
She asked me to do the same thing in Sicily and I promised I would.
An open bill of exchange which I have now settledÂ».
He goes on to explain: Â«I wouldn’t describe this as a soap or a drama series, but as a great popular story.
There are two main characters at the center of the story but, in reality, the city in the background is the true heart of “Agrodolce”.
It blends together many different characters and situations Â».
RAI TRADE: AGRODOLCE AND MONTALBANO AT MIPCOM
“Agrodolce” will be going to Mipcom in Cannes thanks to Rai Trade which is the soap’s international distributor.
At the Cannes TV Market, the Rai’s associate will also be presenting four new “Commissario Montalbano” TV films to buyers, based on the stories by Andrea Camilleri, in addition to the ten already in the catalogue. Using a themed setting, Rai Trade will also be promoting Sicilian products alongside “Agrodolce” and “Montalbano”.
The new films in the Montalbano series are: “La luna di carta “” Paper Moon”, “La vampa d’agosto “” August heat wave”, “La pista di sabbia “” The Trail of Sand” and “Le ali della sfinge “” The wings of the sphinx”.
Like the previous episodes, they are produced by Carlo Degli Esposti of Palomar, directed by Alberto Sironi and feature the same cast of actors, with Luca Zingaretti in the leading role.