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Italy alters film funding

Producers', directors' past successes to determine coin

VENICE — The Italian government is trying to end an era of self-indulgent subsidized filmmaking by cutting funding for each project and making marketability a key criteria for obtaining that coin.

Producers will be able to apply for up to 50% of a film’s budget, down from 75%.

Projects will be deemed eligible for low-interest loans — which they must return if the movie makes money — under a new system similar to the one operating in France that looks at the producer and director’s track records in terms of box office and critical acclaim.

In the case of a first-time director and/or producer their projects will be evaluated based on the script. Unspecified incentives will be introduced for producers who work with debuting screenwriters.

Culture Minister Giuliano Urbani jetted into Venice on Thursday to unveil the long-in-the-works law to the industry.

The minister lamented that too many subsidized movies have not turned a profit.

National trade publication “Box Office” estimates that over the past nine years Italy spent e340 million ($373 million) on subsidies for 232 movies that made just $80 million at the box office.

“If you don’t have a great project and a good track record you’d better not come knocking on our door,” Urbani warned.

The law — which goes into effect in January and will be modified over the next two years — will also introduce product placement in movies for the first time.

The legislation has been generally well received, but producer Aurelio de Laurentiis objected because it does not fund movies shot in a language other than Italian. “These people don’t realize that to be competitive our cinema has to play to global audiences,” he complained.

Other industryites are bemoaning that the law does not include a tax shelter for film investors.

Urbani also announced that the film ratings system is being overhauled to replace the countless censorship committees with a single group of psychologists and other experts. Movies will no longer be rated on moral or religious grounds.

“From now on our main concern will just be the protection of minors,” the minister commented.

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