Rome Fiction Festival refines its schedule

ROME The Rome Film Festival may have political clouds hovering over its future, but smallscreen sister event the Rome Fiction Festival is gearing up for a second edition with a new topper, an $11.5 million budget and plans to showcase more Hollywood skeins.

Steve della Casa, a former Turin Film Festival topper, takes over from ex-Venice chief Felice Laudadio as artistic director of the lavishly funded shindig, backed by Italy’s TV producers’ org APT, pubcaster RAI, Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset and Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia paybox.

In Italy, having Prime Minister Berlusconi’s broadcast group in one’s corner is certainly a plus, though della Casa puts it more diplomatically.

“We are having lots of dialogue with both RAI and Mediaset and, of course, this is a positive sign,” he says.

At its debut last year, the Rome Fiction Festival was a chaotic, largely Eurocentric affair in need of fine tuning.

For its July 7-12 edition, della Casa wants to slim down the lineup from 330 to about 200 shows and make the tube fest more populist and more user-friendly.

Each screening venue will function like a different TV channel. Preems of Italian dramas will unspool in the Auditorium Conciliazione, near the Vatican, while the nearby Cinema Adriano plex will showcase mainstream action series in the evening and segue into thrillers, horror, sci-fi and other youth-oriented fare at midnight.

“(French critic) Andre Bazin used to say that Westerns were American cinema at its best; I say that TV series are global TV at its best: They are its pulsating heart,” della Casa says.

The topper adds he is negotiating with Hollywood TV studios and the Italo broadcasters who carry their product to line up a raft of preems, all with talent in tow.

The lineup will be unveiled June 25. However, confirmed Hollywood fare includes “Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles” and a package of remastered “Star Trek” series. Italo auteur Liliana Cavani’s “Einstein” biopic, from RAI Fiction, is slotted for a world preem.

In Italy, local dramas have long dominated ratings, while all over Europe, homegrown content is getting hotter.

But Italian shows are now traveling, just as retooled Euro formats are starting to score outside their native turfs.

Spanish family sitcom “Los Serranos,” for example, has become a megahit on Mediaset. It transposed from Madrid to Rome the tale of a couple, each with a marriage behind them and five kids between them.

Della Casa says this type of cultural conversion of TV formats is at the root of the market he is thinking about starting next year.

Meanwhile, international industryites will trek to Rome in July for former Banff fest topper Pat Ferns’ trademark Market Simulation pitch sessions.

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