Event to showcase world of groundbreaking programming

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In a year that recently saw “Carlos,” the Olivier Assayas-directed telepic about Venezuelan terrorist Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, hailed widely as the best title at the Cannes film fest, it’s become increasingly clear that around the world, barriers between film and TV dramas are being dismantled.

Which makes the Rome Fiction Festival’s fourth, and more focused, edition all the more timely.

Born from an urgency felt by Italy’s TV production community to expand its horizons, the Eternal City extravaganza is clearly gunning to gain international cachet with the appointment this year of former Granada USA and Sony TV Europe production topper Antony Root to head its budding informal mart.

But at the same time, this sister event to the Rome Film Festival remains focused on its key function as a driver for the local TV industry, both in terms of boosting business prospects for Italo skeins abroad and as a creative stimulant for the Italian TV industry, by showing it the best of what’s out there.

“The idea is that you can only be effective in promoting Italian fiction if the event has real international scope,” says artistic director Steve Della Casa, a RAI radio journo, former topper of the indie-geared Turin Film Festival and head of the Turin/Piedmont Film Commission.

To this end, Della Casa has almost halved his lineup this year to some 35 titles screening in the comedy, drama and factual competitions, giving them more specific weight, and also cut the number of prizes.

Italian producers, pressured by economic constraints and technological advances, just like their international counterparts, are finding it much harder to fully finance their scripted content just from the domestic market.

And in conceiving new product that can strike a balance between working domestically and attaining international reach, somewhat similarly to “Carlos,” they’ve tapped into the country’s turbulent recent history.

The Italo include “Il Sorteggio” (Drawn for Jury Duty), about a Fiat factory worker selected for jury duty at a Red Brigades trial, and “Le Ragazze Dello Swing,” about a trio of Jewish showgirls (hugely popular in Italy during the early Fascist era) whose careers took a dive due to Benito Mussolini’s racial laws. Both are from RAI Cinema. There’s also Mediaset’s “Il Peccato e la Vergogna” (Sin and Shame), centered around Italy’s 1938 racial edict.

As for international fare, the “CSI” 10th-season finale will be the opener with star Marg Helgenberger on hand, while hot BBC sci-fi series “The Day of the Triffids,” Israeli teen vampire series “Split” and Gallic shock-doc “The Game of Death” from Gallic pubcaster France 2 are among selected fare that could give Italian TV programmers a healthy jolt.

On the sales side
Market takes Root in Eternal City television events

There are many TV marts out there, but not many dedicated exclusively to TV fiction.

“That’s what made the prospect of running the Rome Fiction Fest’s industry side exciting to me,” says Antony Root, the British TV producer and exec (Granada Entertainment USA prexy and European production topper for Sony Pictures Television Intl.) who in April was tapped as market topper.

It’s clear that his mission is to put Rome on the map in the global TV market world.

Root describes his job as both “increasing international awareness of Italian television fiction” and “doing everything possible to foster commercial relationships between Italian fiction and the outside world.”

Root has also been working closely with former Banff fest topper Pat Ferns, who since Rome’s inception has been running his trademark Market Simulation pitching sessions and luring international industryites there.

Last year, the fest introduced its Rome TV Screenings to showcase the latest season in Italo TV dramas. Also planned is a series of high-profile panels, including a masterclass to be held by Barry Jossen, exec veep of creative and production for ABC Entertainment Group.

This year, the fest will be also be offering viewing stations besides theater screenings to give these products more viewing opportunities, and also open up the screenings to works-in-progress.

“It’s about understanding other people’s audiences and the pressures they have, other people’s broadcasters, (and) how the advertising community works with the broadcaster and the producer,” Root says, adding that he expects about 100 international industryites, including acquistion execs, TV programmers and producers to make the Rome trek.

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