Fandango’s 20-year evolution

Procacci's film firm expands around the world

When Italian producer Domenico Procacci started his Fandango shingle in 1989, it was a commitment not just to a new business but also to personal growth.

Procacci had floundered for a couple of youthful years after graduating from Rome’s Gaumont film school. Taking his plunge into the biz, he named it Fandango after the indie pic starring Kevin Costner in which a pack of college grads hits the road for a final blowout before facing the world’s harsh realities.

The ensuing two decades “certainly haven’t been easy,” he says.

But despite having to contend with the many constraints endemic to the Italian movie industry, Procacci has managed to consistently find ways to bring energy to his endeavor while expanding internationally. As his pics gained traction, he fashioned Fandango into a unique indie multihyphenate, active in books and music in addition to film production and distribution. Now Fandango even runs an arthouse cinema and a Fandango Cafe in central Rome.

Procacci’s most recent success, Matteo Garrone’s “Gomorrah,” is Italy’s most internationally celebrated film since 1997’s “Life Is Beautiful” and the country’s top-grossing 2008 local drama.

“The movie ‘Fandango’ is about events that bring about growth despite all your efforts to avoid it,” he says. “Oddly, right now I feel that I’m in a similar situation. After 20 years of activity, I think that maybe the moment has arrived for Fandango to grow, and I’m trying to understand how.”

Not that Procacci hasn’t been busy broadening his horizons.

A rarity among Italians in his drive to set up co-productions with English-language territories, Procacci first ventured into Oz in the early 1990s where he produced Sydney-based auteur Rolf de Heer’s “Bad Boy Bubby,” marking the start of a long partnership that paved the way for him to set up Fandango Australia in 2002.

In 2004 he acquired a stake in U.K. outfit Civilian Content and subsequently pacted with producer Eric Abraham to form the Fandango Portobello sales banner (see story at left).

Venturing abroad hasn’t been devoid of difficulties either.

Procacci’s two most ambitious English-language projects — European Western “Dust,” helmed by Milcho Manchevski, and “Silk,” the historical fantasy about a French silk merchant’s travels to Japan — were both ill-fated. He has taken this in stride.

“One thing I have learned is that you can tell really universal stories set in a microcosm where English is not spoken and with characters that aren’t easily recognizable archetypes,” he says.

“In fact, paradoxically, the movies I produced that have gained the most visibility around the world are Italian movies set in a very localized reality.”

So localized, in fact, that two, “Gomorrah” and Emanuele Crialese’s “Respiro,” are spoken in a dialect requiring subtitles even for Italian audiences.

Fandango struck gold in 2001 with Gabriele Muccino’s “L’ultimo bacio” (The Last Kiss), which — besides landing Muccino gigs in Hollywood directing Will Smith in “The Pursuit of Happyness” and “Seven Pounds” — is emblematic of the close-knit rapport Procacci has always cultivated with helmers.

“There is plenty of friendship and respect between us,” says Muccino, who is currently in pre-production with Procacci on “Kiss” sequel “Baciami ancora” (Kiss Me Again). “Even when I make movies in the U.S., though he may not be producing them, Domenico is always the first person to read the screenplay.”

Procacci’s filmography includes more than 60 films. He is especially proud that he has rarely worked with a director on only one of these, but rather has usually gone on to make more.

The feeling of productive collaboration is mutual. “He’s been sensitive about not disrupting my work method,” says Garrone, who points out that Procacci lets him shoot in chronological sequence and factors in two weeks of reshoots after the first edit.

“My only talent is to recognize talent in others” is how Procacci describes what by now has become his personal mission.

“But that is only part of the job,” he adds. “Then you have to enable this talent to express itself to its utmost.”

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