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Venice Film Fest lab backs projects

Biennale College provides full funding for trio of movies

ROME — The Venice Festival, the world’s oldest sprocket opera, is helping filmmakers get their pics made. But unlike other indie auteur events — think Sundance, Cannes or Rotterdam — the Lido isn’t just backing one aspect of the process, but rather is offering soup-to-nuts support.

The Biennale College lab shepherds microbudget pics from development through distribution, providing each project with €150,000 ($203,000) in cash. Starting with 15 director-producer teams from all over the world, three projects were chosen. The three must be ready or this year’s Venice fest, which runs from Aug. 28 to Sept. 7, with the Biennale working to get the films distribution online and via VOD. Filmmakers and producers will be sole rights-holders of their work.

“What makes Biennale College different is that it is the only workshop of its kind working intensely with an entire film team instead of just the director-writer-producer individually,” says IFP executive director Joana Vicente.

The process begain in mid-January, when the teams convened on the San Servolo island in the Venice lagoon, where they stayed in an ancient monastery-turned-hospital-turned-university for 10 days of intensive pitching and coaching sessions with story consultants and production experts, such as former Arte France topper Michel Reilhac, who has greenlit thousands of indie pics.

Tim Sutton, whose project “Memphis,” about a soul singer who seeks a deeper spiritual meaning in life, was among the three that made the final cut in January. John Baker is the pic’s producer.

“It’s a unique opportunity for funding,” says the Brooklyn-based Sutton of the lab, which is sponsored by Gucci. “Being able to get input from people of (Reilhac’s) caliber, and to meet teams from the other 14 films from as far as Israel, Thailand and the Philippines meant I learned what kinds of projects fly in other cultures.”

The other two films that got greenlit are “The Year of June,” depicting a year in the life of a female student in Bangkok based on her tweets, by Thai first-time helmer Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit and producer Aditya Assarat; and Italo first-timer Alessio Fava’s “Yuri Esposito,” about a man living in slow motion, produced by Max Chicco.

The 12 projects that did not make final cut will become part of a circuit that could help them find partners through Biennale College’s affiliated orgs: New York’s Independent Filmmaker Project, the Dubai Film Festival and TorinoFilmLab.

“It’s all new and its a gamble,” says Venice artistic topper Alberto Barbera. “In September we will see if we get the results we are hoping for.”

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