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Venice Unleashes Film Lab Magic

Three pics from first Biennale College screen

For the first time in its 70-year history, the Venice lineup includes three feature films produced by the fest itself through its Biennale College, which is turning the Lido into a unique year-round film lab.

Instead of backing just one aspect of the filmmaking process — as is the case with Sundance, Cannes and Rotterdam — the Biennale College works closely with director-producer teams on their projects from initial stages, offering experts — such as former Arte France topper Michel Reilhac, who has greenlit thousands of indie pics — to coach them on script development and production plans during 10-day sessions in a former monastery on the island of San Servolo.

Along with the coaching, the Lido’s innovative initiative, which is sponsored by Gucci, also provides three selected projects with €150,000 ($200,000) in cash.

This year’s trio of pics are U.S. helmer Tim Sutton’s “Memphis,” about a soul singer seeking a deeper spiritual meaning in life; Thai first-time helmer Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit’s “Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy,” depicting a year in the life of a female student in Bangkok based on her tweets; and Italo rookie Alessio Fava’s “Yuri Esposito,” about a man living in slow motion.
After screening its first-year batch at the fest, the Biennale, which is the fest’s parent organization, will also be working to get these films distribution online and via VOD. Filmmakers and producers will be sole rights-holders of their work.

Digital distribution is another area in which Venice is pushing forward.

Having dipped its toes in the digital arena last year, for its 70th anniversary the Lido is now looking to increase the reach of its Sala Web theater, which offers day-and-date online screenings of selected titles in its cutting-edge Horizons section available to 500 viewers globally for a limited 24-hour time period via Festival Scope.

Venice topper Alberto Barbera is touting the Sala Web as an opportunity for Horizons pics to gain exposure beyond the Lido with a global test screening.

“This not only expands the reach of film festivals, but also establishes new kids of direct connections between films and audiences worldwide,” he says.

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