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Italy’s Indiana and Murdoch-owned Pay-TV Sky Team up on Content Factory (EXCLUSIVE)

ROME — Expanding Italian film and TV company Indiana Production, which recently made a splash in Cannes by announcing Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland-starrer “The Leisure Seeker,” are teaming up with Murdoch-owned pay-TV operator Sky Italia on a “content factory.”

The initiative, called Writers’ Couch, aims to nurture local writing talents in a first for Italy where subpar screenplays are considered an industry sore spot.  It is being set up in Rome and Milan in collaboration with screenwriter Nicola Guaglianone and his DropOut Films.

Guaglianone is probably Italy’s hottest screenwriter at present. He was the main writer on offbeat superhero movie “They Call Me Jeeg,” a fresh riff on both formulaic Hollywood franchises and on a 1970 Japanese cartoon series. “Jeeg” (pictured) is a recent sleeper hit at the Italian box office and was the big winner in April at the David di Donatello Awards, the country’s top film nods.

The Writers’ Couch will focus on scouting and training new Italian writing talents by having them work side-by-side with more experienced scribes within small “writing rooms” to develop content for film and TV. Teams in these “rooms” are expected to comprise a supervisor who will take the lead on a single project, and a couple of more experienced junior writers plus two or more rookie scribes.

Each “writing room” will last for no more than six months in order to obtain a quick turnaround. The goal is for projects to either go directly into production, or be ready to be pitched to other prospective producers.

Indiana will of course have first-look rights. But the partnership with Sky does not formally entail exclusivity, specified Marco Cohen who is one of Indiana’s founding partners.

“Our two main objectives behind the creation of the Writers’ Couch are to feed broadcasters and different platforms who need of new content, but also to give a concrete opportunity to the younger writing talents, who always have a hard time getting their foot in the door in this industry”, Cohen said in a statement.

Boasting the success of its Italian mob show “Gomorrah,” Sky Italia chief of original productions Nils Hartmann noted that across Europe Sky is “increasingly investing in the production of original drama series,” underscoring that “there is no great series if you don’t have a solid script.”

Guaglianone stressed the importance of “bringing scriptwriting back at the center of the [Italian] production system.”

Sky is also raising its profile as a film industry player in Italy, in line with the pan-European platform’s increased output of original productions and exclusive content.

Sky Italia recently took over the David Awards broadcast from state broadcaster RAI. They are also mulling going into theatrical distribution of local titles in Italian cinemas. This would be a highly unusual move, but would allow it to grow the amount of fresh Italian cinema it could offer subscribers to its pay-TV service. Both RAI and Mediaset, which is active in both free and pay-TV, have theatrical distribution arms.

Indiana’s most recent production is coming-of-age/road movie “Summertime,” directed by Gabriele Muccino. In Cannes they announced English-language dramedy “The Leisure seeker,” which will see Helen Mirren and Donald Sutherland embark on a twilight years road trip from Boston to Florida. It will be directed by Italian director Paolo Virzì (“Like Crazy”).


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