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Rome’s MIA market for TV series, feature films and documentaries is ramping up operations for its upcoming mixed physical and digital edition in October, which looks set to attract a robust roster of international execs and high-profile projects.

Rome’s new concept mart in May announced the launch of its MIA digital platform alongside its planned physical event for the 6th edition, to be held in the Eternal City Oct. 14-18. Since then, the American Film Market in November has gone entirely online, and the Mipcom TV market in Cannes — which directly precedes MIA — has seen major distributors such as the BBC, ITV and Fremantle pull out of physically attending.

Conversely, some big industry players are joining the MIA advisory board, in a clear indication of support for the Rome mart. Some standout execs among those recruited by MIA are Wild Sheep Content chief and former Netflix executive Erik Barmak; MGM’s head of international television Rosa Bauer; BBC commissioning editor Mandy Chang; Lionsgate Television Group chairman Kevin Beggs; and ITV Studios senior VP of global entertainment Kate Barnes, just to name a few.

Meanwhile, France’s promotional entity Unifrance has confirmed the booking for its large umbrella space, and partnerships are in place with Europa International, the European sales agents’ organization, and Europa Distribution, the network of indie Euro distribs that acts as a driver for the European film biz and also as a distribution platform, says MIA market director Lucia Milazzotto.

French sales agents that have booked a physical space include Kinology, StudioCanal, Luxbox and Celluloid Dreams. In addition, several Italian sales companies have taken a booth, among them Vision Distribution, True Colors, Rai Com, Intramovies, Fandango Sales, Coccinelle and Summertime International.

“This year MIA, which comes after Mipcom, will be the first physical market [comprising a wide range of unfinished product] after Berlin in a totally new context; in a totally different ecosystem compared with the past,” Milazzotto told Variety. 

“The need to have an event that will have a physical component is an important competitive element this year, as is the digital platform,” she added, noting that “MIA positions itself as the first market with two integrated environments — physical and digital.” 

“It’s small, intimate; it supports films and docs, besides TV,” Milazzotto said, pointing out that vis-a-vis Mipcom “the key thing is that MIA is a projects market, which at a time like this gives it a whole new level of significance” since it’s smaller, more cost-efficient and provides scouting and presentation of projects. This makes MIA “the first important (post-pandemic) physical event in Europe where the industry can present high-profile dramas,” she boasts.

The head of Italy’s motion picture association, Francesco Rutelli, notes that while MIA had already positioned itself as a significant event, “This year, in the dramatic situation we are going through, it has an additional importance, being the only European market [for both TV and film] after Berlin that will allow industry executives to have both options, digital and physical.

“The mixed physical/digital model does not exclude personal encounters and a human touch that remains crucial to doing business in the very special venues of Rome,” Rutelli told Variety.

What’s clear is that, just like the upcoming Venice Film Festival, which is on track to hold a physical edition in September, MIA is seen by the Italian industry as a key catalyst for its restart in the COVID-19 era.

Giancarlo Leone, head of Italy’s TV producers’ association APA, noted that besides having always represented Italy’s attempt to stake out a new spot on the international markets’ map this year, MIA “becomes the symbol of the Italian industry and is ready to meet the challenges it faces.”

Leone underlined that the pandemic has caused an economic damage to the Italian audiovisual industry estimated at €1 billion ($1.1 billion). “For these reasons, MIA today, more than ever, is the time and place to show the skills of our industry; its talent for understanding change; its ability to face unexpected difficulties and, above all, its ability to take advantage of events as a creative opportunity for a renewal of content in terms of storytelling and, as demonstrated by MIA Digital, ways of doing business,” he said.