The new venture, dubbed CIAO, or Creatività Italiana Americana Organizzata, is the latest move from the Miami-based executive, who specializes in packaging and selling large-scale, world-building film and television projects based on literary properties.
Gerardis is in talks with an Italian publisher for a deal that would give CIAO access to a range of Italian literary talent, with an eye toward “establishing an interesting and fresh business model from what I’ve learned over the years of representing authors,” he told Variety. The Rome-based company is developing four projects and will focus on Italian IP that has the potential to travel. “It’s ‘Italy first,’ with a global view,” he said.
In the 1990s, Gerardis and Ralph Vicinanza launched the literary management and production company Created By, signing a roster that featured some of the most iconic names in science fiction and fantasy, including Jack Vance, Larry Niven, Kim Stanley Robinson, Robert Heinlein, and George R.R. Martin, creator and co-executive producer of “Game of Thrones.”
Gerardis is developing or producing a slate of properties through his production outfit Startling, Inc., including the “Games of Thrones” prequel “House of Dragon” for HBO, and an adaptation of Larry Niven’s classic science-fiction novel “Ringworld” for Amazon.
In recent years, the producer said he’s had a growing interest in establishing a European foothold, in the hopes of launching projects “that have the potential of becoming a ‘Game of Thrones’ for [a particular] territory, in terms of revolutionizing TV for that space,” while also satisfying the appetites of global audiences.
Gerardis recently acquired Italian citizenship, and owns a house in Spain. He was slated to travel to Italy this week to attend the Mercato Internazionale Audiovisivo (MIA), which takes place Oct. 14-18 in Rome, but was forced to cancel his travel plans amid a spike in coronavirus infections in Europe. He will be taking part remotely on Thursday, joining a host of leading buyers and producers for a panel discussion on the challenges facing international drama development and production.
While coronavirus might have curtailed his travel plans, Gerardis is bullish on the prospects of high-end television production in Europe, particularly in Spain and Italy. “The producers that I’ve met in Italy are great,” he said. “They’re knowledgeable, they’re good story people, they’re good people. I’ve been overwhelmingly impressed with the quality of executives in Italy.”
Two years ago, Gerardis signed a first-look deal with Amazon Studios, part of the streaming service’s growing push into high-end genre series. Since then, a number of other high-profile VOD platforms have launched—including Disney Plus, NBCUniversal’s Peacock, and HBO Max—setting off a content boom that the producer likens to a gold rush.
For buyers, he said, the appetite from streaming platforms for more premium content brings both opportunity and risk. “It’s more competitive than ever. Even though there’s that much more appetite, there’s so many more people digging into the dirt during this gold rush,” he said. “For me, I choose to do things that no one else is doing. And I enjoy that. Whether it’s story ideas or worlds, I’m doing things that are fresh.”
Gerardis recalled breaking into the industry in the 1990s, recognizing at the time that “science fiction, fantasy, genre stuff is becoming a trend where there’s franchises, and there’s merchandise, and there’s games, and all this stuff,” he said. “You can take one IP and do a whole bunch of stuff with it, like we’ve seen happen.”
Since then, Gerardis has packaged countless film and TV projects from his extensive intellectual property library, which continues to attract producers looking to strike gold with the next “Game of Thrones.”
“We get queries on book properties that nobody’s asked about in 20 years. There’s a run on book properties right now,” he said. “My business model actually hasn’t changed. It was a good idea then, and it’s a great idea now.”