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What does it mean to co-produce with Italy. The state of mind vs. reality.

What Does It Mean to Co-produce with Italy. The State of Mind vs. Reality

Frustration in co-producing with the Americans is setting in Italy. A bad sign. "Italians do not have financial problems," said a RAI source in Rome who wanted to remain anonymous.

"Call me Gola Profonda," he said, "otherwise I have to give you the official line."

"Americans have a good tradition with the Italians. They utilize our actors, our technicians and even some of our directors. But, in no way do they accept Italian scripts and executive producers. And the same is true of the British."

"Could it be our fault? Then, why don't we have those problems with the French, the Germans and the Spaniards?"

Gola Profonda estimated that in Italy, some $500 million a year is allocated for film and TV co-productions.

Last April, Giampaolo Sodano, Director of RAI 2, said that RAI had allotted $100 million towards the co-production of up to 58 TV projects. But, he warned, "We are not announcing a product in order to create an agreement, but rather seeking the right agreement in order to create the right product."

Fortunately, the Italian frustration with the Americans is creating symptoms without a disease. On the other hand, the French are reacting to the same problem with fury and vengeance (see quotas), some may say "a cure more deadly than the disease."

Italians are now trying a new strategy: Umbriafiction. Without excluding the political element that has to color and legitimize every aspect of Italian life, Umbriafiction, in the words of its chairman Enrico Manca, is "the relationship between Europe and the U.S."

After some initial reluctance, Silvio Berlusconi is now supporting Umbriafiction with money and active participation (in the beginning Berlusconi's people saw Umbriafiction as a purely political RAI event).

Commented Gola Profonda: "Why doesn't anyone suggest a sister-city type of structure with the International Emmy event, similar to Menotti's Spoleto-USA?"

This was in reference to the fact that RAI is set to sponsor the upcoming International Emmy Gala in New York, organized by the International Council which is chaired by RAI Corp.'s Renato Pachetti. Some Italian observers see the situation differently. Commented an Italian editor who closely follows the TV industry, "Yes, Italians have been co-producing with other Europeans for a long time, often with poor results for the public, in Italy European co-productions are rarely emphasized. American co-productions, though, are different. They are presented as |prizes.' The funny part is that, on the one hand, Italians are proud of being associated with Americans, but in the same breath they will confide to you that American TV stinks."

On the American side, there is frustration, too, in dealing with Italian co-productions. "What I found, especially among the U.S. talent agencies," said Peter Stamelman, an American TV executive who has worked in Italy, "is skepticism that the Italians will actually step up and spend the money."

Another problem, according to Stamelman, is "the length of time it takes to get an answer from the Italians."

Such frustrations, reportedly, transpired outside the otherwise tightly sealed Walt Disney company during their deal with RAI on the "Colony" (Plymouth). "So many levels of approval, so bureaucratic," was the comment.

Stamelman cited other problems: "Continuous concern about the universality of content, and the Italian political sensibility."

In the latter case, one is reminded of the frustration NBC encountered on the Achille Lauro project. Ultimately, the network, it is reported, dropped out in frustration.

Visibly, the Italians are trying to correct all those problems, but at their own pace. At the same time, they are trying to get the Americans to get close to Italy. Maybe this is the function of Umbriafiction. One can only hope.
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Publication:Video Age International
Date:Sep 1, 1991
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