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The Italian short film (potential) industry.

The "Report 2014" of the Italian Short Film Centre sheds a light on an key-sector of the audiovisual that struggles to define itself "industrial".


Is there an Italian “short film industry”? Is there an economy linked to short film sector at all? These are the questions addresse by The Italian Short Film Industry. Report 2014, a crucial volume presented a few months ago during the International Film Festival of Rome. It is the first in-depth research on the production and dissemination of Italian short films curated by Jacopo Chessa, director of the Italian Short Film Centre, as well as the first issue of the series “The Notebooks of Cineconomy” curated by Antonio Urrata and Bruno Zambardino, co-edited by Edizioni Foundation Ent of Entertainment and the National Film Board MiBACT, in two languages, Italian and English.

The Report offers figures and statistics on a segment which appears anything but marginal, involving about 200 festivals where over 1,000 short films have been screened only in the year under review: 2014. Numbers are accompained by texts made from industry operators that touch various issues: from the screening venues to festivals, from television broadcasting to the situation in other European countries. A the base of this work, the idea of ​​treating the short, still laboratory for excellence in the audiovisual field, from a largely unexplored point of view: that of the market. The report in fact fills a void in the studies on the audiovisual of our country and is the first of a series of studies on the economy of the short film that the Italian Short Film Centre will cure.

«To talk about the Italian film industry may seem counterintuitive – writes Jacopo Chessa – when discussing with producers or distributors, you are likely to encounter indifference, because in the short film sector “there’s no money”, but this is only partly true». As can be seen from the Report, certainly short films don’t generates particular profits, but for a sector that calls itself a “laboratory of cinema”, it has economic dimensions submerged and / or potential of all respect. Only in 2013, over 700 Italian short films were produced, whose real cost amounted to about 2.960.000 Euros, compared with an estimated cost – this intelligent distinction made by the Italina Short Film Centre – which would have amounted to 8.390. 000 Euros, if those who worked were normally paid. In the face of this costs, the government intervenes with a ministerial contribution (MiBAC) around 300.000 Euros, in addition to regional funds through the film commisions, for a total of about 900.000 Euros. Unfortunately still too little compared to othjer European partners as France or Germany that are capable to invest a tenfold time.

These numbers show how neglected this sector is, especially in the poitn of view of a 360° education of all the professionals orbiting around it. Not only directors and actors, but also writers, set designers, editors, cinematographers, sound designers, musicians, young producers and distributors novice, workers in various capacities. Very little would be needed to properly train this huge potential of skills, which would also represent a quality guarantee for the cinema of tomorrow.

Can we do more? Certainly. Maybe using the funds in a more intelligent way, as suggested by Nevina Satta, vice-president of the Italian Film Commisions, especially the Community ones aimed to the development of the territory. Sardinia and Puglia, for example, have been consolidated over time also creating new “green” production models financing “shorts of sustainability”, effectively conveying European funds not originatelly destinated to cinema. While Piedmont and Emilia Romagna, after a few happy years, are a bit in trouble. It serves more continuity, and even more “system” between the various local areas, in a perspective that knows how to integrate the processes of production, distribution and communication, fusion of skills, by enhancing the investment of public money to create a ripple effect of potentials in an extraordinary test for the entire “chain” of short.

All this while waiting for greater clarity, even at the level of legislation, on the relationship between the funding of this type of works and its dissemination, especially in movie theaters, at festivals, and finally in the digital platforms that are already the present and the future of this size, but still underdeveloped in Italy. This also means shifting the focus of the Italian short film industry currently too inclined towards production, and less towards the promotion and distribution.

Rai, for example, buys a lot, but programs too little, and the recent web launch of the Rai Cinema Channel does not seem to live up to expectations. Maybe something will change with the introduction of new thematic channels, we’ll see. The “Short films, what a passion!” by FICE, financed by the State, is instead a successful example of promotion of Italian short with a synergy between the productive moment and the diffusion. But it’s still too little.

To the almost total absence of public service, have fortunately compensated throught the years Mediaset Premium and Studio Universal. Mediaset buys between 100-140 shorts every year that broadcasts even in “prime time” within dedicated programs and not only in terms of “realignment of the programme schedule”. It means recognizing the prestige and the dignity this format deserve. Unfortunately, very few Italian shorts are purchased, both for the low competitiveness of the product, which in part follows the scarcity of resources, and for the near absence of Italian agencies responsible for distributing national short films.

Even one of the channels that are most used for the promotion of shorts, the festival circuit, are not, in Italy, really incisive. Apart the intermittency of proposed shorts programs within the most important cinema events as those of Rome, Venice and Turin, there is not a strong network of Italian festivals dedicated to short film capable coordinate the programmes and maybe organise, among the most important ones, sections of market and “pitch rooms”, and other educational and information initiatives to attract professionals, audiance and European investors.

The report identify the 17o festivals around Italy, that varies in size and quality. Probably too many.  there would need maybe less, but more integrated and more competitive. Maybe one of big reference, as is the Festival International du Court Métrage à Clermont-Ferrand for the French network, the Internationale Kurzfilmstage Oberhausen for the Germany’s, the Tampere Film Festival for the Scandinavian’s.

In summary, the Report brings out with appropriate clearness the structural weaknesses in this audiovisual sector, especially compared with that of some European countries like France, England, Germany, Holland, Scandinavia, but also its enormous potential. The skills and the awareness among the “field professionals”- thanks to this valuable work – is out there, what is lacking is a strong political will to investment in the sector, which would signify the recognition of its absolute strategic value, both economic and artistic, associated to a planned vision capable to coordinate, train and enhance all the professions involved.

But in the face of an industry that will hopefully re-organise, it is important to achieve a change of perspective on the relevance of this format to be intended both by the audience and by the authors. Another element concerns in fact the overall quality of the Italian short film, not a measurable parameter, but still detectable, starting from the under-representation of Italian works in the international festivals. Unfortunately, the low competitiveness of our works is also a consequence of an all-Italian prejudice, hard to die, to the short format that short-circuits between the authors themselves, who do not fully intend its nature and language, the organs of diffusion, and the audience that still considers the short a kind of a “minor art”, alla preparatory, generally poor, relegated to the narrow circuit of small festivals. Nothing could be farther from reality, especially today when the short film format is experiencing a big revival and an extraordinary development of its languages thank to new technologies and the web.

In our small account, we at Good Short Films, a project born from a ​​Ginevra Elkann‘s idea and made possible by Good Films, try to promote the short film art in all its forms by offering a curated selection of the best works from all over the world. Our ambition is to break this prejudice, entertain the audience, and “update” Italian authors spurring them to unleash their creativity.

Tommaso Fagioli

Tommaso Fagioli

Tommaso Fagioli

Founder @ Good Short Films. Fond of great stories, great thinkers, great food. My motto is: your motto.

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