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Italy

Roberto Stabile • Head of international relations, ANICA

“A physical film market is like a cinema experience: irreplaceable”

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- This year's Cannes Marché du Film and its potential to give rise to a new market formula are just some of the topics we touched upon with Roberto Stabile, head of international relations at ANICA

Roberto Stabile  • Head of international relations, ANICA

The experience of Cannes’ online Marché du Film, the possibility of this virtual edition bringing about a new market format and the organisation of an Italian presence at markets were among the topics we discussed with Roberto Stabile, head of international relations at ANICA – which represents the Italian film industry - and Audiovisual Desk coordinator at the national trade and investment agency ICE, which promotes Italian businesses worldwide.

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Cinema & Video International: In terms of the impact of Cannes’ virtual Marché du Film, in an interview with Cineuropa, director Jerome Paillard revealed that many participants had reported “feeling a bit like they were in Cannes”. Do you agree?
Roberto Stabile: I told him a similar “white lie”; in truth, he and his team put a huge amount of work and passion into organising this unorthodox version of the Marché, but Cannes in person is something else… Obviously, in recognition of his and their enthusiasm, I think we all gave positive feedback to a certain extent, though we were fully aware of the reality. What takes place on the Croisette is unique and impossible to replicate in any other way.

In the same interview, Paillard reported attendee figures above 10,000 and a rise in the number of viewers at screenings.
Unquestionably, internet access and low prices led to a rise in visits, including those of a casual nature. The screenings worked really well and gave film professionals the control they desired over the exploitation of their products by buyers. I’m also convinced that the option to view works online is a draw, not least for the fact that, during regular editions, there are so many different timings and events that it’s very difficult to find the time to sit down in an auditorium and watch an entire film. Without a doubt, this option should still be taken into account once things are back to normal; it could be something we offer to buyers who are travelling to Cannes or, most importantly, those who are unable to attend the festival for a variety of reasons.

How and to what extent did this online edition affect business?
Let’s just say it had a positive impact on the mood of sector professionals: it signalled a revival after the lengthy lockdown which knocked us all for six and changed our perspectives, not just in business terms but in how we view our lives. The organisation of Cannes online sent an important message to the entire sector: it signalled a return to real life, an opportunity for professionals hailing from the most disparate countries to meet, and a concrete possibility to bring all those products which had matured after the Berlinale to market; products which had been waiting for a commercial outlet of some kind.

Did Italian film screenings attract greater or fewer numbers of viewers as compared to past editions?
Our professionals were all very happy with the online screenings and, above all, they really appreciated having access to full viewer data, knowing who had watched their products and, most importantly, for how long, a detail which they found really helpful.

How did the “meetings” and conferences go?
Apparently, the organisers were swamped with requests for conferences, workshops and presentations of all kinds, and their attempts to make everyone happy caused chaos in scheduling terms and, worse, atomised the audience. We organised one presentation, curated by the Film Commissions, about what our country can offer foreign productions. And also a presentation about the Italy for Movies portal developed by Mibact’s Directorate General for Film: I have to say that despite its disappearance from the official schedule and the lack of any mention of it in the previous day’s newsletter, we had upwards of 200 foreign participants (not just those who signed up, but actual attendees). It went very well.

How about the organisation of the Italian Pavilion?
Organising the Pavilion was a huge challenge which we were able to deliver on thanks to the backing of the Italian Trade and Investment Agency ICE, the Directorate General for Film and the Istituto Luce Cinecittà. We’re working on an online version to accompany future physical events - firstly to reach a wider public, but also so as to preserve all the activities we’ve already put in place – which can be streamed via a portal which we’re planning to launch in Venice. We’ll also be replicating the Cannes experience at Mumbai’s FICCI Frames. We’ll have a presence at the biggest audiovisual market in India by way of a virtual pavilion. We’ll be organising a focus session on animation.

Do you think the online experience of the Cannes Marché du Film will give rise to a new market formula? Will the future of markets be hybrid in nature? And if so, is this a good thing?
Without a doubt, the temptation to organise markets and festivals online will be great; we’ve already seen too many such initiatives take shape. But I hope that this “fashion” passes soon. A physical market is like a cinema experience: it can never be wholly replaced by the internet. People need meetings, visual and physical contact, to be in touch with one another, to transmit emotions, dreams and sensations which are difficult to convey through other means. We can draw some good practice lessons from this experience and optimise the time we commit to various markets. Cannes will no doubt seize upon the positive results of its online screenings, but I’m also sure that b2b services and the various other events will be hard to replicate remotely using technology.

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(Translated from Italian)

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