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Mercedes Fernandez • Managing Director, TorinoFilmLab

“The creative process can be very solitary; we provide filmmakers with a safe space where they can compare notes and experiment”


- We chatted with the international audiovisual lab’s project manager about its achievements and latest developments

Mercedes Fernandez  • Managing Director, TorinoFilmLab

Boasting a community of 2,000 participants which has grown over the years, which hails from 85 countries and which is supported by close to 200 tutors and trainers from all over the world; with 600 of its projects and 185 of its films and series selected in major festivals (Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Toronto, Locarno) or screened in cinemas or on platforms; and with 200 prizes awarded, to the tune of over 6.3 million euros, the TorinoFilmLab is ending the year by presenting the various projects developed within the TFL’s two annual programmes to a vast audience of film industry professionals, within the TFL Meeting Event, unspooling from today, Thursday 23 November, until Saturday 25 November (read our news). We chatted with TFL’s Project Manager Mercedes Fernandez about TFL’s achievements and latest developments.

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Cineuropa: The outcome of all these years of activity is astonishing.
Mercedes Fernandez:
These figures help us to explain something which might otherwise be very hard to summarise: the quality of the work carried out by a community of professionals who share their expertise in order to ensure the richness and diversity of artistic expression in film. The creative process can be very solitary, but from the outset at the TorinoFilmLab we wanted to provide a safe space where filmmakers could compare notes and experiment. We believe in making mistakes, in being able to go wrong in order to drive projects forwards and grow professionally. This atmosphere of freedom and trust is the basis on which the stories and then the teams, collaborations, co-productions, films and TFL’s precious international community are created. Films being selected in festivals is a wonderful result, but it’s primarily the journey before this which is incredibly valuable.

The opportunities offered by your laboratories have expanded over time. ScriptLab and FeatureLab might be said to be your top offerings, alongside workshops dedicated to series and sustainability.
ScriptLab and FeatureLab are the two programmes which TFL started out with in 2008, the former for projects in the early stages of development and the latter for projects at a more advanced stage. Over the following years, we continually experimented in response to the needs of the industry. After feature films came series in 2017, with SeriesLab and, a few years later came SeriesLab Talents too. It’s a specialised dual programme which will evolve even further in 2024, as series projects and talents are also set to be presented in the Meeting Event. And then there’s Green Film Lab, our sustainability workshop which looks to raise awareness and knowledge on film productions’ ecological footprint, encouraging film crews to take action to reduce it. This kind of expertise is becoming crucial for producers, and it enhances their professional reputation as well as facilitating access to funds, which reward or require sustainable practices during production.

The biggest news over recent months is the launch of ComedyLab, whose call for applications is open until 20 December and will culminate in a workshop in 2024.
Over the last three years we’ve worked on comedy projects within our programmes, and we’ve realised that this genre requires a dedicated programme of its own, owing to its very specific nature. In ComedyLab, screenwriters and comedians from the world of stand-up, theatre, podcasts or other comedy circles will work together to develop a maximum of 4 projects. It will be an incredible personalised journey, which will result in a first draft of a screenplay to be presented to the sector in the 2024 Meeting Event and during which the international potential of these comedies will be explored.

Another novelty for 2023 is the Boost IT Lab. What opportunities does this project offer to emerging Italian producers and directors?
The programme is dedicated to Italian producers and directors who want to explore the international potential of their projects and to international professionals who are looking for minority Italian partners. The teams work with different professionals who are experts in the various aspects of co-production, from production to sales, and from legal matters to distribution, cashflow and even screenplay development. The journey ends with a presentation of the projects to the Italian and international film industry.

It’s a 360-degree approach to co-production, which looks to open up opportunities for independent Italian companies. The teams get the chance to further develop their international co-production skills, to come into contact with new projects and talent from all over the world, and to explore new opportunities for collaboration.

Could you give us one final comment on the work carried out by the team, which is almost exclusively female.
The TFL team has grown very organically over the years. We’ve all grown together, one step at a time. Our way of working mirrors what’s on offer in our programmes: an attitude of trust and collaboration, where mistakes are an integral part of growth rather than having negative connotations. This allows for a very horizontal and efficient work approach. It’s an international team; for some reason Turin drew us here from various regions in Europe: France, Spain, Poland... It’s true that it’s a predominantly female team and this feature is often remarked upon; sometimes people tease us about it, but it came about in a totally spontaneous way.

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(Translated from Italian)

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