AVPSummit 2023: The value of producing in Italy

Production experts from HBO, NBC Universal and with Italian producers discussed “The White Lotus” success and challenges and opportunities of the Artificial Intelligence were analized in detail for experts.

20 JUL 2023

Stan McCoy, Jay Roewe, Veronica Sullivan, Federico Scardamaglia, Marco Valerio Pugini and Barbara Betelli

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The second day of AVPSummit 2023 highlighted the value of production in Italy from the point of view of valorizing the territory and the workforce. Production experts from HBO and NBC Universal analized the successful series “The White Lotus”, entirely filmed in Sicily, along with the Italian producers of international series. Stan McCoy, President and Managing Director of MPA mentioned the economic impacts of Film and TV Production highlighting that it is an industry with around USD540 billion global turnover. After mentioned premium productions that have generated millions to the industry like Marvel Studios' "Black Panther" and Paramount Pictures "Top Gun: Maverick", the executive brought details about HBO original TV series "The White Lotus" that was set and filmed in Sicily. "The direct impact of the production of this series is 32 million euros across Italy with a 75% spent on local goods and services, 25% spent on wages and salaries and 1500 full-time and part-time jobs created," he explained. "Physical productions provide and immediate boots to the local economy, fostering job creation and innovation in other industry across the production supply chain", he added

For Jay Roewe, SVP at HBO, filming "The White Lotus" in Italy was a transformed experience for everybody involve in the series. "There is a great history of filming here in Italy and I would like to thank all the people involved in the series and to all that allow us to produce and film this series in Italy. We have a long TV series and we will be here season after season and if it's a success series, we can share the success together", he said. Veronica Sullivan - Senior Vice President and Head of Global Production External Affairs & State and Local Government, NBCUniversal, remarked the advantages of shooting in Italy. "There are great incentives, beautiful landscapes, strong talent and workforce, not language barriers, and also Italy is a great production partner," she concluded.

On the other hand, Marco Valerio Pugini - Executive Producer of The White Lotus 2” mentioned the entire Italian industry has grown with projects like “The White Lotus”.“We can compete in the international arena. It is a good value to produce in Italy for an international company, and it's a good value for Italian companies to produce international projects for the global market", he stood out.

The financing models were also an important topic discussed in the Italian event. The panel focused on different business models, by exploring new opportunities and challenges for independent producers: internationalization, co-production strategies in different territories, packaging, international co-development agreements, financing and distribution models pioneered by the independent film industry.

Rachel Eggebeen, CCO at Amplify Pictures (“Pu – 239”) anticipated that they are going to make a new project in Italy next year. "It's stars two American girls who end up in Italy and we are planning to finance it either through a full indie finance, equity financing model, or we will end up doing some combination of free sales and equity financing to get this show ultimately made," she explained. "The goal really is to get things made quickly and innovatively, and I feel there's incredible opportunity ahead of all of us to be innovative, to be nimble, and to find new ways to make series," she asserted. Marco Chimenz, Co-CEO of Cattleya pointed out that the new financial model is the old model of a United Filmmaking, which basically is a combination of territorial money, soft money, and first window, second window. "Production companies that have acted over the last years, almost as mini studio, Cattleya is one, Palomar is certainly another one and I think it's kind of a rejuvenation for sales companies. It would look like a sales company belonged to the past and now belong to the present and the future", he concluded. Morad Koufane, Head of International Scripted Series at France Télévisions agree with Marco Chimenz about now independent production companies are going back to the old model "but for me, it's a new model because when I arrived it was very simple, it was just one broadcaster, one producer, if you find another broadcaster, it's fine and the streamers were not into the equation," he described. "Now it's really a very, very creative domain and you can go from being second window to first window, etc, it's very creative in terms of financing schemes," he detailed. Koufane also mentioned the Alliance France Television has with ZDF and Rai. "What we can bring to the table as part of the financing model is that if you present to us a project, The idea is for France Télévisions for instance is to convince ZDF or Rai to come and board our project and vice versa, and then the idea is to multiply the investment that France Télévisions will be able to give to that project," he explained.

Nicola Serra, CEO of Palomar (Mediawan) said that in the last eight years, Italian companies have been quite successful in doing international show in English language, "not too many but some, that increased our reputation". Serra also referred to a quite simple model they adopted with "The name of the Rose". "Having a strong idea or a strong talent and developing it with a local commissioner, a European commissioner, can be a free TV player, can be a pay TV player and get into a point where you have a strong IP, a strong development, most of all a committed commissioner into the project. So you get to a point where you have more or less 50-60% of the financing already in place, combining the tax credit. So you go out to the market looking for an MG, looking for pre-sales, but you are going out to the market starting from a very competitive position. Because if the project is good, you have all the rest of the world available in order to complete the gap. So that's why this model worked in the last years. Thanks not only to the producers, but also to the support of the government and the European commissioners that did the first step in order to join these kinds of projects,". Lastly, Lars Blomgren, Head of Media Res International (“The Morning Show") affirmed that the challenge is to find projects for a co-production that works. "If you take Italy, it's a pretty specific way of storytelling with editorial needs and audience needs, and if you want to find a show that works in Italy and outside Italy and it's a proper co-production, that's a big challenge. With co-production, then you have to listen to the other partners' needs and try to balance the needs and that's a completely different game," he finalized.


Artificial intelligence has become the focus of discussions about the world, so AVP Summit hosted a panel where experts explained what generative Artificial Intelligence means for the audiovisual industry, the challenges and opportunities, the main legal and political issues.

American film producer Lori McCreary, CEO, Revelations Entertainment noted “It's exciting to me the kinds of things that we are going to have access to. I can de-age, for example, Morgan Freeman, and have him be 40 years old in a movie now with gendered AI. That's pretty exciting. I don't have to cast another actor, which sometimes takes you out of those movies. It's also scary, because that means that somebody else could get a version of Morgan, so I have both hats," she said. "I think it's an exciting time, and also it's a time when we all need to put our heads together and come together and figure out what gates we put around this new technology to make sure that one, we control the IP that we all own and that we can control where all this information is coming and make sure that we're protected when we build films and television using it." "I think the conflict that Lori expressed is something that everybody feels", continued Stephen Saltzman, Head of the International Entertainment Group, Fieldfisher LLP.  "As a lawyer, it's about risk management, it's about helping companies really figure out, do they want to use, will they be at a competitive disadvantage if they don't use it, how do they want to use it, how do they want to legislate the use of AI, internally, perhaps within the organization, or even externally in contracts," he explained.  "We had to get into a deeper conversation about what is permissible, what is it that they're really looking to prevent. And so this push-pull that Laurie is describing, the benefits, the disadvantages, and some will call it maybe a legal bonanza. It really is about regulation at the end of the day and actually more intergovernmental cooperation in that regulation," he asserted.

Games developer and Editor of Netopia Per Stromback, said he is not worried too much about the science fiction scenario where AI wakes up and finds itself with its own agency, independent of Skynet style. "We are better served if we think more about the immediate consequences. Concerns like copyright, abuse of dominant position on antitrust, the neocolonialism that comes with the low-wage workers in the global south with the ingestion data. Those are familiar problems, familiar with the previous iterations of digital development. And I also see lots of opportunity for producers, actually, from my experience of games. It's not without difficulty, but we have AI generated content in that case. So yes, I hope that's useful. It's interesting," he asserted.


Amazon and Mediaset were the central point at the second day of focused panels.  Davide Nardini, Head of Scripted at Amazon Originals, talked about scripted editorial content production and promotion strategies.  Nardini brought up the success of local Prime Video projects that found an audience around the world, and mentioned that Amazon's platform has taken a turn editorially in recent years. "We opened a space for scripted in Italy that resonated much more than anything with children and now we want to broaden our reach, aiming at a more general audience, always with proposals with high production values and quality, with a significant cast and budget," he said. Nardini also mentioned the binary strategy carried out by the platform with local products and ambitious productions that target an international audience.

"The local public is our first target," the executive clarified and presented a preview of "Gigolo per caso." On the other hand, he referred to the comedy "No Activity", co-produced with Greenland and the series "Citadel Diana" where the challenge of the series is to follow the common thread of the story where each chapter takes the audience to different countries. "It's a very complicated, beautiful challenge that allows us to do innovative storytelling," he explained.

In his turn, Daniele Cesarano, Head of Drama of Mediaset reviewed the last five years in charge of Mediaset's fiction. "When I arrived, I had the idea of creating a fan base for fictional productions to be broadcast in the mainstream, and in recent years we have done so and managed to stabilize both the production volume and the audience," he stated.

Cesarano also anticipated that this year, Mediaset will produce ten long serial fiction.The executive also thought that the editorial identity in a generalist television is very important, as well as the creative identity to clearly identify what type of product each one makes. "Trying editorial innovation in a generalist television is very complicated and the risks must be very measured," he pointed out. "Having a stable volume with so many products allows us to create a base audience that is crucial, Rai has already done it and little by little Mediaset is doing it too," he assured. The executive also referred to the term 'glocal' that is currently on everyone's lips and assured that the titles that seek this strategy did not work well on Canale 5, "perhaps they can work on our digital platform but the revenue is not that great," he stated. Cesarano also brought up the co-production between Mediaset and Amazon and the work with Netflix and described it as "very complicated" and also spoke about attracting a young audience through the Mediaset Play platform. "The most viewed product on Play is 'Terra Madre', a Turkish fiction, and as an Italian product it is 'Viola come il mare', because it is aimed at that audience," he completed.

By Romina Rodríguez from Trieste