Cartoons on the Bay 2023: An organic collaboration between Italy and Germany

In the second day of the event, executives from Italian and Germany public broadcasters shared their experiences creating content together, and the financial funds in both countries were discussed.

2 JUN 2023

Federica Pazzano (moderator), Patricia Vasapollo, Sebastian Debertin, Nicole Keeb and Arne Lohmann

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The second day at Cartoons On The Bay 2023 started very early with a virtual breakfast where Ina Sommer, Head of Animation Germany, German Film, Dirk Beinhold, CEO Akkord Film and Vice-Chairman Animation in Europe, Marlene Wagener, Head of Animation Production Days, and Cristian Jezdic, Vice President, Cartoon Italia, discussed the audiovisual funding and tax Incentives in Germany and Italy.

Ina Sommer explained that German Films is the national information and advisory Center for the promotion of German films worldwide. "We support German talent, and put them into the international market, and we also organize events," she expressed. Dirk Beinhold talked about the funding systems in Germany which are regional and focused on feature films and series "The main points to get them are: the economic spent in the region and if they people will like the project and if the production company is known in the area, or based in the area" he explained. Beinhold also commented that this landscape will change soon as the German Government announced. "This will be the first major change and will include automatic subsidies and budgets for TV and platforms productions".

Nowadays, Germany offers a wide range of opportunities through federal and regional film funding programmes which are also available for international co-productions. The total of annual production funding is more than 300 million €. They are made available through federal (approx €200m) and regional (approx €100m) film funds and can be combined. German funding is accessible with a German-based co-producer or production service provider. There is a minimum German financial contribution depending on the regulations of the film fund. The Office of the Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media (BKM) has several programmes providing funding opportunities for international co-productions – especially now that the DFFF II budget has been boosted to €75 million. The BKM’s German Federal Film Fund (DFFF) and Germany Motion Picture Fund (GMPF) provide up to 25% of production costs spent in Germany, up to €25 million in funding per film production.

Continuing with Germany, Marlene Wagener provided details about Germany Animation Production Days, which is a coproduction and financing market for the animation industry that aims to connect European producers. "It's wonderful to have this connection between Germany and Italy, there is a great potential between both countries," she noted.

On the Italian side, Cristian Jezdic commented that Italian funds are national and offer a tax credit of 541 million euros, selective funds for 46,7 million euros, automatic fund for 40 million euros, enhancement of skills in the industry for 22,4 million, and film promotion for 96 million. The executive clarified that in Italy also exist regional funding and "the regions are very interested to enter into the funding systems", he mentioned. Lastly, Jezdic introduced Cartoon italia, a National Association of animation producers with 40 members, marking the growth of the animation sector in Italy. "The Association was founded in the early ’90s to protect, support and promote industrial and artistic interests of the animation on the Italian national territory and abroad. CartoonItalia join to the National Cinematographic and Audiovisual Industries ANICA."

To highlight Germany as guest country, Nicole Keeb, Head of International Coproductions, Development and Acquisitions, ZDF, Patricia Vasapollo, Head of Family & Fiction, hr/ ARD, Arne Lohmann, Vice President Junior, ZDF Studios, Sebastian Debertin, Head of International Content, Acquisitions & Co-productions, KiKA – The Children’s Channel of ARD & ZDF, have given an overview of the German animation and children’s entertainment industry. Sebastian Debertin said KIKA's mission is to inform, educate, advice and entertainments, "KIKA is close to the lived experiences of 3 to 13-year-olds, and provides space for experimentation, exploration, orientation, participation and presentation." KIKA is a joint venture of ADR and ZDF, and both offer a full range of programmes for all audience on their main channels, and jointly operated special channels like arte, 3sat, Phoenix, KIKA and plus a digital bouquet each. "We are all producing locally and coproducing internationally," he added. Regarding the current coproduction content that KIKA is involved, Debertin mentioned"Odo", a series created alongside SixteenSouth and Letko, as well as; "Dog Loves Books", a coproduction with the BBC, "Goat Girl" developed with Warner Media, Miam, and Daily Madness productions, "The Smurfs" along IMPS, Peyo productions, TF1, Dardaud Paris and RTBF and "Mumfie", along with Zodiak Kids, Animoka Studios, Rai, France TV.

As a collaboration example between Italy and Germany, Arne Lohmann showed "Mofy", a coproduction between ZDF and Rai Fiction, produce in Florence by Misseri Studio/Associati Audiovisivi. "Mofy is a good example of the kind of preschool shows that we are looking for," he said. "We get involved in a variety of shows and we are very open to coproductions," he added. "We always look for high profile projects," commented Nicole Keeb. "We look for original IP's with strong characters and 'Mofy' is a right example," she said. From ARD, Patricia Vasapollo, reminded that they did a lot of shows with Italian partners in the last years, as example two seasons of "Geronimo Stilton"; two seasons of "Leo Da Vinci", alongside with Gruppo Alcuni and the live action project "Home Sweet Rome". "We are looking for family entertainment IP's," she affirmed. "European public broadcasters have to work more together in order to compete with the commercial TV and digital platforms, she indicated.

Patricia Vasapollo's concept was extended in the panel where European public broadcasters shared their strategies to engage kids and Teens. Luca Milano, Director at Rai Kids, pointed out that the present it's a good moment to be working in kids content in a public channel. "We have three purposes, one is to offer to the kids the best content from Italy and from the word. The second purpose is the internal production in our studios and with international partners, the last one is innovation, try to do more innovative content for kids." Milano also affirmed that currently the real competition for public broadcasters come not for the platforms, "it comes from YouTube, TikTok and that platforms ¡don't invest in content," he stated.

Alessia Di Giacomo, Platforms and Channels Director, RTVE Corporación said that during the pandemic children changed their consumer habits and started to watch shows on YouTube on their tablets or cellphones and they left the television as a medium to watch content. "We faced this situation and changed the strategy of our platform Clan. We create a multiplatform strategy, we launched our website, our app and interactive games, and we stated to improve our presence on YouTube." "The role of the public TV is produce the content and offer a variety of content but also be sure that everyone can access to them," she added. Sebastian Debertin, Head of International Content, Acquisitions & Co-productions at KiKA showed all the animated and live action shows that KIKA is broadcasting currently and mentioned that in Germany kids still are watching linear television. "There are two reasons for that, Entertainment is very important for us, so our shows present the knowledge in an entertainment way, and the second point is that we are very local."

The attention came back to Italy when the writer Lucia Borgonzoni, Undersecretary of State to the Ministry of Culture and Roberto Genovesi, artistic Director of COTB detailed the tax credit and new regulations for animation producers that want to work in Italy. “Animation is very important within the audiovisual sector and we must do more for it. We will seek to help all those who work in the industry and we want the entire chain to be Italian, because we have a lot of Italian talent and it is very prominent throughout the world,” she pointed out. "Our proposal is to give the right space to animation and it is a fair proposal if it is linked to other instruments that we can give from the Ministry, such as funds for animation and aid to companies that work in the sector with loans at an interest rate zero,” she commented.

COTB also offered a raft of focus panels. One of them was "Focus: Innovation", with the participation of Joan Da Silva, Unreal Engine Educator Advisor at Epic Games, Maurizio Forestieri, President at Graphilm Entertainment, Mihoko Soulié, Line Producer at Cyber Group Studios who debated the lines between games and animation. Joan Da Silva commented that he moved from traditional animation to digital animation, considered that the revolutionary is the process. “It’s like directing live action movie, you have the total control of the process and you can fix everything,” he noted.

At the panel "Focus: Metaverse", Federico Rampolla, Startup Mentor, Author and Investor, Marina Bellini, Digital Art Director, machinima videomaker, Dario Buratti, Metaverse Architect and Designer explained how to engage kids in a world that needs to be regulated. Federico Rampolla pointed out that if a company wants to enter the metaverse, it must first define which metaverse to enter, and then he advised doing it together with the kids. "Creating metaverse experiences works if you really take the right approach."

Marina Bellini asserted that all metaverses are accessible from cell phones or any screen, no viewer needed. "The age limit to enter social networks and the metaverse is 14 years, but the platforms do not control this and you need to have parental permission," she said. "The main metaverse for kids is Roblox, and they also become content developers within the play and in Italy there are many courses that teach this, but Roblox does not create a community, no dialogue, the children do not exchange with each other and that is a point of attention that a producer must take into account". For her part, Federica Pazzano, moderator of the panel, did not agree with this idea and, she commented that her daughter, while playing Roblox, she met her friends on Facetime to talk about what they were doing in the game. Bellini also pointed out that "whoever has a brand for kids, I advise you to go to Roblox to extend the brand in the metaverse, but not only exist Roblox, there are also many others like Fortnite."

Regarding the rules that are not very clear in the metaverse, Bellini pointed out that the rules are created within each metaverse and they are asked to be respected, but always taking into account a point of reference. “New creative models are being created within the metaverse and the four main pillars of the metaverse - social, economic, immersive and artificial intelligence - have already been developed and will continue to evolve”, commented Dario Buratti.

By Romina Rodríguez from Pescara