“We’re working with Netflix to train professionals capable of overseeing the entire production process”
Industry Report: Series
Alessandra Alessandri • Coordinator, Master in Series Development, Civica Scuola di Cinema Luchino Visconti
Training a key, competitive and strategic professional figure for the global market, a “Development Executive”, is the objective of the Italian Master course organised in Milan with Netflix’s backing
Training a key, competitive and strategic professional figure for the global audiovisual market, a “Development Executive”: this is the aim of the Master in Series Development – The Development and Creative Production of Series organised by Milan’s Civica Scuola di Cinema Luchino Visconti with the support of Netflix.
The funds put forward by the American platform – who made available 5 new seasons of original Italian series in 2020 alone and who intend to double that number by 2022 – will further allow the film school to offer 17 full or partial scholarships. We asked Alessandra Alessandri, the creator and coordinator of the Master course commencing in October, to tell us more about her initiative.
Cineuropa: You’ve described the role at the heart of the Master course as a “hybrid” one.
Alessandra Alessandri: This course was born out of a market need for a certain kind of expertise which isn’t always readily available, neither within independent production houses or within broadcasters and video on demand platforms. As a head-hunter, I’ve received increasingly frequent requests for professionals who are considered to be central - Development Executives, Story Editors, Development Coordinators – and who work on the central phase of development; a phase which leads up to the physical production phase and which focuses on drilling down into the idea, on honing the concept, on helping out in screenwriters’ writers’ rooms. But these are also people who oversee the series through the entire production process, through to filming, post-production, the product launch and its broadcast. They’re professionals, therefore, who should wield a very broad skillset: editorial capabilities, such as the ability to evaluate a concept, or to understand which novel could be transposed effectively into pictures, or to identify a project’s strengths and weaknesses, but also more wide-ranging skills, such as an understanding of the impact the budget will have on the product, legal knowledge of all things IP, comprehension of how international co-productions are organised, how rights are shared…
Why is there no training for such a role in Italy at present?
Up until a few years ago, the duopolistic and, therefore, extremely local series market didn’t favour such a wide variety of skills, and above all, it’s didn’t favour a potentially global market outlook, which has since developed as a result of streaming platforms. This is an opportunity which has been created by the arrival of these platforms. Professionals such as these were often trained on the job, which, in a few cases, resulted in some excellent expertise, but it was an unstructured and informal process. And, in the past, educational institutions have opted to offer courses for roles which are of greater immediate appeal to young people, such as that of screenwriter.
What role does Netflix play in this Master course?
Netflix immediately signed up to this project, which we submitted as the Civica Scuola di Cinema. Netflix took a keen interest in it, not least because they have a Creative Talent Investment & Development team which establishes partnerships with various schools, promotes training projects and organises workshops with the aim of incentivising the birth and growth of new professionals and new talent in all corners of the globe. Netflix also saw this role as central, so it embraced the project and considered it a keystone for increasing levels of professionalism within the Italian market.
How is the Master course structured?
The Master lasts for one year: five months spent in the classroom (400 hours), between October 2021 and April 2022, which will result in a pitch - in other words, the presentation of a project to invited producers and broadcasters - and then, for those students who request it, a six-month internship. Netflix has invested in this Master for a minimum of three years as per an agreement made with the School.
What financial support is Netflix offering?
It comes on two levels. Firstly, in order to open up the course to as broad a candidate base as possible, they will offer 17 scholarships of varying levels of support – some offering full support and others proposing partial support or offering reimbursement of costs. Applications will be considered based around principles of merit and inclusion. The second level of support offered by Netflix comes in the form of lectures, given that around ten of the 60 or so educators teaching on the course will be professionals who work for Netflix on its development, physical production, or legal and marketing teams.
Who will the other teachers be?
They will mostly be Italians of international standing, with a significant number of top-level teachers who work in Paris, Berlin, London, Copenhagen… We wanted to avoid creating a course that was too Italian-centric or too American, whilst trying to reflect the variety of European products. They’re all professionals who work for production companies, broadcasters or for Netflix. Some of them also have considerable experience teaching on international courses of excellent repute, which was a key factor in our choices.
And lastly, there’s the internship at RAI, at Sky and at top Italian firms specialising in scripted original series: Cattleya, Cross Productions, Fabula Pictures, Groenlandia, Indiana Production, Indigo Film, Lux Vide, Lucky Red, The Apartment and Wildside.
The internship is optional because the Master is aimed at two groups: recent graduates but also young professionals, occupying related roles, such as producers or literary editors. The companies offering these internships aren’t necessarily linked to Netflix; on the contrary, they might be indirect competitors, such as Sky and RAI. Netflix gave us free rein, also as regards the choice of teachers and course content.
(Translated from Italian)
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