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Andrea Occhipinti • Distributor

Change is development but it must be steered in the right direction


- Cineuropa caught up with Andrea Occhipinti, founder of independent Italian distribution company Lucky Red, who won the Eurimages European Co-production Award at this year’s European Film Awards

Andrea Occhipinti  • Distributor

Andrea Occhipinti is the founder of Lucky Red, the first independent Italian film distributor, who is credited with bringing writers such as Lars von Trier, the Dardenne brothers, Alejandro Amenabar, Michael Haneke, Ang Lee, and Wong Kar Wai to Italy. Since October 2013, Occhipinti has been the president of the Distributors Section of ANICA (the Italian National Association of Film, Audiovisual and Multimedia Industries). In November, he was awarded the Eurimages European Co-production Award, which he was presented with in Berlin on 12 December at the European Film Awards ceremony.

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Cineuropa: The media industry is currently undergoing historic change. The establishment of new media and the digitalisation and convergence of the markets presents a challenge to film and television, and is changing products at an economic and narrative level.
Andrea Occhipinti: Modes of narration are changing and multiplying; more and more web series are being produced, which have much shorter formats than traditional products. For some years now television series have been the star attraction for younger audiences, which is reflected in their consumption. They allow writers to develop a story and the characters over a series and across several seasons. Young people see films and a lot of series, and the main way they do so is via the Internet, but one doesn’t exclude the other as many viewers have more than one way of watching. It’s all very irregular and there are a range of production options depending on production deadlines, quality and budget. There are sophisticated and expensive products and those made at home. This is fascinating because nowadays there are a lot more production options available, but it is also confusing, because everything is still evolving. Change must be steered in the right direction and regulated. We need to strike a balance between all these different modes. There’s a timeline issue, it’s hard for us operators to make the most of these new forms to offer the best ways of enjoying them and make the most of their success.

Is this change and fragmentation of the offering causing the industry to grow?
The use of VOD hasn’t yet had much of an impact, generally-speaking. It’s still quite marginal, something which is growing. We’ll have to wait and see if there’ll be a Netflix effect, if VOD will be embraced, we’ll have to wait and see if a new operator manages to come in and shake up the market, which has somewhat ground to a halt. Also in terms of embracing the copyright to products that perhaps isn’t always obvious. We also have to come to terms with the insanity that is piracy, a parallel, transversal mode without rules or opportunities, which influences and will continue to influence the habits of the users of tomorrow. On the one side there’s the illegal offering, which is sometimes made available before a film has even been released in theatres, and on the other, there have already been cases of smaller films that have been released for short periods of time in theatres and gone on to then be watched through other channels. This is already happening in other countries and is in the early stages of happening in Italy too, where in certain cases opportunities have already been missed. For example, The Great Beauty [+see also:
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missed out on pay TV and appeared for free approximately eight months after its release, something which normally happens some 24 months after a film’s release.

The digitalisation of theatres allows them to offer alternative content, such as concerts and arthouse documentaries.
Special content has a growing audience. Year after year the number of events being held at cinemas increases. Not all of them are high-quality and not all are promoted sufficiently, but they are having an increasing impact on box office figures. Above all, the advantage of such events is that they can be held at times when takings are traditionally lower, for example early on in the week, and pull in people that wouldn’t usually go to the cinema but would perhaps be interested in the opera or going to a museum, or in Japanese animation or a rock concert. Such events have become an important part of programming, and offer added value both for distributors and theatres.

European films struggle to find distribution outside the countries they are made in. What is the Italian film industry doing to encourage co-productions and transnational distribution?
Italian production, which holds a good share of the market but is unfortunately on the decline, is made up of arthouse films and comedies. We’ve been trying, over the last year in particular, to internationalise our films. We’re also being encouraged to do so by the Ministry for Culture, the Ministry for Economic Development and local bodies. We’ve launched a number of initiatives, for example Lazio Cinema International, a fund which puts €10 million in EU funds at the disposal of companies looking to make international co-productions. The MIA, the market held during the Rome Film Fest, was set up to encourage collaboration between Italian and foreign production companies. A fund has been set up, as it has in France and Germany, to boost the distribution of Italian films that are sold abroad. All in all, we’re working on helping industry professionals to forge links, which are of essential importance these days, with new partners, especially European ones, to support films with the right characteristics in their distribution abroad.

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(Translated from Italian)

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