Categories
Branding Diversity Event Film Festival Italy SVOD

Italy is It

Italy has always been a country with a strong design tradition. In 1909, the poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti launched the Futurist movement, as this piece details. Futurism rejected the past and set out to celebrate a number of abstract concepts like speed, machinery, violence, youth and industry, as well as even more abstract ones like kinetic energy, duration and simultaneity. That art movement has influenced many designers since, and it seems that now the country of Italy itself is benefitting from the focus on branding and design.

Last month I went to the MIA market in Rome. That stands for Mercato Internazionale Audiovisivi, combining the Rome Film, Drama Series and Documentary markets, alongside the Rome Film Festival. MIA is a great name and very memorable – (even more so if you’re an ABBA fan). The brand gives a modern and coherent sense to a wide range of film and TV content. Looking at the MIA ‘eye’ image at the top of this page, I can see the heritage of the graphic design in work like this Futurist magazine cover from 1929

MIA is one of many recent initiatives promoting Italian media and culture abroad. The first London Eataly superstore opened during the pandemic by Liverpool St Station, and is hoping that the resumption of the economy and life in the city will also bring lots of people through the doors. There are Eatalys in several other cities around the world and all have the same model of a high class market, and several bars and restaurants

Eataly, Tokyo

I cringe a bit when I hear the name – the word Italy spoken in an Italian accent. But there’s no doubt it’s memorable.

My flight to Rome for MIA was on the last evening of the national airline, Alitalia, which shut down the next day, burdened by debt and years of mismanagement. The pandemic finished it off

With Alitalia no more, the government has started a new airline, taking over half the aircraft and staff from Alitalia – ITA.

The ‘tricolore’ of Alitalia/the Italian flag has been retained in the logo, with the blue that is associated with Italy through its sports teams (the national football team is called gli Azzurri, The Blues)added for the livery . People with a lot more knowledge of branding than me will be able to judge whether or not ITA is a memorable brand in the highly competitive travel business.

Hot on the heels of that launch came the announcement last week of a new CEO for ItsArt , an SVOD (subscription video-on-demand) service launched last year with performances, documentaries, films to ‘discover the beauty of the Italian cultural and artistic patrimony: theatre, music, cinema, dance and art in all its forms’.

(note the Twitter-referencing dot before the logo)

The new venture is 51% owned by the Italian state’s investment bank, and 49% by the SVOD service Chili. Guido Casali, who I first met when he was at Sky Arte, and then running the (somewhat similar) SVOD Nexo +, is the new CEO of ItsArt

Looks like a very comprehensive offering, which is also open to content from producers from outside Italy – ‘other perspectives are always interesting’, says Guido.

I remember an earlier initiative by RAI’s distribution arm to create ‘Italiana‘, a magazine series on everything Italian – defined as food, lifestyle, landscape and art. ‘Think Global, Live Italian’ was the tagline. The site has disappeared, and I’m not sure how many episodes of the series were ever produced.

Looking at what ItsArt shows and what that says about Italian culture is for another blog. But I do think Eataly/ITsArt/ITA have a lot in common – a consistent set of brands, all supported by the state. Rather like Korea tagging all of its content with a K – K-Pop, K-Drama, K-Film, IT has become the tag for Italy in the online age.

I wish ITsArt well in drawing in subscribers from beyond Italy of course, but it did get me thinking – is a national brand what complex and often transnational industries need? Food, art and opera can be identified as coming from the country, but what about media and ideas, which are often stronger from having outside influences? I can see that it’s something to draw visitors (and I imagine investment) to the country, but the creative spirit of a country is generally a jumble of experiences, cultures, and ever changing, and a single country brand may not properly express it.

Recently, the UK govt mulled the idea of putting an obligation on the BBC and all UK public service broadcasters to produce ‘distinctively British content‘. John Whittingdale, at the recent RTS conference noted that

“the sort of things we’ve all grown up with: Only Fools and Horses, Dad’s Army, Carry On, more recently, The Great British Bake Off and Line of Duty, and of course Coronation Street and Eastenders… reflect Britain and British values”.

Nobody I know particularly understands what that means and the examples given by the culture minister John Whittingdale were all seen as ‘old fashioned white British’. He was replaced as culture minister the next morning, along with his boss Oliver Dowden whose speech he read because he’d been replaced in the afternoon…but the policy is still alive.

As was pointed out, by this article by Marcus Ryder amongst others, the definition of Britishness depends on who’s making it. The minister didn’t mention any of the non-white shows that are big hits, and wondered if these would also be considered Distinctively British.

I’m sure that ItsArt will grow and in time represent the diversity of Italian art and culture, and it’ll be interesting to see how broad that definition is. Knowing Guido, he’ll programme it with a very eclectic sense of what culture and entertainment means, and I’m looking forward to the picture of Italy that emerges.

If you’ve got views on the ideas in this blog, or suggestions for other subjects, feel free to share them in the comments here, or on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin – grazie!

Categories
Diversity ideas SBS Television

Diversity is not an option, it’s the mainstream


Last week I went to a diversity debate in Malmo called Eye to Eye – Reflecting Childrens Reality. On the panel was a commissioner from the Swedish Film Institute, the head of the Kids Film Fest BUFF, and an animation producer from Norway, to discuss diversity in films for children and young people. Moderated by Cecilie Stranger-Thorsen, who invited me along to give my views.

DSC_5340
Cecilie Stranger-Thorsen and Baker Karim of the SFI

DSC_5343
Frank Mosvold and Baker Karim

Lots of good intentions were expressed on the panel, but the discussion was frustrating. There doesn’t seem to be much appetite for radical change. The impression I got was that the director’s ‘artistic vision’ took priority over questions about on-screen representation – or who was making the films in the first place.  It felt rather out of touch with a rapidly changing world.
I told the panel about the past year in British TV and film, in which all the major players have presented plans and funded initiatives to change the industry. I know Brits like their action plans, but they do point the way and I hope other countries can pick up some of the good ideas. Actor Lenny Henry is credited with getting the ball rolling with a speech he gave at BAFTA a year ago.
Lenny Henry
It’ll be interesting to see what happens across Scandinavia. The Danish Film Institute have recently announced a commitment to diversity, and launched it with a study and workshops on casting. I really hope that there is the leadership from the top that this plan needs. The committee including Marie Olesen alongside Mette-Ann Schepelern from the Danish Director’s Association are working on charter for ethnic and cultural diversity in Danish film and I’m looking forward to how much of a push this gets.
It was Pat Younge who told me about the DFI initiative. From his work running BBC Productions, he knows what you need to do to change attitudes and practises. He says diversity is how modern, mainstream audiences view the world, and it’s good to see he’s just started a new indie called Sugar Films, with Lucy Pilkington and Narinder Minhas.  To create content for audiences like these passengers coming off a Virgin train – I really like this ad.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1Nak8cpFJsY

But coming up with the programmes to get to these modern mainstream audiences needs work.There’s been a new push in the US with plenty of new shows in sitcom and drama. But I’ve recently been looking for multicultural formats, and in truth have been struggling to find specific examples in factual and entertainment – it’s all in who is put in the shows. I’ve just been watching First Dates on Channel 4 which is completely diverse and all the better for it.
I’m interested in how Desi Rascals worked on Sky recently – it’s been commissioned for a second series so that’s a good sign. 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7NMhJcW4GmM

The SBS charter talks about ‘celebrating and reflecting Australia’s diverse communities’ and we’re open to ideas. Wonder if I’ll find anything at MIP TV in April? Anybody spotted anything so far?