The Biennale College – Cinema panel took place at the Lido at 3 p.m. on Monday September 2nd, 2013. The topic under discussion during the panel was: “Biennale College Cinema – The International Horizon”. Peter Cowie, moderator of the panel, began by stressing the unique nature of the Biennale College – Cinema programme – funding the entire budget of 3 feature films, and tracking them throughout the period of development and production, and screening them officially at the Mostra.
The directors had to work under severe constraints of time and budget, and yet all succeeded in turning in feature films well worth screening at a festival like Venice, and – and this is the big question – can they now enjoy a future on the international stage? What is the challenge of securing distribution and exhibition for such movies beyond a coterie of film festivals – and in particular, what is the likely future of these films in the all-important North American arena.
Savina Neirotti, responsible for managing the project, explained that she and Alberto Barbera and their team selected the finalists on the basis of a treatment, a video presentation, and budget. During the meetings in Venice with the 15 finalists, they could see which teams were likely to carry their production through to fruition. However, she stressed that the Biennale College Cinema will continue to monitor the progress of the 12 other finalists and their projects.
Aditya Assarat, producer of Mary is Happy, Mary is Happy, said that he and his director adhered strictly to the rules imposed by Biennale College Cinema. The original idea for their film was to make a film consisting of 1,000 five second clips, because we live in the age of YouTube and after even one minute most viewers grow impatient and want to switch to something else. As it was, the 410 Tweets that they decided to film took 2hrs 5mins of running time, but they decided not to reduce it further.
Tim Sutton, director of Memphis, said that he had always wanted to make a film about music and madness. He felt very comfortable with the Biennale College Cinema as a kind of “mother ship”, and felt also comfortable in making an “art film” for an organization such as the Biennale. He appreciated the gatherings in Venice in January and February because it meant that for almost 2 weeks he could develop his project uninterruptedly, whereas usually you cannot devote your full time to a small budget movie.
Alessio Fava told us that Yuri Esposito was originally conceived for the ‘scope format, because he and his director of photography wanted to show elements beyond the close-ups which form the core of the film. He used a RED camera.
Stephanie Zacharek, principal film writer at The Village Voice in New York, explained that her newspaper is part of a chain of eleven alternative newspapers across the U.S., and that the film section of these papers consistently make money. This permits her to write about films like those produced under the auspices of the Biennale Film College. She noted that she was very impressed by the professional polish of all three movies, and by their deliberate, thoughtful pace.
Richard Corliss, of Time Magazine, said that some 80% of his writing appeared on Time.com, a sign of the migration from print newspapers to the internet. He really liked Yuri Esposito and felt that it had a real chance of finding a market in North America, as it was among the five best films he had seen thus far at the Mostra in 2013.
Mick LaSalle, chief film critic for Hearst Newspapers, said that of course a film had to be released for him to be able to review it, although he could mention such films informally in his blog at the San Francisco Chronicle. His hope was that the 3 movies of the College Cinema could find an outlet in the big cities. He also noted that these films had nothing in common except the circumstances of their birth. He felt that over the coming years the Biennale College Cinema could become a kind of Sundance in Venice.
Questions from the audience were then answered. Savina Neirotti said that the College would not favour experiment for the sake of experiment. It was the idea that counted, and all applications were judged case by case, rather than gauging the previous work of a director, or being impressed by the fact that a director could count on an experienced producer. Max Chicco, the producer of Yuri Esposito, explained that the film had not found a distributor in Italy, and so he appealed to the international critics to write about it.