PRODUCERS AND PRODUCTION PRACTICES IN THE HISTORY OF ITALIAN CINEMA 1949-75

Lead Research Organisation: University of Warwick
Department Name: Film & Television Studies

Abstract

Between 1949 and 1975 Italian cinema became one of the world's major suppliers of films. It was second only to Hollywood in the share it took of most European and several extra-European markets. With its numerous prizes at major festivals, it commanded artistic credibility. It also furnished numerous genre films. The reasons for its success are normally given as follows: the creative genius of a number of directors, the inter-relationship established between Italian cinema and American cinema in the postwar years, the pattern of European co-productions, the existence of quality middle-level productions, as well as low-budget genre ones, and the formation of a distinctive star system. However, the amount of detailed work on the industry is small and not systematic. The role of producers is rarely mentioned in histories of Italian film, which focus on directors, currents and tendencies, film texts and, more rarely, actors.

This project will explore the history of Italian cinema from the point of view of production. It will examine the role played by producers in the film industry, study their function as mediators and facilitators in a complex situation of international collaborations, evaluate their relations with governments, their business strategies, their visions of cinema and the turning of these into practices, as well as their collaboration with directors, writers and actors.

The intention is to provide a completely new interpretation of postwar Italian cinema by: exploring the real premises, parameters and conditions of creativity, challenging established distinctions between cinema as art and as industry, exploring individual profiles and modes of conduct, inquiring into the links between different levels of production, exploring the distribution and exhibition of cinema in a number of markets, and re-thinking the 'Italian-ness' of 'Italian' cinema. In many cases, producers provided greater continuity over time than directors or other professionals. They were crucial in establishing infrastructures and inter-personal patterns of collaboration, as well as facilitating multi-national collaborations and distribution. Due to their role, the Italian industry became a laboratory of innovative forms and flexible patterns of production that drew in investors, directors, technical personnel and actors from many countries. It set a benchmark for emergence of other national industries and determined patterns of multinational and supranational film production.

This project is timely now for six main reasons. First, the personal papers of a number of producers, industry organisms and others have in recent years been deposited in public archives, where they have not yet in most cases been catalogued or studied. Second, there is the possibility, within the framework of the project, of securing the transfer of further papers into the public realm and of making these available for consultation. Third, the surviving producers of the period in question - which may be considered the golden age of Italian cinema - are now elderly and thus there is a limited time-frame in which their oral testimonies can be collected. Fourth, the climate of scholarship is such that questions concerning the role of industry and finance can be considered in ways that were difficult in a period when they were regarded ideologically (i.e. considered as capitalist deformations detrimental to the development of cinematic art); there is now a movement of interest around issues of production and co-production which is conducive to new research. Fifth, it is possible to assemble a group of scholars with the necessary skills to be able to conduct the research. Sixth, there is an opportunity for institutional collaboration between Italy and the UK which can bring about great advances in scholarship, in facilitating the greater availability of resources for future scholars, and in ensuring public engagement with the materials and results of the project.

Planned Impact

The research will benefit the following groups and organisations:

1. The community of experts and professionals (not limited to academics) concerned with the history of cinema and especially its industrial aspects. The project will produce findings that will allow for a significant reconceptualisation of international cinema and the unique place within it of the Italian film industry. Additionally, the project will produce research resources that will enable present and future researchers to find their way through the labyrinth of Italian archives. The partial digitisation of the Cristaldi archive will create opportunities for new lines of investigation for researchers interested in production and distribution, genres, stars and other aspects of the film business. The project blogs and website will create a movement of interest around the project and its progress, facilitating the wider impact of the completed work.

2. Cultural institutions and festivals. The project partner, the Cineteca di Bologna, is a highly-respected institution which functions as a library, archive, publisher, events and festival organiser, and exhibition space. The partnership will allow the project to benefit from several of the Cineteca's resources including its expert staff, its spaces, its international festival 'Il cinema ritrovato', and its publishing branch. During the 'Il cinema ritrovato' festival 2018 an exhibition will be held on Italian film production, for which a catalogue will be produced, a programme of films will be shown with accompanying talks by members of the project team. The Cineteca for its part will draw benefit from the international expertise the project will bring and the cataloguing and digitisation of part of its collections which otherwise would not be possible. The project will also bring new attention to the relatively little-known resources of the Cineteca Lucana.

3. Teachers and GCSE/A level students of film and media. By connecting with the Media Education Association and other relevant bodies, the materials of the project will be made accessible to teachers and their students via dedicated resources, the project website, documentary, organised events, talks and other activities. The aim will be to assist teaching and learning by highlighting the industrial aspects of cinema in an international context, using case studies drawn from the project to show how films can be studied in new ways, and how primary materials can be used to complement and inform aesthetic approaches.

4. The film industry. By making use of the historical archive of the Italian film industry's trade association ANICA and other resources, it will be able to produce the first map of the production formulae which contributed to the international success of Italian cinema in the postwar decades. The international dimension of Italian film production has weakened in recent years and ANICA has welcomed the project as an important contribution to its efforts to identify ways forward.

5. The wider public. The project will seek to be as outward-facing as possible and to engage with the public in the UK and in Italy. Several of the activities are specifically designed for this purpose: the exhibition, the documentary film, public talks and presentations. In both countries there is a substantial film-literate public with the knowledge and interest to engage with the themes of the project and to appreciate its purposes. However, the aim will also be to provide those who do not have a high degree of knowledge to access the project findings. Thus the exhibition will feature not only original documents and explanations but also film posters, photographs, artefacts and the project documentary (including interviews, clips and explanations). Public events will be staged in the UK at a number of venues including the Warwick University Arts Centre, Leicester Phoenix Arts, and the Italian Cultural Institutes of London and Edinburgh.

Publications

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Description The project has thrown into relief the role of the film producer in the postwar Italian film industry and, by means of the many coproductions, also in international cinema. It has highlighted the ways in which producers worked, how they secured government subsidies and organised the financing of films, how they intervened in the making of them and how they marketed them. Cataloguing and digitisation of the archive of Franco Cristaldi, whose Vides company operated between the 1950s and 1990s, has provided a detailed case study and brought to light many documents (now available for online consultation) which allow further research on single films, issues and topics. Coproductions (Cristaldi undertook the first with the USSR) have been revealed to be complex operations involving diplomacy, a sense of the global market and the internationalisation of the star system. One of the most significant findings has been the extent to which the business sector of film production was structurally and systematically linked to other sectors, including real estate, property development, retail and advertising.
Exploitation Route Model/prototype for future exhibitions of producers;
Encouragement to families of producers to place archives in public domain;
Resource for curators, festival programmers and sector professionals;
Enhancement of teaching by means of use of a new resource on producers.
Sectors Creative Economy,Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections

URL https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/film/research/current/italian_producers_project/
 
Description Please see entry on project exhibition, 'Dream Makers: Italian Cinema and Its Great Producers'. The exhibition, held in Bologna, was seen by a minimum of 11,000 people between June and September 2018. Questionnaires conducted at the exhibition indicated that a significant contribution was made to the understanding of the role of the producer in film production and specifically to the making of the six class films whose production history was explored. Many professionals offered testimony as to the value of the exhibition in highlighting issues about which public knowledge was low and about which even the experts and others attending the international film festival 'Il Cinema Ritrovato' in Bologna was incomplete.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Culture, Heritage, Museums and Collections
Impact Types Cultural

 
Title Cristaldi archive 
Description The database presents the results of the digitisation of the archive of Franco Cristaldi (1924-92), one of the most important Italian film producers of the postwar period. Cristaldi was active between the 1940s and the 1990s and was mainly associated with auteur films. Two of his films won Oscars, Fellini's 'Amarcord' in 1975 and Tornatore's 'Cinema Paradiso' in 1989. he was married to Claudia Cardinale, who was the main star of his Vides company. The database features original documents on film production and co-production, film industry business practices, star manufacture, film promotion and censorship. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact The database makes accessible to researchers a unique new sources that allows for the close study of the production sector of the Italian film industry. It has been consulted by filmmakers, cultural operatives and academic researchers. 
URL https://progettocristaldi.cinetecadibologna.it/
 
Description Cineteca di Bologna 
Organisation Cineteca di Bologna
Country Italy 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution The Cineteca di Bologna is a project partner. It holds the Cristaldi archive, which is being catalogued an digitised as part of the project. It will also host the project exhibition in 2018. So far RA1 Barbara Corsi has provided practical guidance to the cataloguing process which is being conducted by an archivist. In March 2017, team members also presnted preliminary proposals to the Cineteca for the exhibition.
Collaborator Contribution The Cineteca has provided space and support for the cataloguing process. It engaged the archivist and conducted the preparation of the material on which the archivist is working. It has regularly informed the PI of issues and questions requiring decisions. Its director and staff have actively contributed to the exhibition planning process.
Impact The cataloguing process is on-going. Digitisation of 20% of the archive will follow.
Start Year 2016
 
Description Women and the Italian Film Industry 
Form Of Engagement Activity A formal working group, expert panel or dialogue
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact The event was an open workshop that was held to bring together researchers and practitioners to discuss the state of historical research on women in the Italian film industry. It was aimed at postgraduate students, junior researchers and interested academics. The workshop was occasioned in part by the emergence, while the project was in course, of the #MeToo movement and the issues it highlighted about gender, sexism and sexual harassment in the film industry. A wide range of perspectives were presented, including insights into women producers, female-led production companies, screenwriters, women's contributions to a series of 'below-the line' sectors, and their roles in the production sector, as well as the exhibition sector. The event led to the creation of an informal network and a series of potential new lines of research for the future. The 43 people who attended confirmed afterwards that the event had broadened their knowledge of the place of women in the Italian film industry and opened new avenues of research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2019
URL https://warwick.ac.uk/fac/arts/film/research/current/italian_producers_project/events/study_day_on/
 
Description project exhibition 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Public/other audiences
Results and Impact The project exhibition 'Dream Makers: Italian Cinema and Its Great Producers' was held in the covered atrium of the public library in Bologna between June and September 2018. It was inaugurated in the course of the 'Cinema Ritrovato' film festival by veteran producer Fulvio Lucisano. The exhibition told the story of 12 of the best-known producers in postwar Italian cinema. It also explored the production histories of 6 well-known films using archival documents, press extracts, photographs and posters. A catalogue was produced to accompany the exhibition. An estimated minimum of 11,000 people saw the exhibition. The purpose of the exhibition was to explore the role of producers in the film industry and to investigate their contribution to the making of some of the classic films of the postwar era. Questionnaires conducted among visitors showed that understanding of the role of producers was significantly enhanced by the exhibition.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018