The following article of our blog is intended to be a report associated with personal considerations, following the first meeting of “Il cartello degli indipendenti“.

On March 18 in the former council hall of Via della Marranella, the first meeting of Il cartello degli indipendenti was held. An experiment promoted by Baburka Production in order to create an operative network among active relatives of the cinema industry.
More than 70 participants took part in the meeting and 25 companies, cooperatives, informal groups and individuals presented themselves to the potential working group.

Cristina Festa gave us a brief overview of the current situation of the productions that operate micro and low budget as a starting point for the debate that was held following the roundup of presentations. This analysis, after the meeting has been implemented and is the basis of the following reflection.

Let’s start with the definition of our area of action: independent cinema. In the common imaginary we usually mean cinema made by productions that operate with a low budget, mainly found by private individuals, often produced without public funds, but it is necessary for the purposes of a complete picture also to consider all the self-productions supported by the filmmakers themselves and/or by some sponsors, often in a completely informal way.  This kind of cinema is to be considered operative on several levels, often influenced by the different type of budget to which the production realities have access. At the same time, each production moves between these different levels depending on the projects in progress.

Moreover, creating a company involves very high costs for those who work with micro and low budgets, starting from the existence of the company itself and this also leads us to question the real need about the organizations’ duplication.

In fact, we could consider a company that can promote other people’s projects with specific conditions of involvement of the creators themselves, making them move from the role of mere creators by educating them to a productive consciousness that will turn them also into operational producers.
A path that, furthermore, most of those who work in our field have already undertaken, namely that of becoming the producer of their own projects out of necessity, but which must be strengthened and refined in order to increase the chances of projects to be launched and to learn to analyse upstream their end-user potential and therefore the real chances that can be offered to ourselves and to investors.

Access to public funding is another hot topic, although this is one of the main sources of support for the Italian film industry. Many companies operating in the micro and low budget sector have upstream a barrier of access: social capital and funding. Over the years, however, some companies have managed to meet the requirements to access state funding, but they have also encountered another series of issues related to accessing bank loans and the timing of the disbursement of funds. A dog chasing its own tail- considering that our productions operate with very low budgets.

These challenges therefore lead to the necessity to carefully question the way to pursue, often having to set aside a priority, the option to benefit from public funding for the sustainability of the entire project.

The structure of the teams is also a cause for reflection: the majority of the participants were directors, scriptwriters and directors of photography, very few had a third element which did not coincide with their own people, able to deal with production, fundraising and management. This need is one of the points that the cartel would like to meet collectively. 

It is important to keep in mind that the strength that a creator can put in the submission of a project is one of the keys to success, but only if associated with a whole series of technical and productive skills, skills that will allow in the future to understand and supervise the choice of a possible external element to take charge of their projects.

 Following a brief overview of the common weaknesses and shortcomings observed:

BANDS AND ACCESS TO CREDIT

– Formal requirements (legal or capital)

– Advanced skills for compiling and applying projects

– Limited economic resources with consequent limitation of access to credit despite winning calls for financing.

BUROCRATIC/AMINISTRATIVE FIGURES

– Production/organisation

 – Training in managing new fundraising tools (e.g. Crowdfunding)

– Advanced administrative/bureaucratic training

– Training in promoting and selling finished products

MARKETING, ADVERTISING, SALES

– Internal staff with graphics skills 

– Web management, marketing, visual identity and sales skills

– Staff dedicated to the commercial field

– Distribution system for finished works (festivals, cinemas, web)

After this brief summary of points to implement, we must list our strengths:

– An average of under 40 years old professionals 

– Cost-optimisation capabilities

– Diversification of skills 

– Diversification of the offered services

– Expertise in new technologies and trends

– Greater freedom of speech in the editing of projects

– Forward-thinking vision

– Operational energy for the construction of a sustainable independent cinema system

So we get to sketch out the first potential points that the cartel would allow to emerge in our realities:

NETWORKING

– Shared strengthening of skills in areas in which other members of the network have already proven experience (e.g. administration, advertising and management)

– Connection with potential new business partners and technical/artistic partners

EXCHANGE

– Skills exchange (exchange of skills through seminars)

– Services (at reduced prices or through potential partnerships)

– Equipment (potential discounted rental and the introduction of collective material packages)

SALE OF SERVICES AND PRODUCTS

 – Comprehensiveness of the offer by creating partnerships on departments that you do not have internally

– Creation of an independent multi-level distribution network (festival, cinema, web)

– Broadening of the collective promotional range

In conclusion, an active network is essential to respond together and find shared solutions, to make our independent productions stronger and generate a sustainable model of artistic, professional and economic growth for those who do our job, pushing our customers and the State to understand that work in the artistic and cultural field has a market and it is necessary for this to feed it and educate our audience starting from the bottom. 

Aware of the lack of interest that the country in which we operate has for our problems and for what we produce, it must be seriously considered the importance of creating strong connections with private individuals and foreign realities of our kind, to learn from them and to be open to the foreign market, conceiving it as a potential point of arrival of our productions, and then return home, stronger. It is also essential to work on the aggregation, loyalty and growth of an audience that is aware of art and culture, involving them through the collective promotional potential that we can obtain by connecting the communicative forces of all our realities.

The first step has been done and the road is uphill. So far, we have started by categorizing the organizations that introduced themselves to create a free consultation list and those who took part in the meeting as auditors have been included in the dedicated mailing list. The first initiative that we will propose as Baburka to the working group, to understand who really wants to invest its time and skills in the project, is that of a collective initiative within which we can organize short seminars and workshops, where we can propose skills sharing, moments of socialization and projections to test the collective potential.

Surely there will be, as it is already happening, new joinings to the project, but to move towards a concrete realization of the targets described above is required to work step by step by calibrating the energies of all the participants.