Italian writers are an increasingly appealing option on the menu of global scripted content. Rome-based Wildside plans to use that notion to super-charge a push into high-end international drama coproduction, its co-founder Mario Gianani tells TBI.
Italian drama specialist Wildside is aiming to be the latest name associated with high-end international drama coproduction. That list currently includes the likes of Haut et Court from France, Kudos Film & TV and Tandem Communications from Germany, but CEO Mario Gianani (below) says the opportunity for new entrants is there if the desire matches the ambition.
“The whole world is looking for the same content,” he says. “We know all of these companies, and they all seem to be friends. It’s a small world for a huge market.”
Gianani, Lorenzo Mieli and filmmaker Saverio Constanzo launched Wildside as a joint venture in 2009 by taking staff from the latter’s unscripted firm Wilder, which Fox International Channels had acquired in 2007, and incorporating them with Gianani’s Offside group. (Mieli became FremantleMedia Italy’s managing director in 2010, allowing him to satisfy his taste for unscripted, but remains a partner at Wildside.)
Gianani and Mieli became convinced they could play a role in the emerging group of global drama houses after assessing market conditions. “[Sky Italia has been] looking for another level of content that our traditional Italian TV was not delivering,” says Gianani, while the film market was shrinking and television projects becoming more exciting to A-list talent, directors, producers and financiers.
Furthermore, it had become apparent Sky Italia and other local broadcasters would not be able to “absorb” the number of projects hitting the market. “Most of these projects need to work for a pay TV platform, and the only limit we have is discovering how much product our own platforms can take in,” says Gianani. “The more we get in to the international market, the more we realise the financing can provide us with the strength to [work with] very low-level investment from our own broadcasters.”
“This gave us the opportunity to create shows that are very unusual for the Italian market but which are closer to the international market. The film business is getting tougher and tougher and smaller and smaller, and TV is now more interesting.”
The firm works with a variety of partners on distribution, but is keen to avoid the gap-funding model if possible, as management believe there are enough production partners around to avoid handing over any creative control.
In order to realise its goals, Wildside has launched a new division, Wildside Series, that will focus purely on developing and producing high-end scripted formats. “We are looking for IP everywhere – books, novels, previous series, everything,” says Gianani.
The firm is no stranger to formats, having produced Sky Cinema’s remake of Israeli drama In Treatment.
Wildside is currently working on The Young Pope, which Oscar-winner Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty) is directing for Sky Atlantic in Italy. The show follows a fictional Italian-American pontiff, and is designed as an international coproduction.
“We will be closing financing by MIPCOM. We’re building a coproduction – with European partners for sure – but that has a very American side,” says Gianani. “We will see if there will be a US coproducer or if a network just buys the show. The format is yet to be established.”
Wildside has also produced an Italian version of In Treatment for Sky Cinema, and is coproducing black comedy Tomorrrow is a Big Day with Mediaset and 1992 for Sky Italia. There are talks about turning the Mediaset title into an English-language show, while Italian corruption drama 1992 hits the international market next year. At MIPCOM Germany’s Beta Film came on board as a coproducer.
Wildside’s latest scripted format, The Miracle, is based on a story from writer Niccolo Ammaniti. The mystery thriller follows a magical event that impacts individuals across borders, including in an Anglo-Saxon country, which offers an obvious coproduction opportunity.
Gianani says Wildside plans to tap into the film market to source writers that have so far stayed away from the high-end TV drama market. “Sooner or later we will convince all the talent we’ve met in film to cross the river and come to this side,” he says. “It’s a huge change for us.”