“We know only too well how hard it is for young people to see their projects through when they don’t have a studio behind them”
Industry Report: Animation
Sara Cabras • Co-Productions and Pre-Acquisitions, RAI Ragazzi
We discussed the importance of Cartoon Springboard for young Italian and European film talent while interviewing the Italian expert at the event
We met with Sara Cabras on the occasion of the 2021 edition of Cartoon Springboard (running 26-28 October), which unspooled in Valencia. Cabras works in RAI Ragazzi’s Co-Productions and Pre-Acquisitions department, and, alongside a team of other experts, she assessed several of the 20 projects presented this year by young talents hailing from the European animation sector.
Cineuropa: First and foremost, what type of projects are you looking for and why is it important for RAI Ragazzi to take part in an event like Cartoon Springboard?
Sara Cabras: Cartoon Springboard is an event which we follow with interest. For me personally, it’s the second time I’ve offered my services as an expert. I’ve come here twice as an expert and once as a participant. It’s a good opportunity for us to meet young talent from all over Europe and help them sketch out their projects, or point them in a better direction, or indeed one that fits more with our viewpoint as a children’s TV channel. So I think it’s an important initiative which needs to continue.
We’re always on the hunt for young talent, because animation, production and our capacity for imagination can’t do without our younger artists, who are also closer to our target audience. We organised a similar event ourselves, at RAI Ragazzi, called “Time to Take the Plunge”, where we selected 10 animated projects put forward by young Italian talent. We had them present their projects in the same way they do here at Springboard, and we invited Italian producers along so that they could help us advise and assist these youngsters. One such project - Nadia by Caterina Cappelli - was selected for this year’s Cartoon Forum. What’s more, another Italian project which first seen the light here at Cartoon Springboard was presented in Tolosa, in September; namely Anselmo Wannabe by Massimo Ottoni.
We know only too well how hard it is for young people to see their projects through when they don’t have a studio behind them. So training them and then helping them is essential in our eyes, as a public service for kids. We’re proud to have four Italian projects in this year’s Springboard [series Chakra Warriors and Astrid and the School of Astronauts, and feature films Fishing Stars and The World of Las]. We’re right after France, who are presenting seven projects. It means there’s a real desire to make films. Naturally, several projects are still in the early stages and so need to be “adjusted” or changed; others are hard to make because there’s no real market for them. So what we really need to drive home to these youngsters, who have so much imagination and creative talent, is that if they want to move forwards with their projects and productions, they need to pay more attention to what the market wants. For example, in children’s TV, certain formats and themes are expected, whereas platforms are more open to different typologies and genres, including animation for adults. But even in this instance, you need to present a well-put-together project and think about what sells best and what language to use for platforms such as Netflix or Amazon. The gathering here at Springboard also helps people to understand what RAI or other players are looking for. And in any case, we should welcome initiatives like this one.
So, as far as you’re concerned, there’s no shortage of talent, but you’d advise them to pay greater attention to how the market is moving?
Yes, to understand what there’s a demand for. I always use the example of Italy. The few Italian studios in existence struggle to produce films. As a public service, we invest in animated production every year. Italy’s public service network tries to co-produce as often as possible, but studios almost always have to find other studios or foreign broadcasters to partner with on their projects. And young film talents have to get a foot in the door of these studios. Usually, Italian studios tend to stay in touch with creators they’ve already worked with in the past and this is another obstacle for our young people. What I would suggest is that they press on, that they develop their talent and then make contact with studios and offer them their projects first. Then, maybe that studio will liaise with us to present that talent to us, in a more “coordinated” fashion. We can help them during these events, but they also need support from Italian studios where experts can refine their ideas.
With which countries do you prefer to co-produce?
As you know, France is the one with the most funds and which produces the most. Many of our productions are made with the French. Where we can, when it comes to smaller projects, we work alone. For example, the 25-minute animated specials on specific themes are all produced in Italy.
What kinds of changes have you noticed over the past two years in terms of consumer patterns?
Being obliged to stay at home and having more time on our hands resulted in good, if not high visibility for TV channels. As a public service, we’ve also provided help and support to schools by way of curriculum-related programmes. As for cartoon production, given that it’s possible to do this remotely, our commissions didn’t suffer from any real slowdown.
How did your working life change?
I worked from home, focusing on projects which were in the development phase, and thinking about the successive production phases. I had a good internet connection, so I was able to access material to check and to watch. Our work didn’t stop, but obviously we weren’t going to markets or festivals anymore. This is the first event I’ve attended in person, so I’m very happy.
What type of content are you looking for, for your two channels?
As a preschool channel [RAI Yo Yo], we’re looking to set ourselves apart from our competitors by way of a programme combining humour and entertainment, but which also rouses curiosity and encourages learning. As for our channel for bigger children, [RAI Gulp], the challenge is bigger and competition is high, not just with other channels dedicated to our target market of 7-12-year-olds, but also with our many competitor platforms who are increasingly aggressive in terms of what they offer. We’re doing all we can to constantly monitor the market and get an effective overview of it, to ensure we continually renew our own offer and keep our target market interested.
(Translated from Italian)
Did you enjoy reading this article? Please subscribe to our newsletter to receive more stories like this directly in your inbox.