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Carlo A Sigon • President, AIR3 - Italian Directors Guild

“We need to respond to the crisis by working together to cope with change”

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- We discussed the crisis and new product preferences emerging within the industry with the president of the association aiming to support Italian film distribution through networking activities

Carlo A Sigon • President, AIR3 - Italian Directors Guild

Founded in 2015 with the aim of supporting Italian film distribution through networking activities, AIR3 – Italian Directors Guild now comprises over 150 professionals from the various spheres of the audiovisual sector. It organises writing seminars, writers’ rooms on series and calls for short films, and is also helping to build an international network of directors’ associations. The guild responded to the pandemic by fighting for regulations which would allow professionals to shoot safely, as well as for acknowledgement of the need for compensation, inviting its members to take part in a collective film which gave rise to La prima onda, which was presented in December and distributed by RAI Cinema (read our article). Cineuropa interviewed the AIR3’s president Carlo A Sigon.

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Cineuropa: How did the audiovisual sector’s needs give rise to the creation of AIR3?
Carlo A Sigon: AIR3 is an association of Italian directors working in film, documentaries, advertising, music videos and all the many other forms that the audiovisual sector has taken in these recent years of the “digital revolution”. Six years ago, we felt it necessary to create an upgraded artistic and technical association and to share our personal and professional journeys. That was where it began.

So what are your main activities?
All of AIR3’s activities are carried out by female and male associates, with the help of a producer and a press officer. Our activities are many and varied: from seminars on writing and on screenwriting to writing rooms on series and our Call for Short Films; from our battle to obtain recognition for the need for equal pay in music videos to the actions we carried out to encourage the re-establishment of the Lombardy Film Commission; from the pressure we’ve applied for recognition of the need for regional compensation within our particular trade (obtained a few days ago) to the construction of an international network of directors’ associations (currently comprising Spain, Germany, Sweden, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile and Mexico); from drafting a set of guidelines for the regulation of marketing tenders to the creation of our website, complete with a database allowing for project exchanges between members and producers, and many, many more.

Lombardy’s audiovisual sector is second only to that of the Lazio region. Could you give us a few figures in this respect?
In Lombardy, there are around 2,000 audiovisual companies which employ 20,000 people and produce turnover upwards of 6 billion euros. Unfortunately, we don’t have many policies relating to this sector, its businesses or its workers. In 2018/2019, the total number of productions in Lombardy was 396, 90% of which were adverts, music videos, photo shoots and short films. We need to revive film and TV as tools for promoting tourism and culture, as drivers of growth and local development. Film creates culture, entertainment, emotion, and directors are one of the key groups involved in this process; they’re active and creative stakeholders who play a part in the production process.

Sadly, in 2020, the pandemic had a devastating impact on production. How did AIR3 contend with the health crisis?
We placed huge focus on the need for regulation allowing shooting to take place safely, but, above all, it was our social duty to react. Before the first lockdown was introduced, MIR Cinematografica, AIR3 – Italian Directors Guild, MFF/Milano Film Festival and various other Milan-based groups invited those in the sector to take part in a collective film, an invitation which was open to all audiovisual professionals working at the various levels of the film industry. That’s how the film La prima onda came about, which was presented in December and distributed by RAI Cinema.

Despite considerable activity within its film industry, for years Lombardy has suffered from not having an efficient film commission, which would offer greater economic benefits for the area, provide a support fund for independent productions and perhaps even attract foreign co-producers. Are there any signs of a shake-up?
In December, we joined with CNA Cinema e Audiovisivo Lombardia to organise a conference on the state of the Lombardy Film Commission, and the overriding message to came out of this event was the clear need for it the Commission be re-established and ultimately transformed into an efficient tool on a level with those of other high-performing regions; it’s pretty unbelievable that an area such as ours, which is so rich in talent and resources (production and post-production houses, technicians, casting directors, directors of photography, directors…), doesn’t have such a tool, given how crucial to is for the support and development of the audiovisual industry. It’s as if the huge slice of revenue already generated by the sector in Lombardy –shored up for the most part by private funds - is an excuse for the authorities to evade their responsibilities.

The crisis is changing the way our viewing habits, pushing us towards television and streaming platforms, and is therefore affecting production trends within the industry, which is leaning towards new formats (series, web series, TV movies). As a director, how do you see the audiovisual sector evolving?
I’m not going to make any predictions because the few times that I have, I’ve failed miserably! By definition, directors are used to looking for solutions, to solving problems, whether it’s a case of revising an existing work schedule, making things work on increasingly tight budgets, managing the myriad emergencies that arise on set or, indeed, contending with a continually evolving market like ours. AIR3 is an immediate and efficient shared resource; it allows us to come together to cope with these changes and helps us to communicate, share and identify the best solutions together.

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(Translated from Italian)

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