“At this prosperous moment in time, screenwriters are the ones having to take on business risk”
Industry Report: Market Trends
Nicola Guaglianone • Screenwriter and producer
A guest at the IDM-Film Commission Südtirol Meetings, the director of They Call Me Jeeg and Freaks Out met with us to discuss the need for an alliance between European screenwriters
Superpowers, diversity and winning formulas opened the first day of the 11th edition of the Meetings, a three-day film conference organised by the IDM-Film Commission Südtirol which returned to its usual in-person format in the South Tyrolian town of Merano between 26 and 29 April. But the first meeting to unfold, involving Italian screenwriter Nicola Guaglianone (who directed They Call Me Jeeg [+see also:
interview: Gabriele Mainetti
film profile], won a David di Donatello award in 2017 for Indivisible [+see also:
interview: Edoardo de Angelis
film profile], has been nominated for the 2022 David Awards via Freaks Out [+see also:
interview: Gabriele Mainetti
film profile], and is also a producer by way of his outfit Miyagi Entertainment), also presented an opportunity to reflect upon issues such as market saturation, cinema attendance and screenwriters rights vis-a-vis streaming platforms, a topic which we explored with Guaglianone.
Cineuropa: You’re the founding member of the Italian Writers Guild, an association for film, TV and web writers. What’s on the Guild’s agenda right now?
Nicola Guaglianone: Screenwriters’ rights. Streaming platforms have created a multitude of jobs; so many screenwriters are writing now, the most famous among them not stopping to catch their breath, much like those who have just left school, for that matter. The problem is that whereas many productions have doubled or tripled their turnover, screenwriters haven’t seen any such rise in their earnings, quite the opposite. We need to understand that writing - and notably pitches, the initial concept, or rather the spark that gets a new project off the ground - must be paid for fairly. It’s easy being a producer and filling your office with ideas, going out and about and putting them forward, seeing which one takes off, and getting things going. But there’s always a business risk, which at this very prosperous moment in time, is being taken on by the authors creating these works, because they’re doing it without being paid or, at best, they’re paid very little.
What steps are you planning on taking in order to reach your goals?
We’re working with the 100autori association to ensure screenwriters have a unique voice and therefore more power, because if screenwriters were to stop working, as happened during the US strike some years ago, the whole industry would grind to a halt. Content is the highest currency today; the proceeds from the works we create should be recognised. In this sense, our aim is to reach a collective set-up where associations directly collect or distribute rights, much like the SIAE does for authors’ rights when our works are broadcast on TV. Lastly, we need to join forces with screenwriters from all over Europe.
Have you already compared notes with colleagues in other countries?
I’ve met other European screenwriters, and the issues are the same because the commissioners are the same: authors’ visions aren’t respected, their workloads are excessive and their pay is inadequate. Screenwriters aren’t often able to focus on just one series at a time, like they do in the USA where writers are overpaid; instead, they need to work on two or three at a time. I took part in a panel discussion at the Torino FF with established screenwriters from South America; their situation is the same as ours, if not worse. We need a national contract setting a minimum per-episode rate for writers.
What about issues surrounding screenwriters’ visions? What can be done about that?
The unique vision surrounding a project brings added value; there needs to be someone capable of lending it character. In America, showrunners take care of this, which is a bit like what I did with the movie La Befana vien di notte II [+see also:
film profile]: I wrote it, then I followed it through the various production phases, from choosing the cast through to set design - I was always around; I acted as the screenplay’s defence counsel. One thing’s for sure: when you entrust a project to an author with a personal vision, you get projects which are a cut above the rest, with lasting power. It’s not the same thing if you write a series, entrust it to a director or a producer and each of you does your own thing, because what starts out as a comedy can end up as a drama on screen.
…A problem which doesn’t present itself when you’re working with Gabriele Mainetti, who directed They Call Me Jeeg and Freaks Out.
We’ve known each other since we were 16 years old, we share the same brain, the same passion and the same imagination. If I say “a superhero in Tor Bella Monaca” or “the wizard of Oz during World War Two”, he knows exactly what I’m getting at.
(Translated from Italian)
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