Q&A: Marco Mueller

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ROME -- With an increasingly crowded festival calendar, a rapidly changing film industry and a major Venice Lido infrastructure project that will impact the next several years, Marco Mueller has his hands full.

He recently took time to sit down with The Hollywood Reporter's Eric J. Lyman at a Rome coffee bar to discuss the challenges of programming the world's oldest film festival.

Hollywood Reporter: When the lineup was announced, you said that the threat of a strike by SAG hurt the selection for Venice, yet there are five U.S. films among the 21 in-competition selections. How did that happen?

Marco Mueller: A lot of the U.S.-made films we might have been interested in will not be ready in time for Venice, and so we had to look elsewhere. Films that would have been done in July or August will now be finished in October, November, December. But we have very good people looking for films in the U.S., and so we were able to uncover several very interesting independent films.

THR: The last two years, there was a surprise in-competition announced at the last minute. Will that be the case this year?

Mueller: We reserve the right to change our minds. (Laughs.)

THR: You fought for years to secure funding for an update to the Venice Lido's old Palazzo del Cinema, and last year it finally happened. When is it expected to be ready? And how much of an inconvenience will the construction be for festivalgoers over the next few years?

Mueller: We're very excited about the new building. It will be completely ready for the 2011 festival, but we are hoping that parts of it will be operational in 2010. I don't think it will be an inconvenience. All of the screens that were operational last year will also be operational this year and beyond.

THR: You've done this for four years, and now you're starting on a second four-year mandate. Is there any risk of Venice becoming stale under the same leadership for so long?

Mueller: Of course there's a risk, but I don't think it will happen. This is not a one-man show. I have been around for four years already, but of the people I worked with to pick films this year, only one was there last year. I've surrounded myself with smart, young people, and the fresh ideas keep coming in. I don't think this is a big risk for us if we keep doing what we've been doing.
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