Canada, Italy Look to Partner on Documentary Co-Productions

Leading filmmakers from the Canadian and Italian film industries are huddling at the Hot Docs film festival to hatch possible movie collaborations.

TORONTO – Top documentary producers from Canada and Italy are meeting at the Hot Docs film festival this week to hothouse possible co-productions.

The filmmakers are looking to tap tax credit and co-production coin on offer in both territories as Italian filmmakers especially look to Canadian financing to offset shrinking public funding at home due to recessionary pressures.

The talks follow Italy renewing its film tax credits launched in 2008, and extending them to TV productions, but only after Rome caused industry alarm by threatening to reduce them, or even eliminate them altogether.

Marco Visalberghi, a veteran Italian producer with Doclab, said TV documentaries tapping film tax credits gives producers first-time leverage as they chase co-production money at Hot Docs and other foreign festivals and markets.

"It will make a difference for co-producing with Canada and others because [Italian] producers now have something to put on the table,"explained Visalberghi, who produced the Golden Lion-winning documentary Sacro Gra.

Canadian doc makers in turn see Europe as a source for additional financing as they diversify away from their own home market with co-productions that appeal to a worldwide audience.

That has Ilaria Malagutti, a producer with Mammut Film, at Hot Docs this week to forge a possible cross-Atlantic effort for an Italian- and English-language documentary now in development about the automobile and its impact on human behavior, called I'm in Love With My Car.

"There's an international angle, so we could shoot part of the film in Canada, or do the postproduction here," Malagutti said, weighing possible scenarios to comply with co-production rules.

She has a second documentary in the works being pitched at Hot Docs, Banks, an Italian-language film about a friendship between a Tunisian sculptor and an Italian gravedigger.

The Eurocentric subject matter means Malagutti is chasing a pre-buy or an eventual acquisition by a Canadian broadcaster, rather than a co-production partner.

In all, Italy has four documentaries screening at Hot Docs this week, and another four projects being pitched at the festival's co-production market.

The Hot Docs festival runs to May 4.