Rome to host new int'l TV fest

APT, local gov't prepping high-profile event for July

Italy's capital will host in early July the first edition of what is hoped will be a high-profile international television festival, according to organizers of the event, which will be sponsored by the Italian television producer's association and the regional government of Lazio.

An official announcement is a week or two away, officials said, but the event's freshly named creative director, Marlene Sternbaum, said in an interview Thursday that many of the major obstacles to the festival were dealt with in a meeting late Wednesday in which she was named to her post.

Former Banff World Television Festival director Pat Ferns and director Steve della Casa also have been named to top positions at the festival.

"There is still a great deal of work to be done before we can provide all the details, but this is moving forward and we are very excited about it," said Sternbaum, a former Munich Film Festival director.

Sternbaum said the working name for the festival is the Rome International Fiction Festival, though that may change before the official unveiling of the event. The festival will host competitions in a variety of areas, including best telefilm, comedy program, mini-series, continuing series, and an award for new-media content, such as programming destined for mobile devices.

Sternbaum said the new festival will not have official ties to the RomaCinemaFest, which held its first edition in October. But the mostly positive reviews from the Rome film event gave a boost to plans for the new television festival.

"Rome should become a hub for entertainment, and I think that is starting to happen," Sternbaum said.

Budget estimates have yet to be finalized, though it is expected that the budget will be in the millions of euros.

The regional government of Lazio (the region that includes Rome), the Lazio Chamber of Commerce and Italian state broadcaster RAI are all reportedly backing the event, along with the Italian television producers association, or APT. Additional sponsors are being pursued.

Just as the fledgling RomaCinemaFest has managed to find its slot alongside the venerable Venice International Film Festival as a top-level international cinema event on the peninsula, the planned Rome International Fiction Festival also plans to find a niche alongside Prix Italia in the TV sector. Prix Italia, which recently held its 58th edition in Venice, is the world's oldest broadcast festival, rotating among Italian cities each September.

But unlike the RomaCinemaFest and Venice, the two Italian television events are not necessarily destined to become rivals.

"We're already reaching out to determine the ways in which we can work together with Prix Italia," Sternbaum said. "There is going to be a relationship of some kind."