“In this prosperous moment, it is the screenwriters who must bear the commercial risk”
– Invited to the IDM-Film Commission Südtirol Meetings, the director of They call me Jeeg and Panic 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 Encounters, a three-day film conference organized by the IDM-Film Commission Südtirol that returned to its usual in-person format in the South Tyrol town of Merano between April 26 and 29. But the first meeting to take place, involving the Italian screenwriter Nicolas Guaglianone (who led 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]was nominated for the 2022 David Awards via Panic [+see also:
interview: Gabriele Mainetti
film profile]and is also a producer through his company Miyagi Entertainment), was also an opportunity to reflect on issues such as market saturation, cinema attendance and the rights of screenwriters vis-à-vis streaming platforms, a topic we explored with Guaglianone.
Cineuropa: You are a founding member of the Italian Writers’ Guild, an association of writers for cinema, television and the web. What is the Guild’s agenda at the moment?
Nicholas Guaglianone: Rights of screenwriters. Streaming platforms have created a multitude of jobs; so many screenwriters are writing now, the most famous of them can’t stop catching their breath, much like those who have just left school, for that matter. The problem is that if many productions have doubled or tripled their turnover, the screenwriters have not experienced such an increase in their income, quite the contrary. You have to understand that the writing – and in particular the pitches, the initial concept, or rather the spark that makes a new project take off – must be paid fairly. It’s easy to be a producer and fill your office with ideas, go out and pitch them, see which one takes off and get things done. But there is always a commercial risk, which at this very prosperous moment, is taken by the authors who create these works, because they do it without being paid or, at best, they are paid very little.
What steps do you plan to take to achieve your goals?
We are working with the 100autori association so that screenwriters have a single voice and therefore more power, because if screenwriters stop working, as happened during the American strike a few years ago, the whole industry would stop. Content is the highest currency today; the product of the works we create must be recognized. In this sense, our objective is to arrive at a collective assembly where the associations collect or distribute the royalties directly, a bit like the SIAE does for copyrights when our works are broadcast on television. Finally, we need to partner with screenwriters from all over Europe.
Have you ever compared your notes with colleagues from other countries?
I have met other European screenwriters and the problems are the same because the commissioners are the same: the vision of the authors is not respected, their workload is excessive and their remuneration is insufficient. Screenwriters are often not able to focus on one series at a time, as they do in the United States where screenwriters are overpaid; instead, they have to work on two or three at a time. I participated in a roundtable at 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 rate per episode for writers.
What about the questions surrounding the writers’ visions? What can be done about that?
The unique vision surrounding a project brings added value; it needs someone capable of giving it character. In America, the showrunners deal with it, which is kind of 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 the choice of actors to the scenography – I was always there; I was the screenplay defense attorney. One thing is certain: when you entrust a project to an author with a personal vision, you obtain projects above the others, with lasting strength. It’s not the same if you write a series, give it to a director or a producer and everyone does their thing, because what starts out as a comedy can end up as an on-screen drama.
…A problem that does not arise when working with Gabriele Mainetti, who directed They call me Jeeg and Panic.
We’ve known each other since we were 16, 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 in WWII” he knows exactly where I’m coming from.
(Translated from Italian)