Italian producer Mario Gianani talks to Screen about getting his lucky break and working with Bernardo Bertolucci on his upcoming project Io E Te.

At 40 years of age, Mario Gianani’s career isn’t just one to envy in his native Italy. It’s something almost unheard of in an industry in which few players see success in their 30s.

Gianani says he “got lucky” when he produced the first work of art house darling Saverio Costanzo whose Private won Locarno’s Silver Leopard.

Now he has turned that success into being the go-to producer for filmmakers such as Marco Bellocchio (Vincere) and Berrnardo Bertolucci, whose new project Io E Te he has just taken on.

In the cash strapped film industry dominated by two players (RAI and Mediaset) Gianani has a penchant for attracting foreign co producers, and for ratcheting up good sales in markets, especially Toronto.

Extending beyond arthouse kudos, he’s made a savvy move into commercial film production with his new company Wildside. His partners include one of Italy’s top box office earning directors Fausto Brizzi and experienced TV producer Lorenzo Miele.

At 40 years of age, by Italian industry standards, you are young to have had a string of successes. To what do you credit this?

I  got into the industry by working with independent producer Pietro Valsecchi and then worked for four years in Mediaset. I also got very lucky with my first feature. That was a film by Saverio Costanzo called Private. It was very low budget and was a hit.

What aspects of the Italian industry make it hard to get started as a producer here?

In Italy it is very tough for a producer to get access. It is a very closed industry because there are few players, which are mainly RAI and Mediaset. There are a few American companies investing, but not as much as in other territories. So the number of people that can decide on a project are very limited, and obviously, you need to have contact with them.

Additionally, there is not really a culture of production. The producer was once considered a money-maker through the state system  but a revamp of the sector was made with no respect for the producer’s role that was taken over by these two major companies, and they do consider themselves to be producers so the definition (of producer) is slightly different here than in other countries.

You have produced for Saverio Costanzo, Marco Bellocchio, Gabriele Salvatores, Fausto Brizzi and Bernardo Bertolucci. What have you got going on now?

I will be the producer of Bertolucci’s upcoming Io E Te (with Bertolucci’s Fiction Cinematografia) but none of the production partners have been set up yet. The film is at the early stage of writing and none of production elements are defined yet.

With Fausto Brizzi in June we will start filming his new feature, with a working title Sex 3D – that is not going to be the title, it sounds pretty aggressive (laughs) but we are not giving out the title yet. We’ll be shooting in Rome using 3D technology and the budget is $10m (€7m).

Unlike other Brizzi films, this won’t be a choral movie. The plot revolves around three characters. It’s a very funny family comedy about sex and how it is important in the family and to couples and why everyone is obsessed with sex… and one of the characters is a porn star.

How did you get involved with Marco Bellocchio’s 2009 Cannes competition title Vincere?

We met through the film editor Francesca Cavelli who edited all Saverio Costanzo’s films. After Saverio’s second film In Memory Of Myself, Bellocchio dismissed his company and decided to involve us in Vincere. It was too high budget to cover all from Italy and we decided go abroad for funds (Celluloid dreams co produced).

Tell us about your production company Wildside, a combination of your old company Offside and Fausto Brizzi’s Wilder productions, which you started last year.

The idea was to create an independent production player that is bigger than the usual dimensions (for Italy) and that produces works from comedies to art house movies.(Our other partner) Lorenzo Miele deals with the TV aspect. He is splitting his time between Wildside and Freemantle [major TV group for which he is CEO.]

We have a new film from a first time director who goes by the name Pif (who comes from popular Italian TV programmes). His first feature is called The Mafia Only Kills In Summertime (La Mafia Uccide Solo D’estate). It’s a romantic sentimental comedy that takes place in Palermo spanning the 1970s to 1990s.

We are aiming for the 18—35 demographic, so young adults are the target of the film. We are also doing a 15-episode series for Mediaset’s Canale 5 called Famiglia Italiana, a comedy focusing on Italian cooking and food as a TV movie to air at Christmas on Sky Italia starring Alessandro Gassman.