Ahead of official festivities for Cinecitta's 70th anniversary to be celebrated in a mega party on the famed movie studio's lot on May 4, Italy's movie making politicos got together to talk about the state of Italian cinema and attracting international productions yesterday.

As part of the celebrations, Culture Minister Francesco Rutell announced a new annual Cinecitta prize that will be given out in six categories: costumes, set construction, special effects, make up and hair, organization and production and sound technicians. All Italian films released from April 1 to March 31 and international productions using Italian craftsmanship will be considered for the prize, which will be given in June and then handed out at the Venice Film Festival in September. There will also be a prize for an individual of international relevance.

A round of applause accompanied Rutelli's announcement that the
Italian industry is seeing growth in every sector from festivals to box office despite having been forced to work 'under pressure and with less money (than the budget previously allotted) but with a strategy in mind.'

Rutelli is referring to the five years that all the arts felt the pinch of previous Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's conservative government, which drastically slashed the culture budget. A center-left government run by Romano Prodi took over one year ago.

Since then, Rutelli has actively been involved in revamping the usage of government funding in the culture sector. He has raised the overall culture budget and has vowed to create a new cinema law.

Regarding the introduction of incentives, Minister Rutelli told ScreenDaily.com: 'We are currently creating various co-production agreements - most recently with India and also Argentina and with a series of other promising countries. It is evident that the cinema law will affront this topic (incentives),' which Rutelli called a 'big workshop for international collaboration.'

While there is a strong lobby for the incentives, it is unclear if Senators and Congressmen will vote in that direction - the first proposals are already on the floor of the parliament.

Since his tenure, Rutelli orchestrated the revamping of Cinecitta Holding's board in a move to streamline the use of government funding. In another cost-cutting move, Cinecitta's ailing exhibition chain- Mediaport (with debts of about Euros 33m) has undergone massive cutbacks and is currently on the sales block.

The 80-year-old Istituto Luce, originally a film archive and now active in productions as well, says they will favor 'new media, new directors and documentaries' over European co productions.

Cinecitta Holding will be present at all major markets from AFM to Cannes to Rome's new Business Street to help sell rights to their library of Italian masterpieces abroad.

Film Italia, the Italian film body that reps film abroad - is only seven years old but works annually bring Italian product to over 120 festivals.