In a bid to give a major boost to the Italian film industry, Italy's National Film Exporters Union is appealing to the government to give more financial support to projects with significant international appeal.

Roberto Di Girolamo, the president of Italy's Film Exporters, will ask the cultural ministry to evaluate screenplays on the basis of their exportability, and to loan 50% of an approved project's budget to the sales company that is handling international rights.

The funds will be given as a minimum guarantee to the producer who will then have to secure the remaining 50% of the budget through Italian TV or video sales or through private funds.

Importantly, the union aims to guarantee to the state that each loan will be fully reimbursed and that each dollar the film makes on foreign soil is returned to the state until the loan has been fully paid back. Should a sales company fail to pay at least 50% of the loan within three years, it will be forced to pay the remaining amount out of its own funds.

The union's proposal, which has generally been well received by producers, will be opened to debate by leading Italian film industry figures and unions this week' Di Girolamo aims to officially present the project to the state by the end of March.

Currently, the only existing Italian government fund for cinema is the Fondo di Garanzia, which was established to support projects deemed of national cultural interest. But the commission's often arguable selection criteria has led many producers to make films of strictly Italian flavour and shy away from making films for the international market that have little chance of securing state funds.

"Thirty-five years ago, exporters used to be able to give producers miminum guarantees, but today we can't do that because there is very little on paper that is exportable," said Di Girolamo, who is also president of the Rome-based sales outfit, FilmExport Group. "Furthermore, with the global TV market mainly buying US films, Italian producers are just targeting their films to Italian broadcasters," he explained.