Rai Trade, the sales arm of Italian public broadcaster RAI, has added a new strategic dimension to its sales and distribution activities and become a co-financier of European and international co-productions. The first fruits of this new branch were on display this week at MIP-COM.

Rai Trade gets its first production credit on Dracula, a $10m two-part mini-series which heads its MIP-COM slate. The picture, which is now in post-production, is a modernisation of the classic vampire tale and stars Patrick Bergin, Hannibal star Giancarlo Giannini, Stefania Rocca, Kai Wiesinger and Muriel Baumeister. It is directed by Roger Young from an Eric Lerner script. Production is by Kirchmedia Production, Lux Vide in association with Beta and Rai Trade.

Also in the process of being finalised is Imperium, six mini-series titles spanning five centuries of the Roman Empire with each part focusing on a different emperor. The pictures will again involve RAI and Kirch units, but production credits and budgets have yet to be finalised ahead of an early 2002 start. Unofficial estimates put the production cost in the region of $15m.

"Together with Rai Fiction we can do so much more," said Cifola. "We want to do more English-language pictures like Dracula and we want to build up our library."

Distribution on Dracula sees Kirch's Beta division handle sales in continental Europe (excluding Italy) and RAI represent them in the UK and outside Europe. "By going into production we buy ourselves a piece of equity, participate in the profit share and, in return for a minimum guarantee, earn ourselves a distribution fee," said Cifola.

Also on Rai Trade's MIP-COM slate is Resurrection, the TV film debut of theatrical directors Paolo and Vittorio Taviani. The film is an adaptation of the Leo Tolstoy novel and stars Stefania Rocca, Timpthy Peach, Maria Braumer and Cecile Bois. Production credits go to Rai Fiction, Film Tre, Pampa Production, France 2 and Bavaria Film.