Mercedes Fernandez Alonso Talks About TorinoFilmLab's Mission to Foster New Talent, TFL Italia, TFL Meeting Programs

Variety sat down with TorinoFilmLab’s managing director, Mercedes Fernandez Alonso, to talk through this year’s rich program of industry initiatives and its commitment to support new and established creative talents through TFL Italia and TFL Meeting.

“TFL Italia aims to create a bridge between Italian and international professionals. […] This year, we are offering two main programs. The Alpi Film Lab focuses on Italian-French co-productions wherein, thorough several workshop held throughout the year, the participating teams could draft their co-production plans for their projects. We’ve put together each Italian project with a French producer, as well as the other way around. Last year, six projects out of eight became real co-productions,” explained Fernandez Alonzo.

“Meanwhile, Up & Coming Italia is open to Italian producers who want to take their first steps in the field of international co-productions. In these days, they worked with us and met with experts,” she added. The two programs’ public presentations are taking place on Nov. 24. Alpi Film Lab will showcase six fiction projects and two non-fiction projects, whilst Up & Coming will host six emerging producers.

Fernandez Alonso also touched upon the two panel discussions organized by TFL. The first event will zoom in on the best practices to distribute arthouse titles, and it will see the participation of Andrea Romeo, CEO of iWonder. The Bologna-based distribution firm recently handled titles such as Andrea Pallaoro’s “Monica,” Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale” and Laura Poitras’ “All the Beauty and the Bloodshed.” The second panel will focus on the opportunities and the challenges for Italian-French co-productions. In it, the floor will be given to Giovanni Pompili, of Italy’s Kino Produzioni, and Julie Billy, of France’s June Films.

“[During that panel], we will also share the results achieved by the Alpi Film Lab, which is currently a start-up project in receipt of a two-year grant. It’s an occasion to take stock of our activities,” Fernandez Alonso continued.

Meanwhile, the 15th edition of the TFL Meeting will run from Nov. 24-26. Twenty projects were developed during the ScritpLab program (supervised by five experts during five workshops held over the last nine months), whilst FeatureLab will include 10 projects “at a more advanced development stage” (mentored by 10 experts during three workshops held over the last six months).

Remarkably, the 30 selected projects involve 43 filmmakers from 26 different countries – of these, 24 of them are women, 18 men and one non-binary. When asked to comment about TFL’s commendable results in terms of diversity of participants and cultural backgrounds, Fernandez Alfonso said: “There was no planned strategy behind this. But the spirit of TorinoFilmLab is to favor experimentation. […] We search for new voices exploring new approaches and cinematic languages, so for us it comes quite naturally to feature new female voices, who have had less visibility in the past.”

Among the success stories that Fernandez Alonso shared with pride are three Torino Film Festival competition titles, namely Laura Baumeister’s Toronto hit “Daughter of Rage,” Dmytro Sukholytkyy-Sobchuk’s Cannes-premiered drama “Pamfir” and Cyril Schäublin’s “Unrest,” awarded with the prize for best directing in the Encounters section of this year’s Berlinale.

Speaking about TFL’s future plans, Fernandez Alonso revealed: “We keep on listening to the needs of the industry. At next year’s Berlinale, we’ll set up a think tank investigating audience design. […] And, for what concerns ScriptLab, we’ve been working on comedy over the last two years. In 2023, we will continue towards this direction. In 2024, we’ll be able to expand [ScriptLab] with a dedicated program focused on this particularly tough genre to deal with.”

“Moreover, we’ll be putting more efforts in terms of sustainability. This year, we’ve launched the Green Film Lab workshop aimed at producers and heads of department, so that they can learn how to draft and implement their sustainability plans. We’re currently discussing further steps to take.”

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