Crafting Worlds | The power of storytelling at Fest 2021

Fest - Italian Series Awards

Fest is the first Italian Festival entirely dedicated to series in the streaming era. It’s a three-day meeting gathering all the influential professionals of television, in order to discuss their take on recent topics concerning serialization and its influences on Italian society. At its third edition, Fest 2021 took place in Milan, between 24th to 26th September, with Marina Pierri as the Art Director and a long list of varied, young but no less experienced guests.

This years’ theme was Crafting Worlds, in honor of a new, developing interest in storytelling as a world-building infrastructure, where narration becomes its main, raw material. The following are some brief recaps on guests and topics, together with the awards winners. But if you want, you can rewatch some of the panels (in Italian) here.

Music & TV Shows

Some famous Italian songwriters and composers have discussed the use of song themes inside popular TV shows. In a mix of improvisation sessions amongst all guests, the conversation moved between all musical genres and how these can affect the way a series gets the audience’s attention. Narcos has been cited several times for the enveloping soundtrack that makes the series even more spectacular, while Breaking Bad has received compliments for the theme song, which in a few notes already makes you understand the tone of the series.

Can the soundtrack save a show that doesn’t have a good script? It was a difficult question but in the end, they all agreed in replying “no”. Music saves those series that can already save themselves.

Telling Stories – How Social Networks shaped the serialized world

In this panel, Pierluca Mariti (Piuttosto che), Italian comedian and somebody who comes up with writing and visual material, asked the guests one question. How do social networks connect with and communicate with TV series? Some of the most famous Italian Influencers and Content Creators tried to respond.

They all agreed on the fact that it’s hard, especially among Italian products, to see a plausible use of phones and social networks. It all sounds pretty fake, except for the series Skam Italy, where the guest Pietro Turano acted in as Filippo Sava. Skam manages what all the others fail to do: showing how teenagers interact with social media in a realistic way, and how this correspondence influences their everyday lives.

Pietro Turano, LGBTQ+ activist and actor of Skam Italy
Image courtesy of Cristian Castelnuovo e Matteo Luccas/Fest

Crafting Worlds: Prisma

There was a panel that presented Prisma, an Amazon Studios Italy series from Ludovico Bessegato (author of Skam Italia). The discussion focused on the (still partially top-secret) objectives of the series and the role of a showrunner in Italy. There are still not many, because the position and tasks are not very clear. But among them, Bessegato is the showrunner type that doesn’t really oversee the production part. Since it’s Amazon, in this case, that will handle that side of the project, he explained it has total responsibility for the creative side of the show. Outside Italy, the role of Showrunner is a natural shorthand for the person who literally runs the show, both in terms of production and creation.

Coming of ages

Mary Stella Brugiati (a former student of Scuola Holden) and Flora Ciccarelli interviewed Lorenzo Luporini and Francesco Capaldo about the Coming of Age genre and personal growth, linked to different generations. From Millenials and Gen Z, the future of this kind of movie and series in Italy is still in progress.

As two good examples of this type of communication, Luporini’s project Venti is an information platform made of diverse digital content for teenagers. Just like another recent Netflix series where The Jackal and Capaldo were among the authors: Generazione 56k.

Podcasts & Docu-series

Serialization has rediscovered (particularly in Italy, over the past five years), audio documentary formats such as podcasts. You can find them online, they recall the old radio content but with a new, episodic structure. They come from reality but since you can’t see them, you have to fill in the blanks with your own imagination. Roberta Lippi, in this panel, went into it with Carlo Giuseppe Gabardini, Gianluca Neri, Pablo Trincia, and Alessia Rafanelli. To discover how and why podcasts and docu-series have been taking an ever-growing share of the market.

The first couple created SanPa, a Netflix docuseries that examines the birth, rise, and fall of the San Patrignano Community. This much-debated community has welcomed drug addicts and marginalized young people since the ’80s. The other two authors are the minds behind Veleno, another podcast that turned into an Amazon docuseries. This is, as well, is the recollection of a series of events that took place in the ’90s, when a group of children was taken away from their families due to paedophilia and satanism allegations.

The authors discussed the way in which these two examples have rapidly become a standard. They show how to narrate true events that are spiced up with honest use of storytelling. Despite the fact that a journalistic approach and fact-checking are essential for this kind of project, the guests suggested a different, simple hope for the future. The one that new authors will try more and more to reach for, study, and tell their own stories rather than copy-paste what has already been done, just because it was successful. In the end, the rule is only one: don’t repeat, just dare.

Carlo Giuseppe Gabardini, Gianluca Neri, Pablo Trincia and Alessia Rafanelli hosted by Roberta Lippi

Serial Winners

At the end of Fest 2021, for the first time this year, there was a Serial Awards ceremony with the stand-up comedian Edoardo Ferrario as a host. It was a celebration of achievement in acting, writing, and directing among the national landscape. The HBO / RAI / TIMVision series My Brilliant Friend (an adaptation of the novel by Elena Ferrante) won the Best Scripted Series, Best Female Protagonist, Best Director, and the Crossing Borders awards.

Anna, created by Niccolò Ammaniti and produced by Sky Italy, won the Crafting World for Best Series, Rising Star for Best Interpretation, and Writer’s Room for Best Screenplay. Netflix Italy won the Best Unscripted award for the docu-series SanPa and Best Soundtrack for Summertime. We are who we are (created by Luca Guadagnino for Sky Studios) won in the Best Kiss category and Skam in the How You Doin’? (Best Catchphrase) one.

The world of series is growing. Its audience is growing, as well as the search for different plots, genres and styles. And with it, our representation of reality. The result is a bubbly, dreamy but also honest and professional environment. Where an Italian trajectory – that aims to craft the future without losing its unique touch – is promising. 

Valeria Usala and Federica Galdolfo are the co-authors of this article.

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