Rome’s MIA Market Wraps Strong Edition With ‘The Abbess’ From Britain’s Warp Films Taking Drama Project Prize

Rome’s MIA, a market dedicated to international TV series, feature films, animation and documentaries, wrapped its eighth edition on Saturday on a positive note boasting a 20% rise in attendance compared with 2021, having attracted more than 2,400 registered industry execs from 60 countries, more than half of which from Italy. However, the pandemic was still limiting travel last year, which makes comparisons difficult.

The mood was undoubtedly upbeat in the halls and terraces of central Rome’s Palazzo Barberini – which besides being Italy’s national ancient art gallery is also the market’s main hub – and in the adjacent state-of-the-art Cinema Barberini movie theater during five days of curated dealmaking and dozens of panels and project pitching sessions involving 70 TV, film, doc and animation projects.

The winner of this year’s Paramount + prize awarded by a jury of experts to the best project at the MIA Drama Pitching Forum is “The Abbess,” billed as a wickedly funny drama about a Machiavellian power-struggle in a closed-order of nuns. The show is being shepherded by the U.K.’s Warp Films, known for recent Prime Video musical “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” and memorable BAFTA-winning series “This Is England.” “The Abbess,” which is inspired by the novel “The Abbess of Crewe” by Scottish writer Muriel Spark, was pitched in Rome as “‘Veep’ meets ‘Succession’ on the set of “The Sound of Music.’”

MIA’s new ArteKino International Prize to support emerging international directors was scooped by “Forastera,” a first work by Lucia Alenar Iglesias, a Spanish film director who has been studying and working in the U.S. “Forastera,” which is produced by Spain’s Lastor Media, depicts mourning through the eyes of a girl who has lost her grandmother and returns to her homeland where family legacy becomes a spiritual fantasy.

This was the first MIA edition headed by new chief Gaia Tridente, formerly head of MIA’s TV section, who has added an animation section to the innovative mart, established as a driver for the Italian industry, and conceived as an international boutique event with a Europe-centric focus eager and able to attract a substantial U.S. presence. This year’s attendees included Apple TV + commissioning executive Oliver Jones; Netflix EMEA content lead Larry Tanz; Lionsgate Television Group president Sandra Stern; and CAA head of global television Ted Miller, and to name but a few. 

Though MIA this year continued to prove it’s crucial role as an Italian industry catalyst, as well as its worth in fostering co-productions and more generally nurturing the production cycle of different types of quality content for the international market, there is room for improvement when it comes to the market’s role in generating film sales.

Some Italian sellers lamented a scarcity of buyers and a disparity between MIA’s efforts on the TV side, vis-a-vis film. In this respect an almost total lack of synergy and collaboration with the Rome Film Festival, which runs concurrently with MIA, remains a sore spot.

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