Film News! Ferrania is back! Exclusive interview!
Yes indeed, you read that correctly. Ferrania, one of the oldest names in film production has risen from the ashes and is going back into production of a number of new films. Come and find out more
I first heard a short while ago that there was a rumour spreading that a film company was going to go back into business. Well of course I needed to find out if this was true, or merely someones flight of fancy. So, using all of the JCH detective skills (google) I managed to find out a bit more. It was true, A company that some may not heave heard of was going to make film again.
I managed to track down Nicola Baldini, one of the people behind Ferrania and I managed to get a few words on what is going on and a bit about Ferrania.
Hi Nicola, welcome to JCH, please tell us a little bit about Ferrania and the films.
The name of “Ferrania” is still well known: it’s the name of a famous Italian company that can boast very deep roots and a long industrial history of excellence, in spite of the troubled corporate events of recent years. The story of Ferrania as the protagonist in the Italian film production begins soon after the First World War when the company that manufactured explosives SIPE was converted for the production of celluloid for the cinema (in those days the chemistry of the film base was very similar to that of explosives) and took the name of FILM Ferrania. In the early years of his career, Ferrania soon consolidated its leading position in the domestic market and in 1932 acquired the famous Cappelli firm of Milan.
The post-war years were the most successful for Ferrania,that introduced the color film, the famous “Ferraniacolor”, beside the already famous black and white, the star of many of the masterpieces of the Italian cinema of the time (Pasolini, De Sica).
In 1964 the ownership of Ferrania was transferred to the multinational 3M Ferrania; while it opened up new markets, on the other hand it also marked the gradual abandonment by the company of the cinema industry in order to focus solely on consumer photographic industry.
In 1996, Ferrania fell under the control of the company Imation, specially created by 3M and specialized in graphic arts and medical technologies. In 1999 Ferrania was sold to Schroeder Ventures and finally it went back into Italian hands (the Messina Group of Genoa) with the name of Ferrania Technologies.
After a series of disposals of property and equipments in conjunction with the crisis of the traditional photographic film, now choked by digital technology, here we are today with the new company FILM Ferrania, that – after the name of the origins – took over the section of Photocolor Ferrania Technologies, aiming to revive the historic brand of Ferrania in the field of analog film.
So, tell me, is it true? Is Ferriana going to make film again?
It’s my pleasure to answer your questions, I apologize in advance if I sometimes won’t be exhaustive because some piece of information is still confidential and some other we simply do not know yet! About your first question, it is absolutely true that in a short time, and in opposition to the present trend, a new film producer will be back on the worldwide market. Moreover it is a producer with an historical pedigree, not less prominent than Kodak or Agfa. In reality, as we explained in our first press release, we are still in a research and development phase, because Ferrania’s factory has not been active for the past few years and some machinery have to be revamped and tuned. Besides you should consider that everything in Ferrania was sized to work with thousands of workers (at its best moment Ferrania had around 4,000 workers) but now, if we want to be competitive on the market, we have to be scaled down with a really very optimized workflow. As to the workers, all the workers employed in Ferrania photocolor branch were fired when the production of film was stopped; we are lucky that some of them are still available and very enthusiastic to be involved in this new adventure. Last but non least, there are also some issues to cope with that do not depend on us, like new regulations on the use of chemicals imposed by the EU. Despite all these challenges, we are confident about the results; the only uncertainty is about the timing, but we’ll do our best to give our past and future customers some new and exciting products as soon as possible.
What made you decide to bring back this classic brand? And how did you do it?
It was really a coincidence. I am a filmmaker and film producer but also passionate about analog film, especially in small formats; Marco Pagni Fontebuoni, my business partner, owns and manages a lab specialized in professional motion picture services. About two years ago we contacted Ferrania to buy some equipment that they were going to demolish. On that occasion we had the chance of knowing the Ferrania factory better and we could appreciate the significant potential of the company in terms of facilities and highly qualified staff still in charge. So the question at the origin of the whole thing was: “ What if, instead of buying the equipment and taking it abroad, we leave everything here and try to re-start the film production in Ferrania with the former employees?”
What films are you planning on bringing back?
In this first stage of our business there is not much choice. Our first goal is to demonstrate that Ferrania, even scaled down, is able to produce film again at the same quality level as before. The point is not about the quality of machinery, because the Ferrania ones are really the most sophisticated and flexible available in the world, but the optimization of formulas and proceedings.
For instance, nowadays some of old chemicals cannot be used because they are conflicting with European antipollution laws. In this scenery the most logical choice is to reintroduce first the most modern film produced by old Ferrania, in order to have an objective quality control over the optimized production workflow. We know that, at the moment, the market needs a good reversal colour film especially for small cinema formats and we are sure that a re-engineered version of the classic Scotch Chrome 100 could satisfy most of filmmakers and photographers needs.
Beside Chrome, the colour negative film Solaris FG-100 Plus will be presented in as many photographic formats as we can provide. Many users asked about some “abandoned” formats like 126 and 127, we answer to them: Yes, we can! The sense is that, if we have enough business to start the converting line for those formats, it will be our interest to produce and sell them.
Apart from this, there are many wonderful products of the historical past of Ferrania that we’d like to propose again. We are sure that with the help of all the enthusiastic people from all the world we’ll be able to make them.
Are there plans to develop any new films in the future?
Ferrania is ready to play a strategic role for the future of analog film. Our best effort now is to propose on the market new fresh, but classic, products in order to give a strong signal to end users and labs so that they can continue to invest in this sector. After this initial phase we have on the schedule exciting new products and services that surely will be able to push ahead the analog approach to imaging in this century.
What film would you bring back if you didn’t have to worry about sales?
In my personal crazy view I would not have any doubt: the wonderful B/W Pancro 30 film used by Pier Paolo Pasolini for his masterpieces! Are there more than three or four people who would like to use it again?
Where do you see the film business in 10 years?
In the next years the film will not be suitable for anyone who wants simply to take pictures or to shoot a film. Of course those people will use digital technology, which is currently a formidable tool of wide use. In this scenery we think that film will be an artistic choice in the same way a painter can choose to use the oil-color or water-color technique. The pathetic tentative of the film to
our fight against the digital technology is a lost battle, a battle against time. It is not a matter of megapixel and please forget the equivalence to 2K, 4K, 8K resolution, it’s instead a matter of feeling. Some people will decide to use Photoshop for their artistic creation and other people special films, what’s wrong in this? Could a Michelangelo of today use a 3D printer for its David? Yes, of course, but I am pretty sure his choice would still be the white marble from Carrara.
Any words for the film fans out there?
During the past few days I personally answered to dozens of emails and I can never thank you enough for the wonderful and enthusiastic feedback we have received. Please continue to send us your desires and especially the impressions and the critics when we’ll have our products out. Our aim is to be a company very close to customers, doing our best and learning from our mistakes.
Thank you so much to Nicola for taking the time to speak to me, I know he must be extremely busy with the buildup, so it is wonderful to have some news. And it is really wonderful to hear that there is a company coming back and producing film again. I am really looking forward to see the new reversal film and I cannot wait to hear of other other products. I would love to see that reversal in 127 format personally.
This is really fantastic news and I hope that you all get involved and help this become a reality.
Check out the Ferrania website and register with them for updates on what is going on