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Andrea Iervolino, CEO And Founder Of Iervolino Entertainment; Dragan Nikolić, CEO Of Iervolino Studios d.o.o.

Wind In The Sails Of The Serbian Film Industry

Company Iervolino Entertainment is building a studio in Serbia for the production of short, animated, web and streaming formats, where 580 professionals will be employed. The company is satisfied with its cooperation with the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Serbia, which has, among other things, enabled it to penetrate new markets

When it comes to the future, Iervolino Studios plans to continue supporting the development of animation and film in Serbia through cooperation with the education sector, support for initiatives and projects in the film industry, as well as CSR activities.

Last year proved to be more than successful for you. You recorded growth despite the pandemic that caused tremendous damage to the entertainment industry as a whole. How?

Andrea: Iervolino Entertainment ended 2020 with revenues that were as much as 51 per cent higher than in the previous year.

We owe this success to the fact that our company is focused, among other things, on creating short animated content that is distributed primarily on large streaming platforms, such as Netflix and Apple TV. Given that platforms of this type experienced a real boom in the year of global isolation, our content also adapted to trends in the entertainment world. Apart from that, at the peak of the pandemic in Serbia, Iervolino Studios was established for the production of animated content.

And there, over the last year, work has been conducted on high quality projects intended for global distribution.

At Iervolino Entertainment they believe that they’ll be able to realise their first live event from somewhere in space by the first half of 2023

You’re planning to invest at least 8.5 million in IES studio in Serbia, while plans also include the hiring of 580 professionals. What stage are you now at with this project?

Dragan: The planned investments are much bigger than that. The Memorandum of Understanding signed last year with the Ministry of Economy of the Republic of Serbia, as well as Memorandum of Cooperation with Miloš Biković’s production company Archangel Digital Studios, envisages an investment of as much as 100 million euros in the production of animated content by Iervolino Entertainment, with the aforementioned 8.5 million to be invested only in its branch in Serbia, i.e. Iervolino Studios. Plans for now also envisage the employing of about 600 people by 2025, though we’re not ruling out the possibility of that figure being even higher. Alongside this, cooperation with the Ministry has also enabled us to penetrate new markets, such as those of Russia and Eastern Europe.

Iervolino Studios now has around a hundred employees from various fields, at two locations – in Belgrade and Novi Sad – while a new wave of hiring staff is currently underway, and I hope we’ll be able to repeat all of that more often.

What are your staff working on at present?

Dragan: The main project that the studio’s employees are currently working on is the short animated series “Puffins”. This is also the first time that Serbia’s storyboard artists, 2D and 3D animators, graphic designers and editors have had the opportunity to work on a world-class animated project from their own country, from their own city. The fact that Johnny Depp is also participating in the series, giving his voice to one of the characters, testifies to the kind of project it is. This really represents a strong wind in the sails of local artists and our country’s animation scene and film industry.

Iervolino Studios now has around a hundred employees in Belgrade and Novi Sad, while a new wave of hiring staff is currently underway

Your plan is also to produce content worth a billion euros in Serbian cinematography by 2031. For which markets is that content intended? Where will everything be distributed?

Andrea: I’ve stated multiple times that our common goal is to turn Serbia into Hollywood in the domain of producing innovative animated content in this part of the world. The plan is to transfer the complete production process here – from the initial idea, through the strategy and production itself, all the way to finalisation and further distribution. The content created by Iervolino Studios is intended for the world market and distribution on popular streaming platforms, and it will be available worldwide. It was while going through this whole process that I realised that the future of film is in the short format – according to some research, 98% of film watching in the next ten years will be via phones and streaming platforms, and there are today more smartphones in the world than there are people. Of course, this doesn’t mean that we’ll no longer work with standard film formats and classic distribution systems – the key is in an intelligent combination of these two approaches.

Mr Iervolino, is the Earth too restrictive for you? Is that why we have “Space 11”, to cater for the need for film, TV and online content, music and sporting events, recorded in space? Is it possible that we’re at that stage of development?

Andrea: Space 11, as a subsidiary of Iervolino Entertainment Group, is the first company dedicated to producing film, TV and online content, but also music and sporting events, that are shot entirely in space, and it originated from the idea of moving entertainment beyond the Earth’s atmosphere, similar to the companies that design accommodation and recreational facilities there. Perhaps the notion of such a project may seem too futuristic or impractical at the moment, but technological progress is unfolding at such a speed that I believe all this will be achievable in a relatively short period of time. I consider that we’ll be able to realise the first event live, up there somewhere in space, by the first half of 2023.

Miloš Biković’s Archangel Digital Studios is today our strategic partner and we’re looking forward to everything we’ll do together in the future

Iervolino Studios consists of two centres, located in Belgrade and Novi Sad. How is the work organised?

Dragan: Our studio has two branches, located in the city centres of Belgrade and Novi Sad, on an area of 1,500 square metres, while the plan is to also open a new branch with the goal of giving talented people a chance to work throughout Serbia. Our uniquely designed studios, for which everything is designed bespoke and made to measure, are equipped with the latest technology and equipment, which our artists have the opportunity to work on together with top domestic and foreign professionals. Production is conducted equally at both studios, and modern equipment and following trends enable daily connectivity and joint work.

How would you rate your cooperation with Serbian actor Miloš Biković, founder of Belgrade’s Archangel Digital Studios?

Andrea: I met Miloš on the set of a film we were both working on in Rome and even back then I told myself that he was something special, so we stayed in touch. It was only after I came to Serbia for the first time that I realised he was from here – I’d somehow always connected him with Russia in my mind. In the meantime we’ve become really good friends, we talk a lot about art and film, the past and future of the industry, and how to preserve creativity and originality in these challenging times.

It was actually Miloš who finally convinced me that Serbia should be the place to open a new studio. Through him I also met many other local artists and people from the profession, which led to me gaining great trust in the local art community and recognising its great potential. Archangel Digital Studios is today our strategic partner and we’re looking forward to everything we’ll do together in the future.

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