Welcome to Deadline’s International Disruptors, a feature where we shine a spotlight on key executives and companies shaking up the offshore marketplace. This week, we’re talking to Netflix VP of Italian Originals Eleonora “Tinny” Andreatta. The veteran exec was pivotal in bringing shows such as My Brilliant Friend to audiences during her 25-year career at public service broadcaster Rai and here she speaks to Deadline about the local and global strategy for her newest role.
When Netflix hired former Rai director Eleonora Andreatta in 2020 as vice president of Italian Original series, it was a monumental coup for the mega-streamer and a clear sign that the company was taking its presence in Italy very seriously.
Andreatta was seen as the most influential commissioning editor in Italy. Her distinguished 25-year career at public service broadcaster Rai saw her deliver around 500 hours of TV drama per year across its three main channels and its streaming platform Rai Play. She’s been credited for elevating high-end Italian drama by commissioning foreign co-productions such as historical drama Medici: Masters Of Florence and My Brilliant Friend, the latter from prolific Italian author Elena Ferrante.
“I was fascinated at what Netflix was doing on a global scale in that they didn’t just want to export U.S. content to Europe, but they wanted to produce local content in local markets,” says Andreatta, who had first worked with Netflix in 2017 when Rai collaborated with the streamer for its first original Italian series Suburra, about ties between mob and politics in contemporary Rome. “I always loved to work in production and build great stories that are really tied to Italy and to our roots so when I was asked to be involved with the talent production of Netflix and the opening of the new office in Rome, I was thrilled to accept and have this totally new adventure.”
Andreatta, who is fondly referred to as “Tinny” amongst execs and friends alike (a nickname her parents bestowed upon her as a girl based on the courageous heroine from Rabindranath Tagore’s play Red Oleanders), has had a long and storied career steeped both in Italian scripted TV production and cinema. As a young girl, she says she remembers hanging across the balustrade of her terrace in Bologna, where she grew up, to watch old films playing at the outdoor cinema below. Later, in college, she had a stint studying Italian studies at UCLA before she returned to Italy to pursue what she saw as her true calling: working in the film and TV business.
She kick-started her career at the age of 20, when she moved to Rome and worked for Academy Pictures, the oldest independent European and American cinema distribution company in Italy.
“Those were formative years,” Andreatta recalls. “I was in a small company and I learned how we can and should do everything, from what is the humblest to what is the most important, all with the same care.”
After receiving a proposal to become a consultant for Rai in series production, she began her career at the broadcaster that spanned more than two decades where she held roles across cinema and TV such as Head of Drama, Supervisor of Rai 1 Cinema and Fiction as well as Supervisor of Co-Productions and TV series for Rai Fiction before becoming director of Rai Fiction in 2012.
During her tenure, Andreatta actively discouraged the relocation of Italian productions abroad, feeling an acute sense of responsibility to Italian crews. She helped create some of the most ambitious projects on Italian television, such as 2019 miniseries The Name Of The Rose and Rocco Schiavone, which attracted younger audiences in the country thanks to its marijuana-smoking cop.
“We had to try to recover the audience that was leaving linear television by raising the quality bar through great foreign co-productions and real events capable of reverberating their strength on all the programming,” she says. “We needed more contemporary series in terms of language, more complexities in the characters and shows that were more complicit with what audiences wanted to watch,” she says.
Andreatta also helped found The Alliance, a partnership with three major European public broadcasters – Rai, France TV and Germany’s ZDF – which led to a raft of co-productions, including thriller Survivors, with pan-European spins that could serve the three countries.
Netflix, meanwhile, was increasing its investments and ambitions in the region and announced it would be opening an office near Rome’s iconic Via Veneto, a place in the 1960s and 1970s where artists and creatives would gather to exchange ideas and passions. For Andreatta, the move to the streamer at this stage felt like a natural progression.
When the pandemic came, the streaming world fostered what was already an ongoing trend of global audiences consuming non-English language content and stories from around the world. Indeed, between 2018 and 2021 viewing of non-English language titles by Netflix subscribers more than tripled, proving that language was no longer the barrier it once was for consumers across the globe.
“I saw the possibility of being more courageous in the work I was doing,” she says of her move to Netflix. “There have been big changes in the industry and now even Italian production has to confront itself with the best of what is coming from all over the world and it is raising the bar of what is asked from the talent industry.”
It’s been just shy of two years since she made the move and, having weathered a pandemic and shepherded the opening of the Rome office last year, Andreatta says the company is on track to double down on its output of local original series.
“Our goal is to tell a variety of authentic and unique Italian stories,” says Andreatta. “Alongside fictional stories based on original creativity that will use genres in an innovative way mirroring the urgency of our present, we look for inspiration in real stories and important Italian IPs. What’s important to us is to portray what I call ‘the other face of Italy.’ It’s the part of Italy that hasn’t been told until now. It’s the stories that break out of stereotypes and break taboos.”
Much like Suburra and Baby, two Netflix Italian originals that were based on true events, Andreatta and her team are looking to create a slate of authentic Italian stories that are inspired from rich Italian literary heritage. For example, Netflix is teaming with Fandango to adapt a series based on Ferrante’s novel The Lying Life Of Adults. The 1990s set story, which is directed by Edoardo De Angelis, follows a young girl from an affluent background whose search for her aunt leads her to the industrial, working class side of Naples. This series comes after Netflix backed another Ferrante adaptation last year, The Lost Daughter, which is up for three Academy Awards, including Best Actress and Best Adapted Screenplay.
Also on the slate are Tutto Chiede Salvezza (Everything Asks For Salvation), based on the book by Daniele Mencarelli, winner of the Strega Young Prize. It’s adapted and directed by Francesco Bruni and stars Federico Cesari. There’s also a series based on Lidia Poët, the first Italian female lawyer who struggles in a professional world dominated by men and the recently-launched Briganti (Brigands), about a woman forced to go on the run from dutiful wife to the ruthless leader of a group of bandits.
“For us the concept of cultural proximity is fundamental and the series we want to produce in Italy are deeply rooted in our culture, in our territory and in the Italian tradition and character,” says Andreatta.
The exec says that to do this successfully, it means having stories that are “specific” and “rooted in real and authentic” locations. “Italy has so many different geographical, historical and linguistic nuances and keeping these details in the stories are extremely important,” she says. “To be specific and authentic is the key to success in Italy and globally since people love to discover stories that have a different context from what they know, but universal characters they can connect with.”
She points to Israeli series such as Fauda and Unorthodox as being prime examples of Netflix bringing specific, local stories to global audiences.
Andreatta is keen to make Netflix a home for both established talent in Italy as well as burgeoning new voices. It’s a crowded market with an increased number of players in the content space, like many of its European counterparts, but she’s confident Netflix will be instrumental at paving the way for the next generation of talents.
“On the talent side, we want to contribute to growing a new generation as well as offering the existing talents the best creative and work experience possible,” she says. “We want to portray the rich variety of our society and to do so we need to have diverse talent both in front of and behind the camera.”
Last year, Netflix launched “Becoming Maestre,” a new initiative in collaboration of the Accademia del Cinema Italiano – Primi David di Donatello to help support new female talents in Italian cinema. Twenty-four candidates – all under the age of 35 – received mentoring to become the next generation of directors, cinematographers, sound editors and sound engineers. Eventually, four will be able to work on a series or movie that Netflix is producing in the region.
Netflix also joined with Premio Solinas last year for “La Bottega della Screeneggiatura,” a high-level coaching and training initiative aimed at aspiring TV screenwriters from multicultural backgrounds.
For Andreatta, the future of Italian content is looking bright and she’s looking forward to discovering those unexpected hits that she calls “unicorns.”
“The best projects are the ones I haven’t imagined yet or what I’m not expecting,” she says, citing adult animation Tear Along The Dotted Line, which was created and directed by renowned Italian illustrator Zerocalcare, as an example.
“I really see the Italian audiovisual industry regaining a place at a global level, but also in that crossroad that belongs to our history – between the Mediterranean and Europe.”
This week’s edition of Deadline’s International Disruptors is presented by Guillotine Vodka.
Must Read Stories
Subscribe to Deadline Breaking News Alerts and keep your inbox happy.