April 27, 2008 / 4:33 PM / 10 years ago

Rossellini unsure if films can make money online

NEW YORK (Reuters) - While Isabella Rossellini enjoyed her foray into new media with her short films about insect sex, she is not sure they could turn a profit, given that so much content is available on the Internet for free.

Isabella Rossellini smiles during a presentation of the film "The Feast of the Goat," based on a novel by Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, in Lima March 28, 2006. REUTERS/Daniel Silva

While a strike by screenwriters recently brought television and movie production to a halt over the issue of Internet royalties, actors and directors are also concerned about what they should earn for work distributed online, Rossellini told a panel discussion at New York’s Tribeca Film Festival.

“It is unclear how the money comes back,” said Rossellini, 55, who wrote, directed and featured in a series of short films about the sex life of insects called “Green Porno” that were made for the screens of cell phones, iPods and laptops.

Rossellini, who after years of acting and modeling is one of the world’s most recognizable faces, said it was easy for her to be experimental with the backing of Robert Redford and the Sundance Channel, but added she was still trying to work out how to make money in new media.

Her 20 minutes worth of short films cost $70,000 to make, out of which she paid herself $3,000.

“My agent won’t like me saying this, but I have a lot of time on my hands and I have money saved from my modeling days, so I can work for very little money, I have that possibility,” she said. “But I do feel sorry for people who try to make a living out of this because the money’s not there.”

Rossellini said she was particularly protective of artists given that her mother, Ingrid Bergman, was paid a modest salary while working on the hit “Casablanca” movie and never saw a penny in royalties.

After the damaging 100-day strike by screenwriters ended in February, major Hollywood studios and the main actors’ union are now in contract talks that also feature the issue of Internet royalties.


Rossellini enjoyed making Green Porno so much that she is working on a new series about the animals we eat.

“I’ll be eating clam and then, when I’m about to eat it, I say ‘What if I were a clam’ and then there will be me in a clam costume,” she said.

One thing she likes about new media film-making, she said, is the lack of constraints on length or format.

“The reason I made them very short, though, is because you are going to be watching them in a context that is more distracting than if you are watching TV on your couch at home, or a movie in a movie theater,” she said.

She also found the interactive aspect of new media interesting.

“The films triggered a dialogue with the audience, which I hadn’t foreseen,” Rossellini said.

“Saying that, I am a little scared of the direct conversation with the audience. Sometimes they write things that are really nasty — already critics were hard enough!”

And, of course, on the Internet the key is to find a subject that travels around the world.

“That’s why I chose sex,” Rossellini said with a laugh.

Editing by John O'Callaghan

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