Local Sustainable
Economic Development
Additional Focus Areas
Latest Articles
The Creative Cluster and the Film Commission in Apulia, Italy
Written following a Project Wealth field trip to Apulia in Southern Italy.

“For me, creativity was basically an alternative to unemployment. In the past, anyone who wanted to work simply moved to Rome. Our generation changed that reality. We understood that only by utilizing the beauty of the area and our own talent would we be able to generate jobs and stay here in Apulia.” Vincenzo Bellini, manager of the Apulia “creative cluster.”

The Apulia region of Southern Italy is a social and geographical periphery, plagued with problems like unemployment, lack of quality employment opportunities, the loss of its younger generation to emigration, a negative public image, etc. To deal with these problems, the Apulia Development Authority has begun to develop a model for creative industry: using art and culture as an engine for local economic growth. The development approach works from two directions at once, i.e. from the bottom up and from the top down. This means providing support for independent initiatives from the field as well as implementing favorable government policy. This approach has turned Apulia into a leader in the field of creative industry. The region now offers quality employment that young and creative people find attractive, and has become a hub of creative industries like films and music videos in addition to drawing tourists to its unique locations.

Our tour of Apulia’s cultural and artistic activity was guided by Cristina Piscitelli, a project manager in the Apulia Film Commission, and Vincenzo Bellini, the manager of the Apulia Creative Cluster. They showed us evidence of the program’s impressive achievements: convincing young, creative people to remain in Apulia, drawing national and international productions to the area, and generating additional jobs. “according to an economic impact study we conducted, for every Euro invested by the cinema fund has brought in 5 Euros that have stayed in Apulia’s local economy, and we see even greater potential to come to Apulia’s creative sector.”

The Apulia Creative Cluster
The “Creative Cluster” began in 2011 as the initiative of local entrepreneurs, and in 2012 the Apulia Development Authority recognized it as an official cluster and provided it with funding. If in the past the world has tended to divide regions according to fields of specialization, in recent years new approaches have led regions to diversify, developing multiple “complementary clusters” instead of one monolithic area of expertise. These clusters are made up of a group of services from different fields, working together in economic cooperation. The “creative cluster,” for instance, refers to the region’s culture, creativity and innovation, and to the various services that surround it. The cluster was first formed by significant initiative from the field, and when the Apulia Development Authority formally declared its support of a “creative cluster,” the region’s residents used this support to further bolster their activity. Their data shows that despite the fact that unemployment in Apulia doubled in the years 2011-12, the creative industry sector showed a rise in the number of available jobs. As a result, many companies now wish to join the cluster.

The cluster is working to create a high local production standard by investing in education and training, particularly for the younger generation. The Authority is also investing in research, in international cooperation, in shared marketing and publicity, and in finding sustainable solutions to minimize the wasteful use of local resources.

“Apulia’s cultural assets have a great deal of potential,” says Bellini. “In the last few years we have developed cinemas, theaters, musical productions and more. Our challenge is integrating more areas like design, hi tech and even agriculture, which are perceived as having no connection to the world of culture, and joining them all together into one creative cluster. This will allow us to
consolidate resources and financial connections in a way that promotes the development of each individual business, as well as contributing to development on a regional level.” 

This argument regarding the benefits of integrating a variety of fields with one another, exemplifies the basic principles underlying the cluster’s work:
  • Innovation and creativity – the industry is designed to encourage innovation and creativity in all its arenas and activities. The creative industry sees creativity as part of the Italian culture in its broader sense.  
  • A critical mass of services – building a critical mass of productions and events with economic connections between them. This requires a critical mass of arenas, such as theater, dance and cinema, and of the services surrounding these, such as props, sound, publicity etc. In order to keep the money from the production local, the region must be able to provide its entire chain of value on its own, which means involvement in the ideas, writing, design, publicity, printing, props, lighting, sound, etc. The greater and more varied the supply of productions becomes, the more the services surrounding the industry can develop, as the economic relationships between them generate “local multipliers.”A broad perception of the term “culture” that goes beyond “classic culture” such as theater, film and dance. Rather, it can include food culture, traditional culture, agricultural culture, hi-tech, academia, etc. Thus, for instance, the wine industry is a significant part of the culture in Italy.
  • The cluster as a means of integration. The cluster is the body that connects all the elements together, thus increasing demand and adding to the individual worth of each.  
  • Creativity as a form of influence – creativity can be a means of generating social influence and of involvement in various arenas. Creative activity is a form of communication that is accessible to many populations, so that, for instance, creative means can be used to convey important information. Creativity must be used in the service of old cultural arenas like agriculture and manual labor, to “upgrade” their status and allow those who work in them to make a proper living.
  • Cooperation between sectors – the cluster encourages inter-sector cooperation between private companies, social organizations and public authorities, using creativity to join them all together. One of its goals is to encourage private companies to provide the cultural industry with services, by (for example) helping it find creative environmental and technological solutions. • Public policy – the cluster is part of a public policy, with legislation defining what a cluster is, what its function is and who its representatives will be, so that its activities have the potential for even broader influence. 
The cluster’s development, with the support of the Apulia Development Authority, illustrates the economic, social and environmental promise of regional development through culture and innovation. “For me, creativity was an alternative to unemployment,” says Bellini. “In the past, anyone who wanted to work simply moved to Rome. Our generation changed that reality. We understood that only by utilizing the beauty of the area and our own talent would we be able to generate jobs and stay here in Apulia.” In 2005 young people, who preferred founding creative local ventures to emigrating and working in factories, began forming companies. The critical mass of new businesses that opened generated competition, which increased the efficiency of every business and enabled mutually beneficial economic cooperation. 

The Apulia Film Commission 
The Apulia Film Commission was founded by the Apulia Development Authority in 2007, but at the time many people were already involved in the film industry, so it was based on extensive preexisting activity in the field. The commission made it possible for all of those who worked in film to band together. The cinema fund it provides draws productions to come film in Apulia, using local assets and services and bringing money into the region, which develops the local economy. The commission has also developed a film-based tourism model. 

The commission’s methodology for drawing in productions and promoting the local economy:  
  1. Setting up the cinema fund allowed them to give grants to productions that come to Apulia to film. Many regions have film associations, but because their money is public, they cannot distribute it to productions. The existence of the cinema fund has helped to draw many productions.
  2. Companies that receive the grant are required to direct at least 20% of the money towards procurement from local suppliers.
  3. Building a catalog of experts – the Film Commission has built a database with 800 experts and 100 companies that between them can offer the entire production package (sound, set decoration, marketing, casting etc.). This means that today, production companies can come to the region with just a small crew, and receive most of the services they need from local experts.
  4. Complementary location scouting – the commission allows companies to come to the area for three days of scouting to get a feel for the various venues and possibilities the region has to offer.
  5. Assistance accommodating the crew – the commission helps productions find hotels, restaurants, and all the other necessities for accommodating the crew during the production. Thus, the productions enjoy the benefits of additional assistance and the commission can send them to local businesses and boost the local tourist industry.
  6. Training and internships – part of the commission’s policy is investing in the creation of additional local experts to meet the demands of the incoming production companies.

Our Partners