The origins of the Ferrania Company date back to 1882, with the construction of the Societa Italiana Prodotti Esplodenti (Italian Society of Explosive Products), better known by the acronym SIPE, in Liguria, Italy. It had an influential benefactor in Russia's Tsar Nicholas II, and became a major producer of nitrocellulose explosives during World War I. After the Russian Revolution and the collapse of the tsarist government, SIPE decided to use its wartime surplus of nitrocellulose to produce films, a celluloid base that is composed of nitrocellulose and camphor. SIPE transformed itself into Fabbrica Italiana Lamine Milano (FILM), and began cinematic experimentation in 1920. However, it took a couple of Frenchmen, Charles and Emile Pathe, at the time Europe's largest film distributors, to produce a viable product. But after a few years, when they feared their efforts would not be profitable, the Pathe Brothers sold their shares in the company to Credito Italiano, a bank that earned a reputation for bailing out similar companies. Under the new ownership, Franco Marmont was installed as President and Chief Executive Officer of the company now known as FILM Ferrania, referencing the tiny village the new factory now called home. Through reorganization, production costs were slashed and sale prices were reduce initially at a loss to stimulate consumer interest. The strategies worked, and soon FILM Ferrania was producing several roll film formats, 16mm films, and X-rays.
By 1932, the company was turning impressive profits, enough to purchase Cappelli, a Milan manufacturer of glass plates. FILM Ferrania also expanded its cinematic base to include cameras. The Cappelli partnership ended within a few years, but the factory continued to flourish, eventually becoming one of Milan's largest employers with a workforce well exceeding 500. Like many of its counterparts, it supported the war effort with film-based products. After World War II, it attracted the attention of Italian Neorealist filmmakers like director Roberto Rossellini, who used Ferrania film for the exterior shots of his 1945 groundbreaking film, Rome, Open City. By the early 1960s, Ferrania had established an international reputation for superior film products, and in 1964, 3M, an American conglomerate, purchased controlling interest in the company, which would thereafter be known as Ferrania-3M. The factory received a complete upgrade, and research, development, and training increased dramatically during this period. The results included high-speed X-ray films and daylight-balanced color transparencies. Eventually, the company dropped "Ferrania" from its name, and doing so seemed to mark a downturn in its fortunes. Unable to complete with the dominant film markets like Agfa, Fujifilm, and Kodak, 3M relegated the Ferrania plant to manufacturing 35mm films.
In 1995, a depressed economy resulted in major 3M corporate shakeups that included restructuring the Italian Ferrania and American Imation companies into a single entity. Within four years, Ferrania was sold off to an Italian investment company, which tried to reinvent itself by focusing on pharmaceuticals and solar technology. The film operations ceased altogether in 2010. However, in recent years, Italian filmmakers Nicola Baldini and Marco Pagni, are attempting to breathe new life into the legendary company. Mr. Baldini explains, "Marco and I had an idea to create a niche business dedicated to finishing motion picture film in small sizes. Our plan was very simple, we would procure the machines needed to convert 8 and 16mm films from the standard 35mm, and we would establish a laboratory in an area of Europe where production is cheaper and worldwide distribution would be easier." The new owners are confident that FILM Ferrania can be restored to its former glory and become a worldwide leader in twenty-first century analog-imaging technology.
2014 A Brief History of Ferrania, Part 1: 1882-1963 (URL: http://www.filmferrania.it/news/bombs-to-bombshells).
2014 A Brief History of Ferrania, Part 2: 1964-2012 (URL: http://www.filmferrania.it/news/2014/the-3m-era).
2014 A Brief History of Ferrania, Part 3: 2012-2014 (URL: http://www.filmferrania.it/news/2014/where-are-the-other-85).
2016 The Cine 8-16 Interview by Nicola Baldini (URL: http://www.filmferrania.it/news).
2016 Ferrania – Vintage Camera Brand (URL: http://vintagecameralab.com/make/ferrania).
2007 Italian Neorealist Cinema: An Aesthetic Approach by Christopher Wagstaff (Toronto, Canada: University of Toronto Press), p. 96.
2001 McKeown’s Price Guide to Antique and Classic Cameras, 2001-2002 (Grantsburg, WI: Centennial Photo Service, 2001), pp. 213-214.
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