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Malta sets out 2030 locations biz goals at new Mediterrane Film Fest

Jun 06, 2024

The Malta Film Commission has outlined its plans to take the Mediterranean island’s burgeoning locations business to the next level as it enjoys its busiest year ever, on the fringes of its new Mediterrane Film Festival.

Commissioner Johann Grech told an industry conference taking place within the new festival that after six years in the job building up Malta as a shooting location, his next goal was to take the country’s film industry to the ‘next level’.

“The ‘next level’ for film in Malta means creating a truly sustainable, year-round film industry, giving ever more opportunities to our people,” he said.

The country – which increased its cash rebate to 40% from 30% on eligible local spend at the beginning of 2023 – has hosted 20 productions in the first six months of this year, against 24 productions for the whole of 2022.

Four productions have shot or are shooting on the island in June, spanning Ridley Scott’s Gladiator 2; North Sea oil rig accident thriller Last Breath, capsized fishing boat drama Not Without Hope and reality show House Of Streams.

Ridley has returned to his favorite spot of Fort Ricasoli, where he has had Ancient Rome including its colosseum reconstructed, while Last Breath and Not Without Hope made use of Malta’s famed water tanks, which previously hosted the shoots of films like Captain Phillips.

Pre-production is also underway for the return of the news season of France-set show The Madame Blanc Mysteries.

At the heart of commission’s plan is an ambitious educational and outreach campaign aimed at expanding and up-skilling the country’s pool of film crew.

“The film industry has captured the imagination of Malta’s young people. One in four are interested in working in film. Our task is transforming that raw enthusiasm into skilled crews,” said Grech

He explained how the country had responded to a looming crew crunch ahead of the busy summer schedule with a European Union-backed program of free courses covering different aspects of production, aimed at encouraging people in Malta’s 290,000-strong workforce to transfer their skills to the film industry.

“With Gladiator 2 shooting here in Malta – alongside a host of other productions – it was clear that we were heading for a real crunch in capacity. There was a danger we would simply run out of people,” he explained.

“So, the Film Commission stepped in. We asked Malta’s skilled workers to step up. Like a happier version of that famous British army recruiting poster – your country needs you. And the response was strong – thousands called.

“We were ready with short, tailored training courses. To enable individuals with existing craft skills to transfer them to the needs of film. Take a make-up artist working in a salon, or a carpenter making furniture – they already have really strong skills. They just need to be shown how those skills can be deployed on a film set.”

According to Grech, Malta currently has around 1,500 people registered as available for work on film and TV productions, with 900 people working on a regular basis.

Some 600 local crew are currently working Gladiator 2 alongside 400 international technicians, he said.

“I want to increase the workforce by 50% within two years,” he told Deadline.

In a longer-term initiative, the commission has also spearheaded a move to add cinema to the primary school curriculum in Malta, to prime a new generation of film and TV professionals.

“I want our children, our young people to choose a career in the film industry and that’s why we’re having a very robust educational program to ensure we meet those challenges,” Grech told Deadline after his speech.

Alongside Maltese state and EU funding, the programs are also being paid for by a new obligation for productions benefiting from the cash rebate to pay 0.5% of their spend on the island into a special educational fund.

Another pole of the 2030 strategy is to expand infrastructure and improve existing facilities.

Grech said that a previously announced project to construct the country’s first interior sound stage at the Malta Film Studios in Kalkara was advancing and that it would be put out to international tender shortly.

The 4,000 square metres facility will feature an environment-controlled, indoor 2,000 square-metre water tank overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Grech said a next step would be further investment in post-production and VFX companies.

The new Mediterrane Film Festival – spearheaded by Grech and his team – is also part of the commission’s strategy to foster a cinema culture in Malta and put it on the map as a regional industry hub.

Running June 25 to 30 in the Maltese capital of Valetta, the aim of the event is to foster collaboration between the so-called Club Med or MED9 nations, or EU member states with Mediterranean borders.

Each of the territories – spanning Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Slovenia and Spain – have submitted a film for its new competition, with contenders including award winners Saint Omer, Alma Viva and Alcarràs.

A jury chaired Film London and British Film Commission CEO Adrian Wootton will hand out the new Golden Bee awards at a gala ceremony on Friday.

The event will also world premiere a special film celebrating Malta as a shooting location and featuring David Walliams, Eric Bana, Natascha McElhone, Jareh Harris, Joaquim de Almeida, Annabelle Wallis, Darko Perić and Daniela Melchior in the cast.

The industry conference also continues until Friday with panels on public financing, trends in AI and digital technology and industry standards for diversity and inclusion.

Other festival events include the world premiere on Tuesday evening of survival thriller Deep Fear, in the presence of co-stars Ed Westwick and Madalina Ghenea.

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