A promising haven for film production amid global challenges

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 July, 2024 at 9:46 am by Andre Camilleri

Lina Klesper is an International Legal assistant at PKFMalta

In recent years, Malta has emerged as a premier destination for film production, attracting high-profile actors and directors to its picturesque shores. Movies like Gladiator, Troy and scenes from Game of Thrones have all been filmed here, highlighting the island’s cinematic appeal. However, the potential of Malta as a film production hub is now facing new challenges in the wake of last year’s actors’ strike and scrutiny of Malta’s film industry governance.

Malta’s film industry noted a slowdown in the number of productions this year, which can be traced back to last year’s actors’ strike and the knock-on scheduling conflicts of the talent involved. The global actors’ strike started in July 2023 and significantly disrupted film production schedules, causing delays and cancellations of numerous projects. Hollywood, the epicentre of the film industry, was hit hard, with studios scrambling to adjust timelines and budgets. The strike highlighted vulnerabilities within the industry, particularly regarding labour relations and the dependence on star power for box office success.

The strike disrupted the filming of the Gladiator sequel directed by Ridley Scott in Malta for months. The production resumed in December after an agreement was reached between the actors’ union and film studios in November, officially ending the strike. During the hiatus, approximately 100 individuals working on the set construction of Gladiator 2 faced challenges. During the strike, Maltese extras were nonetheless able to continue working on certain crowd scenes.

As the industry recalibrates, international locations like Malta have an opportunity to capitalize on the shifting landscape. The disruptions caused by the strike have forced Hollywood studios and independent producers to seek alternative filming locations to mitigate risks associated with production delays and labour disputes. Malta, with its diverse settings and robust incentives, can position itself as a reliable and attractive alternative to traditional filming hubs.

Malta’s allure for filmmakers is multifaceted. First, Malta’s strategic location in the Mediterranean, coupled with its diverse scenery, allows for a variety of film settings, from ancient ruins to modern urban landscapes. Second, the island boasts a skilled workforce adept in various aspects of film production, from set construction to post-production. Third, Malta provides substantial financial incentives to filmmakers. Eligible productions can receive up to a 40% cash rebate on qualified expenditures. This competitive rebate scheme is a significant draw for international productions seeking to optimise their budgets. Lastly, Malta’s pro-business attitude and streamlined bureaucratic processes facilitate smooth operations for film crews.

As the industry looks for new reliable locations, Malta can leverage strategic marketing and promotion to highlight its unique advantages. By showcasing successful productions filmed in Malta and promoting its financial and logistical benefits, Malta can attract more international projects. Moreover, the strike has led to heightened awareness around the treatment of talent and crew, with increased focus on fair labour practices and working conditions. Malta can enhance its appeal by promoting a fair and supportive working environment, ensuring that international productions comply with high standards of labour practices.

However, Malta’s film industry has been repeatedly scrutinised over the use of public funds and governance practices. Criticism arose from the spending on the Malta Film Awards, where significant amounts of taxpayer money were allocated without clear accountability. The first Mediterrane Film Festival in 2023, which was set up as a clever marketing tool in an increasingly competitive industry, made news especially because of its extravagant nature, costing taxpayers €3.8m. The second edition of the Mediterrane Film Festival cost taxpayers €3.9m in funding, justified as essential means of attracting investment to the country and film decision-makers to the island. Malta is actively working towards turning its film industry into a stable economic pillar. This year’s budget for Malta’s film industry was set at €39.8m, with €3m dedicated to upgrading film facilities and €35m for incentives. This has sparked debates on whether the marketing strategies, as well as financial incentives offered to filmmakers, are justified or if they strain public resources unnecessarily. President Myriam Spiteri Debono emphasised the need for the Film Commission and the film commissioner to adhere to principles of good governance to maintain public trust.

To ensure the long-term sustainability and growth of its film industry, Malta must address these governance issues while continuing to leverage its inherent advantages. Malta must also continue to promote its unique offerings effectively. As President Spiteri Debono noted, sustained promotion is essential for overcoming perceptions that filmmaking is not a year-round occupation. Initiatives like the Mediterrane Film Festival can serve as vital business development tools to also attract investment, showcasing Malta’s capabilities to a global audience.

In conclusion, Malta stands at a pivotal moment in its evolution as a film production hub. The aftermath of the actors’ strike presents both challenges and opportunities for the island nation. As Hollywood navigates its post-strike landscape, Malta’s commitment to fostering a stable and sustainable film sector could make it an even more attractive destination for blockbuster productions.

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