The film industry found its roots on the Maltese Islands around ninety years ago. Recently Malta has been making headlines in the movie world through major high budget movies as well as episodes from popular TV series and documentaries that were totally or partly produced here.
Apart from the very positive impact that such industry has on our economy, Malta’s movie industry is also playing an important part in enhancing the visibility of our islands on the wider global scale. Furthermore, it is attracting tourists who want to visit locations featured in their favourite movies, referred to as ‘screen tourism’. According to data gathered by the Malta Tourism Authority (MTA), around 3.5% of all tourists who visit the Maltese Islands may have picked the destination after watching productions featuring our islands. Such tourists are interested in actually one day being on the site of memorable movie scenes.
The film business has become very competitive, and investment in such productions is substantial. Apart from the funds forked out to film crews and other services directly related to the industry, film productions also normally have big budgets for ancillary services, such as hotel accommodation, transport and entertainment. The film industry also has a strong multiplier effect on the local economy through spin-off activity, not to mention the enhancement of the country’s profile and visibility internationally.
As all those involved in the local film industry are well aware, throughout the past months, Government has given a strong boost to this industry. In the short term, Malta has been positioning itself as a competitive and attractive film destination. As part of this strategy, we have introduced new financial incentives aimed at creating the appropriate environment in which this industry can be developed and attract investment, while the Malta Film Commission (MFC) has carried out an extensive marketing campaign in targeted and specific key markets.
As a result of this increased activity, we have now started seeing the creation of sustainable jobs in film-making, as well as the development of an indigenous movie-making industry. All this has, in turn, created opportunities for local businesses as they see the advantages in investing in specialist equipment and related skills. However, the type of large-scale productions that have come to our shores in recent years has also created new challenges particularly ensuring the local availability of skilled human resources for such productions.
Movie-making requires skilled persons to build film sets, for film administration, logistics and transport coordinators, location managers, amongst others. The industry also needs creative individuals, such as producers, directors and camerapersons, together with costume designers and make-up artists, to mention a few. With the right people and skills in place, Malta can make more headway also in the vibrant post-production phase.
Consequently, as part a long-term vision for the industry, we have been coordinating efforts designed to encourage more people to specialise in this industry, primarily through the organisation of training programmes in the various skills required. We are also aware that somewhere along the line, Malta will need to have a fully-fledged film school offering both recognised qualifications in film-making as well as training opportunities, along the skills sets required at all levels. I believe that the University of Malta, MCAST, the Public Broadcasting Services (PBS), together with international specialised institutions, would be the ideal potential partners for such important projects.
There has also been greater focus on the need to improve and augment the industry’s infrastructure, particularly through investment in the construction of the film studios. The Malta Film Fund has proved to be an effective vehicle for supporting locally-produced films and documentaries, while a specific scheme has been set up to direct investment in co-productions for international distribution. In this regard, Malta has also started sourcing international partners in the industry. For example, the MFC has entered into co-productions with its Canadian counterpart and there are similar arrangements in the pipeline. From a marketing perspective, we intend to intensify Malta’s presence in Europe and the USA, while extending its reach to other important markets.
Fortunately, the future looks bright for this industry in Malta. Government envisages a sustainable film industry that generates greater all year-round economic activity through the creation of new jobs that, in turn, fosters new creative talent and skills.
My vision is that Malta develops into a leader within the Mediterranean region, making its mark as a reputable film location and consistently attracting international films and TV series, while, simultaneously, nurturing a growing indigenous film industry based on quality and professionalism.
Consequently, in the next weeks, I am going to establish a consultative committee for the development of the film industry in the Maltese Islands. The committee shall design growth strategies, develop medium to long range measures to maximise foreign direct investment in the sector. I believe that this is the right time to start working on forming the industry with a longer term vision to consistently become an important contributor to Malta’s economy.
Unfortunately, the Malta Film Studios has been neglected for many years and I am determined to change this state of affairs. In order to attract international and reputable producers, the facility needs to be upgraded and modernised.
As in most economic sectors, such as tourism, the success of this sector much will hinge on both the Government and the private sector’s concerted efforts to foster the ideal environment for development and growth.
We want to transform this dynamic and innovative industry into another success story for the Maltese islands.
Dr. Edward Zammit Lewis