Film producer slams dismal state of Maltese audio visual sector

Transmedia producer Jean Pierre Magro comes down heavily on Communications course at University and local audiovisual sector.

From left: Paul Portelli, Mario Azzopardi, Grace Grima, Jean Pierre Magro and Vince Briffa.
From left: Paul Portelli, Mario Azzopardi, Grace Grima, Jean Pierre Magro and Vince Briffa.

During a public consultation group of the national draft strategy for the creative industry held this morning, transmedia producer Jean Pierre Magro came down heavily on the local industry's poor standards and lack of proper infrastructure.

Targeting shortcomings in education and the PBS, Magro hit out against the Communications course at the University and said that we need to change our mentality, if we wish to be on par with the rest of the world, suggesting that the way to go would be to outsource our talent to countries abroad.

"There is a bigger market out there... we can't keep producing for the local market. That is plain stupid.

"A German producer who has a potential market of around 120 million viewers creates content with the aim to sell outside his territory. Why aren't we doing that?" Magro, who is also one of the artistic programme directors of Valletta's bid as Capital for Culture 2018, added.

Speaking of the PBS, Magro said that "we have to think of the national broadcaster. It needs to equip itself with professional commissioning editors who are producing material and selling documentaries abroad.

"Why is Malta unable to do a co-production? Why doesn't PBS have schemes to help first time writers and directors?

"Why does the national broadcaster have such a low standard?" Magro said, bringing up the example of Sunday variety programme Hadd Ghalik to illustrate the lack of audio-visual education students receive under the Communications course.

"While it's true that the Communications Department is not a film school, the fact that a programme like Hadd Ghalik - which is a vulgar mess - is typical of the kind of thing that gets produced locally is an indictment of the course itself.

"I mean, I left the course without any knowledge of the most rudimentary film production basics... we weren't even told what a synopsis was..."

Magro's comments were made during the first of a series of public consultation sessions on the draft national strategy for the cultural and creative industries at St James Cavalier, Valletta, which will continue until Tuesday 11 September.

 

READ MORE: Creative strategy to make culture 'professional'

 

The session - which was the second part of today's consultation meeting - focused on culture and education. It was chaired by lecturer and artist Vince Briffa.

The other participants included Mario Azzopardi (Life Long Education director), Grace Grima (Director General of the Directorate of Standards in Education within the Education Ministry) and actor and drama teacher Paul Portelli.

Today's consultation sessions focused on ministries, business organisations, unions, representative organisations and individuals interested in acquiring knowledge about the cultural and creative industries; as well as students, universities and colleges, arts and education institutions, performing arts schools and education professionals.

Magro's claims were backed up by students from the Communications course, who referred to it as a "disaster".

"We are simply told to, for example, create a short film from scratch without any real guidance, and we're then assessed on this by other fellow students - instead of professionals or experts in the field."

Magro also added that Malta is lagging "20 years behind" in the audio-visual field, and that despite Malta's size there is plenty that can be done to transform it into a lucrative audio-visual hub.

"My students don't know where to go after they're finished with their course. There's no effort to teach them how to sell or market their film, and even worse than that, there is no emphasis on how to structure a story properly, which is a vital component; I mean, how can you even teach scriptwriting without it?

"Take the example of another small market like Denmark. Because they trained their students in storytelling, they have been outsourcing scripts to Hollywood for years, and the Danish even have offices in America now," Magro added.

The creative strategy, unveiled on 7 August, was put together by the Creative Economy Group - a collaboration between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry for Culture.

Broadly speaking, the strategy aims to strengthen the relationship between the arts and finance, and details ways in which the cultural sector could become more of a professional- and less of a hobbyist - pursuit, as tends to be the case in Malta.

Further sessions will be held tomorrow (between 9.00am and 1.00pm), Monday 10 September (11.30am to 1.00pm) and Tuesday 11 September (10.30 to noon). The sessions will be focused on 'championing the sector through cohesive governance structures', 'routing creative ideas to market', 'Malta: a hub for creative exchange' and 'Creative Gozo'.

Speaking to MaltaToday, Creative Economy advisor Toni Attard had said that "it's in the interest of anybody working within the cultural sector to assess and interpret the freely available data about cultural participation, economic performance, voluntary activity, youth engagement" and that one of the challenges local cultural operators will have to wrestle with is establishing financial and professional independence.

"This is not a matter of hope for funding or support but an issue of providing the necessary arguments to pitch for projects, build audiences, diversify production, export work and so on... the declining funds for culture across Europe should be a clear warning to avoid full dependency on public funds," Attard said.

For more information, log on to Creative Malta.

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