Towards a sustainable film industry

By Edward Zammit Lewis

Filmed in Malta: behind the scenes shots from the movie World War Z (2013)
Filmed in Malta: behind the scenes shots from the movie World War Z (2013)

Ninety years ago Malta witnessed the start of its film industry. Since then this dynamic sector has expanded in such a manner that it is also having a relevant and positive impact on our economy

This industry is now creating new jobs and generating more wealth than ever before.

The film industry has a substantial multiplier effect on our economy. Apart from payments on wages and services related directly to film production, further large sums are spent on accommodation, transport and entertainment, among others. 

It is estimated that the film business in Malta will contribute some €100 million to the economy this year. This equates to over a 250% leap to the €29 million recorded last year. Back in 2003 the direct contribution was a mere €5 million. 

Since 2013 we have had 45% more applications through the ‘Malta Film Funds’ and the total applications for the same year actually surpasses the number recorded within all the previous five years (2008-2012). 

During the past three years Malta has hosted 19 foreign productions, compared to 20 in the previous six-year period. This year alone eight productions have already been shot in Malta. This augurs well for another record-breaking year.

The film industry in Malta is experiencing its best ever performance and it is crucial that we maintain this positive momentum. A comprehensive long-term strategy is required to ensure that Malta remains competitive in this sector. Hence, following a remarkable history of 90 years of film making on our shores, we are set to introduce the first National Film Policy.

A few months back I commissioned a consultative council specifically tasked to draft this first film policy. The Ministry for Tourism carried out a consultation process with all stakeholders, including the Malta Film Commission. Following three months of hard work, I am satisfied to note that we have attained the objectives that we set out. I take this occasion to thank the members of the council for their exceptional work.

This policy will set the vision for the next five years, with the aim of realising the potential of the international film industry and transforming Malta into a special film destination. It addresses important issues such as infrastructure, financial incentives, the employment sector, education and skills development besides also screen tourism. 

A long-term development and investment plan is needed for Malta to remain competitive. It is imperative that changes in the film-making process should also be reflected in our legislation in order to remain updated. 

Malta Film Studios has been neglected for many years and I am now determined to change this. As regards film infrastructure, the government plans to improve the water facilities at Rinella and build the first sound stages in Malta as so far we generally lack studio space, sound stages and post-production facilities.

The Malta Film Fund supports the development and production of local film projects, while at the same time strengthening Malta’s standing as a shooting location. Efforts by the Malta Film Fund to establish new and more efficient methods for financing local productions is of utmost importance if the home-grown film production industry is to flourish. This moves in parallel with the planned infrastructure enhancement and the creation of more training opportunities.

We are also working on developing a legal framework that protects and regulates film employment. However, it must be clear that our aim is to achieve a win-win situation where the employees’ rights are rightly safeguarded, thereby attracting even more people to the industry, but still avoiding to place an excessive administrative burden on film producers.

Of course employment regulation works hand in hand with development in film industry education, training and skills development. Once the strategic educational framework is already established, the next step is to determine the implementation plan of this strategy. Malta needs to have a fully-fledged film school, offering both recognised qualifications in film-making as well as training in the skills sets required.

Films are also a very good marketing vehicle to promote Malta around the world. Screen tourism has proved to be another driver for economic growth in recent years, and this branch of tourism can only improve once more productions are shot here on our islands. A number of themes should be evaluated so that this branch of tourism can be further exploited.

I have had the honour to launch this draft policy and present it to the general public. This government values and gives credit to those who contributed to this policy. We want to transform this dynamic and innovative industry into an even bigger success story for the Maltese islands. Therefore, the Ministry for Tourism invites the general public to contribute to the drafting of this national policy. I encourage and invite you to submit your suggestions on [email protected] so that together we continue to distinguish Malta as a primary country of attraction for the film industry.

Edward Zammit-Lewis is Minister for Tourism