Malta renewed its position as a top Mediterranean film location after managing to draw a large volume of foreign films and series in the past two years. Crews from Hollywood and Bollywood as well as marketing agencies and production companies frequently visit the island. Among the biggest productions that chose Malta were Entebbe, a film based on the 1976 hijacking of an Air France plane, as well as the Netflix series Sense8, marking the first time that the powerful cable TV network filmed in Malta.
Attracted by the versatile location, the film servicing facilities and infrastructure, English-speaking film professionals and the fiscal incentives offered by the government, Malta has become many movie - makers’ first choice. To raise its profile even further, this Mediterranean Mini-Hollywood aims to develop top-notch studio infrastructure as well as fresh financial incentives. Malta is also keen to write itself more into the picture and is inviting script and screenwriters to develop Maltese stories that have the potential to appeal to an international audience.
1. Sound Expertise in the Film Industry
Malta has a proven track record with 90 years of history as a film location. The first feature film shot on the island was Sons of the Seas in 1925. To date, almost 150 films have been shot in Malta, either entirely or partially. Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott and Ron Howard are just a few of the award-winning directors who have chosen to film in Malta. The list of major box-office hits under the island’s belt is impressive and includes The Da Vinci Code, Troy, Gladiator, The Count of Monte Cristo, Munich, Popeye, Captain Philips, and many more. Campaigns for companies such as Bacardi, Range-Rover, Coca-Cola and Hugo Boss, as well as sequences for television series such as Game of Thrones and Netfix’ Sense8, have been realised on the island.
2. Production Incentives
The ability to double-up for multiple locations is one of the country’s greatest selling points. Over the years the island has been transformed into ancient Rome, Marseilles, Tel Aviv, North Africa and the South of France. Producers are further attracted by the island’s natural beauty and the diverse architecture of Malta’s towns and villages, castles, palazzos, towers and farmhouses. Mother Nature also plays her role; with 300 days of sunshine a year, directors can rest assured that filming will not be unexpectedly interrupted.
Filmmakers are given a warm welcome by the Malta Film Commission (MFC), which is responsible for the promotion and development of the industry. It offers assistance and guidance and is usually the first point of contact for any filmmaker considering Malta as a location. The MFC runs an incentive scheme, which offers up to 40% rebate on costs for accommodation, transport and location hire. Screen tourism is a growing phenomenon worldwide, and Malta‘s film and tourism sectors have responded to this trend by offering dedicated tours that take visitors to the sites where movies were filmed.
3. Production Support
Local and international production companies can call upon a wealth of local talent and an army of enthusiastic extras. Productions have already employed up to 2,000 extras in one day. The cost of an extra in Malta ranges between €60 and €75 per day, including food allowances. The MFC has invested over €1 million in the past two years towards training people for the industry to ensure the highest quality crews are available. The availability of English-speaking location scouts, camera operators, sound technicians and assistant directors helps greatly in attracting international productions to Malta. The island has also developed specialised film infrastructure that includes everything from the renting of trailers to costume-making and special effects, while producers can tap into expertise in 3D production and animation found in Malta’s highly developed games and digital media industry. Furthermore, Malta has retained a high level of craftsmanship when it comes to the construction of large sets. This skill, which has all but disappeared in many other Western countries, remains an important point of interest to creative decision-makers. Nonetheless, when there is more than one production filming in Malta, crews report difficulties finding sufficient resources. To future proof the industry, the MFC is offering training to those who wish to work in film.
4. The Malta Film Studios
In addition, Malta is home to the Malta Film Studios offering shallow water tanks that allow the shooting of water scenes in a controlled environment with an unlimited ocean backdrop. The island is currently sharpening its focus on developing further film infrastructure as it has been recognised that despite the appeal of Malta’s great outdoors, the lack of indoor facilities, could stunt the industry’s growth. The government is currently looking for a strategic partner to redevelop, renovate and operate the film studios, and world-renowned companies have expressed their interest in the project. There are plans for the building of one or two sound-stages to allow producers to work in a fully controlled environment so that filming can flourish 365 days a year.
5. Malta Tourism Authority Support
The Malta Tourism Authority (MTA) offers financial support to film and tv production companies that choose Malta as a filming location. The MTA may assist with:
- Flights to and from Malta and Transportation of cargo where there are direct routes operated by Air Malta;
- Location fees for public areas that are administered by the Maltese Government/local councils;
- Production vehicles and transportation.
6. Tax Credits
Investment aid for audio-visual facilities is available under the Malta Enterprise Act. This is offered in the form of tax credits to a qualifying company in respect to an initial investment project in relation to qualifying expenditure. Tax credits are computed as a percentage of the value of capital investment or the value of wages for 24 months, covering new employment created as a result of an investment project.
7. A Creative Hub
Malta is not the only country that aims to garner a larger share of the potential boon from expanding film production. Although competition among creative hubs is fierce, Malta believes it can continue to compete because of its strong combination of attractions. While cost tops the list these days when production companies select locations, Malta also sells itself as a convenient and increasingly creative location. The island is set to raise its profile as a production and post-production location for a wide variety of audio-visual and digital content, envisaging growth in services that range from film editing, visual effects and animation, to sound design and everything in between. The envisaged re-development of the Malta Film Studios, including the construction of studio facilities that meet international standards, is seen as a game changer in this regard. An increasing appetite for domestic content should also help sustain growth in the industry. While international productions often grab the headlines, Malta’s local film industry is becoming an increasingly important economic contributor that will help the island to fully exploit its potential as a destination for movie making.