If Malta was a movie star, it would certainly join the leagues of the world’s best actors, those who do not stick to one genre or only a few character themes, but who are able to play many different roles. There are only a few film locations in the world as versatile as Malta; and throughout the past years the island has provided the backdrop for cinema blockbusters, TV series, commercials and music videos. The island’s natural beauty, English-speaking crew and a cash rebate system have attracted directors such as Steven Spielberg, Ridley Scott and Michael Bay. 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.
Malta’s love affair with the film industry dates back to 1925, when the first feature film was shot on the island. To date, almost 150 films have been shot in Malta, either entirely or partially. Among the biggest productions that chose Malta in more recent times were Justin Kurzel’s Assassin’s Creed, Michael Bay’s 13 Hours – The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, as well as Angelina Jolie’s and Brad Pitt’s By the Sea. Other films shot on the island include Gladiator, The Da Vinci Code, Troy, The Count of Monte Cristo, Munich, Popeye, Captain Philips, and many more. Malta has also become a popular location for the filming of commercials and TV series. 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 Netflix’ Sense8, have been realised on the islands.
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, the South of France and many other locations. Mother Nature also plays her role; with 300 days of sunshine a year, directors can rest assured that filming will not be unexpectedly interrupted. The Malta Film Commission (MFC) is the go-to agency for the sector and offers filmmakers assistance and guidance. The MFC runs an incentive scheme, which offers up to 27% rebate on costs related to film production. Film is also being seen as a great tool to promote Malta, and its sister island Gozo, across the globe. Productions that portray Malta in a cultural way can benefit from an additional rebate.
The Malta Film Studios
Malta is also home to the Malta Film Studios that allow the shooting of water scenes in a controlled environment with an unlimited ocean backdrop. The island is currently developing further film infrastructure. 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.
Malta Film Studios: Water scenes made easy thanks to Malta's unique filming-infrastructure © Malta Air Photo
Cover image credit: Assassin’s Creed: © 2015 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All Rights Reserved
From Malta to the World
The MFC is keen to take the film industry to a new level. Asia has been identified as a new target market, and 2017 will see the first major Bollywood production shoot on the island. The government has also been quick to acknowledge the potential of a growing local film industry. One initiative to nurture this segment was the launch of a Co-Production Equity Fund to encourage collaboration between Maltese and foreign companies. To future-proof the industry, the MFC is offering training to those who wish to work in film. While local and international production companies can already call upon a wealth of Maltese talent and an army of enthusiastic extras, there is demand for more crews. The MFC is also back on the drawing board to sharpen its competitive edge and, in particular, to attract more TV productions. Filmmakers can look forward to a new package of production incentives that is expected to be launched later this year.
"We want to build bridges with both new and established filmmakers. Film is one of Malta’s fastest growing economic niches, and our ultimate aim is to create a sustainable film industry.”
Engelbert Grech, Malta Film Commissioner