Actors, producers and crew members that form Malta’s film industry have launched a campaign to highlight problems with the local sector. 

The campaign, dubbed ‘'CelebrAZZJONI’, comes just 10 days before the government holds its first-ever Malta Film Awards – a glitzy event that has however been boycotted by some of the country’s major film producers.

Bringing together the Malta Producers Association and the Malta Entertainment Industry and ArtsAssociation, 'CelebrAZZJONI’ highlights the struggles that local productions face in order to see the light of day.

“We would have to sleep at the office, every day, for two years, working 20 hours a day,” producer Abigail Mallia recalled about her landmark shows TV shows Gizelle and Evanġelisti. “Does it have to be like this? Can’t we be like other countries?” 

Actors, directors, producers, cinematographers and screenwriters all appear in a campaign video, telling their own stories about the lack of support they face in their line of work. 

Inadequate funding structures

Malta has worked to attract foreign, big-budget film productions to local shores over the past decades and offers overseas studios attractive tax rebates as an incentive to bring them to Malta. 

But funding for local filmmakers and domestic productions remains wafer-thin, local filmmakers say, with a yearly budget of just €600,000. Latvia, by comparison, dispensed €5.7 million in funding in 2019 while Iceland’s film budget for 2022 tops €10 million. 

Stakeholders also say that a separate co-production fund appears to have been stopped with no explanation, despite still being advertised. 

Budgets for TV productions are also inadequate, they say, with PBS funding typically just 2% of the budget of an average episode of a European TV drama. As a result, local productions lag behind foreign ones and struggle to attract EU funding. 

“With the increasing dominance of global streamers like Netflix, it is more important than ever to have a national film and TV infrastructure which provides adequate support and a sustainable environment for local productions,” activists said when unveiling their campaign on Wednesday. 

“The budding industry has great potential, on a cultural as well as an economic level. However, without concrete action, audiovisual productions of Maltese stories - which also serve as showcases for local talent and locations - are being stunted from the growth they deserve and are at risk of dying out entirely.” 

Growing discontent

Discontent with the running of Malta’s endemic film sector has boiled over in recent months, with producers boycotting the Malta Film Awards and local crew members looking to unionise following payment delays. 

The heavily advertised film awards, which will cost €400,000 and are scheduled to take place on January 29 with British comedian David Williams as their host, are being boycotted by producers of Malta’s most significant domestic productions – Luzzu, Simshar, Limestone Cowboy and Is-Sriep Reġgħu Saru Velenużi.

They have all flagged concerns about authorities spending six figures on an award ceremony, while reserving just €600,000 a year for local filmmakers. 

Local film crews have also banded together to unionise, teaming up with the General Workers Union to safeguard their rights. They say workers often go months without payment and are forced to work on unsafe film sets with inadequate health and safety arrangements. 

The 'CelebrAZZJONI’ campaign is seeking to highlight these concerns while making public five changes they want to see introduced to the local sector. 

All five proposals were presented to the Malta Film Commission, led by commissioner Johann Grech, and the Tourism Ministry last October. 

They range from removing a clause that limits a production company to a maximum of €200,000 in aid over a three-year period, boosting the yearly pot of film funding to at least €1 million and requiring authorities to consult with stakeholders before decisions are set in stone. 

Other requests include removing a recoupment clause from Screen Malta contracts – something foreign film funds do not include and which local stakeholders say makes it very hard to attract foreign investors – and restarting the seemingly stalled co-production fund. 

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