Malta’s major film-makers intend to boycott the first edition of the Malta Film Awards in protest at the amount of money being spent on the one-night event in comparison with the country’s annual film fund.

The awards are set to cost the taxpayer €400,000, while the annual budget allocated to the Screen Malta film fund, administered by the Malta Film Commission, is just €600,000.

The film-makers, including the producers of award-winning and internationally acclaimed movies, complain of the “massive imbalance” between the cost of the awards night organised by the commission and the consistent lack of investment in the local movie industry.

A scene from Luzzu, Malta's Oscar contender for best international feature film.A scene from Luzzu, Malta's Oscar contender for best international feature film.

Times of Malta has learnt the producers boycotting the event include the makers of Luzzu, Malta’s Oscar contender for best international feature film, and of other acclaimed movies Simshar, Limestone Cowboy and Is-Sriep Reġgħu Saru Velenużi.

Sources within the film industry said local film-makers, who struggle to finance their movies, feel it is “morally incorrect” to enter the awards and “make it look like the industry is thriving” when this is not the case. The deadline for submissions was October 30.

The awards event, planned for January 2022, is being heavily marketed, with billboards mushrooming around the island.

They will be open to productions made in the last 100 years, including feature length movies, short films, documentaries or docudramas and television series.

This week, the commission announced on Facebook that 700 local creatives had submitted their applications, including 340 actors, 70 screenwriters and 80 producers. 

Billboards advertising the awards have sprouted all over Malta. Photo: Jonathan BorgBillboards advertising the awards have sprouted all over Malta. Photo: Jonathan Borg

According to the Malta Film Commission’s website, the awards have the dual aim of supporting the local film-making community and strengthening the film servicing sector.

However, local film-makers have felt sidelined for several years. While foreign productions can benefit from a cash rebate up to 40% of eligible expenditure – often amounting to millions of euros – the annual budget for local film funding is set at a mere €600,000.

Local film-makers have for years been asking for more investment in the form of increased budgets and the removal of the capping on funding.

As things stand, a producer can benefit from a maximum of €200,000 in funds every three years but even making a micro-budget movie typically costs at least €1 million. All movies made by local producers are considered micro-budget.

Local film-makers say they struggle to make ends meet

As a result, local film-makers say they struggle to make ends meet, paying crew members low rates, begging for favours and having to compete with foreign productions.

Learning the awards night is going to cost €400,000 was the last straw, so they have decided to stage a boycott.

In answer to questions, Malta Film Commissioner Johann Grech said the aim of the awards was to bring together all those involved in this “resilient industry”.

It was to “celebrate the people and their efforts who have made up the past 100 years of success, while planning for a sustainable future”.

Photo: Jonathan BorgPhoto: Jonathan Borg

“It is encouraging to see a substantial number of submissions for these awards, proving that the local industry is cognisant of the fact that the Malta Film Commission and the government are doing their utmost in helping the industry.”

He said the government and the commission remained committed to ensuring that more investment flowed into the filming infrastructure, that fiscal incentives were strengthened and the possibility of different forms of finance were explored “to ensure more opportunities in a world-class film industry”.

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