Mattia Scicluna completed a BA (Honours) in 3D Effects for Performance and Fashion at the University of the Arts London this year.
Looking back at his studies abroad, Scicluna states: “It was a huge learning experience; one that has changed the trajectory of my life and my work in general.”
The course prepares personnel to work in the film and TV industry, focusing on the processes involved and materials used to make physical three-dimensional items like props, puppets, masks, body padding, and a myriad of other items that are used on a movie set. Among others, Scicluna learned how to mould and cast in different materials, including different foams, silicone and plaster.
His second year at university included a work placement. “I found a job at a company called Sugavision, a prop house that makes fake plants for movies and TV; they have worked on movies and shows like The Gentlemen, After Life, Sense8, Hot Summer Nights, and many others,” he explains.
During his time there, Scicluna worked in the props department, fixing and making fake plants. He was then re-hired in the summer and worked on two massive prop trees for a feature film that ended up debuting at the Cannes Film Festival.
During his studies, Scicluna landed several other jobs. He set dressed for a commercial for the BFI x BMW filmmaking challenge with Michaela Coel; and he worked on mascots for brands like Lego, Peppa Pig, Bluey, and Pokémon, as well as for a company called Rainbow, where he still works.
Scicluna was able to undertake his studies abroad with the help of funding from the Malta Arts Scholarship, financed by the government. He expressed gratitude to all those who stood by him during the years.
Thanks to the scholarship, he not only completed his university studies but was also able to financially support himself enough to open a studio with two other classmates, who are now his co-workers. “We make drag for performers, props for music videos and short films, and we dabble in helping in the fashion industry.”
While he admits that becoming a full-time freelancer straight out of university “was a bit jarring”, but also realises that managing to find work in London so easily was a blessing: “I haven’t taken a break since the start of second year, when we were allowed back into the university building after several Covid lockdowns. But it was worth it. I now have several jobs that I love, and there’s so much more to learn.”
Scicluna says his work now mainly involves fabrication and foam manipulation. Clients come to him for ideas on how to make something in three different budget ranges: “I create the structure and time plan for a set budget; it then gets handed off to makers who finish the work, hair punch it, or do whatever needs to be done over the initial structure part.”
Looking to the near future, Scicluna says: “We’re looking at developing our range of talent in the studio to include prosthetics and puppetry; we’re also thinking about starting our own business.”
Further afield he hopes to bring his skills and knowledge base back to Malta and push the film industry from a Maltese perspective rather than a foreign one.
“I want to teach the processes to individuals looking for an artistic escape that doesn’t have to have incredible meaning behind it, or doesn’t have to be the best sculpture of a man,” he says. “I want to spread the message of making with a purpose through a brief; a practical and more technical approach to ‘art’ and what it could be and mean.
“I want to expand knowledge on materials and what they can do, and about processes one has probably never heard of before. Bringing this back on the island would mean the world, and I believe the more knowledge is spread, the better for the Maltese arts industry it becomes.”