Just to put myself in a bit of context and give some background: my foray into films started at Fulham Studios (1982) when I accidentally found myself working on a Simple Minds video at the time.

Later, working as a professional actor and director in Italy, I crossed paths with Canale 5, Gabriele Salvatores and Bernardo Bertolucci (mainly on television-related work).

We had produced, with Italia Uno, Ciao Ciao episodes in Malta over several weeks with Pino Scicluna in the lead.

After some years working in Milan and London, I got involved in Maltese TV in the early 1990s.

I produced, financed, directed and hosted quite a number of TV productions and documentaries.

If you don’t remember them it means you are either too young or they were not worthy of your attention.

Then, after some Eurovision and Notte Bianca produced events came the Film Commission.

Walking into the office there was practically no staff and the only staff member left the job to work on a film. This, incidentally, is common practice for former film commissioners, not a laudable practice you would think.

I made sure that my contract with a low monthly salary included a clause which did not allow film commissioners to have a private practice in the local film industry for at least a year.

At this point, one would ask: why would a film commissioner leave the job to become a production manager, line producer, film service provider or fixer on a film?

In all this I had to deal with the local production quirks on the local productions of Game of Thrones, World War Z and Captain Phillips.

In less than three years, the commission employed a number of full-timers who are there till this very day. We created a structure, also at a time when the film industry was not at its peak.

We did not have a local film awards, we produced the 25th Anniversary of the European Films Awards and we involved local film workers in the process and as part of the production. Look up the costs and the guest list, it will make for some interesting reading. The budget in 2012 for this was less than €300,000.

For the first time ever, we got EU funding to create training for over 100 skilled and unskilled workers in the film industry. The rebates for Captain Phillips (Tom Hanks) and WWZ (Brad Pitt) and other films during the second year period are easily available to see, at a time when the rebate was low and only local expenditure was eligible.

The rebate today is not conducive to this and it’s not a political reasoning, it’s just plain common sense, if we are to create a legacy of sorts.

Towards the end of my tenure, we managed finally to make headway in the process to get the Malta Film Studios back after years of unpaid rent and zero investment.

Film-making is not a God-given right- Peter Busuttil

The fact that the present film commission is based there was also part of a plan (which exists so far as an artist’s impression and a business plan) which I had devised to create a Film Village starting from MFS, with the construction of at least one sound stage and ending up at the tip of Ricasoli.

The restoration project at the time was to cost €90 million and would include a film institute and museum, a boutique hotel, a commercial centre, four standard film sets, free office space for local service providers and, most important of all, a film and television school.

The minister at the time, on his first film set visit, mentioned this as part of a sound bite. This was 10 years ago. The storyboard visually exists as does the business plan. We need an investor: think Tigné Point enhanced, with a film purpose which is commercially viable in the long term.

Ten years later we would have built not just one sound stage or school but we would have created a solid base for young people to get engaged in the industry.

The film industry is not an ego-trip exercise for anyone involved, from the commission to the fixer. Film-making is not a God-given right. The state should not be a co-producer in any film, nor should it be a financier of films, local or foreign.

The state is obliged to create the right ambience for film education, to create a legacy and engage and encourage local talent to get involved and to pursue a career in films. We create film sustainability not with giveaways. We start with a story-board – it’s a process.

I would ask how many long-term jobs we have created. Who are the people gainfully occupied in films in the long term? On which precise expenses are the film rebates based? Where did the local investment go? This is easily quantified.

We need to invest and this should have been done quite some time ago – the nearly quarter of a million euros in EU funding for 100 skilled workers in 2013 is long past its due date.

I am for a film commission that invests. Likewise for local film production service providers, in whatever role they play, to also invest in their business. Away from the glitz and carpets, film is a business like any other.

Education is key, creating the right ambience is essential. The creation of a film and TV school and the film village at Ricasoli with at least one sound stage is one frame within focus.

Peter Busuttil is a former film commissioner.

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