"Now I know why so many Hollywood movie directors come to shoot in Malta," the Malta Film Commission has quoted world-famous, Oscar-winning director Steven Spielberg as saying on completing filming here of his latest production, Munich. Mr Spielberg went on to say what "a great film location" Malta is, what a "great experience" he has had shooting here, how well it worked for him and how much he "would like to work here again in the future".

The director of such successful movies as Jaws, ET, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Schindler's List had nothing but words of praise for the island and expressed his gratitude to the local crew and their hard work when shooting came to a close on schedule last Thursday after just over five weeks.

"Thank you for having us", the MFC said he told the Maltese members of the crew after shooting the last Malta scene of the film that, more than most, would serve to secure the island's position in the movie-making spotlight.

Not only would Munich have beneficial marketing effects on Malta, but the production paid almost $8 million to "use" the island, the MFC said.

With regard to internal benefits, Lm2.3 million were pumped directly into the local economy and 170 local crew were engaged, with about 190 foreigners staying here for a minimum of five weeks.

Mr Spielberg was impressed how the island was doubling for so many different countries - eight in all, including the West Bank, Israel, Jordan, Greece (Athens), Cyprus, Lebanon (Beirut), Italy (Rome) and Spain.

It was the first time in Malta that a production of such a scale was shot on the roads and in urban areas, rather than in a contained location, the commission said.

This involved complicated logistics: the vast use of heavy equipment, including 29 facility vehicles and several cranes for lighting, as well as special effects for the firing of arms and explosions. Forty-one locations were used all over the island, meaning the closing off of major streets and beaches.

Among the bigger set-ups were Dock 1 in Cottonera, the area around the British Hotel, in Valletta - and the capital city in general, where shooting took place over a total of about 10 days - and Pioneers Road, in Bugibba.

On the whole, the production went well, despite certain unreasonable demands for money from private enterprises and location owners, the commission said. The production, however, followed the proper procedures for filming and any inconveniences caused were compensated for fairly, it added.

"The filming of Munich in Malta is a huge benefit to the island in terms of its increased exposure and marketing as a film location, not just through the film itself, which will showcase Malta's locations as no other film ever has done, but through the director's positive experience," the MFC said.

It explained that Mr Spielberg was not in a position to grant interviews in line with a Universal Pictures' decision made as part of the marketing strategy of the politically-charged film.

It was the specific internal policy of the studio that no press anywhere would be given access to interviews during shooting, the commission said. In fact, since the commencement of the production, the director released only one single statement about the film to the New York Times in July.

The production has now moved on to Budapest for another six weeks of filming. Yesterday, it launched a website of the movie at www.munichmovie.com

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