The latest revelations into taxpayers' spending on foreign films is an attack on Malta and Maltese people's jobs, according to Malta's Film Commissioner.
"Those who are attacking the Maltese cash rebate incentive are attacking the stability of the film industry. This is an attack on our country, to push away foreign investment," Johann Grech said in an unusual video addressing Maltese film crews on Friday.
"Those who are speaking against the cash rebate are speaking against your job and your future. But we will protect your job."
Grech was reacting to revelations that the government is giving millions in taxpayers' money to foreign film productions.
On Sunday, Times of Malta revealed that the Film Commission has committed to paying almost €47 million to the film company producing the Gladiator sequel film.
It is part of a generous scheme that gives production houses 40 per cent cash rebate if they film in Malta.
Between 2019 and 2023, the government will have awarded €143 million in taxpayers’ money to 54 films and television series.
Local film producers have supported cash rebates but fear the current scheme is unsustainable and leaves too much money in the pockets of foreign companies and individuals, while failing to foster a strong local film industry.
In a message addressing Maltese film crews, Grech described the criticism as "an insensitive attack on the film industry" that has brought "so much success to the country".
"It is an attack on the jobs of Maltese and Gozitan people and on those who invested in the industry through their business," he said.
"For us, your job is important. When we speak to foreign production houses we realise that you are one of the main reasons we are able to bring so many films to our country and I will not let anyone stifle your work."
Top industry insiders told Times of Malta "the real reason" foreign production houses choose Malta is the extremely generous cash-back rebate.
The video message was released on Grech's personal Facebook profile. The Malta Film Commission's official Facebook page has been hacked and inactive since last month.
Grech defended the rebate, saying the scheme - which is approved by the EU and which works like similar rebates in several other countries - is a refund on money that has already been spent in Malta.
"It is another incentive like the many we give to other industries, such as the gaming and financial services industries, to attract more foreign investment," he said.
The "attacks" on the rebate could drive people out of their jobs and out of business, he warned.
His claim comes despite top industry insiders repeatedly warning that a big chunk of the money spent by big productions while they shoot in Malta is actually not invested in Malta, but to pay the salaries of highly-paid foreign actors and crew members and hired services from other countries.
"My message is for us all to unite. Divisions never got us anywhere. We are all brothers and sisters and our country always won every time we worked together," Grech said.
"We created stability in the industry and generated work for you all year round. We will not stop here and we will not go back to becoming an industry of part-time workers. We will not leave you alone. We will protect your job."