Updated 1.13pm with PN reaction.
Film insiders have questioned why Johann Grech is credited with 64 film productions on a popular online movie database when he is merely serving as Malta’s film commissioner.
Grech has been linked to 64 productions on his IMDB page – an online database for the audio-visual industry – sparking accusations of unethical behaviour.
Except for one, each of the credits list Grech as ‘Production Support: Malta Film Commissioner’ for films and TV series like Jurassic World: Dominion, Luzzu and Foundation. Of Grech’s 63 commissioner credits, 24 are listed under ‘Thanks’ while the remaining 39 list him as an additional crew member.
Times of Malta reached out to Grech on Thursday asking why he is credited as an additional member of each project’s crew, whether he had discussed the accreditation with the film producers, and why he was credited on the site when other national film commissioners were not. Grech, who was appointed to the post in 2017, and is known for his close links with the Labour Party, has not replied to the questions.
Sources within the film industry said it was inappropriate for Grech to link his name and take credit for certain films when his role in productions was minimal. “This gives the false sense that he has worked on many films when, in reality, he hasn’t worked a single day on a film set,” said one source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
All sources agreed to speak to Times of Malta without being identified, fearing they would effectively be “blacklisted” by the commission. “We all need to work with the film commissioner, and Mr Grech has shown that for all his pledges of ‘opportunity for all’, it is only those who keep close to him that find his support,” a source said.
Previous Maltese film commissioners did not list their roles as film commissioners but rather are included on IMDB for their work as producers and production managers on other projects. Overseas film commissioners tend to follow the same line.
The CEO of the British Film Commission Adrian Wootton is only credited as writer/producer for two episodes of the British arts television show Arena, alongside six special thanks credits during his time as the head of the commission. Wootton has held the position for over 19 years.
“He should definitely be precluded from any credit whatsoever,” a source said, adding that the commissioner’s role is to regulate the industry alongside liaising with foreign producers coming to Malta rather than creating a stacked portfolio of online credits.
“Beyond the self-promotion, he may be paving the way for a career in the film industry,” a source said.
The industry insider said: “This is embarrassing for us as a country and the minister responsible should really rein this man in.”
This is embarrassing for us as a country... the minister should really rein this man in- A local film industry insider
“It would not be the first time that a film commissioner has stepped into the private industry having built a network of contacts courtesy of the taxpayer. This really is one of those posts where revolving doors should not be permitted for at least a couple of years.”
The film commission has been in the headlines in the last year, especially as millions were routed towards the film industry and lavish award ceremonies. Over €2 million was spent on direct orders by the Film Commission within the space of a year, according to details published in the Government Gazette last month. Several billboards promoting jobs within the film industry were also erected along the streets in recent weeks.
PN: Grech breaching ethics for personal interest
In a reaction to the Times of Malta story, Julie Zahra, the PN spokesperson on culture, said the film commissioner was continuing to abuse his position.
She said the PN has in the past had spoken about Grech's abusive management, and this was the latest case where the government appointee was using his position for personal interests, in breach of ethics.
Zahra said that among other things, it would be better for Grech to heed the needs of local film industry stakeholders, who were ending up seeking work abroad.
She urged Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo, as minister responsible for the film industry, to investigate Grech's actions.
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