Malta poised for big shots as top international filming destination – The Hollywood Reporter
When Colin Trevorrow took the stage to receive the Film Commissioner’s Award at the first Malta Film Awards on Saturday night in Valletta, he joked that when his new film Jurassic World: Dominion premieres next June, “everywhere in the world there will be children who will believe that there are dinosaurs on this island.”
“Please tell them it’s all true,” he added. “Let’s keep the magic of movies and the magic of their imagination alive, because that’s part of what we do.
Jurassic is one of dozens of international films and series to shoot in Malta over the past few years. And, for the first time, Malta does not duplicate itself as another country – part of the story takes place there, a point of great local pride.
Trevorrow took part in a Q&A a day earlier, and he was one of many top international talents who appeared on stage or via video on Saturday at the skillfully produced awards show, hosted by British comedian David Walliams. Together they represent the ambitions of the Malta Film Commission to convert the country, in the words of Commissioner Johann Grech, into “a world-class film industry”.
These plans include a generous cash rebate, upgrades to existing studio facilities and new sound stages, a promise to train and invest more in local crews and, of course, promoting the islands through events like the Malta Film Awards, as part of a week-long series. panels and presentations called Malta Film Week.
At the awards, Harvey Keitel won the Best Actor statue for his performance in the Malta-US-Canada co-production in 2021 Blood on the crown, executive directed by Roland Joffe. The film also won Best Director for Davide Ferrario and additional nods for the screenplay, score, hair and makeup, production design, and post-production. The other big winner of the night was the British-Maltese co-production The Boat (2018), directed by acclaimed local producer Winston Azzopardi, which won Best Film and Best Cinematography.
Films and series from the last 100 years of Maltese production were eligible for the awards, meaning it might not be an annual event – at least not in its current form – although the Malta Film Week be, Grech said.
The awards have also not been without controversy: some local producers, including backers of Malta’s International Oscar nominee, winner of the Sundance Special Jury Prize Luzzu, launched a boycott over their high cost, according to the Malta weather. “As beautiful as the investment in these awards is tonight, I think investing in our indigenous films is more important,” Boat star and co-writer/co-producer Joe Azzopardi said during the awards presentation.
Said Grech: “Malta Film Week, including the Malta Film Awards, has created a national debate about our industry, how we can grow further, how we can stay competitive, how we can create more jobs, how we can get more funding – not just government, but government and business working together.
The industry has attracted dozens of international shoots to the archipelago, contributing more than $109 million (98 million euros) to the local economy over the past three years and creating thousands of local jobs, according to Grech.
A key factor was the increase in 2019 of Malta’s cashback scheme, which now offers an attractive 40% cashback on qualifying local spending. The rebate, paid after the end of filming, requires a minimum expenditure in Malta of $111,489 (100,000 euros) for films with a budget of over $222,979 (200,000 euros), not exceeding 80% of the budget of overall production.
“At one point last year we had four productions working at the same time in Malta,” says Grech. In 2019 and 2021 each, 22 productions shot in Malta, the majority international. That number was half in 2020 due to COVID shutdowns.
One of them, in August 2020, was Jurassic, which shot in the streets of Valletta and involved more than a thousand crew members and extras. According to Winston Azzopardi, the film’s local producer through his animated outfit Latina Pictures, “This is the first time we’ve seen dinosaurs in an urban environment. They have always been in forests and jungles. Now they’re on the streets with cars and shops and everything, which is going to make it pretty unique. »
In addition to Trevorrow, other awards on Saturday night included a Film Ambassador Award for Ridley Scott and a Film Industry Honor Award for Russell Crowe. The two filmed the 2000 epic Gladiator in Malta. On stage at the awards ceremony, Grech credited Scott with “putting the Maltese film industry on the world map”.
Scott will now bring haversack, his Napoleon project, in Malta for three weeks from May. In a video recording released during the Saturday ceremony, Scott fondly recalled “the place where Rome was not built in a day but in fact in just over seven months.”
Scott has revealed that Malta’s 17th century Fort Ricasoli, voted by the public for best location at the Malta Film Awards, will become Toulon, the site of Napoleon’s first victory. The fort was once seen as a backdrop in Game of Thrones, Gladiator, Agora and Troy, among others.
Azzopardi, who will also serve as local line producer on haversack, adds that the film, currently in pre-production, will use the same backlot as Gladiator as well as locations on the island doubling for the south of France, the Elbe and Saint Helena.
In fact, thanks to its own unique history and strategic location in the middle of the Mediterranean, Malta is known for its ability to double for sets in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, and it is also home to sets. evocative of a range of historical periods.
“Creatively, it works for a lot of places,” says Azzopardi. “Malta has doubled for Jerusalem many times, for countries in Africa, India, the Middle East. That’s the architecture we have.
Located just south of Sicily and with a population of just over half a million people spread across three islands (Malta, Gozo and Comino), the Malta Tourist Board claims 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, about 8.1 hours of daylight daily, and an average annual daytime temperature of about 73 degrees Fahrenheit. This allows for long, comfortable working days, and a Mediterranean light that has been praised for its cinematic sharpness.
Malta is also convenient: less than three hours by plane from most continental European capitals, and English is one of its two official languages.
Malta specializes in marine filming, and most international productions come to the island for Malta Film Studios’ massive on-water SFX facility, home to three tanks, considered to be among the largest in the world. The two outer tanks end at the sea and provide a natural horizon, and the installation also includes wave machines, rocking tanks, wind turbines, rain towers, water shooters and smoke machines.
Apple TV series Foundation, which filmed for four weeks in Malta last year, shot in the Water Reservoirs for about 10 days and then used other locations on the island, according to executive producer Azzopardi. Grech claims the production spent $11 million (10 million euros) on the island, creating more than 1,000 jobs for crew members and extras.
Malta’s versatility is evident in the long list of other productions that have made their way to the islands in recent years, such as the Sky One series. Das Boot (three seasons), Murder on the Orient Express (2017), 1 p.m.: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016), Assassin’s Creed (2016), World War Z (2013), Captain Phillips (2013) and The “Da Vinci Code” (2006), among others.
In an on-set interview for the Film Commission, John Krasinski said of filming 13 hours to Malta: “Being a film where we’re dubbing Malta for another location, there’s so much setting and building to do, and we were able to do that so well here.” He praised the ‘huge range of locations’ on the island and the crew’s accommodation in ‘beautifully quiet, ancient and historic Valletta’.
What Malta currently lacks are sound stages. “I think once we get soundstages,” Azzopardi says, “the work will increase, even though it’s pretty busy here.”
Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo last year announced an investment of $39 million (€35 million) in upgrading the Malta Film Studios. Upgrades – already underway – include Malta’s first three sound stages, workshops, production offices and new equipment and technology.
Construction of the first soundstage, which will house a fourth water tank with a natural horizon, could begin by the end of the year.
“The film industry is considered a powerful engine of our economy,” says Grech. “By investing more in our domestic film industry, we continue to hone our skills and talent to continue serving more international productions. One goes with the other: maintenance and domestic production go hand in hand.
“We don’t just build structures,” insists Grech. “We are building an industry.”