The Malta Independent 28 January 2023, Saturday
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Minister says he cannot give date or details for revised Maltese filmmaker fund

Marc Galdes Tuesday, 6 December 2022, 11:17 Last update: about 3 months ago

Tourism Minster Clayton Bartolo was not able to provide a date for when the Screen Malta fund will be made accessible to local filmmakers and what changes it is currently undergoing which have delayed its release.

The Screen Malta Fund is a €600,000 pot offered by the Malta Film Commission which is accessible to Maltese filmmakers.

Last month, Maltese filmmakers called out the Malta Film Commission for failing to launch this year's fund. Back in July, producers had flagged the lack of funding to the government, and although filmmakers were told they would receive funding soon, five months later, filmmakers are still waiting for the Screen fund to be made available to them.

Many local filmmakers have been vocal about how they are not able to plan ahead for any projects as they have been "left in the dark".

Asked why the fund has not been made available for local filmmakers this year, Bartolo replied: "We are working on several changes for this fund so that local producers will be given the opportunities that they deserve."

Asked what the changes will involve, he said that there was "no need to worry" as all the details will come out when it is announced.

The Screen Malta fund is currently under the de minimis scheme, which means that a company can apply for a maximum of €200,000 over three years. However, local filmmakers have found this limiting and are asking for this to be changed to the general block exemption rules, which would mean that there would be no limit as to how much funds a production company can win over time.

Asked whether this change was being considered, the minister said that this was something that was discussed, but failed to elaborate further.

Ultimately, when pressed to give a date for this new scheme, he was not able to do so.

During an interview with local producer Pierre Ellul conducted by The Malta Independent on Sunday, Ellul criticised the Malta Film Commission for not supporting local filmmakers, which resulted in local filmmakers having to pay for certain things out of their own pockets.

In response to this, Bartolo said that local producers have a number of funds that they can access.

He pointed out that under a previous Nationalist government, the funding that was offered was a "fraction" of the funding that is being offered today.

He said that local filmmakers are receiving €600,000 from the Malta Film Commission as well as other funding schemes.

"We will continue to encourage local producers because we really believe in their work."

He said that the government is also investing in courses to train local crews so that they could work on both local and foreign productions.

Bartolo added that local filmmakers should not only expect investment from the government, but also from the private sector.

During the interview, Ellul had mentioned private sector investments: "Let's be clear, private investment in Malta is close to non-existent in film. Private investors will invest in buildings or yet another ugly block of apartments, but they will not invest in a film, because film is a very high-risk business. The government doesn't incentivize investment in the arts like other countries do. That would be a game changer for all the arts in Malta if it did."

Last month, it was revealed that the aid allocated to the Financial Incentives for the Audiovisual Industry (or the cash rebate as it is known) is €50 million, which is a lot more than the €11 million annual budget allocated in parliament. However information communicated to the European Commission, that the government's annual budget for the "cash rebate" for "motion picture, video and television programme activities" showed that it was actually was actually €50 million.

Ellul said that the cash rebate was "primarily created to attract foreign films to shoot here."

Bartolo said that the cash rebate scheme can be accessed by both foreign and local films.

Bartolo added that even with this scheme, they will carry out the necessary changes so that it can continue to be a scheme which can be accessed by both foreign and local films.

Questions of similar nature were sent to the Malta Film Commission last week, however, the commission is yet to reply.

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