The Malta Independent 5 March 2024, Tuesday
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Minister defends €47 million rebate to Gladiator film, says money not being taken from other sectors

Wednesday, 23 August 2023, 12:21 Last update: about 7 months ago

Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo took a stance in defence of the €46.7 million being given as a rebate to the company producing the Gladiator film sequel, saying that the funds are not being taken from other sectors.

The Times of Malta had reported that Maltese taxpayers will be paying €46.7 million to the film company producing the Gladiator sequel film. The rebate is part of a cash scheme that promises productions up to 40% cash back if they film in Malta.

Minister Bartolo was asked by The Malta Independent where the funds are coming from and who approved this large sum.

 The minister first wanted to "clarify the misconception", alleging that a "campaign of misinformation" on the cash rebates is taking place, "and I would say it is a systemic attack on the film industry." He said that it would be a mistake "to continue with this attack on the industry which today employs hundreds if not thousands of Maltese people. So we must ensure that the good ripple effect that this industry is leaving continues."

"I must remind that the cash rebate was started by a PN government. So what was good back then we are today calling bad?" He asked the PN, "if they are in government tomorrow, would they remove the cash rebate? What will they tell people working on Gladiator or the other films? What will they tell carpenters who have been working on sets for months, or the artists, extras, drivers and hotels? Nothing, as it is a party with no vision for the industry. On the contrary, this government worked to strengthen the cash rebate. Look at the productions that came under the PN government (...) and at what productions came to our country in recent years."

"When we say we will give €47 million as a cash rebate, it means that while this production is being filmed in our country, over €110 million is being spent. So giving the impression that the country is losing money is completely wrong, is misleading," he said.

Told that the government is giving €47 million back to a single production for expenses which they incurred, he was asked to provide a breakdown of the amount of money coming into the economy for that amount, and where it is going. 

In response, the minister mentioned the renting of film studios. "They are paying a lot of money to rent them. There are tax payments in Malta made both by extras and foreign actors, the renting of vehicles, accommodation, and they stay in the best hotels in the country, there are the catering establishments they eat at, other entertainment establishments that crews and actors go to. I'm just mentioning a small part of this spending. Aside from that, then you have extras who are paid. An extra on a film is paid around €100 per day. There are some who are paid more, others less."

"These people who are earning money or improving their skills to then be able to work in Malta or abroad, are we going to lose them this work? Or are we going to say we will continue investing in this industry to really increase opportunities, improve the skills of our crews." He said that foreign producers say Maltese crews are among the best in the world. "So we want to continue providing more opportunities. That is where this money is going," he said, mentioning others who work in the sector also.

Asked about the arguments made that part of the money is being paid to crews being brought in from abroad and to rent equipment and ship it to Malta, he said: "The fact that the film industry is still growing, means that we still don't have enough people in this industry to be able to service. So part of the conditions of the cash rebate is that there be Maltese workers employed with these foreign workers so that the Maltese learn and gain experience."

Told that the Malta Film Commission's budget was €11 million for financial incentives, and that this payment goes over budget, he was asked where the funds are coming from. "When there are terms like that there would be a request to the Finance Minister, they would be approved and the money would be allocated accordingly."

Pressed and asked where these funds would be taken from, the minister said: "If there are those who think that we are taking money from health or housing, as there are some who say 'why didn't you invest it in housing or health', the PN asked why didn't we give a voucher... we don't want to give a voucher to people, we want youths and people in the industry to move forward and be able to earn more money and raise their status in society. The money is not being taken from other sectors. Other sectors have their investment and the film industry has money allocated for it."

Asked about investing in local film productions in comparison, he said that under his ministry, local producers were given the chance to benefit from the cash rebate, the recoupment clause was removed as was the de minimis regulation. "This means that today they can take more local and international funds and also benefit from cash rebates."

"Whoever is trying to give the impression that support for local producers does not reach that of international producers is wrong, as local producers can benefit from the same support international producers have, and that way we brought about a level playingfield so that everyone can benefit."





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