Major producers boycott the Malta Film Awards

Malta’s leading filmmakers are planning to boycott the inaugural Malta Film Awards in protest at the amount of money spent on the one-night event against the country’s annual film fund.

The prizes are expected to cost taxpayers €400,000, while the annual budget allocated to the Screen Malta film fund, administered by the Malta Film Commission, is just €600,000.

Filmmakers, including producers of award-winning and internationally acclaimed films, complain of a “massive imbalance” between the cost of the commission’s awards night and the continued lack of investment in the local film industry.

A scene from Luzzu, Maltese candidate for the Oscar for best international feature film.

Malta weather learned that the producers boycotting the event include the creators of Luzzu, Maltese nominee for the Oscar for Best International Feature Film and other acclaimed films Simchar, limestone cowboy and Is-Sriep Reġgħu Saru Velenużi.

Sources within the film industry say local filmmakers, who are struggling to finance their films, believe it is ‘morally wrong’ to enter the awards and ‘make it look like the industry is thriving’ when this is not the case. The deadline for submission was October 30.

The awards event, scheduled for January 2022, is heavily commercialized, with billboards springing up around the island.

They will be open to productions made within the last 100 years, including feature films, short films, documentaries or docudramas and television series.

This week, the commission announced on Facebook that 700 local creatives had applied, including 340 actors, 70 screenwriters and 80 producers.

Billboards advertising the awards have sprung up all over Malta.  Photo: Jonathan BorgBillboards advertising the awards have sprung up all over Malta. Photo: Jonathan Borg

According to the Malta Film Commission’s website, the awards have the dual purpose of supporting the local film community and strengthening the film services industry.

However, local filmmakers have felt sidelined for several years. While foreign productions can benefit from a rebate of up to 40% of eligible expenditure – often amounting to millions of euros – the annual budget for financing local films is set at a modest sum of 600,000 €.

Local filmmakers have been asking for more investment in the form of increased budgets and the removal of funding caps for years.

As it stands, a producer can benefit from a maximum of €200,000 in funding every three years, but even making a micro-budget film usually costs at least €1 million. All films made by local producers are considered micro-budget.

Local filmmakers say they are struggling to make ends meet

As a result, local filmmakers say they are struggling to make ends meet, paying low rates to crew members, begging favors and having to compete with foreign productions.

Learning that the awards night will cost €400,000 was the last straw, so they decided to organize a boycott.

In response to questions, Malta’s film commissioner, Johann Grech, said the aim of the awards was to bring together everyone involved in this “resilient industry”.

It was to “celebrate the people and their efforts that have contributed to the success of the past 100 years, while planning for a sustainable future.”

Photo: Jonathan BorgPhoto: Jonathan Borg

“It is encouraging to see a significant number of submissions for these awards, which proves that the local industry is aware that the Malta Film Commission and the government are doing all they can to help the industry.”

He said the government and the commission remained committed to ensuring that more investment is put into filming infrastructure, that tax incentives are strengthened and that the possibility of different forms of funding is explored “to ensure more opportunities in a world-class film industry”.

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