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At the Malta Film Week, panellists explore the country’s different funding options


- Production bursaries, an attractive cash-rebate programme covering up to 40% of eligible expenses and a highly skilled workforce are just some of the benefits of filming in Malta

At the Malta Film Week, panellists explore the country’s different funding options
Susan Ronald (left) and Mary Ann Cauchi during the panel (© Malta Film Commission)

During day two of the inaugural edition of the Malta Film Week (24-29 January), St Julian’s Radisson Blu hosted an industry panel titled “Financing Our Stories”. The debate shed light on the different funding opportunities offered by the European archipelago.

In her contribution, Susan Ronald, of the Malta Film Commission, talked through the different funding opportunities offered by the body. Among them are scriptwriting grants (of up to €30,000), which can also be employed to cover research and mentoring activities; development grants (up to €50,000), particularly useful when looking for co-producers, financiers and access markets; new talent grants (up to €5,000), bestowed upon students and newcomers; distribution grants (intended to cover festival fees and other marketing activities); as well as several production bursaries (up to €200,000 for a fiction feature or a drama series, €50,000 for a documentary, and €30,000 for a short). In addition, the country offers a very attractive cash-rebate programme, covering up to 40% of the eligible expenditure. For further information, click here.

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Next, Mary Ann Cauchi, of Arts Council Malta, explained that the body is not exclusively involved in the audiovisual industry, and that it finances new productions through a funding initiative called KulturaTV. Private stations licensed by the Malta Broadcasting Authority and production outfits registered in Malta can apply for grants for original dramas (of up to €70,000), creative documentaries (up to €40,000) and culture programmes (up to €25,000).

Mark Camilleri, of the National Book Council, spoke about the body’s Film Adaptation Fund, which ran its first call in 2019 and the second in 2021, while a new one will be published next year. The organisation can back a feature-length project with a grant of up to €200,000, to be invested at any stage, from development to post-production. Eligible projects must be in the Maltese language, and applicants must hold the rights to adapt the novel into a feature, and produce and distribute the film, in the form of an option agreement.

Joseph Lia, of Creative Europe Desk Malta, touched upon the EU-backed programme, structured around four main clusters – audience, business, policy and content – and some of its initiatives, such as the European mini-slate development, aimed at supporting producers from lower-capacity countries. He also encouraged local and international filmmakers to approach the desk for prospective collaborations.

Later, Anthony David Gatt, of Malta Enterprise, explained that the agency is not only trying to attract foreign direct investment, but is also open to assessing innovative business ideas – even from self-employed professionals – that can bring added value to the local creative industries. Currently, Malta Enterprise offers grants, loans and repayable advances.

Kenneth Farrugia, chief retail banking officer at the Bank of Valletta, admitted that the film industry has never been one of Maltese banks’ key sectors in terms of investment, with them often providing “very limited support” and with many of these institutes still lacking the requisite knowledge to back it. A crucial aspect in order to gain the banking sector’s trust, Farrugia suggested, would be to also focus attention on the side benefits for the local economy – for example, by understanding how new productions can contribute to developing new infrastructure or creating employment opportunities in other areas.

Towards the end of the panel, Antonio Ivankovic, of GO Plc, Malta’s leading telecommunications company, talked about the firm’s commitment to investing over €1 million in brand-new TV content over the next three years. “There are no specific rules in order to qualify,” Ivankovic explained, “as long as there’s a good script and a good crew attached.” He invited filmmakers to get in touch and submit their projects. GO’s first original production, a series titled Chalet, aired in December and was offered exclusively to GO TV customers.

The panel was rounded off by a short Q&A session.

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