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Film industry professionals focus on Malta

Finance Minister Tonio Fenech addressing the Filmspeak convention.

Finance Minister Tonio Fenech addressing the Filmspeak convention.

Some of the top names in the international filming industry gathered at Malta’s first Filmspeak convention, which saw local and foreign stakeholders come together for a frank exchange of views with representatives of the Malta Film Commission.

Malta possesses unique properties

The event, held last week, was opened by Finance Minister Tonio Fenech and included a number of workshops led by the different government authorities responsible for processing the permits required for a production company to work in Malta.

The workshops were held with the aim of highlighting a number of “problem areas” that workers in the film industry say are giving rise to potential hitches when it comes to closing filming deals with foreign companies.

Held at The Palace Hotel, in Sliema, the convention started with an intervention by three key players on the international scene: the director of the European Film Academy, Marion Doring; the head of production at WARP (UK), Barry Ryan and locations manager Christian McWilliams.

Mr McWilliams’s portfolio includes titles like Braveheart, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol and WorldWar Z, which was recently filmed in Malta.

All three speakers noted that Malta possessed an enviable number of unique properties that placed it at the forefront as a hub for the filming industry. However, a lot of work was still needed to further develop the infrastructure and for the island to be able to realise its full potential.

A number of workshops were held, each focusing on different aspects of the legal aspects and the logistical issues that film companies typically face before getting the green light for work on the production to start.

Workers in the industry pinpointed specific areas where improvement was felt to be needed and also made suggestions to facilitate the administrative process, which, in turn, will help make Malta more attractive to foreign production companies.

“The aim behind this first Filmspeak convention is to listen to what the stakeholders are telling us. We want to take a reasonable approach that will result in higher efficiency. We will definitely be following up on these suggestions,” Film Commissioner Peter Busuttil said.

Among the issues raised was the length of time required to process a Schengen visa and an employment permit to foreign film crew. The process typically takes four to six weeks, which is a problem particularly when last-minute casting requirements crop up.

“Due to Schengen regulations, the authorities do not have much room for manoeuvre when it comes to processing visa applications. However, there is a fast-track process in place for employment permits in genuine cases of emergencies and we are assured that the employment authority is going out of its way to facilitate the process,” Mr Busuttil said.

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