Fears of local crew shortage as film productions flow in
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Fears of local crew shortage as film productions flow in

Alejandro Amenábar’s Roman-Egypt epic Agora, starring actress Rachel Weisz, was shot in Malta in 2008. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Alejandro Amenábar’s Roman-Egypt epic Agora, starring actress Rachel Weisz, was shot in Malta in 2008. Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi

Asterix and Obelix will return to Malta next month when a French production crew will be filming parts of the movie’s fourth sequel on the island.

Asterix and Obelix: God Save Britannia, that will be shot in 3D for release next year, follows the third sequel Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra partly filmed in Malta in 2000.

Filming is expected to start in April at the Mediterranean Film Studios’ water tanks in Rinella.

As Malta’s film industry attracts international companies, a local production service firm has expressed concern about the lack of film crew in Malta.

“The film servicing industry in Malta has for a long time been experiencing shortages of local professional crews. The estimated influx of foreign productions arriving in Malta over the next 12 months and more is expected to put a similar, if not increased, strain on local human resources,” said Malcolm Scerri-Ferrante, from Producer’s Creative Partnership (PCP), a company that provides location management for film production in Malta among other things.

Other productions lined up for this year include the 13-part series Sinbad the Sailor, commissioned by Sky 1, expected to start soon, and various Italian films and a Discovery channel docu­drama.

“Currently, there are only about 15 Maltese freelancers who dedicate themselves fully to the film servicing industry and don’t work in local TV or other industries. Another 30 to 40 or so actively try to keep themselves free for film servicing but have other jobs, usually in local TV or media related industries,” Mr Scerri-Ferrante said.

The problem is fuelled by a lack of a home-grown films industry and training, especially in the past. Moreover, many seem discouraged by the idea of not having a guaranteed pay cheque at the end of the month.

The influx of productions, Mr Scerri-Ferrante argued, was largely the result of the government’s 2005 financial incentives given to producers, who were obliged to provide “trainee” positions.

However, unlike other countries where hopeful trainees patiently waited for a “golden opportunity” to start a film career, producers often had a tough time finding them in Malta, Mr Scerri-Ferrante said.

Film commissioner Luisa Bonello said she hoped the “unprecedented level of incoming productions” and the “successful trajectory of the established local crew” would encourage interested newcomers to the industry.

“Until a few years ago, Malta’s film-servicing industry continued to face a chicken-and-egg situation,” she said. “The industry could not offer year-round employment to locals because there was a sporadic flow of productions coming Malta’s way but, at the same time, lacking skilled crew meant film-makers would opt to shoot elsewhere where labour was more plentiful, specialised or cheaper,” she said.

Financial incentives and the improvement of film-related services attracted constant overseas production work, which was providing a more permanent footing on which to develop and improve, Ms Bonello said.

In an effort to address the crew shortage over the long term, PCP launched an online application form for anyone wishing to pursue a professional film career. Newcomers, can fill the form at www.workinfilm.info. All applications will be shared with leading service providers in Malta and the Malta Film Commission to maximise the placing of trainees. Those who have already worked on more than one foreign film production can fill in a separate confidential form on www.maltafilmcrews.info.

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