Malta - The growing filming location in 2024
For those planning their travels for the year, Bloomberg recommends Malta as a top travel choice for 2024. One of the highlights for many visitors is the opportunity to explore filming locations of blockbuster movies like Gladiator and Troy, along with the instantly recognisable and iconic settings of the Game of Thrones series.
For countless visitors it is surprising to also discover that Malta has been the favoured location of countless other films and TV series with some of the earliest filming done in Malta dating back to more than a hundred years! In this article we will look at the locations, the films and the incentives offered by the Maltese government, placing Malta and Gozo amongst the world’s most preferred international filming destinations.
The history of filming in Malta
According to film history aficionados, 1910 is the earliest date on record of any filmmaking in Malta is that of a documentary being shot on the islands. This is regarded as the birth date of the Maltese film industry. Malta’s first full-length movie can be traced back to as early as 1925 and researchers are convinced that even earlier ones may still be uncovered in the future. This means that the local film industry is now well over a century old and flourishing like never before.
A ready-built location
The geographical landscape of Malta is a dream to Hollywood’s filmmakers and producers: it is a ready-made backdrop for international blockbusters with its fortifications, hilltop cities, ancient ruins, palazzos, natural harbours, coastlines, countryside, medieval town centres, famous grottos, cliff sides and more. These locations provide ready-made and visually striking backdrops for various film genres, including historical dramas, fantasy and adventure.
When it comes to the islands’ natural beauty, filmmakers can capture perfect scenes full of Mediterranean charm, nautical panoramas and breathtaking views that are already there, reducing the need for extensive CGI or constructing elaborate sets. This is immensely cost and time-saving, especially in an industry that is all about deadlines. An added bonus is the fact that all of the locations are set within a small travelling radius, saving on transport costs and again, time.
World-famous for its more than 300 days of sunshine per year, Malta as a location provides filmmakers with favourable weather conditions for shooting year-round. This consistency allows for reliable scheduling and minimises weather-related disruptions. Any postponement in the production of large-scale films or series due to unfavourable conditions has a profound cost and logistical impact, so filming in Malta minimises the risk considerably.
Memorable movies and TV series filmed in Malta and the locations for scenes
The iconic producer Steven Spielberg stated that Malta is “a great film location”. We list just some of the favourite movies, their year of release and the locations that were used in major global productions over the past few decades, although there are countless others:
- Midnight Express (1978): Fort St Elmo in Valletta
- Alexander (2004): Mdina, Fort St Elmo and the Citadel of Gozo
- The League Of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003): St Julian’s Bay and Sliema seafront
- Gladiator (2000): Fort Ricasoli and Mellieha Bay
- World War Z (2013): Fort St Elmo and the Malta International Airport
- Munich (2005): St Julian’s and the Malta Film Studios
- By the Sea (2015): Various locations around Gozo, including Xlendi Bay and Dwejra Bay
- Captain Phillips (2013): Valletta and the sea around Malta
- Kon-Tiki (2012): Għajn Tuffieha Bay and Dwejra Bay
- Cutthroat Island (1995): Fort Manoel, the Malta Film Studios and the sea around the islands
- The Count of Monte Cristo (2002), Sinbad (2012), The Devil’s Double (2011) and Assassin’s Creed (2016): Mdina, Valletta and the Malta Film Studios
- Agora (2009), The Da Vinci Code (2006): Mdina, Fort St Elmo and the Malta Film Studios
- Queen of the South (2016–2021), Mikha’El (2021): Sliema, St Julian’s and the Malta Film Studios
- Murder on the Orient Express (2017), Sense8 (2015–2018), Made in Malta (2021): Valletta, Mdina and the Malta Film Studios
- Troy (2004), Thugs of Hindostan (2018), Clash of the Titans (1981): Mellieha Bay, Għajn Tuffieha Bay and the Malta Film Studios
- Vendetta for the Saint (1969): Fort St Elmo, St Julian’s and the Malta Film Studios
- Orca the Killer Whale (1966): the Grand Harbour of Valletta and the sea around the islands
- White Squall (1996): the Grand Harbour of Valletta and the sea around the islands
- Leviathan (1987): Gozo and the Malta Film Studios
- Popeye (1979). Popeye Village near Mellieha
- Game of Thrones (2011): Verdala Palace, Mdina & Dwejra Gozo
- Chanel (2016): Valletta, Sliema and the Malta Film Studios
- Jurassic World Dominion (2020): Valletta, Birgu, Mellieha, Pembroke
- Napoleon (2022): Fort Ricasoli
- Fort Ricasoli and Rinella have several water tanks that are used for filming aquatic scenes:
- Dimensions of the tanks are 91m x 122m x 1.8m deep with 4m in the centre for the shallow tank, 107m x 49m with a depth of 11m for the deep concave tank and 15m x 9m x 3.6m deep for the insert tank.
The film industry and the economy
The local film industry generates scores of jobs and contributes significantly to the country’s GDP, reported to be around €85 000 000 in 2022 alone according to www.maltabusinessweekly.com The Maltese government is doing everything it can by means of incentives made available to both local and international companies. Having big international companies on set locally results in the creation of lucrative opportunities for local creative and talented individuals such as actors, film extras, freelancers, carpenters and builders, caterers, engineers, producers, production studios, post-production teams and countless others.
Malta’s film industry, propelled by substantial government investment, is set to attract more international productions in 2024. Malta Film Commissioner Johann Grech highlighted the country’s aim to become the “home for international productions.” The local film industry has experienced significant continued growth over the years, with notable names like Director Ridley Scott and the Jurassic World franchise choosing Malta as a location and backdrop for their projects. Johnny English 4 is also set to film in Malta in June 2024.
Incentives and rebates
Local leaders expressed pride in the industry’s growth, emphasising its year-round operation and providing more opportunities for professional development. The film industry has a positive impact on the Maltese economy and the inclusion of local productions in the cash rebate scheme is deemed a significant achievement, geared towards foreign direct investment benefiting local productions. The Malta Film Commission’s commitment to the local film industry thus remains absolutely clear and despite some challenges such as the ongoing actors’ strike in the USA, Malta is poised to attract many more projects during 2024. The Malta Film Commission, with its significant responsibility, is fully prepared for Malta to be the ideal home for big international productions, thereby creating exciting opportunities not only for local film crews but all the other associated ancillary industries as well.
The commitment to investing in the Malta film industry continues, evident in the recently presented government budget for 2024, which reinforces the 40% cash rebate offered to filmmakers. This means that productions meeting a cultural test can benefit from a rebate of up to 40% of eligible expenditure, making Malta extremely attractive to the biggest global players.
According to Ridley Scott’s executive producer, Aidan Elliot: it was “a no-brainer” choosing Malta as a location shoot due to the incentives on offer by government as reported in the Times of Malta in an article published on January 7, 2023. He also added that “It just absolutely cemented our decision to go there because not only did we have this great location and backdrop but we also had this incredibly, incredibly generous cash rebate.”
We look at the details of what is on offer by the Maltese government to filmmakers:
- The incentives take the form of a cash grant awarded to qualifying productions based on the incurred qualifying expenditure in Malta. Additionally, there’s a substantial allowance for expenses related to non-Maltese crew and entities, provided they are directly and physically associated with the work conducted in Malta.
- Upon completion of filming, a qualifying production company can receive a minimum cash rebate of 30% of the eligible expenditure, with the option to apply for an initial 10% payment once shooting commences, subject to proper accounting. Productions featuring Malta prominently or possessing significant Maltese cultural content may qualify for rebates of up to 35% and if Malta Film Studios (including water tanks) is part of the expenditure, the rebate can reach 40%.
- While the film commission is currently flexible on the criteria for increasing the rebate, it encourages a genuine effort to maximise local resources.
- Feature films, television productions, mini-series, animation and documentaries are all eligible for incentives as long as they are partially filmed in Malta.
- A qualifying production must submit an application, including a detailed projection of the Malta budget and completion of the Cultural Test.
- Provisional approval is granted within a month, with final approval contingent upon the review of a comprehensive application, audited accounts and a detailed analysis of production expenditure in Malta, post-shooting.
- The cash rebate is disbursed no later than five months from the final application date, though, as of 2023, processing times have been extended due to the increased number of films shot in Malta annually.
- Regarding fiscal incentives, the Malta Enterprise Act offers tax credits of up to 35% for companies or individuals investing in audio-visual infrastructure in Malta.
- Foreign company directors or investors establishing a company in Malta can benefit from a reduced final company tax rate of 5%, as opposed to the standard 35%. However, it’s important to note that, as of March 30, 2023, this 5% tax incentive is anticipated to be phased out within the next three years to comply with new European Commission policies on minimum tax rates.
The Annual Malta Film Awards
The last Malta Film Awards were the finale of the Malta Film Week held in 2022, a five-day event featuring local and foreign talent. Many have their eyes on Malta’s events calendar, waiting for an announcement about when the next Malta Film Awards will be held.
Local courses are preparing the workforce of the future
Malta University provides a Master of Arts in Film Studies program that imparts essential techniques for planning and shooting films, encompassing the entire process from script development to the final screen production. The curriculum includes rigorous studies, research, exploration of film history and additional components designed to equip aspiring filmmakers with the necessary skills and knowledge for success in the industry. Read more about it at https://www.um.edu.mt/arts/mainfilmstudies/
More informative and useful links
Malta has been the chosen location for local and international films and documentaries, captivating global audiences with its unique and enchanting old-world charm. As the demand for digital entertainment continues to surge, with major players like Netflix backing numerous productions, the prospect of Malta increasing its reputation as a prominent location for film and production is set continue its exponential growth for the future. The substantial revenue generated by international companies, along with their crews and stars, proves invaluable to various local industries, including property rentals for all staff, hospitality, accommodation, transportation and of course post-production. Even more importantly, the indirect publicity for Malta enhances its global image and the importance of filming in Malta can never be stressed enough.