Malta has seen an influx of international projects in the past year. The biggest has been Universal Pictures’ Jurassic World: Dominion, which filmed on location with a second unit crew of around 200 from August through to September 2020. Others have followed including Apple TV+ series Foundation, which filmed on the island and in the water tanks at Malta Film Studios in late 2020-early 2021. The series, starring Jared Harris, spent more than $12m (€10m) in Malta, employing around 400 crew and 800 extras.
Further incoming productions have included Sky’s Das Boot, which returned to Malta for season three; Channel 5 film The Holiday and TV series Madame Blanc (alongside Acorn TV); and the Norway-Germany-Malta co-production War Sailor, set during the Second World War.
One of the main attractions is Malta Film Studios, offering one interior tank and two large exterior water tanks situated on the coast and enjoying a natural horizon. Combined with the generous 30% base rebate (rising to 40% if the production meets specific conditions), Malta is often on the shortlist of major international shoots looking to film water-based scenes in a controlled environment.
“Malta has great tanks and are building up an impressive studio. Plus, they’ve got a high filming incentive, so there’s a lot to admire,” says Los Angeles-based location manager Lori Balton, whose credits include Paramount Pictures’ Tom Cruise sequel Top Gun: Maverick.
Other international projects to have shot recently on the island include Netflix-backed Italian feature Rose Island, directed by Sydney Sibilia. “We built an island in the middle of the studios’ infinity pool, and this is the only location in Europe you can do this,” says line producer Piergiuseppe Serra.
Sky and Vertigo Productions’ UK crime series Bulletproof, meanwhile, employed some 150 extras and 40 Maltese actors.
Productions often take advantage of Malta’s ability to double for other locations. It is a suitable stand-in for the
Middle East, with the region’s classic architecture in the historical city of Valletta and former capital Mdina, as well as in the surrounding countryside. To th north, St Julian’s is more modern and a centre for tourism.
Minutes from the water tanks is Fort Ricasoli, one of Malta’s most popular filming locations. The bastioned fort dates back to the late 17th century but has been decommissioned as a military asset since the 1960s and conveniently shields a central courtyard from prying eyes.
Middle East stand-in
Malta is known widely as a suitable double for Middle Eastern locations, with the region’s classic architecture in the historic city of Valletta and former capital Mdina, as well as in the surrounding countryside. To the north, St Julian’s is more modern and a centre for tourism. Plans are now being considered for studio development on the island to provide soundstage facilities and boost Malta’s all-round, versatile appeal.
Malta Film Commission is the first point of contact for filming on location in the country. Johann Grech has led the organisation since late 2017 — as a former head of government marketing for the office of Malta’s prime minister, the commission has even closer ties with the government.
“Producers have often filmed in Malta before,” says Grech. “Sometimes they come with a specific location in mind, but they will also use our suggestions. It depends on the script and they often use our library pictures.”
Malta may have a population of just 400,000, but the country has a skilled English-speaking crew base that can comfortably handle two large-scale productions at any one time. The country’s internationally renowned water tanks are situated on the coastline to offer filmmakers a natural horizon. Producers have access to associated resources to create the necessary ocean weather conditions, such as wave and wind machines, tip tanks and rain towers.
Malta is especially strong when it comes to set construction. It is also easy to find crew and local heads of department across the board, with labour and facilities typically costing around 30% less than in mainland western Europe. Post-production is also a growing sector on the island, with several local companies becoming established over the last couple of years, including post facility Stargate Studios. Decisions are made quickly when it comes to road closures and locations clearance, thanks to Malta Film Commission’s strong relationship with the country’s government authorities.
Malta is only 27 kilometres long and 14 kilometres wide. It takes 45 minutes to drive from one end of the island to the other, allowing crews to shoot at multiple locations in a day. The capital, Valletta, is a 20-minute taxi ride from the airport and all the major hotels are within a short drive of the airport, each other and the island’s restaurants and nightspots.
First person to contact
Julian Guillaumier, strategic planning senior executive, Malta Film Commission @ firstname.lastname@example.org