The arrival of Universal Pictures’ Jurassic World: Dominion in 2020 sparked several other international productions to head for the Mediterranean island. The biggest is Apple Studios’ Napoleon, directed by Ridley Scott and starring Joaquin Phoenix, which is expected to film around the island from May, as well as in the UK and France.
Another production set to shoot in 2022 is Claudio Fah’s No Way Up, backed by Altitude Film Entertainment and starring Kelsey Grammer and Phyllis Logan, about a group of people fighting for survival when their plane crashes in the Pacific.
Isaac Florentine’s feature film Hounds Of War, starring Frank Grillo and backed by Trilight Entertainment and Juggernaut, has also been filming in Malta this spring. Locations include the Naxxar trade fair grounds, the former Jerma Palace Hotel site, capital Valletta, Villa Bologna and the town of Marsaskala.
UK outfit Brilliant Pictures’ thriller Deep Fear, directed by Marcus Adam, began filming in February on the island. “We knew we could double it up as the Caribbean, especially places like Comino, which is this idyllic clear-blue water lagoon,” says producer Sean O’Kelly. “We looked around the Caribbean and found the facilities were not great, or the local crew were not that experienced.”
The production also took advantage of the tanks (one interior, two exterior) at Malta Film Studios, which are key selling points, allowing productions to shoot water-based scenes in a controlled environment on the coast and enjoy a natural horizon. “We were looking for a country that could offer great water tank facilities and the ones in Malta are some of the most established,” adds O’Kelly. “On top of that, it has a very attractive incentive for productions with the multi-cash rebate.”
These follow several projects last year, including Apple TV+ series Foundation, which also used the water tanks, employing around 400 crew and 800 extras; Sky’s Das Boot, which returned for season three; Channel 5’s The Holiday and The Madame Blanc Mysteries (the latter alongside Acorn TV); and the Norway-Germany-Malta Second World War co-production War Sailor.
Malta is a suitable stand-in for the Middle East, with classic architecture in the historical city of Valletta and former capital Mdina, as well as in the surrounding countryside. It is easy to see why so many productions choose to shoot in the country, with 300 days of sunshine and more than eight hours of light a day — plus a generous 30% base rebate rising to 40% if the production meets specific conditions.
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 has a skilled English-speaking crew base. The country’s water tanks are on the coastline to offer filmmakers a natural horizon. Producers have access to associated resources that 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 relatively easy to find crew and local heads of department across the board, with labour and facilities typically costing around 30% less than mainland western Europe. “Our local crew are the essence of our industry. We want to continue investing in them, offering a sustainable industry and careers for tomorrow’s crew,” says Malta film commissioner Johann Grech.
Malta Film Studios’ water tank facilities were built for the purpose of audiovisual production. The government aims to build Malta’s first soundstage as part of a $37.8m (€35m) masterplan for the studio.
Malta is 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 multiple locations in one day. Valletta is a short taxi ride from the airport, and all the major hotels are within a short drive of the airport and popular nightspots.
First person to contact
Johann Grech, Malta film commissioner firstname.lastname@example.org