Filming in Malta - An Insider's View
The Devil’s Double starring Dominic Cooper is an independent feature film produced by Belgium’s Corsan Productions. Unit production manager Oliver Mallia took time out of his busy schedule to share his experiences of shooting in Malta: from working with a truly international crew to finding 100 naked extras.
Why did you decide to shoot the film in Malta?
The producers had originally scouted Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco. However, following a lengthy number-crunching process, they decided to visit Malta and eventually opted to film all principal photography there.
They chose Malta because it offered a cost-effective solution that fitted the budget of the film. The islands are only an hour’s flight from Rome and three hours from London, with various airlines operating daily to all major European cities.
It also has a good crew base, and the producers had the possibility to recoup 22% on all Maltese and several EU related expenses which none of the other countries could offer. Moreover, as Malta is a member of the euro zone, it allowed the producers to trade in euro.
Deciding on locations
Malta also has a wide range of locations, some of which were suitable for this film. However, as there is only one mosque, and the palaces there are in baroque or mannerist style, we had to use modern hotels and other buildings and disguise them as palaces or places of interest you would find in 1980s Baghdad.
We also used a huge hangar to build the interior of Saddam Hussein’s palace and transformed interiors of other buildings such as wedding and conference halls into elaborate mansions, offices and clubs. All this was done with a very limited budget and with the help of excellent Maltese art directors and craftsmen.
We also made use of Malta’s garrigue habitat (a type of low, soft-leaved scrubland) to represent the desert of Iraq. Although a number of the desert scenes were filmed here, the producers also sent a small unit to Jordan to film various establishing shots.
A lucky break with the rainy season
The Mediterranean climate in Malta allows filmmakers to shoot outdoors while benefitting from 10-12 hours of daily sunlight throughout the year. Filming on The Devil’s Double had started in February when temperatures range from 5-15°C.
Despite the fact that February is considered one of wettest months in Malta, we didn’t encounter any weather issues and completed production on time.
Working with an international crew
The mix of Maltese, British and other personnel from various European countries worked perfectly well on the film. Maltese film crews are hardworking and adapt well to various work practices. They are used to working on anything from low budget productions to Hollywood blockbusters and have learnt to accept and deal with the needs of each production.
Local employment regulations are in line with those found in the European Union so there was no need to change or amend working schedules.
Dominic Cooper, who played both Uday and his double Latif, had quite a busy schedule, appearing in almost every scene. This meant it was quite hard to find slots in the filming schedule to allow him free time. Halfway through the shoot, we asked the crew to exchange a few weekdays with their weekends and holidays to make sure Dominic got a rest. They all co-operated and accepted our proposed changes at no extra cost.
The age old problem of naked extras
One of the hardest and longest scenes we had to shoot on The Devil’s Double involved around 100 extras who had to strip and dance naked while being filmed. It took us weeks to find a suitable location.
When we finally settled on a location, it then took us even more time to convince the owners that we weren’t planning on running a brothel or shooting pornography. We had also been worried about finding the extras but in the end we found all we needed and filming went smoothly.
KFTV would like to thank unit production manager Oliver Mallia for all his help and insight. For more information on filming in Malta, please click here.