Malta outlines film studio plan as Michael Bay’s 13 Hours opens
Malta has outlined plans for new sound stages as Michael Bay’s locally-filmed terrorism drama 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi opens in cinemas.
The movie (pictured below) recounts the infamous terror attacks on US compounds in the northern Libyan city of Benghazi in 2012, and doubles locations in Malta for the North African country. In the real-life incident, the US ambassador to Libya was killed during a night of fierce fighting.
Malta’s first official film policy, of which plans surfaced this week, outlines new studio plans as the main development in a production industry roadmap for the Mediterranean island nation through to 2020.
The archipelago does have a filming facility called Malta Film Studios – formerly Mediterranean Film Studios – but this focuses exclusively on water shooting with a series of tanks of varying sizes. The biggest is nearly 40 feet deep and takes 15 hours to fill.
The new film policy suggests Malta would benefit from two separate sound stages that could be further partitioned to accommodate multiple productions. Permanent back lots are also suggested, including standing sets like a New York street. No changes are proposed for Malta’s current filming incentive, but the policy states it should be “reviewed on a regular basis to keep Malta’s competitive edge”.
Malta is already one of the top international filming locations for desert and Middle Eastern settings, and was an easy choice for the producers of 13 Hours (pictured above). Production in Benghazi itself was not an option as the security situation in the country has deteriorated since the downfall of long-term leader Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 during the Arab Spring, a year before the events of Bay’s film.
Morocco, the Canary Islands, Egypt and parts of the Middle East like Jordan and Dubai were all considered for the film, but Malta’s specific production appeal quickly won over the film’s producers.
“Malta offers a good filming tax credit and has close economic ties with Libya,” says Christian McWilliams, the film’s supervising location manager.
“Paramount had just filmed key scenes for Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation in Morocco, but decided it was safer to film 13 Hours in Europe rather than Africa.”
Bay’s production team made use of a handful of existing Maltese locations that shared Italian architectural characteristics with their real counterparts in Benghazi.
The film’s main compound locations were specifically built as sets so that they could be damaged during the shoot in line with the events of the story.
“The 13 Hours shoot was serviced by Latina Pictures and it was roughly a half-and-half split with local and international crew hires,” McWilliams added.
Malta is popular but as a small island nation it inevitably has limited resources. 13 Hours was on location at the same time as Michael Fassbender’s action movie Assassin’s Creed (pictured above), an adaptation of the videogame franchise. McWilliams comments that Matt Damon and Paul Greengrass considered bringing their new Jason Bourne film to Malta at around the same time, but the country was crowded and so the team relocated to Tenerife.
“I would say Malta can comfortably host two large-scale films at the same time,” McWilliams says. “But be careful about scheduling a summer shoot as local hotels are very full with tourists.”
The biggest international productions to have filmed in Malta in recent years – World War Z and Captain Phillips (pictured above) among them – have come for the climate, the crews and the architecture, and have filmed studio work elsewhere in the world.
While the new film policy clarifies Malta’s appeal as an international filming location and outlines the country’s commitment to boosting its crew pool with new training programmes, it lacks firm decisions or a distinct timetable for studio development. Producers will be encouraged by the discussion, but will be looking for this to be backed up with committed action in the near-future.
For more on filming in Malta see our production guide.
13 Hours images: Paramount Pictures
Captain Phillips image: Columbia Pictures