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Malta Producers Association calls for immediate resignation of Film Commissioner

Malta Film Commissioner’s actions “a blatant violation of the rights of all producers to be given an equal opportunity to work”.

Malta Film Commissioner Johann Grech
Malta Film Commissioner Johann Grech.

The association of film producers has called for the “immediate resignation” of Film Commissioner Johann Grech after The Shift revealed that the Malta Film Commission was giving foreign producers a select list of companies to work with, excluding others.

The association’s members called for a level playing field for all stakeholders with an “open and transparent” public directory of service producers in Malta. This was the system used the world over because it allowed international filmmakers to collaborate with persons or companies based on their own research and due diligence, the Malta Producers Association said in a statement.

For some reason, this system was removed under this administration and replaced with the practice of the Film Commission handing out a list to foreign producers who request the contacts of service providers in the country.

Foreign film companies are required to engage a locally registered production company when filming in Malta. The list provided by the Film Commission limits their choice as it contains only seven names, down from a list of 22 companies listed in 2018, The Shift revealed on Tuesday.

The Film Commission had, some years ago, inexplicably removed the existing online directory and replaced it with an opaque system it called ‘Opportunities For All’. To date, no online directory has been uploaded, the association said.

“It is bitterly ironic that, despite its title, the new system seems to have been designed to be an opportunity for the very few, determined privately and arbitrarily by the Film Commissioner, Johann Grech, who was appointed by the disgraced Konrad Mizzi,” the association said in a strongly-worded statement.

The association said the revelations by The Shift were “shocking, but hardly surprising” since the writing has been on the wall for some time now with many industry stakeholders becoming increasingly concerned that the film industry seems to be doing well only for a chosen few.

The Producer’s Creative Partnership, one of the companies on the list of seven, said it had received no film work, directly or indirectly, through the Malta Film Commission since 2013. The company supported the call for the list of service providers to be put back online immediately.

“It should go without saying that the private sector must be allowed to function without any interference from partisan interests. The fact that a government authority is willfully and maliciously interfering with the livelihoods of private citizens is corrupt and utterly unacceptable in a democratic nation in the EU,” the association said.

This was a blatant abuse of Grech’s position and “shamelessly” distorts the market. The association described the Film Commissioner’s actions as “treacherous” since Malta’s reputation was paramount to the industry.

“It is a blatant violation of the rights of all producers to be given an equal opportunity to work and reveals his talk of providing ‘Opportunities for All’ to be nothing but pure spin.”

The association said the only way to combat “this kind of institutional corruption” is to shine a bright light on it. “We urge anyone who has more information on this or any other wrongdoing to find the courage to step forward. Together we can fight this and ensure that the film industry really does provide ‘opportunities for all’ those who hold the industry at heart and are seeking to build a free, fair and sustainable career in the film industry.”

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