Malta not eligible for European Union funding for film production


Malta is being discriminated against when it comes to EU funds for film production, particularly because it lacks a track record to present.  The country has found itself in a catch-22 situation, not being able to kick start a film industry, because it does not yet have one. In addition, for reasons of economic scales, Malta is not able to be part of the European Film Promotion Network.

The remarks were made by director Rebecca Cremona, during a debate organised by MEP Marlene Mizzi at the European Parliament.

Filmmaker Rebecca Cremona said that with so few productions dispersed across decades the field in Malta can be barely called an industry. “Malta does have very limited resources – but that doesn’t mean we are not important or that our stories should not be heard,” she said.

“No single production in Malta was funded through European Union funds – not because we did not want, but because our country faced an unlevelled playing field when it comes to applying for funds. It has been excluded to the point it has become almost impossible to engage with other partners, despite the efforts,” she said.

She also claimed that the promotion of European productions is still not adequately nourished, and this lack of marketing is effecting the production levels presented. 

“Small countries like Malta are not being given the necessary access for funding – we want to make it very clear that we need change. We need to change such challenges into opportunities. Everyone needs to be respected as a European film maker – yet we think that the EU does not respect the Maltese talent enough. We need to acknowledge what makes us different, and use that to create productions,” Malta’s Film Commissioner Engelbert Grech said.

He said that apart from serving as a location for Hollywood and European films, Malta can become a leader in production. However there is the need to invest in it, allowing constant productions, rather than the few dispersed one every few decades.

He noted that the government is investing highly in the film industry – with €250,000 is invested in the film fund every year. The co-production fund, with a budget of €1 million was only recently introduced, allowing local production houses to collaborate with international ones. Rebates are now also being offered to local production houses.

In comments to The Malta Independent, MEP Marlene Mizzi explained that it is not easy raising awareness about Malta’s difficulties in access to funding, but nonetheless, not impossible.  “If Malta insists, then it will be heard. Other member states have a different agenda, and do not share our own interests. However, there are those who understand that small MS are also members of the EU.

“Ultimately, I am at persuading the European Commission to allow Malta to access funds. Allowing access to funding based on the portfolio of the country is pretty much the same as not employing someone because they lack the experience,” she said.

Matteo Zacchetti, from the European Commission’s Media Support Programme, noted that the European film industry is a highly fragmented market with a limit access to capital. He explained that 50% of funding for film production is distributed among the five majors– United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France and Germany.  The rest is distributed according to a country’s portfolio and the ability to reach large audiences.

This said, he had high praise for Simshar, saying that the European film industry needs to invest in similar movies – which represent local cultural identities but with a global reference.

Commissioner for digital economy and society, Gunther H Oettinger, noted that the film industry has a commercial aspect, with a huge chain creating economic value – from production to release.

“Films allow the audience to gather knowledge about countries histories and culture – movies create identity. They allow viewers to learn about political history across the world.

The digital world brings forth many opportunism, but also many dangers. It is assumed that in ten years, fixed television programmes will not exist. On-demand features allow people to choose what they want to see, at any time they want,” he said.

Mr Oettinger said that although there have been many worries about the survival of cinema, in actual fact the number of cinema visitors has increased by 10%.  He stressed that films produced within the EU member states need financial and legal assistance in order to survive and not be overridden by the American industry.

“The European film industry has obtained precious aids by creating production and training sites.  We should do our best to promote production and movie theatres. It is clear that in the global sphere, European film has no chance in the challenge with Hollywood productions, although Bollywhood is following Hollywood closely,” he said. 

European producers should focus on promoting culture

Damien Drachici, an MEP on the Committee on Culture and Education and music composer for well-renowned movies noted that young people are highly influenced by movies.

 “Because the film industry is overridden by the U.S, cultural traditions are lost, and the world is becoming somehow ‘ Americanised’. European producers should not follow the U.S example and produce movies solely for profit, rather they should focus on promoting cultural identity,” he said. 

EU Support schemes and incentives available

Over the years, the support framework has been strengthened with aid reaching 2.1 billion in 2009. Exceptions to the State Aid regulations allow for the development of economic activities promoting culture and heritage conversation – therefore, the cinema industry can also benefit.  In 2013, the Commission adopted new film-support rules. Funding can help cover 50% of the production, while co-productions funded by more than one member state may receive up to 60% of the production budget. 

Creative Europe provides cross-border cooperation projects between cultural and creative organisations within the EU and beyond. With a budget of €1.46 billion over the next seven years, the programme will provide a boost for the cultural and creative sectors, which are a major source of jobs and growth.Creative Europe will provide funding for at least 250,000 artists and cultural professionals, 2,000 cinemas, 800 films and 4,500 book translations. A new financial guarantee facility has been launched, enabling small cultural and creative businesses to access up to €750 million in bank loans.

US vs EU  

In 2013, US-based companies produced only 622 feature films, compared to 1,546 European productions.

The European film landscape is characteristed by the strong presence of Hollywood majors, such as Sony Pictures, Walt Disney and Warner Brothers. Such majors are vertically integrated and are responsible for the entire chain – from production to distribution.

The share for European films on the EU market dropped from 28.9% to 26.2% while the share of US films increased from 62.8% to 69.1%.

The European film industry faces major difficulties in raising budget to compete on the global sphere. While the average EU production ranges from 300,000 to 11 million, the average budget for US produced films may exceed 85 million.

 

·        The EU film industry gathers 91,000, 373, 000 employees and reaps revenues of around 60 billion a year. In 2011, the United Kingdom has the highest turnover in the film industry, with France, Germany, Spain and Italy following behind.

http://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2015-06-06/local-news/Malta-not-eligible-for-European-Union-funding-for-film-production-6736136804

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