Home Infra What dreams are made of… | Johann Grech

What dreams are made of… | Johann Grech

What dreams are made of… | Johann Grech

The size of our country never stopped us from dreaming big.  A small country in the Mediterranean, but a great nation where through collective ambition and the ability of working together as a country, we achieve our potential.  The power of togetherness reaching our dreams.

Throughout different eras, our economic growth focused on various niches, from manufacturing, maritime, aviation, financial services, technology, pharmaceutical to gaming, among others.  Every time economic growth is debated in our country, the discussion delves into the new niches that Malta is supposed to pivot towards.

Obviously, these sectors have always been built on solid foundations, reflecting the focus of the particular period of time. Political direction was not the only driving force.  But education, training and professionalism of our people were key elements for our country to be competitive and attract new inward business.  In some sectors, even leading in Europe.

Industries are built on foundations reflecting the capabilities of the people and the current landscape of the country; its progress and its drive to rise to the challenge.  We have to hustle and compete with countries who have more resources than us.

Malta has to remain agile and compete hard to keep achieving success. Today, there is a huge demand for people to work in the film industry. Whereas other economic sectors struggle to find the needed demand for people to work in their respective industry, the local film sector is actively recruiting people from different walks of life. Yes, people are responding to our upskilling and training programmes. Those working in the film industry want to remain working in it. Their commitment is clear. They want careers in the film industry.

This is my case of why the film industry in Malta should not accept the status quo, but we should be building on an already solid foundation and reach higher. And wherever change is needed, we need to build back better.

We have the perfect selling point to attract more people and meet their aspirations: film itself.  This is a sector full of creativity, innovation, and storytelling.  The power of imagination.  This is what dreams are made of.

When I was appointed Malta’s Film Commissioner, five years ago, the industry was a seasonal one, with its potential underestimated.  An industry where job opportunities existed only for the selected few.  A neglected industry, crying for investment.  We were losing talent to other industries.  It was an industry where people believed that jobs were not secure; where careers were just a pipe dream.

Malta has always enjoyed a strong reputation.  And today, Malta’s reputation globally is even stronger.  Malta’s story in filmmaking has been a success.  But we cannot limit ourselves.

The opportunities for our islands are enormous and clearly the demand for people to work in this industry exists.  And as Film Commissioner, I am often faced with a very frustrating reality, which I don’t often talk about.

We want to strengthen the synergies between government, the private sector and the industry itself – because only by working together can our country achieve more.  We want more people to join the film industry – because there are jobs for everyone.  We want those who have been working in the film industry to have the chance to walk up further the ladder of opportunity within the different departments – because our industry is very fluid in opportunities.

We will walk the talk, as we have always done.  This Government is investing heavily in the infrastructure of the Malta Film Studios, with the building of world class soundstages and facilities.  Malta has lost a lot of productions, and jobs were lost as well, because for 40 long years no investment in the film studios was undertaken.  There was also no solid investment in the skills – with limited supply of crew and infrastructure.  It’s really heartbreaking that the film industry was taken for granted for a very long time.  Today, the Government is creating the appetite for the private sector to invest more in services and potentially in the building of more soundstages.

We have strengthened the cash rebate that Malta gives to foreign and local productions.  This means securing people’s jobs within the film industry and other service industries.  Let’s be very clear – we are competing heavily within a competitive market, especially with other Mediterranean countries.

There are many countries, even other European ones, who offer rebates and tax credits of all kinds to lure investment, and while our incentive structures are competitive, we are by no means alone in offering them.  But I am proud to say that we have a government which is pushing forward the film industry, as otherwise this success would not have been achieved.  In 2022, we had 24 productions which generated over €85 million into our economy.  It was a record year.  It was the best year in a period of 10 years, in terms of employment.  Over 900 Maltese crew and 1,000 foreign crew worked on productions in Malta during 2022.

This shows that we we are on the right track, but there’s still a lot of work to do.  We need to invest more, especially in the fundamental pillar which hold the industry: education and training.  Only through upskilling will we have better opportunities for the Maltese, which in turn will lead to better wages.

The Film Commission has started a series of training sessions for those looking to join our industry.  Hundreds of people are responding to our call.  But this is just the beginning.  For the first time, since its establishment, the Malta Film Commission is embarking on an ambitious educational programme – all year round – to strengthen the talent and skills within our industry.  By working with local and foreign educational institutions and in partnership with the industry itself, we want to give a sure start to our children and young people to achieve their ambitions.

Economic growth and skills are interlinked, and we have to invest more in this area if we want to progress.

Education, training and the continued professional development will strengthen our crew base for productions to be more able to use local crew and import less foreign crew.

Whenever a large production comes to Malta, Maltese and Gozitan professionals should compete for the different positions and roles, and not be excluded due to skill shortages.  It’s a healthy process to compete.  And our job is to equip people with the necessary skill-sets to be able to do so.

We will be focusing on providing training opportunities that create a supply of highly skilled crew.  This will make Malta a more attractive filming destination, with better wages for our crew, and at the same time increasing the demand for their skills.

Our role as Malta Film Commission – and mine personally – is to reach to our vision of creating a world-class film industry, thus realizing people’s dreams within our film industry.  I will not shy away from boldly doing so, as it is my job and my duty.  I am against the status quo; I will remain pro-change.  Because, change is a process not an ending, and if done right, change shall lead to the progress we aspire to achive.

We will not stop short from opening the doors of opportunity for all.

I shall keep on driving the energy to deliver more because I want our country to gain more foreign direct investment, which in turn leads to more opportunities for our people.  We have walked a long and tough journey to achieve today’s brand positioning and the prospects it offers.

Our duty is to get it done. We have the drive, the energy, to deliver the change we are promising. We will not stop dreaming to achieve more for all those who belong in the film industry. We will deliver our promise of creating a world class film industry in Malta.

We are determined to continue our fight to accomplish more growth in the film industry. We will keep thinking big and will not stop half-way. I am committed for further successes. When film in Malta does well, everyone wins.


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