18-11-2020

FNE Speaks with New Maltese Arts Association MEIA Film Head Abigail Mallia

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VALLETTA: The Malta Entertainment Industry & Arts Association (MEIA), established in June 2020 in response to systemic challenges facing the arts community in Malta, has pledged to take “the indigenous TV and film industry to the next level,” according to Abigail Mallia, the head of the Association’s subcommittee on film.

meia malta entertainment and arts assoc“I think MEIA can play a vital role in the development of the film industry. My experience so far is that it [the Association] has brought many different artists and production companies together with one specific goal in mind – taking the indigenous TV and film industry to the next level, in order to be able to compete with local work on an international platform,” she explained.

The MEIA is a non-profit organisation. It aims to raise awareness of problems in the sector, reach out to collaborators, and embark on initiatives, to ensure the sustainability of the arts and cultural industries. In the arena of film, the MEIA joins lobby group the Malta Producer’s Association, in campaigning for the growth and strengthening of the audio-visual industries.

Mallia acknowledged that the road ahead was long, “especially since most of us are also learning how to adapt to the new norm at present”,  but Mallia – who is also a Maltese film and TV director in her own right - expressed hope in where the efforts of the Association would lead.

Malta has a thriving film servicing sector, which has seen millions injected into the local economy, but its indigenous filmmaking industry has been left in the doldrums. This is a result of weak public support; a lack of formal film education; an inability, on the part of local companies, to navigate the international scene; and a dearth of film initiatives, which have left the local film community struggling to make their voices heard locally and abroad.

“I think the main priority is establishing a clear vision of what types of works we want to produce and classifying them as such. We have very little track record on the international market. Hence, when we produce our own indigenous work the end game is not clear enough in our head. Do we want to produce a festival film? Do we want to produce a TV series which makes sense commercially? Is this work for cinema, for a digital platform etc?” Mallia said, adding that “at the outset we must be clear on what we are in fact producing and not treat different projects in the same way.”

She continued, “there is also a very strong need for education and training, especially when it comes to storytelling,” she said. The local public broadcaster PBS should also play a central role in fostering the sector, she insisted. “I feel PBS are not yet aware of how crucial their role can be in taking the industry to the next level. Again, this comes from our country’s relative inexperience with creating international content,” she said.

Asked how the MEIA plans to first start tackling the issues, Ms Mallia said that “it is still early days, but I have always pushed very strongly for having as many voices as possible heard.” She explained that everyone on the seven-strong subcommittee for film possesses different levels of experience, and expressed the hope that, collectively, they will be able to fill the gaps in knowledge to lobby for better conditions.

“We will definitely disagree on many things, yet I feel we do share the same end goal in the end. We want to put Malta on the international map, as it is essential if we are to start producing high quality local projects with fair budgets, where professionals, like crew and cast, are paid fairly for their work,” she said.

Moreover, she said, she “would like to build bridges between companies, artists and Government entities, so that we are all in line with what we aim to achieve in the coming years and we all push for that. At times, individual interests must be set aside to achieve the end one has in mind.”

Looking ahead, Ms Mallia said that she hopes in five years’ time Malta is producing “high quality content that is exported overseas. I am not talking about vast quantities, but if, at least, three to four companies succeed in doing this, it will open doors and create networks. I would also like to see production companies joining forces and working together on larger projects. The experience of MEIA has shown us just how much we share, and how much we can learn from each other’s experiences,” she said.