The local film industry may well be going through a period of growth and development, but as Film Commissioner, Peter Busuttil points out this does not mean that it is not aware of its environmental obligations. He speaks to OUTLOOK about the local film industry’s role in safeguarding the environment.
Just like any other economic activity that takes place on Maltese shores, activities within the local film industry do have an impact on the surrounding environment. Most, if not all, of the locations chosen for the creation of a particular production have some form of environmental value, whether it is due to its natural value, its historical roots or its cultural significance.
“The Malta Film Commission is very much aware that the activities that take place within the local film industry can have a direct or indirect impact on the local environment,” Malta’s Film Commissioner, Peter Busuttil acknowledges. “I would say that the main impact that production works have on the immediate environment is related to the use of locations, which are an integral part of many of the films, documentaries and series that are produced in Malta.”
“We understand that filming in sensitive natural and historical sites brings a great deal of responsibility with it, and you can be rest assured that we really do our level best to ensure that all laws in place, which aim to protect the environment, are respected at all times, “ Mr Busuttil continues.
“We are also aware of the fact that the logistics involved when a production is being filmed can also have an indirect impact on the environment – such as slightly increased traffic in certain areas and as such,” he continues to say. “Our team works very hard to ensure that the logistics are managed in the most efficient way possible, with the aim of ensuring that any impact on the surrounding environment is kept to the bare minimum.”
In fact, although the Commission does not as yet have an articulated environmental policy it is in the process of planning the development of such a document. “We do plan to develop a detailed policy which would outline ways in which the Commission, as well as operators within the local film industry can safeguard the environment, but this will of course take some time,” Mr Busuttil explains. We will be discussing this and other issues with all the stakeholders involved , at all levels early next year.
“In the meanwhile, we monitor productions and work closely with the competent authorities to ensure that the environment takes precedence over any request a production might have to use sensitive areas. At the same time we assist productions in getting the required permits,” he continues. “There are also the bank guarantees which the productions deposit as collateral in case of negative use and/or impact on the environment.”
Mr Busuttil is also aware of the fact that the industry itself can also play a key role in raising awareness and educating the public when it comes to environmental issues. This can be done by and where possible, including themes related to environmental protection or awareness in to storyline and scripts.
“ This is further enhanced , when we see our beautiful landscapes at the cinema , the buildings which have inspired a number of filmmakers and hopefully inspire us to preserve and enjoy our natural and unique environments ,” he continues.
“There is certainly potential for the industry to take an active role in raising awareness about the environment – in fact, a number of films in recent years have been based on such themes,” Mr Busuttil says.
“Of course, the Commission is not in a position to impose storylines or ideas, but there is certainly scope for local producers to take up this topic and explore it further. But what is certain is that by encouraging a due diligence in filming in sensitive sites , we can explore new stories which are derived from a pristine environment. In fact, we will be organising a seminar early next year to address these issues and explore such possibilities,” Mr Busuttil concludes.