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Black Nights 2022 – Industry@Tallinn & Baltic Event

Industry Report: Produce - Co-Produce...

“Creativity is buzzing, but we need more time and money,” stress Israeli directors at Tallinn

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The panel saw seven filmmakers sharing the challenges involved in producing and distributing their works in their country

“Creativity is buzzing, but we need more time and money,” stress Israeli directors at Tallinn
A moment during the panel

On 23 November, the Nordic Hotel Forum’s Capella hosted the talk “The Israel Film Industry Through The Lens Of The Director”, organised by Industry@Tallinn and Baltic Event. Moderated by Osnat Bukofzer, the event involved Esti Shushan, Ma'ayan Rypp, Nitzan Gilady, Mordechai Vardi, Shahar Rozen, Moshe Rosenthal and Maor Zaguri.

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First, Gilady spoke about his dual role as a producer and a director, which isn’t “even a choice”, usually, as it’s the result of a very limited budget – his latest effort, In Bed, boasted a budget of just 800,000 Israeli shekels (roughly €225,000). “It’s difficult to find someone [to produce your film]. It’s like a marriage, [it’s about] finding the right person. [Being a producer and a director] also gives you a lot of freedom,” he explained, adding how hard it is to secure external support from bodies and foundations, owing to the competition Israeli filmmakers face. “Unfortunately, the film industry isn’t a business in Israel, you don’t make a lot of money.”

Zaguri touched upon the differences between working in film and in TV: “They don’t have the same creative processes or end results. In my opinion, when it comes to producing for TV, [...] you need to entice people to come on board and stay there.” For his latest project, Virginity, Zaguri benefited from a slightly higher budget – a total of 4 million Israeli shekels (€1.25m).

Rypp explained how heavily the budget for her first feature film had weighed on her creative decisions: “Before we started filming, we had to cut out quite a lot. Before you shoot a movie, you need to know exactly what you want, and there’s not much room for mistakes or experimentation. [...] When we were editing the film in Paris, I was told a low-budget film couldn’t be shot in less than 25 days. We’d had 13, and I asked my editor – one of the most experienced in the world – if he could see a difference. He said he didn’t.” Rypp added that the crew members’ high level of commitment and passion really helped to improve the final result, as often happens with low-budget projects.

Next, Rozen stressed how a lack of budget also forces teams to work faster (“up to 5 times faster”), thus delivering works which are usually shorter: “I offered 126 pages of script but the producers told me we wouldn’t start until I’d cut it to 80.” He joked: “My dream is to take more than two hours to film a scene, and from more than two angles.”

Vardi, meanwhile, talked us through his work as a documentarian and lecturer, stressing how he “earned his documentaries by waiting.” Gilady, on the other hand, explained how the making of his latest effort took a grand total of seven years. “It shouldn’t have been like that. It took another seven years after my first fiction feature to make the second one. It’s very frustrating.”

Rozen insisted that it took 10 years to finalise Ducks. An Urban Legend: “I’ve brought my family here to watch the film they’ve been hearing about for 15 years. [...] I even took out loans to survive and to make my film... It’s a very expensive hobby.”

“It’s the same everywhere, you get this small amount; it’s never a lot but it drives you to be more creative. And budgets are not what make a movie good or bad, and you can see few examples of both kinds from the US. [...] This lack of wealth forces you to be creative,” Zaguri mused with his colleagues. Rypp agreed but insisted: “I’d like to have more time, to have more options in the editing room [at least].”

During the Q&A session, Shushan was asked to delve deeper into the peculiarities of the ultra-orthodox film industry she’s a part of. She explained that everything had started with groups of women working in schools and making films purely for other women, since according to the Jewish law, men can’t watch women acting on screen: “Then it became an independent industry. The audience for this industry is women only. The actors, the writers and the crew are women too. Productions aren’t screened in theatres; they’re often shown a little bit all over the place, and during the holidays.” Finally, Rosenthal spoke about his experience with distribution: “I was expecting the distribution process to be much easier, but when we actually go out and look for distribution, everyone’s terrified. Hardly any films have made any money, except for kids’ films. In the last few months, however, things have started to look up, because a distributor which previously refused to take my film [...] has come back and actually asked for it. But there are still too few options and venues.” Vardi suggested a greater focus on community centres and cinematheques, which are “still drawing in full houses.”

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