The Israeli government is aiming to positively brand the country and improve the economy through a rebate project that could grant up to 45 million shekels ($13.9 million) toward the production of foreign films and TV series in the country over the next two years. 

The move was initiated earlier this summer by five Israeli ministries. The deadline for application to participate is coming up on August 22. 

“Sadly, the way that the world often learns about Israel is through war,” Culture and Sports Minister Yehiel Tropper told JNS. “We just had this operation with Hamas and the terrorists launched more than 1,000 rockets at Israeli civilians while the IDF aimed only at terrorists, but the world does not necessarily see it this way. 

“We want them to see the beauty of Israel, our beautiful places, our cultural life, our theaters—there are so many wonderful things happening here and this is our chance to show them off.”

Israeli Culture and Sports Minister Yehiel Tropper at a celebratory reception for Israel’s Olympic medalists at the President’s Residence in Jerusalem, Aug. 16, 2021. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.

Five-ministry collaboration

The program is officially a project of the ministries of economy, culture and sports, finance, foreign affairs and tourism. The money will be granted through a special track of the Investments and Development Authority for Industry and the Economy at the Economy and Industry Ministry.

Qualified filmmakers—including in the field of animation and those working on TV series—can receive reimbursement for production expenses of up to 30%. The amount of financial support will be provided based on documentation provided by the recipients at various milestones throughout the production process. Up to 80% can be received during production and 20% when the film is completed. 

Reimbursement amounts can range between 500,000 shekels ($154,347) to 16.6 million shekels ($5.1 million).

Tropper said that the investment is expected to increase in value thanks to the “domino effect” of commercial activity. He said when productions are in town, they will spend money in hotels, use public transportation, order catering, hire professional support staff and more. 

Any applicant who wins a reimbursement grant has to agree to include mention in their film credits that their production was made with the support of the State of Israel and to allow Israel to share information about the film’s connection to the Holy Land “in any manner it sees fit,” according to the program’s official documentation. 

Tropper said that the program is fully funded for another two years and then will be up for renewal. He noted that despite the government turnover due to another round of elections, he believes that “if this works, there are movies being made in Israel, it helps the economy and puts Israel in a positive light,” the program will be re-funded. 

Israeli film director, screenwriter and film producer Renen Schorr at the Sam Spiegel Film and Televison School in Jerusalem. Photo by Moshe Shai/Flash90.

Industry is booming 

Israel is an ideal place for making films, the minister said, because of its history and geography, generally comfortable weather, strong infrastructure, skilled professionals and an available pool of film-school alumni, explained Tzvi Gottlieb, CEO of the Israeli TV and Film Producers Association. 

However, he said that people typically opt to go to Greece, Italy or even Jordan, where it is cheaper to produce films. Jordan is a “big player” in the rebate system, he said, and enjoys many millions of dollars infused into the country by filmmakers.

“There is no reason why Israel cannot do the same thing,” he said. 

Already, without the grant program, many well-known films have been made in Israel or developed by Israeli talent, such as Netflix’’s “Hit and Run,” “Fauda,” “Yellow Peppers,” “Tehran” and others. 

On the animation side, “the industry is booming right now in Israel,” Ben Molina, who runs the Animation Union in Israel, told JNS. “Israel is both an animation service provider and Israel is the creator of original IP.”

He highlighted shows like Nickelodeon’s “Zack and Quack,” which started in Israel but moved abroad for economic reasons. Israel’s Snowball Studios helped make “Muppet Babies” and is behind “CoComelon.”

Most recently, Ari Folman brought the story of Anne Frank to life through animation. That film has so far made more than $160 million at the box office.

“This is happening now and it would not have been possible 10 years ago,” Molina said. “This rebate program will make even more options possible.”

The opening night of the Jerusalem Film Festival in Jerusalem on July 21, 2022. Photo by Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90.

Filling Israelis’ souls 

Gottlieb said he believes it will serve to improve Israel’s image when producers and actors take to social media to share their travels and experiences. Dani Shahar, director general of the Tourism Ministry, said it will also bring travelers. 

People from all over the world travel to destinations they have seen in movies, following favorite series and following admired stars,” said Shahar. “Investing in promoting international productions to film here in Israel is part of our marketing activity as the Tourism Ministry, to expose and brand Israel as an attractive destination in the world. Besides Israel being an ideal setting for filming international productions, offering a very wide variety of landscape types, the charm of Israel will surely also appear in the series and films that will be produced here and will improve the status of our country among other countries of the world.

Finally, it will also feed Israelis’ souls.

Tropper was a social worker before he was a politician. He said that culture “is like cold water on a hot day on the hearts of people.” 

Tropper added that while Israel hopes to share its land, film technology and innovation with the international film industry, it hopes to “fill the souls” of its own people through the project. 

 
JNS

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