February 8, 2012
How Tel Aviv became big business in Hollywood
Could Israel's newest export reshape its image?
(Page 4 - Previous Page)
Just don’t ask anyone involved in the Hollywood-Israel pipeline whether their emotions are getting involved. “Hollywood is a mercenary environment, and you have to produce,” Gordon said, adding that the origin of “Homeland” was simply “a happy confluence.”
“I don’t believe Israel is going to get any special accommodations. I’d say if I had an Egyptian format, I’d be glad to do that as well.
“I’m a producer,” Gordon said. “I want to make money.”
But Gordon also recognizes his reach. “It would be really nice to imagine a ‘Homeland’ sells well in the Arab world, and the people watching it from Egypt and Yemen and Saudi Arabia pause and think for a moment that this came from Israel.”
Most of these players agree that while they’re “not on a mission,” as Rosen put it, Israeli stories pouring out into the world will do their own kind of work on the world stage.
“The ability to see Israeli creativity and life in Israel through television shows of course helps to promote a different image of Israel,” Armoza said. “Many people form their image of Israel based on a 30-second report on the news, so our ability to reflect normal society through the work that we do on television is improving the image of Israel enormously.”
After a recent screening of the Oscar-nominated film “Footnote,” directed by Joseph Cedar, one woman attending was euphoric in the parking lot. “It’s the real Israel,” she exclaimed. “It wasn’t focused on the [Israeli-Palestinian] conflict.” Indeed, the film about a pair of competitive father/son talmudic scholars only contained one brawl — when a group of academics argue over who would receive Israel’s top talmudic prize. But the woman in the parking lot didn’t seem fixated on the plot. For her, the film’s power superseded simple entertainment: The more audiences can experience “ordinary” Israel, she seemed to be saying, the crazier Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad sounds.
But, while the extra attention on Israel is useful, no one knows whether the current boon will last. “You’re still watching an industry in transition,” said Nina Tassler, president of CBS Entertainment. “It’s evolving, it’s growing, it’s maturing.”
“There have been a lot of press releases about a lot of things,” Tishby said. “It’s going to be a reality check in the next couple of years, as we see what catches on. I was very happy I was able to be there first,” she said of finding and producing “In Treatment.” “When this whole thing looked like it was going to get real, I had this moment in which I could have leveraged myself more at the cost of losing the deal. But it was more important to me that [this show] got on the air than anything else. I remember saying to my business manager, ‘Do you understand what this is going to do to Israel?’ It was always clear to me that there were going to be a whole lot more players involved and that this was going to be an industry.”
Of course, there’s always the worry that really big success in Hollywood could prompt a creative exodus from the country, but Israelis, apparently, aren’t worried about that.
“In general, we’re really happy when an Israeli show makes it abroad,” Shiloach-Uzrad said. “It’s good for Israel; it’s good for the whole industry. When an Israeli actor makes it in Hollywood, it fills everyone with pride.
“Besides,” she added, “there are direct flights from Los Angeles to Tel Aviv, so you can come home anytime.”