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Jewish Journal

Lights, Camera, Action, Israel

by Gaby Wenig

June 10, 2004 | 8:00 pm

Does Hollywood ignore the Israel issue? Some seasoned industry professionals are tackling the public relations problem head on by nurturing a group of novice filmmakers to create Internet movies that will get people thinking about Israel and Judaism.

"There was a sense that a lot of people had that everyone is waiting for the great PR to all of a sudden happen," said David Sacks, a producer on "Malcolm in the Middle" and one of the senior fellows and founders of Jewish Impact Films (JIF). "And not to say that a lot of people haven't tried, but it seemed that part of the reason [it hasn't worked] is because it been so cost prohibitive, not because of any lack of ideas or talented people out there."

Sacks joined forces with "Shrek 2" screenwriter David Weiss; TV writer-producers Jason Venokur and Michael Borkow; and Rabbi Yaacov Deyo, educational director of Aish HaTorah, to create JIF. According to its Web site, JIF will offer 15 fellowships to "dynamic young Jewish thinkers" for a three-week program that is part spiritual enlightenment, part film school and part think-tank.

The fellows will be expected to create three short -- 15-second to one-minute -- Internet films: a piece of pro-Israel advocacy, an audiovisual dvar Torah (a short speech on an issue related to the weekly Torah portion) and a creative statement highlighting Jewish ethical teachings.

"I think our ideal applicant is going to be someone who is creative, someone who is interested in their own personal spiritual growth and someone [who] is really committed to just increasing light in the world," Sacks said. "But the fellows will make amazing Hollywood contacts, and they are going to be exposed to tremendous, tremendous, stuff."

Sacks said he has already been approached by different Jewish organizations to show the completed films, which will also be highlighted on the program's Web site.

"Down the line, we will be able to set up some centers in different high schools and colleges that will teach people how to do this and empower them," he said.

For more information and an application form visit www.jewishimpactfilms.com. The application deadline is June 15.

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