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Pride of place

Jerusalem Film Fund is an additional source of funding for local and international projects - as long as film-makers shoot Jerusalem for Jerusalem. Edna Fainaru reports.

For the first 60 years of the State of Israel, Jerusalem figured in only 30 of the 700 films produced in the country. The 2008 launch of Jerusalem Film Fund, spearheaded by Renen Schorr, head of the city’s prestigious Sam Spiegel Film & Television School, with the Authority for the Development of Jerusalem, has now transformed film production in Israel.

Managed by Yoram Honig, one of the first graduates of the Sam Spiegel school, the fund has clearly defined ambitions.

“Beyond developing film-making in the city, the action has to take place in Jerusalem to qualify for our fund. Jerusalem cannot stand in for another location,” says Honig. “We expect the script to offer a fresh look at the city and its inhabitants.”

With an annual budget of $2.6m (ils9m) the fund matches 83% of the production budget of every qualifying Israeli feature by investing $0.30 (ils1) for each $0.35 (ils1.2) invested by the production up to $290,000 (ils1m) per project. For local features, at least half of the production must be shot and set in Jerusalem.

As Jerusalem Film Fund is not backed by the national Film Council, local film-makers can combine Jerusalem financing with funding from either the Israel Film Fund or the Cinema Project.

The fund has invested in some 40 Israeli features including Josef Cedar’s Footnote [pictured], Yuval Adler’s Bethlehem, Shira Geffen’s Self Made and Eran Riklis’s Dancing Arabs, the opening film here at the festival. The fund also supports TV projects, short films and international productions, including non-official co-productions. For international projects, at least 20% of the action must take place in Jerusalem, with the fund’s contribution increasing proportionally as the percentage rises, up to $470,000 (ils1.6m) per project.

“We have backed six international productions,” says Honig. “They include Margarethe von Trotta’s Hannah Arendt and Natalie Portman’s Hebrew-language directorial debut A Tale Of Love And Darkness.”

Further upcoming international projects backed by Jerusalem Film Fund include Past Tense, Avi Nesher’s follow-up to The Wonders, produced by the US’s Anthony Bregman.

Separately, this year, the municipality of Jerusalem and the Israeli government invested $9.6m (ils33m) in a financial incentive to attract international film and TV productions to shoot in Jerusalem. To qualify, a production must spend at least $7.3m (ils25m) in Israel, of which $1.2m (ils4m) must be spent in Jerusalem, and the plot must be set in the city.

The highest level of investment will be 25% of a production’s budget. Along with Portman’s A Tale Of Love And Darkness, the first projects to benefit from the initiative include USA Networks’ six-part thriller Dig,about religious and political conflicts between the various communities in Jerusalem, written by Homeland’s Gideon Raff; and crime series Jerusalem, about the Christian community in the town’s Old City. It is being made by local producer Moshe Danon, whose credits include Ajami, and is a collaboration between France’s Haut et Court and Germany’s Network. “They are coming here now because there is a significant incentive to draw them in,” says Honig, of the rise in international
production in the city.

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