JERUSALEM – The second and final day of INTV, Keshet Media Group’s annual confab on innovation in the television industry, kicked off on Monday with a nod to the looming Israeli elections — a conversation about whether real-world politics make for good scripted television.
HBO topper Richard Plepler, WME’s Rick Rosen, bestselling author Ari Shavit and Arab-affairs journalist and television creator Avi Issacharoff sat down with Israeli journalist Ilana Dayan for the day’s first session, which Dayan opened by asking the men how they would write the smallscreen version of Benjamin Netanyahu’s unfolding political battle.
Israelis will go to the polls on Tuesday morning to cast their ballots in a hotly contested election contest which remained, on Monday evening, neck-to-neck between right-wing leader Netanyahu and the more left-leaning upstart Isaac Herzog.
“Would he make great TV? He is great TV,” Plepler said of Netanyahu. Rosen agreed, saying, “I watched (Netanyahu) speak to a group of Hollywood CEOs at Arnon Milchan’s house a number of months ago, and this is a pretty tough group of cynics. He had everybody in the room starstruck.”
In another session, AOL’s Susan Lyne, who helped launch femme-centric programs like “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy” during her time at ABC, told INTV auds that betting on women’s programming was the best decision she ever made.
“I have three sisters and four daughters. I grew up in something of a matriarchy. And throughout my professional career, I have definitely landed in places where I was talking to other women,” she said. “The more I realized that was my focus, the more successful I could become.”
In an afternoon panel, “Super Size Me” helmer Morgan Spurlock discussed his newest project, the AOL reality series “Connected” – in which five cast members record six months of their lives with personal handheld cameras – with the creator and former star of its Israeli predecessor, “Mechubarim.”
“There aren’t many things that I watch that I get angry about, but when I watched this format I got really upset, because I didn’t think of it,” Spurlock said. “It’s such a simple, pure, beautiful idea … it represents the promise of reality television.”
Monday’s most anticipated session was a chat with “Downton Abbey’s” Julian Fellowes and Gareth Neame, who described the ITV hit series as a modern American drama dressed up in British period clothing.
“It looks like a British show but it has an American rhythm, and it deals with issues that are international,” Fellowes said.
Neame tipped his hat to ITV, saying the channel allowed them to push the boundaries of what it means to be a period drama.
“It never occurred to me that we should take this show to the BBC, because the BBC is where audiences expect to find this show, and I felt that it wouldn’t bring the changes we wanted to make if we went there,” he explained.
Other highlights of INTV’s final day included a session with branding guru Lee Hunt on the issue of “Netflix adultery,” in which one member of a couple binge-watches without telling the other; and Endemol chief social media officer Jacob Shwirtz on running social media bootcamps for talent.
INTV 2015 wrapped with a conversation between WME’s Rosen and “The Affair” co-creators Sarah Treem and Hagai Levi (pictured), who previously worked together on HBO’s adaptation of Levi’s Israeli show that became “In Treatment.”
Levi offered a tip for Israeli writers hoping to follow in his footsteps and sell their content abroad.
“If there’s a lesson for the people in Israel, it’s that when you go abroad, you must collaborate with a local writer,” he said. “You cannot write a show by yourself when you don’t belong to the culture.”
Levi’s “B’Tipul” was the first Israeli format to be sold to the United States, and is also the most successful Israeli format in history, setting the stage for the explosion of the Israeli format market over the past decade.
“There would be no ‘Homeland,’ and no other Israeli show, were it not for the vision of Hagai,” Rosen told the crowd. “I can speak from a personal level that I am working with Keshet because of Hagai … I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Hagai, and I think the entire film and television (business) in Israel does too.”