Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat this week announced an ambitious plan to build in Israel’s capital a major film and TV production studio — which he hopes will attract a flurry of foreign shoots to the city.
Barkat is a major supporter of film and television production in Jerusalem, and has partnered with media powerhouse Keshet to bring the annual INTV confab to the city and backed a series of ambitious tax incentives in recent years to lure international film crews to Israel.
His initiatives started paying dividends last year, with USA’s 10-episode drama “Dig” committing to shoot in Jerusalem, and Natalie Portman choosing to lense directorial debut “A Tale of Love and Darkness,” set to debut in Cannes, in the city as well. “Dig” had to pull out in the midst of last summer’s Israel-Gaza war, but the city’s film industry got a fresh boost in March when Richard Gere arrived to shoot scenes for helmer Joseph Cedar’s pic “Oppenheimer.”
The projected production complex is the result of six years of planning and at least NIS 50 million ($13 million) in municipal funds, Israeli media reported on Wednesday.
Yoram Honig, director of the Jerusalem Film Fund, told Variety that the production studio is one of two major goals for the future of Jerusalem production; the other is an intensified focus on animation projects. The studio itself will have three aims: working with the Israeli Broadcasting Authority on attracting local Israeli productions; a potential partnership deal with Hollywood’s Culver Studios; and serving as an additional draw in on top of the city’s attractive tax rebates to bring more foreign productions to Israel.
“We think we can bring a lot of productions over from Europe and North America,” Honig says.
Barkat will officially present his plan for the studios to Israel’s government on May 17, which is celebrated here as Jerusalem Day.
“After Richard Gere and Natalie Portman made Hollywood films in Jerusalem, and NBC filmed here last summer for the series ‘Dig,’ now it’s time to move to the next stage in the development of the film industry in the capital,” Barkat said in a statement.