New York City-born Israeli writer-director Joseph Cedar, who helmed the foreign-language film Oscar nominees “Beaufort” (2007) and “Footnote” (2011), is now finishing his U.S. feature debut, the political thriller “Oppenheimer Strategies.” The Richard Gere-toplined U.S./Israel co-production is being presold by the Solution Entertainment Group and is due out next year.
What are the main differences between filming in Israel and the U.S.?
In Israel, it’s: how do we do an idea cheaply? In America, on a mid-budget independent film (like ours), it’s usually: how do you get more money or give up on the idea … (but) once something’s in the budget, you can rely on it being perfect. In Israel, you never know if anything people say will come true. Many times you just have to pray.
How did “Oppenheimer Strategies” get financed?
An oil and gas investor in Israel, Gideon Tadmor, approached me and said, “I spend hundreds of millions investing in oil drilling with tremendous risk. I’m told the film business has the same kind of risk, but you end up with a movie.”
Why come overseas to write it and film it?
After “Footnote,” I wanted to do something outside of Israel. It’s about a small-time businessman who befriends someone who ends up being very powerful, and it’s deeply rooted in the very high- and low-finance reality of New York. Every second of the plot is the result of something I experienced while I was here.
What kind of projects are you open to doing next: film, TV, American, Israeli, indies, majors …
Films that are entertaining and meaningful — they can take place anywhere, and in different media. A story that’s incredibly scary or something I’m so curious about, I can’t put it down. I still don’t know which of the projects I’m developing is strong enough for me to commit to yet.
Do you see any thread between this film and your earlier ones?
All of my previous films became part of a mainstream cultural conversation in Israel. Working in English will hopefully reach a mainstream audience (in the same way) — I hope that’s a common thread.