It was a meet-cute for the businesswomen set: Adi Ezroni, the Israeli actress and producer, had just returned from a grueling shoot in Cambodia, struggling to finish filming “Holly,” a drama about the sex trafficking of a 12-year-old Vietnamese girl in Phnom Penh. Mandy Tagger-Brockey, an American producer, was wrapping up several years at indie production house InDigEnt, which was set to be shuttered, when a boyfriend who was looking to potentially invest in “Holly” brought her to a screening of the film.
The two women, who both have lives that straddle Israel and the United States and share a passion for authentic, intensely creative storytelling, say they just clicked. They met up a few months later at Sundance and realized they were at the the start of a beautiful work romance.
That was 2007. By 2009, Ezroni and Tagger-Brockey had formed Spring Pictures, a New York-based banner whose “Saturday Church” was named a New York Times Critics’ Pick in 2018. And last year, as Keshet plowed further into the U.S. entertainment market, Ezroni and Tagger-Brockey were selected, as a duo, to head up Keshet Films, the company’s newest development and production division.
Ezroni was born in Israel but spent a chunk of her formative years in in the United States. And while she was practicing her English, Tagger-Brockey, who was born in the United States but lived in Israel from age 10 to 20, was perfecting her Hebrew. Both share a distinctly global viewpoint and a hardline commitment to shining light on the small, important stories — qualities that make them ideal embodiments of the Keshet philosophy.
“The only thing we had, when we were brought to [Keshet Intl.], was characters,” says Ezroni. “It was all we had — the ability to tell an engaging character story. That’s in our DNA. And now we have the ability to go beyond that and combine that with things that are bigger.”
For any television behemoth, the move to add a film production and development arm was inherently risky. Tapping two women without any blockbuster successes under their belt raised the stakes even further. But Keshet has never been one to follow convention. In an era of the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements and searing conversations about the lack of female perspectives behind the camera and the sagging rate of female pay, Ezroni and Tagger-Brockey say that at Keshet, they found an atmosphere that was refreshingly gender-agnostic.
“A company’s success will always be limited if the only points of view you are bringing to the table are white men,” says Tagger-Brockey. “Avi [Nir] and Alon [Shtruzman] are not scared of women — they welcome them, and with that, they’ve seen success because they have different people bringing different points of view and that matters. It matters because of content.”
Israel is a remarkably family-friendly country. It was here that a woman held the nation’s highest government office in 1969; where both men and women enjoy paid family leave and where it’s not uncommon for a male CEO to duck out of work early to handle preschool pickup with nary a raised eyebrow from his staff. So perhaps that’s why Keshet’s and KI’s list of top execs skews staggeringly female: from Karni Ziv, Keshet’s head of drama; CFO Sigal Alboher, and to Keren Shahar, KI’s COO and president of distribution; Limor Gott Ronen, VP marketing and communications, and Rachel Kaplan, EVP scripted, Keshet Studios. Women sit on every critical board and weigh in on every fundamental content choice that the company makes.
It’s not a radical gender-based decision on the part of human resources, though, says Shahar. In fact, it’s so much a part of the Keshet mentality that it’s basically a non-issue.
“I definitely think that part of Keshet’s success is our very casual and family-like culture,” she says. “This is a place where a lot of us spend more time with each other than at home, so this becomes a home. And like any family, everyone here can and does voice their opinions. It doesn’t matter if it is to their direct manager or to the CEO. This is not a multi-layered company. Gender has nothing to do with our culture. All we care about is who you are as an individual, what values you bring and the work that you do toward achieving a common goal.”