Yulia Karra
July 7

“In the past few years, it hasn’t been easy to get Israeli productions on the international streaming platforms or TV channels,” says Nati Dinnar.

“Even before the war, they didn’t feel like they needed to check that box; now it’s not important for them at all,” the Israeli TV veteran tells ISRAEL21c.

Dinnar is a cofounder and CEO of IZZY, an international streaming platform for Israeli content. Recently, he has taken on a task of managing what is slated to become Israel’s largest fund supporting TV and film productions. 

Israel’s largest TV and film fund

Founded by Jewish National Fund-USA (JNF-USA), the fund is dedicated to supporting Israeli storytelling, with a particular focus on productions in the regions most affected by the October 7 attacks. 

The fund is anticipated to reach $3 million, with the money being invested in productions that are handpicked to help “change the perception of Israel.”

Dinnar says the fund is not going to “dictate” to the Israeli TV channels and studios what to produce, but rather coproduce the content that had already been developed and greenlit for production.

Nati Dinnar. Photo by Eldad Rafaeli
Nati Dinnar. Photo by Eldad Rafaeli

“It’s very hard now for TV channels to really invest the money needed in premium production,” Dinnar says, adding that the fund will match each production dollar to dollar.

“If a drama costs $2 million to make, we will come in with a million and the local company will bring another million, so they will have money left to produce another show.”

Not like other funds 

Dinnar says similar funds exist in Israel for film but not TV.

“Television creates a lot more content with a lot of diverse stories, so we want to be more focused on that,” he explains. 

“A film can take two to three years to make, but with TV you can create a season a year.”

He adds that most other funds also don’t handle distribution, leaving it to producers, who don’t prioritize it. 

How Oct. 7 Hamas attack has impacted Israeli film
Colleyville official movie poster. Photo courtesy of Hey Jude Productions

Since October 7, there have been multiple reports of Israel-affiliated films and filmmakers being boycotted at cinema festivals and events around the world. 

Israelis in the film industry are understandably fearful that the ongoing war in Gaza will put a dent in their hopes and dreams of breaking through internationally, at least in the foreseeable future.

Read more

“The decision-making on who handles the international distribution will be made by the fund because we want to make sure the content reaches eyeballs around the world,” he notes. 

“For instance, if you were to put the decision on what comes from Israel to the world in the hands of Netflix, they would choose very little and very stereotypical,” he says.

“It’s either about the conflict, like “Fauda,” or something very religious,” he notes, referring to shows like “Unorthodox” and “Shtisel.”

Dinnar adds that as a result, “the normal television” that shows “the positive Israel” gets ignored.

The TV creator and producer explains that local production companies often manage distribution inhouse and “it’s very, very hard for them because they don’t know how to do it.” 

Dinnar says that it’s not only the negative view of Israel that prevents local content getting picked up internationally, but also changes in the structure of the distribution system.

“It used to be that it was very hip to take films from Israel, so every international distribution company wanted to have a title from Israel at least once a year,” he says. 

“But the distribution world changed due to streaming platforms; a lot of international distribution companies are getting shut down.”

Impact of October 7

The fund was an idea initiated by JNF-USA CEO Russell F. Robinson in the wake of the October 7 attacks.

“He wanted to use the majority of the initial sum raised for the fund to help TV productions about the region, filmed in the region and employing people from the region,” says Dinnar, referring to the Gaza border area.

Sapir Academic College, the only college located in the Gaza envelope, in Sderot, actually boasts one of Israel’s biggest film schools.

“A lot of Sapir graduates move to Tel Aviv and the surrounding area just so they can find work, because there isn’t any work there [near Sapir] in the television industry,” explains Dinnar. 

“Through this fund, we will try to motivate the producers and TV channels to tell the story of the region, or at least hire employees who graduated from Sapir, or who live in the region.”

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Jason Harris

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