This past decade has seen a surge in Israeli television projects making an impact on the global market. Major U.S. adaptations of Israeli television shows now dominate TV stations and online streaming channels – one of the biggest hits being “Homeland,” adapted from the Israeli series “Hahatufim” (“Kidnapped”) in 2011. The show garnered critical acclaim and won two Golden Globe Awards, for ‘Best Actress’ Claire Danes, and for ‘Best Drama Series.’
Another hugely successful adaptation came when HBO picked up “In Treatment” in 2008, based on the award-winning Israeli television series “Betipul.” Amassing an incredible 5 Golden Globe nominations, including ‘Best Drama Series,’ this brilliant adaptation also scored a Golden Globe win for lead actor Gabriel Byrne.
Isreali adaptations in the US marketplace has since taken off, including: Traffic Light (Fox), The Ex List (CBS), Euphoria (HBO), Connected (AOL), The A Word (Amazon Prime), Your Honor (Showtime), On The Spectrum (Amazon Prime), The Good Cop (Netflix), The Baker and The Beauty (ABC), and Emmis (Netflix), which is based on the Netflix hit show “Shtisel.”
Bridging the gap
Israel’s modern entryway to the US television market began when a bold group of Israeli producers and representatives headed to Los Angeles to connect with leading Hollywood agents and television executives almost a decade ago.
At this time, Nina Tassler, former Chair of the Jewish Federation’s Entertainment Division and chairwoman of CBS Entertainment, was an advocate for amplifying these voices and helped organize masterclasses held both in Los Angeles and Tel Aviv.
It wasn’t long before top US talent agents began shopping Israeli projects to the US networks. During Howard Gordon’s Golden Globes speech for “Homeland,” he thanked WME agent (and CCFP Advisory Board member) Rick Rosen for introducing them to the project. Rosen, along with former CAA agent, Adam Berkowitz, were two of the driving forces in introducing these Israeli projects to the American markets.
These days, the number of Israeli TV shows, movies, and adaptations being released in the US is staggering.
FAUDA — COEXISTENCE AND COLLABORATION
In 2015 along came the hit television show, Fauda, which was a real game changer. Up until this time, most of the prominent Israeli hits where adaptations, but Fauda represented a paradigm shift, bringing an Israeli language drama to American audiences like they had never seen before.
This Israeli television series, developed by Avi Issacharoff and Lior Raz, which draws on their real life encounters in the Israel Defense Forces, premiered on Netflix in America and has since been picked up for two additional seasons.
The critically acclaimed series recounts the stories of people on both sides of the Israeli/Palestinian divide, with a depth and complexity that shows the best and worst of the conflict.
The show, which follows Israeli special agents tracking terrorists in the West Bank, also recounts the stories from the other side, providing a look at the Arab/Palestinian perspective as well. The show also features an eclectic cast of both Israeli Jewish and Arab/Palestinian actors, speaking in both Hebrew and Arabic. The show truly showcases the power of television to bring both sides together to tell their shared stories.
The success of Fauda spawned other Jewish/Arabic projects like the acclaimed series “Our Boys,” which premiered on HBO in America.
The mini-series was created, directed and written by Hagai Levi, Joseph Cedar, and Tawfik Abu-Wael, two Jews and an Arab/Palestinian. The show follows the Shin Bet’s investigation into the murder of 16-year-old Muhammed Abu Khdeir and how his grieving father navigates his son’s new status as a martyr.
Like Fauda, the cast is a mix of both Jews and Arabs/Palestinians, speaking both Hebrew and Arabic, once again evidencing the power of television to further coexistence and greater understanding between the two sides.
Applauded for their narrative depth and ability to create award-winning material on a shoe-string budget – Israel’s talent pool is slowly but surely becoming recognized and celebrated the world over, establishing Israel as a creative hub when it comes to contemporary storytelling.
Other recent projects to impact the global market include: Shtisel (Netflix), The Spy (Netflix) staring Sacha Baron Cohen, The Operative (Amazon Prime) starig Diane Kruger, The Angel (Netflix) staring Tunisian born actor Marwan Kenzari, and The Red Sea Diving Resort (Netflix) staring Chris Evans.
What’s been happening in the Israeli television industry is nothing short of astonishing, exporting more successful television shows than other foreign- language country, with no signs of a slow down in sight.