The Jerusalem Film Workshop in its inaugural year saw great success last Wednesday afternoon, as its 21 participants graduated the six-week program with a screening of their most recent short films. The workshop included lectures from professionals, working with film editors, learning how to use the technical equipment needed for shooting a film, and participation in the annual Jerusalem Film Festival among others.

Gal Greenspan and Roi Kurland of Green Productions started the Jerusalem Film Workshop based on their passion for film and desire to bring in individuals from abroad, exposing them to firsthand experience in the film industry.

Greenspan and Kurland found their own passion in the army film unit and haven’t looked back since. Greenspan explained it as providing these young students with the opportunity to “see culture through the lens of the camera,” while structuring the program similarly to the experiential learning he himself saw in the army. With students from China, India, Brazil, England and the United States, it is an experience that has provided for a hands-on approach to film education.

The students were split into groups at their arrival and tasked with making a variety of short films. They were responsible for virtually every part of the film ranging from production to screen writing, and even shooting. Apoorva Satish, a student from India, said that being responsible for all aspects of production has helped her better understand the “importance of a comprehensive knowledge of all aspects of film making,” rather than a specialized approach, something she would not have come to appreciate in a traditional class environment.

The first project for the students was short documentary films. The students were put into groups, then heard from 15 non-profit organizations based out of Jerusalem, with each group choosing one to represent in their films. This collection of short films was then shown at the Jerusalem Film Festival, under the title Jerusalem at First Sight, only two weeks after the students’ arrival in Israel.

Additionally, the Jerusalem Film Workshop provides cultural exposure and a deeper appreciation of the cultural authenticity of film.

“Films here [in Israel] are so good because the stories are real,” Josh Sims of northern California explained. With the ongoing military operation serving as a large distraction from the program at times, many of the students saw this resonate in their films. Sims said, “Once we saw the reality of what people deal with here, it had a huge influence on our films and views about the conflict.”

This could be seen one way or another in just about all of the films shown, touching on a variety of emotions including the hardships of living under fire, the religious vs. secular divide, and many other hot topics.

Through it all the students remained, studying, filming. None went home during the program, despite some pressure from family and friends.

These students will now be able to take their new-found perspectives back with them and share their experiences with their peers. In the words of participant Michael Abitbol, “We have now seen the strength of a nation under terror.”

While the experience was certainly different for each individual, the students all undoubtedly shared in the successes of the first-year program. With so many takeaways from the program both culturally and educationally, the students saw their own growth before their very own eyes in their films.

“The program shows the innovation and culture of Israel through the new generation of film makers” one staff member of the workshop said.

The films will be screened in the Israeli Film Center in New York City this coming January.

For more info visit www.jerusalemfilmworkshop.com.

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