A Paris-based production company is coming to Israel, giving writers and producers an opportunity to get their name and work into the global market. Blackpills launched the endeavor in early June with a party atop the Lighthouse Hotel at the Hiku skybar. Celebrities from both on the screen and off attended the event, while company heads planned their next moves to capitalize on the creative talent within Israel.
A common struggle for writers and producers in the Israel scene is a lack of budget and opportunity. With just a handful of broadcasters, artists feel this town just ain’t big enough. Enter Blackpills – a Paris headquartered company with a global presence. The production agency also works out of Los Angeles and distributes its original content through Netflix and major stations around the world.
David Sigurani is the company’s head of global content, original series and production. To start, he’s managing five projects and plans to sign on another dozen within the next six months. Most of what Blackpills is focused on now are short series.
“We’ve noticed that some of the best writers and storytellers are coming out of Israel, even when it comes to international stories,” Sigurani said.
Sigurani says opening a branch of the company in Tel Aviv made sense following the global success of the company’s Netflix series Bonding, which tells the dark tale of a graduate student who plays the role of a dominatrix in the evenings.
“What we wanted to do was come and source talent out of Israel and start with Israeli stories and Israeli projects and essentially take them into the US to distribute them on more international platforms,” Sigurani explained.
This is a major plus for writer/director Roni Ninio who has just signed on with the company as a writer and director for a new show that hasn’t yet been finalized. The concept of the show’s duration is a new one. Ninio plans to write ten 20-minute episodes for the series. Ninio says he’s happy to be able to push his work out onto the international stage after dedicating his life to the industry.
“Israel is a small country and there are only X amount of projects you can do,” Ninio explained. “Secondly, I think there are so many elements that restrict you from doing exactly what you want – especially with a budget, so it’s very hard to express yourself to your utmost creativity.”
To give some perspective – Ninio says his last hit show, Your Honor, was originally produced in Israel for $200,000 per episode. The American version with Brian Cranston cost $2.5 million per show.
“Blackpills is not as rich,” Ninio said. “But when we will do it, the budget will be a lot higher. Many times you can do movie magic on a small budget, but it becomes difficult. You have to be very creative, but if you have more money you can do it better.”
WHILE NINIO might be a tad jaded by the business, writer Adi Tishrai is just getting her feet wet on the international stage. At 32 years old, the young talent has secured the production of her show, First Love, with Blackpills. Tishrai took us back to when she was first introduced to the Blackpills team.
“They said to bring us something that will keep us up at night,” Tishrai said. This topic will surely do that. Tishrai’s highly anticipated show revolves around a young man who finds that he hasn’t grown out of his attraction to young girls. Tishrai said most production companies turned her script away, suggesting the material was too disturbing. But Blackpills welcomed the challenge.
“It had to be edgy and sexy and a little bit violent,” she explained. “It makes you think about something you’ve never thought before. Everyone said it’s too crazy. It’s too edgy. It won’t work in Israel. Finally, one of the producers I pitched to said ‘You know what? There are a few companies in Israel looking for stories like yours.’”
According to Sigurani, First Love will be released on a streaming service sometime before the end of the year. The executive also explained that Blackpills often sets up newbies to work with veterans to offer them guidance and supervision.
Another show Blackpills is pushing is called Dead Women Walking – a story about nine women on death row, directed by Hagar Ben-Asher.
“We love breaking new talent,” Sigurani explained. “We like introducing them to the global stage versus working with those who already have a name.”
When it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Israel’s greatest story of all, Sigurani says he hasn’t heard a peep about it and that so far he’s only gotten positive feedback surrounding the company’s choice to open in Israel.
“No backlash in any way and for us, no boycotting,” he said. “And for us, the partners like Netflix and Propogate, who we have a deal with, are incredibly interested in the Israeli talent we’ve brought forward, and are more eager to work with Israeli talent than say, proven American talent or UK talent.”
Blackpills’ founder and CEO Patrick Holzman, a Jewish man born and raised in France, is working on the launch from his home nestled near the quiet shores of Herzliya.
“We have a big ambition to bring Israeli talent to Europe and to LA,” Holzman said. “This is a new playground for us. We need to be here to be connected with the country, the subjects here and the talent. All of this can be done from anywhere – but today, Israel is the new hot spot for scripted content. Every US and English broadcaster is interested in Israel.”
With an estimate of 12 projects up ahead, Blackpills is budgeting to spend between €200 and €300,000 per series. According to Holzman, the most important part about the upcoming work is not necessarily the production quality, but the story.
“Young people spend a lot of time on Facebook and Instagram and so today your time is very precious,” Holzman explained. “To start something that will take 10-15 minutes – this is time you could be spending on your device. We have to bring them something unique that they can’t find anywhere else. This is the beginning of our success story in Israel.”
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