Birthright with cameras

For a group of American film students, the focus will be on getting to know Israel – not through sightseeing – but through studying with professional filmmakers in Jerusalem

Birthright with cameras (photo credit: JERUSALEM FILM WORKSHOP)
Birthright with cameras
"It’s birthright with cameras,” says Gal Greenspan, the co-founder of movie production company Greenproductions, of the Jerusalem Film Workshop.
The workshop is to place in the capital this summer and will give students from abroad the opportunity to learn about moviemaking from Israeli professionals and to make their own films here.
“When we thought about creating a filmmaking program here, we realized Jerusalem is the best city in the world to put a camera on,” says Greenspan, a movie producer whose credits include Youth, over coffee at the Mamilla Mall.
Greenspan has brought together an impressive array of talent to staff the Jerusalem Film Workshop. Eran Kolirin, the director of The Band’s Visit, one of the most acclaimed Israeli films of all time, will be teaching a master class on directing.
Then Guy Nattiv, who directed The Flood and the upcoming Magic Men, Tom Shoval, who helmed Youth, which took the top prize at the Jerusalem Film Festival last year and was just shown at the Berlin Film Festival, and Eitan Anner, director of Love & Dance, will teach the hands-on directing classes.
Documentary director Yael Hersonski, who directed the award-winning A Film Unfinished, an examination of archival footage from a movie the Nazis planned to make about the Warsaw Ghetto, will give students her take on the sensitive art of documentary filmmaking.
Other members of the faculty may not be household names, but they are the absolute top of their professions. Yaron Scharf, one of Israel’s premiere cinematographers, who shot Yuval Adler’s Bethlehem, Joseph Cedar’s Footnote and many other recent Israeli films, will teach the cinematography component.
Gil Toren, who has won dozens of awards for sound design and composition, is also on staff, as are Neta Dvorkis, who is well known for her work editing documentaries; Rona Segal, who wrote the screenplay for S#x Acts; and Guy Meirson, who wrote the screenplay for Rock the Casbah.
There will be three tracks in the workshop: The Fiction Fast Track, from July 6-18, in which students will make a short dramatic film; the Documentary Fast Track, also from July 6-18, in which students will make a documentary film; and the Full Program, which runs from July 6-31, where students will make both a short dramatic and a short documentary film.
Students will get a brief tour of the country, but the focus will be on getting to know Israel not through sightseeing but through studying with professional filmmakers and making films of their own here. The dates of the workshop coincide with the Jerusalem Film Festival, which will be held from July 10-20. The Israel Film Center in New York will present films by the students in a V.O.D.
Greenspan got the idea from his own military service in the filmmaking unit of the IDF, where his partner in Greenproductions, Roi Kurland, also served.
“We were in charge of all the photographers and filmmakers of IDF.
We taught them quickly how to make films. We wanted to take this course, and make it into something that would work outside the army,” he said.
The IDF film unit made use of some of Israel’s best directors, and had them make films for their reserve duty. “Where else would I have been the director’s assistant to a director like Eran Riklis?” asks Greenspan.
In 2008, Greenspan went to the Sam Spiegel School for Film and Television in Jerusalem, and studied to become a producer. But he was already thinking about creating this workshop.
“I liked Jerusalem even before it was fashionable,” he jokes, noting that the capital, long a distant second to Tel Aviv in terms of film production, is enjoying a movie renaissance in recent years. The Jerusalem Film Fund was established in 2008 in order to help bring more movie production to the city, and since then, dozens of movies have been made here (as opposed to one every five years or so prior), including the Oscar-nominated Footnote by Joseph Cedar, Avi Nesher’s The Wonders, Yuval Adler’s Bethlehem, and, most recently, Yossi Madmony’s A Place in Heaven. The Jerusalem Film Fund is also one of the workshop’s sponsors.
In addition to setting the workshop in the city that has the fastest growing film scene in Israel, “You can learn by doing. You don’t need to spend five years in a classroom in order to make a film.... It’s important to learn by doing. And with the best professionals teaching and the right equipment, Jerusalem is the best classroom to learn in the world.”
For more information, go to the Jerusalem Film Workshop website at