International film mag leaves Israel off attractive locations list

Israeli producer claims snub is due to lack of government funding.

REZA ASLAN, host of CNN’s series ‘Believer,’ stands at the Western Wall in 2015 during the filming of an episode in Israel. (photo credit: CNN)
REZA ASLAN, host of CNN’s series ‘Believer,’ stands at the Western Wall in 2015 during the filming of an episode in Israel.
(photo credit: CNN)
Screen Daily, the website and magazine that cover the international film industry in depth, released a special issue last week called World of Locations 2020, which listed 116 locations attractive to filmmakers around the world – and did not include Israel.
Other countries in the Middle East made the cut, including Morocco, Egypt, United Arab Emirates and Jordan. A representative of Screen Daily confirmed that Israel was left off the list for a single reason: The Israeli government does not offer incentives (meaning that a percentage of the film’s budget – usually around a third – that is spent in the location is returned to the filmmakers).
Louise Tutt, the deputy editor of Screen Daily, responded by email that in World of Locations, “We focus on the countries and regions and states actively positioning themselves as international production hubs (generally through state-backed incentives) and those where big international films and high-end TV projects head to for the unique locations.”
In the past, international productions have shied away from filming in Israel due to the security situation. Twenty years ago, Spy Game, starring Robert Redford and Brad Pitt, halted production in Israel due to the start of the Second Intifada, and two international television shows, Tyrant and Dig, moved production from Israel to Europe and other Middle Eastern countries at the outbreak of Operation Protective Edge in 2014.
But in recent years, the security situation, particularly in the center and north of the country, has quieted down. However, international productions have not moved back to Israel. When it seemed that the novel coronavirus infection rate had fallen to nearly zero last month, there was hope that Israel would once again draw international productions as producers searched the globe for places they could begin shooting again. Some Israeli filmmakers have gone back to work recently under the limitations of the Health Ministry’s restrictions.
But international productions have not come calling, and that is due to the lack of government incentives, even more than security concerns, say Israeli producers.
One industry insider, who preferred not to be quoted by name for fear that he would alienate the Culture Ministry, which gives funding to most movies made in Israel, said, “There are concerns over the annexation, whether it will cause an uptick in terrorism. Those are legitimate fears. But we could overcome them if there were some cash incentive to film here the way there is – you can see it crystal clear in the [World of] Locations issue – almost everywhere else in the world.”
As a point of comparison, Jordan gives 25% of the film’s budget spending back to its filmmakers with any budget over $7 million, with a cap of $2 million for these rebates. International filmmakers in Jordan are also exempt from sales tax, income tax for non-citizens, and excise duty, which Baha Othman of Jordan’s Royal Film Commission is quoted by Screen Daily as saying can amount to a return of as much as 45% of a film’s budget. That is a significant saving for any production, large or small. Morocco offers similar incentives.
Given that disparity and the similarity of the landscapes, it’s hard to imagine any producer choosing Israel over Jordan or Morocco.

Tags film economy