Jerusalem draws in animation bigwigs from all over

Sony Pictures Animation is sending creators of 'The Star' to a summer festival in Jerusalem.

Left to right: Oded Turgeman, Rick Mischel of Sony Pictures Animation, Yoram Honig of the Jerusalem Film and TV fund and Udi Ben-Dror of the Jerusalem Development Authority (photo credit: JDA)
Left to right: Oded Turgeman, Rick Mischel of Sony Pictures Animation, Yoram Honig of the Jerusalem Film and TV fund and Udi Ben-Dror of the Jerusalem Development Authority
(photo credit: JDA)
Tel Aviv may be Israel’s start-up capital, but Jerusalem is quickly shaping up to be a major center of animation.
And this summer, for the third year running, a group of top executives in the global animation world will be arriving in the city for the Hop, Skip and a Jump workshop being held alongside the Jerusalem Film Festival.
The latest figures who have confirmed their attendance are Jenny Marchick and Arturo Hernandez, from Sony Pictures Animation. Marchick, a senior vice president of creative development at SPA, and Hernandez, a development director, were key players in the creation of 2017’s The Star, a biblical adventure film about the first Christmas.
They will host a master workshop about bringing biblical tales to the screen. The SPA representatives will be joining an already impressive lineup this summer, including Elly Kramer, vice president at Nickelodeon, and Steven Wendland, creative head of animation at Technicolor.
Hop, Skip and a Jump is organized by the Jerusalem Film and Television Fund, a division of the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA), which works to bring economic opportunities to the capital.
The festival, said Oded Turgeman, the Los Angeles-based representative for the Jerusalem Film and Television Fund, allows local creators to connect with top figures in the animation world.
“The idea is for Jerusalem creators and animation companies to really figure out how to invent shows that have that kind of potential, and do that with a potential buyer in the room,” Turgeman said in a recent interview. “To know how to pitch them, know how to develop them. Our hope is that these shows will find a home with an international buyer.”
The Hop, Skip and a Jump initiative works in two parts. In July, executives come as mentors to teach, hold workshops and meet with animators. In October, a different group comes to hear from locals, and as potential buyers of ideas and shows for international distribution.
In October, Christopher Keenan, a senior vice president at Mattel, and Sadaf Muncy, a vice president at MGA Entertainment, are confirmed to be coming to Jerusalem. A top executive from Dreamworks is also in talks to join them. 
Turgeman was particularly happy to confirm the participation of Sony Pictures Animation.
“The visibility of that worldwide, the impact of that, is something that is impossible to ignore,” he said. “Our vision at he Jerusalem Film and TV Fund is that major mega-brands and major content is going to come out of Jerusalem... Israel is already a hi-tech powerhouse. And it’s also a TV formats powerhouse. I feel like the next step is to make Israel a sort of a powerhouse for animated projects.”
Turgeman said JDA began focusing closely on animation about four years ago, after the Hollywood production Dig was forced to shut down filming in Israel when the Gaza war broke out. The USA Network show ended up losing millions of dollars as a result and was seen as a cautionary tale for other international productions.
“The fund was looking for more opportunities to build an industry in Jerusalem that won’t be affected by political craziness,” Turgeman said. “Animation, in a way, it’s not a production in the street. It’s basically like hi-tech, in the sense that it’s people in front of computers in offices.”