Unity thrives in Jerusalem Film Workshop program

Young international filmmakers are able to study their craft in the Holy City

THE PARTICIPANTS of the 2017 Jerusalem Film Workshop at the opening night of the Jerusalem Film Festival.  (photo credit: JERUSALEM FILM WORKSHOP)
THE PARTICIPANTS of the 2017 Jerusalem Film Workshop at the opening night of the Jerusalem Film Festival.
In 2009, award winning producer Gal Greenspan and his partner Roi Kurland founded Green Productions with a vision of young filmmakers come to Israel to tell unique stories through the medium of film. That dream became a reality when he established the Jerusalem Film Workshop, a six-week program in which students from around the world view the holy city from a cinematic perspective and develop their passion and knowledge of filmmaking in Jerusalem.
Now in its fourth year, the Jerusalem Film Workshop continues to flourish. Participants are carefully chosen based on prior experience in cinema, both practically and theoretically, resulting in a diverse group of 21 of the top young filmmakers from 14 countries: United States, England, South Africa, Mexico, Nepal, South Korea, Italy, Canada, Vietnam, Poland, Hungary, Germany, Israel and Austria. Despite the cultural and religious differences, and language barriers, the participants are all connected by their deep passion for film and create strong relationships both personally and professionally.
Collaboration is the backbone of the Jerusalem Film Workshop, proving the power of film to create unity.
“The JFW brings people from all over the world to engage with issues that are relevant to Jerusalem. Some of them have no prior connection to Israel and through filmmaking they get to learn about the country and its stories,” says Greenspan.
The program combines in-class workshops taught by Israeli industry professionals who mentor the students throughout the production process of their films, Israeli cultural programming and practical tutorials, as well as hands-on filmmaking practice in the field. This intense format was based on the training of the IDF film unit in which Greenspan and Kurland served.
Upon their arrival in Israel the participants are divided into five sub-groups, consisting of a director, producer, cinematographer and editor/sound designer. Each group faces the challenge of creating a short documentary film in, and related to, Jerusalem, within a six-week period. They begin with several days of location tours, in which they learn Jerusalem’s many cultures and become affiliated with the city, followed by an intense week of story development and pre-production. Principal photography occurs for four days, each group filming in different locations across the city. The groups edit under the supervision of the mentors who constantly challenge them to create the best projects that they can. Finally, the students attend the Jerusalem Film Festival, as industry members, where their films are premiered.
Several modifications were made to the workshop for its 2017 session. This year, the workshop was supported by the Margules family through the establishment of the Manny Margules Scholarship, which enabled students from around the world to participate. The workshop is also supported by Onward Israel, the New Fund for Cinema and TV, United King, the Russell Berrie Foundation, Everline Group and the Jerusalem Film and Television Fund. It is partnered with the Jerusalem Film Festival and Jewish and Israeli film festivals from around the world who supported the selection of the best participants, often covering the costs of their flights.
“We brought out the best filmmakers and each participant is producing one film instead of two, in order to enable the production of the best films possible,” explains Greenspan about the new developments.
Greenspan believes that narrative films could be made anywhere. Documentaries, however, tell stories unique to their locations, thus providing distinct truths, and in the case of the workshop’s films, truths about Jerusalem.
A feature documentary composed of the students’ five short films, as well as additional footage filmed by the participants, will premiere at a private screening at the Jerusalem Cinematheque as part of the Jerusalem Film Festival today, after which the individual films are to be screened at Jewish Film Festivals in the participant’s respective cities.
When the program is complete the students have successfully completed their films, have developed deep connections within the Israeli film industry and become young ambassadors for Israel within their communities. Greenspan welcomes the continued contact and collaboration of the students with Green Productions in future years as they advance in their film careers.