Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos met with students at the Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film and Television School on Monday and was interviewed there by Emmy-nominated actress Shira Haas.
Earlier this year, Netflix announced it would be investing in young Israeli creators as part of the new Series Lab that the Sam Spiegel Film School launched; it would serve as a means of advancing and creating opportunities for new Israeli voices to reach the world television market.
Initiated by Dana Blankstein Cohen, executive director of the Sam Spiegel Film and Television School, and Aurit Zamir, director of the Jerusalem Sam Spiegel Film Labs, the Series Lab is open to screenwriters and directors from all the film schools in Israel. This Lab aims to support a variety of voices through professional guidance with leading industry figures from Israel and abroad. In the context of the program, one exceptional project will receive the new Netflix Series Development Award. Sam Spiegel has been selected by the Hollywood Reporter as one of the 15 best film schools outside the US for five years in a row.
Sarandos was impressed by the students he met, telling Haas, “All you need is community, and if we learned anything tonight it is that the world needs you. Your projects are going to change the world, it might take a year, it might take 10. But it’s going to happen. That’s why we are so proud of this affiliation, the first of its kind.”
When asked what advice would he would give his 21-year-old self, Sarandos replied, “Most people would say follow your passion. This might sound counterintuitive, but the best advice I have heard is to do what you are good at, and the passion will follow.”
Sarandos, who has been at Netflix since 2000 and initiated company’s original programming, said, “People are much more interested and open to new things and language is no longer a barrier. Ultimately, great stories can come from anywhere and there are universally relevant themes of the human condition.”
Another question Sarandos was asked was: How do more Israeli creators get to work with Netflix to tell their stories on the global stage?
To that, Sarandos replied, “Firstly, we commission and acquire for local audiences first. We believe that a great story can come from anywhere and be loved everywhere. We’re looking for local, authentic stories. Language is not a barrier for us, some of our biggest hits are non-English, including Squid Game, La Casa and Lupin.”
A number of Israeli television series have become international hits on Netflix, including Fauda and Shtisel.
Sarandos also met with President Isaac Herzog and Communications Minister Yoaz Hendel during his visit. Sarandos is trying to convince Hendel not to move forward with legislation requiring international streaming services like Netflix to produce original material in Israel.
Sarandos heard what Israel is planning on the issue and he explained that legislation could harm Netflix’s plans to expand investment in Israel. Netflix is concerned about the precedent and Sarandos sought to explain how the company is already cooperating with local industry in buying content and why legislation could result in reduced investment.
The planned legislation follows the conclusions of the Folkman Committee: that it creates unfair competition for Israeli TV companies that are required to invest in original productions, while the international streaming giants are not. Hendel told Sarandos that the legislation was designed to create an equal playing field for Israeli and international companies.
Sarandos’ visit was planned before it was known that the current Knesset was being dissolved. The Communications Ministry had hoped that the new legislation would be part of the Economic Arrangements Bill that accompanies the 2023 budget, but it is now unclear whether the legislation can be enacted this year.
Globes/TNS contributed to this report.