One eye abroad

How does a show go from the small screen in Hebrew to the small screen in English?

How does a show go from the small screen in Hebrew to the small screen in English? With a combination of networking, luck, hutzpa and some good ideas, say entertainment industry insiders. In Treatment came to executive producer Mark Wahlberg through Israeli actress Noa Tishby, who saw the series on a visit home, contacted the producers and returned to California with a DVD of the first five episodes. Tishby was signed to Leverage Management, which also represents Wahlberg, and so the connection was made. "I think there are many micro examples of people who for one reason or another are connecting to Israeli sources," said author Etgar Keret. "There is often some personal connection to Israel or an Israeli that is getting many productions made. Amos Oz's book A Tale of Love and Darkness is a good example. Natalie Portman is going to direct a film adaptation, and here you have somebody with an Israeli background like Portman who had reached a position of power in the American film industry, knowing that it's a powerful book that would make a great film." But sometimes there's no inside connection. It's done through the old-fashioned way of networking and conferences and agents. Like the case of The Successor, Uri Geller's reality show developed by Keshet. "When we were trying to sell the format for The Successor, we went through our agencies abroad which are sort of like they're depicted in [successful cable show] Entourage. We're signed with Endeavor in the US and with Seven One International in the rest of the world," explained Keshet's Eva Madjiboj. Overtures had been made to NBC by Endeavor for The Successor in early 2007, but at that time, the network passed. Then Madjiboj attended the MIP conference in Cannes a year ago, along with Geller. "Uri was simply the star of the convention - he's an amazing salesman. On the very first day, we closed a deal with Proziben, one of Germany's big media companies. Seven One said to us that representatives from NBC were at the convention and asked if they should set up a meeting even though they had previously rejected the idea. Well, we did, we made the pitch and this time, they loved it," said Madjiboj. Once the format is sold and developed, there's no guarantee it will be a success. Under the name Phenomenon, Geller's show ran for seven episodes last year and, according to Madjiboj, it's unlikely the network will pick it up for another season. "The ratings were OK. You can't describe it as a sensation, whereas in Germany and Holland it certainly is a huge show," she said. For Eyal Kuperman, the CEO and founder of Kuperman Productions, the creative powerhouse behind The Successor and dozens of other shows for Israeli commercial channels, it doesn't matter whether Phenomenon achieved great ratings or not. "The success for us was that there were seven episodes of an Israeli entertainment format that millions of people watched in American for seven weeks. For me - and I think for the Israeli entertainment industry - it was a huge success," he said. So, are Israeli creative teams now developing ideas with an eye toward the international market, and not just for local consumption? Absolutely, said Madjiboj, who says that Israeli media specialists have identified the potential of this opportunity and are savvy at trying to exploit it. "Our main goal is for programs to be successful with the viewers of our channel - and with good ratings. But, over the last year, we absolutely are paying attention to the implications abroad. Now, when we develop a format, we consider if there's something similar elsewhere in the world."