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Government plans NIS 45 million fund to woo foreign film productions

Initiative will cover 25% of a crew’s expenses, aims to improve national image, create jobs and revenue, similar to raft of previous schemes

“Fauda,” starring Lior Raz, involves an Israeli counterterrorism unit whose members go undercover posing as Arabs. (Courtesy of Netflix/via JTA)
Illustrative: “Fauda,” starring Lior Raz, involves an Israeli counterterrorism unit whose members go undercover posing as Arabs. (Courtesy of Netflix/via JTA)

The government is set to launch a program to encourage foreign film productions to shoot in Israel, Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman said Thursday.

The plan will allocate NIS 45 million for foreign television and movie productions in Israel in the next two years, and will be the latest in a series of schemes attempting to incentivize Hollywood to use Israel as a backdrop, which has met middling success.with

Nonetheless, Liberman said the plan will constitute a significant step toward “positive branding of Israel in the world as a center for filming international movies and television shows by using its natural resources and unique historical sites.”

The initiative is a cooperative effort by the culture, foreign, economy, tourism and finance industries, he said.

Such plans have been announced with much fanfare every few years since a 2008 law was passed offering tax benefits and other incentives to encourage filming in Israel. That law, however, required foreign producers to receive their returns through a local film company, a process that was deemed needlessly bureaucratic and impractical, and the financial incentives were still lower than those offered by other countries.

In the years since, including in 2011, 2012, and 2017, government officials have repeatedly promised grants, rebates and other incentives to lure foreign film producers, though few major film productions have taken the offers. Some cities, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, have set up municipal funds hoping to bring in foreign film productions.

Israel was a popular filming location through the 1980s, especially for thrillers, but in recent decades has lost popularity due to more generous benefits offered by other countries, such as Jordan, Cyprus and Tunisia.

Even films meant to be based in Israel have been staged elsewhere, including the 2013 zombie flick “World War Z,” which was filmed in Malta.

Brad Pitt in ‘Israel’ in ‘World War Z’ (photo credit: Paramount Pictures)

The Walla news site said the program will come up for government approval on Sunday.

The money will be distributed under the plan by covering 25 percent of a foreign film crew’s expenses, the report said.

Government officials expect the plan to bring millions of shekels into the economy, improve Israel’s image, boost tourism and create jobs. An association representing Israeli film producers was on board with the move and has been pushing for the government to pass the bill for months.

Many other countries, including neighboring Jordan and Cyprus, have similar government programs to encourage foreign productions to film within their borders.

Israeli domestic productions have found international success in recent years, including the hit Netflix series Fauda and Shtisel.

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