Israel to invest NIS 22m to bring film shoots to Jerusalem

NBC series ‘Dig’ to be first to benefit from government initiative that will provide funding for international movie and TV shows

Natalie Portman (R) in Jerusalem's Nahlaot neighborhood directing a scene from 'A Tale of Love and Darkness,' February 11, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)
Natalie Portman (R) in Jerusalem's Nahlaot neighborhood directing a scene from 'A Tale of Love and Darkness,' February 11, 2014. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash 90)

The Israeli government and Jerusalem Municipality finalized plans for an initiative to invest NIS 22 million ($6.25 million) in movies and television series that film in the capital, Jerusalem City Hall announced Thursday.

The investment “will strengthen the television and film industry in Jerusalem and bring numerous investments to the city, creating new employment opportunities and attracting more investments and productions. In addition, the branding and advertisement of Jerusalem and the State of Israel in the world will bring increased state revenues and to the city, tourism, culture and commerce,” City Hall said in a press release.

In order for projects to qualify for funding, they will have to invest at least NIS 25 million ($7.1 million) in Israel, with NIS 4 million ($1.14 million) specifically earmarked for Jerusalem, and the main plot line must take place in the capital. The grant is capped at 25 percent of the production costs in Israel and Jerusalem.

Productions can qualify for grants of up to NIS 14 million ($3.98 million) in the first year and NIS 8 million ($2.27 million) in the second year from initiative partners the Finance, Economy, Jerusalem and Diaspora Affairs and Tourism ministries — NIS 3 million ($854,014) in the first and NIS 1.7 million ($483,820) in the second year — along with the Jerusalem Municipality, which will contribute NIS 1 million ($284,656) each year. The Jerusalem Development Authority is also a partner in the initiative.

The first television series to benefit from the initiative will be the upcoming NBC detective series “Dig,” which will bring an investment of tens of millions of dollars to the country, according to City Hall. The series will be produced by the Israel-based Keshet Media Group and co-written by Gideon Raff of the popular US television series “Homeland,” which was based on an Israeli television series and has filmed segments in Israel.

Universal Cable Productions, the studio behind “Dig,” acknowledged in a statement the “true collaboration between the Ministers of Economy and Jerusalem, Tourism, the Deputy Minister of Finance, as well as the Mayor of Jerusalem to foster the expansion and diversification of Israel’s economy.”

“Dig” stirred up controversy in December when Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the PLO Executive Committee, called on NBC to scrap all plans for filming in the City of David National Park near the walls of the Old City. Much of the action of the show, which follows a US FBI agent who stumbles upon a massive conspiracy while struggling to solve a murder, is slated to be filmed within the walls and tunnels of the park.

“Such a production will legitimize the annexation of Jerusalem and the destruction of the authenticity and character of the occupied city. Any business or organization that deals with Israel in Occupied Palestine is in flagrant breach of international law, conventions, and consensus, respectively,” Ashrawi said. “It is evident that these efforts coincide with Israel’s intensive and accelerated efforts to annex and ethnically cleanse Jerusalem. The choice to film the series in Palestinian neighborhoods in Jerusalem is designed to endorse the occupation and the bitter reality experienced by Palestinian Jerusalemites.”

For its part, NBC denied there were ever any plans to film in controversial areas.

Debra Kamin and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency contributed to this report.

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