Magazine article Screen International

Jerusalem Film & Television Fund Plots Drive into Virtual Reality

Magazine article Screen International

Jerusalem Film & Television Fund Plots Drive into Virtual Reality

Article excerpt

As it approaches its 10th anniversary, the fund is pushing into the hi-tech worlds of VR, visual effects and gaming.

When it launched in 2008, the Jerusalem Film & Television Fund pretty much did what it said on the tin: focused on encouraging local and international features and TV series to shoot in the city. But over time its remit has steadily expanded.

Some four years ago, the fund began spearheading the creation of an animation sector in the city and now, as its 10th anniversary approaches, it is plotting an ambitious drive into the hi-tech worlds of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), visual effects and gaming.

“We want to be one of the leading cities in the world in this new digital arena,” says fund director Yoram Honig. “We’re looking into the possibilities around AR and VR. They’re still at the experimental stage but we believe [the industry] will grow and want to be a part of it.”

Hi-tech drive

Much of Israel’s thriving hi-tech sector is to be found in the country’s so-called ‘Silicon Wadi’ in Tel Aviv and other smaller coastal plain hubs such as Ra’anana and Petah Tikva, but Honig believes the fund can entice new start-ups to Jerusalem too. The city has already started attracting other sectors in the hi-tech industry.

“In the space of some three, four years, we’ve seen the number of tech companies grow from 250 to 650,” says Udi Ben Dror, deputy general director of the fund’s parent body the Jerusalem Development Authority (JDA).

The agency has made film, TV and other related industries a key plank of its strategy to support business and grow jobs in the city.

Honig is confident Jerusalem can build a digital creation scene in the same way it launched an animation sector. “Three or four years ago, when we said we’re going to build an animation industry in the city, everyone laughed,” says Honig. “But we’ve succeeded.”

Under that push, the fund introduced a 35% cash rebate for animation productions that are 80% produced in the city, and also encouraged companies such as VFX and 3D animation specialist Snowball Studios - which has offices in Tel Aviv, Toronto and London - to open a branch in Jerusalem. Local animators have since worked on Snowball commissions such as Star Darlings (Disney Channel Junior) and Barbie Dreamtopia (Mattel). The company recently began two training programmes, one aimed specifically at religious women, as part of a plan to scale up its operations in the city.

Other upcoming animations supported by the drive include Old Testament-inspired features Being Solomon (pictured, above) and Legend Of Destruction and the fund will hold a second edition of its Hop, Skip & A Jump meeting, which is designed to foster the city’s animation scene, during Jerusalem Film Festival (JFF). This year’s event will feature animator Eric ‘Bibo’ Bergeron (Shark Tale, A Monster In Paris) among the guests.

Six new animation projects will be presented at the event including Eldad Sery and Michael Kagan’s animal world fantasy Going Viral, about a group of savannah animals who take to social media. The project was pitched at a pitching event organised by the Annecy International Animated Film Festival’s Mifa market. …

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