"Homeland" co-creator wants Israel to be prime spot for U.S. TV shows

Tue May 13, 2014 12:16pm EDT
 
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By Dan Williams

TEL AVIV (Reuters) - The Israeli co-creator of hit spy thriller television series "Homeland" believes his native country should become a prime location for U.S. television shows about the Middle East and is working hard to make this happen.

Writer-director Gideon Raff is at the helm of Fox drama "Tyrant" and NBCUniversal archeological mystery "The Dig", two U.S. productions under way simultaneously in Israel - a first for the country's small but active entertainment industry.

Until a decade ago, Israel was shunned by foreign studios for fear of suicide bombings during a Palestinian uprising. But with the violence now abated and many neighboring Arab states riven by strife, Israeli facilities enjoy a new appeal.

"To concoct the Middle East in Los Angeles you have to spend a lot of money. You need to get the cars, the attire and the faces right," Raff said in an interview at his Tel Aviv office, its walls festooned with actors' headshots and storyboards.

"The Middle East is not just a desert, and Americans are increasingly sophisticated and expect a show set outside the United States to have been shot outside of the United States."

He gave, as an example, the experience of filming in Jaffa, an Arab district of Tel Aviv, where "the moment you set up, everything you get on camera is worth millions of dollars".

Raff said Israel, as a Middle East location, faced brisk competition from Jordan and Morocco, where filming can be cheaper. Israel does not offer significant tax breaks to foreign productions and its television crews charge close to U.S. rates.

But the 42-year-old Raff, who has a second home in California, said his American colleagues were drawn by the after-hours attractions of liberal Tel Aviv and "freewheeling Israeli creativity, which helps a lot in getting the job done".   Continued...

 
Israeli writer-director Gideon Raff is interviewed by Reuters at his office in Tel Aviv May 13, 2014. REUTERS/Nir Elias