Israel offers 30% tax refund to attract foreign photographers

Local filmmakers and television studios have been shooting award-winning films and series in Israel for decades, taking advantage of the country’s desert landscapes and authenticity of ancient cities.

But shooting a film in Israel is expensive — and those costs can deter foreign production companies. Today the country wants to present itself as an international film location by granting a 30% discount for foreign productions.

Jointly announced by the Ministries of Culture and Sports, Foreign Affairs, Finance and Tourism earlier this month, this funding measure, which will run for two years, provides for reimbursement of a sum of up to NIS 16.6 million for films and TV series shot in Israel.

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“We know that Israel is notoriously an expensive country, but it is a country of exceptional sites,” said Raz Frohlich, director general of the Ministry of Culture and Sport. “You have access to green hills, desert, history, different cities, all within a short distance and English is widely spoken there. So many reasons to come here, but this new discount measure is a big plus. »

“It will have taken many years for the five departments to work together to come up with this measure,” added Fröhlich.

Production companies had until August 22 to submit their proposals for the first round of tax refunds over the next two years.

The discount can be applied to projects involving local Israeli animation studios and projects in which post-production tasks such as editing and sound are outsourced to Israeli companies.

Frohlich pointed out that the departments have conducted extensive research on the sector and examined the types of discounts offered by other countries. Israel offers a 30% refund, while some countries give 40% and others only 20%.

“We’re entering a kind of competition with other countries,” he said. “We know that when a producer has to shoot a scene in Jerusalem, sometimes he chooses to go to Greece instead. We got to know the costs of the productions. »

The ministries are currently trying to give Israel the commercial image of a potential film location by placing advertisements in industry publications and reaching out to networks of film and television professionals.

The Israeli government is taking this opportunity very late, says producer Amir Harel, whose latest film Valeria Is Getting Married is nominated for multiple Ophir Awards. “Many countries are struggling to ingratiate themselves with this industry. »

According to Harel, when incentives work, they create jobs for the entire “film production chain” — from crews and caterers to hotels and restaurants.

“It’s a tool that really needed to be rolled out,” says Harel.

Industry insiders like to say that some foreign productions – like Conan O’Brien’s 2017 special, season four of Jill Soloway’s Transparent, and seasons one and two of Homeland, which were filmed partly in Israel – have been hits, they now have to be repeated more frequently.

Frolich said Israel offers a safe and stable work environment, although there have been times when filming has been halted or relocated out of Israel due to civil unrest. The third season of “Homeland” was finally filmed in Morocco in 2013 due to concerns about the insecure situation in Syria.

The Israeli production company that organized the filming reportedly lost tens of thousands of dollars as a result of the cancellation.

Still, it’s a potential revenue stream worth exploring, according to producer Marek Rozenbaum, who has worked on dozens of Israeli films for nearly 40 years and has been working on the idea for 25 years.

“I am very happy that this is finally happening,” said Rozenbaum. “Not only is it important financially, but also because it will improve our technical capabilities. Industry will have additional budgets and everyone will be able to learn new skills. »

It will be some time before productions consider Israel as an obvious filming location – like Toronto or Athens, the producers said.

“It’s going to happen in all sorts of ways,” says Harel. “It could be Israeli producers working on a project and bringing the production here, or foreign producers connecting with an Israeli team. What it works will be on an individual level. »

“It’s going to take some time to figure all that out,” Rozenbaum admits.

“The important thing is to get the project going and then adjust things over time,” he adds.

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