February 25, 2024

EXCLUSIVE: The Israeli producers and writers guilds have been in talks with Series Mania bosses after the festival’s chief said it was “impossible” for a show from the country to be included in its official selection this year.

Sources from the Israeli sector reacted with alarm and contacted Deadline after reading the quote from Laurence Herszberg. Since then, we understand the Israeli Producers Association (IPA) and Screenwriters Guild of Israel have sought clarification, after a local Israeli news site reported that Israeli broadcasters and producers had, in fact, submitted numerous shows.

The issue began when, unveiling the competition participants earlier this week, Herszberg claimed that “in Israel, many ongoing projects were shut down, making it impossible for Series Mania to include an Israeli production” for the first time in the fest’s history. She added that the festival had been affected by “several international crises” including the Israel-Hamas War and Russo-Ukrainian War.

Israeli sources, however, have been keen to stress that production has continued for parts of the last few months. In a statement shared with Deadline, Herszberg said the number of projects submitted from Israel had dropped 43%, “making less available for our selection committee,” rather than there being none to choose from entirely.

There were eight Israeli series submitted for this year’s competition, compared with 14 the prior year.

“These titles were carefully reviewed, alongside 358 other series we received this year from countries all over the world,” said Herszberg. “Unfortunately, none of the Israeli series passed the selection process this year. It is important to note that our selection committee reviews each title individually with no preference given whatsoever to the country of origin.”

A Series Mania insider acknowledged to Deadline that Herszberg could have phrased her initial wording better, especially with regards use of the term “impossible to include an Israeli production.” Last year, Israel’s A Body That Works made the final cut in 2023 and won Best Actress for Rotem Sela and Gal Malka.

A statement from the Israeli Producers Association said it understands a “handful of projects” had been submitted but stressed that relations remain positive. “Laurence and Series Mania are true friends of the Israeli industry for many years, its producers and creators, and we are partnering on several initiatives opening the doors for new talent,” it added. The Screenwriters Guild of Israel has not yet commented.

Israel has had a long association with Series Mania and many shows have been in competition down the years. This year, Hersbzerg said former Yes TV boss Danna Stern has featured on its jury and that the Sam Spiegel Series Lab will be attending the festival to pitch projects at the Series Mania Forum.

Ron Leshem, who created the original Israeli Euphoria, said he has “no doubt about the professional selection process” of Series Mania.

“More than any other festival, Series Mania has been the best home for Israeli creators and producers and the lead gateway to global markets,” he added. “Last year, Laurence Herszberg graciously allowed [Our Boys director] Hagai Levi and myself to hold a press conference on the dangers to creative freedom in Israel as a result of Netanyahu’s attempted coup.”

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