Are Israel’s tax breaks failing to lure film production?

Tired of Jerusalem-based stories getting filmed in Malta, the Israeli government passed a law in 2008 to permit tax breaks to foreign filmmakers.

Prodded by the Jerusalem Film Fund in an effort to attract international film production, Israel offered “tax breaks, terror attack insurance and handouts of up to $400,000,” according to Daniel Estrin’s report on the Huffington Post. But the attempt to attract more business hasn’t produced compelling results. According to Estrin, even with the tax breaks, Israel is competing with other Middle Eastern and North African countries who offer better incentives for film production. He cites the upcoming “World War Z” (penned by Mel Brooks progeny, Max Brooks), “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”, Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven” and Monty Python’s “Life of Brian” as examples of films which contain scenes set in Jerusalem, though none of them were filmed there. Instead, producers opted for locations like Malta (Steven Spielberg’s “Munich”), Tunisia and Morocco.

Estrin writes:

According to conventional wisdom in Hollywood, Jerusalem is too volatile to ensure smooth filming on location. International insurance companies have traditionally refused to provide terrorism risk coverage, or offered it at exorbitant prices.

For a long time, it didn’t make financial sense for the producers. While Israel in the 1980s attracted such star-studded productions as Sylvester Stallone’s “Rambo 3” and Chuck Norris’ “The Delta Force,” it later lost out to other countries that started giving big tax incentives to producers.

“If they think it’s expensive and dangerous, they won’t want to come,” [Yoram] Honig, [an Israeli filmmaker and head of the Jerusalem Film Fund], said.

Even Israeli producers have shied away from the city: Out of 600 some Israeli movies filmed since the country’s founding, only about 30 have been filmed in Jerusalem, Honig said. That has begun to change recently, with some of Israel’s most celebrated new films shot here with the fund’s financial support, including Joseph Cedar’s “Footnote,” which was awarded best screenplay at this year’s Cannes film festival.

Now the city is sweetening the pot for international filmmakers, offering cash incentives and a municipal department that will assist with filming permits and on-location logistics. Only four international productions are shot in Jerusalem each year, most of them European, Honig said.

Read the rest at the Huffington Post