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Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister Idan Roll Goes to Hollywood

Titled the Scripted Israel Conference, the gathering was a four-day meeting of Israel’s top film and television creators with Hollywood streaming executives and studio heads.
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October 13, 2022
Idan Roll with Netflix CEO Ted Sarandos

On September 19, the Israeli government sent an envoy to Los Angeles to make a direct appeal to the big dogs of television and film streaming. The goal: get more original scripted content from Israel on the biggest streaming stages in the world today, among them Netflix, Hulu and AppleTV+.

Titled the Scripted Israel Conference, the gathering was a four-day meeting of Israel’s top film and television creators with Hollywood streaming executives and studio heads. This first-of-its-kind event was initiated by the Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles Dr. Hillel Newman in conjunction with Israeli Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Idan Roll. 

Idan Roll with USC students

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should be the most enthusiastic advocates for Israeli creation,” Roll told the Journal. “I am a great believer in sharing the Israeli story and sharing the life that we live on a daily basis. And I know that without getting to experience Israel firsthand, things can lack context. They can be one-dimensional. So I think streaming platforms and TV altogether is a great way to reach new audiences and tell them about what we love so much about Israel, what’s interesting about it and what’s complicated about it. It’s about sharing feelings and experiences.”

During his visit, Roll and an entourage of over 40 Israeli television creators and producers met face-to-face with many power-players in town. Roll met with Netflix co-chief executive officer and chief content officer Ted Sarandos. He also met with the head of television at William Morris Endeavor (WME), Rick Rosen. Rosen was instrumental in bringing the first Israeli television show to be adapted for an American audience, “In Treatment,” to HBO. The Scripted Israel delegation of creatives also met with senior executives at Sony Pictures Entertainment, CAA, HBO, Warner Brothers and Paramount.

“Part of why I’m so passionate about Scripted Israel is the fact that Israel is a tiny market, but it’s bursting with ideas and bursting with great content.” – Idan Roll

“I really think that Israel, despite being so tiny, has this amazing diversity and you have so many different communities and religions and ethnicities, it’s kind of like, you really can’t walk the streets of Israel without getting ideas,” Roll said. “Part of why I’m so passionate about Scripted Israel is the fact that Israel is a tiny market, but it’s bursting with ideas and bursting with great content.”

Israeli filmmakers and showrunners have been creating film and television content for years. Some of Israel’s most popular shows are already accessible to international audiences through the streaming service Chai Flicks. 

With streaming in almost every corner of the world, Israeli creators don’t have to necessarily rely on just the Israeli market to showcase their works. Still, there’s a crowded field of pitches that come from every creative corner of the world to California to get on the most ubiquitous streaming platforms. To get a leg up, Israel’s creative community has a young government appointee hyping their work in the United States. 

Hollywood is a town where an intriguing story isn’t enough to get your project greenlit. So Israel didn’t send just any government official to represent their arts scene in Hollywood. Roll, a 38-year-old openly-gay father of two, has a story of his own. 

After serving in the Israeli Defense Forces, he earned his law degree at Tel Aviv University while also working as a commercial model. In 2017, he started getting politically active for the first time, urging the Israeli Supreme Court to overturn a rule that banned same-sex couples from adopting children. He also founded “Proud Front,” a movement that advocated for more LGBTQ Israelis to take political action — which led him to run for public office. From there, Roll became the head of the Yesh Atid party’s LGBTQ caucus before representing the centrist-liberal Blue and White alliance in the Knesset from 2019-2020. 

In 2021, after being re-elected to the Knesset representing the Yesh Atid party, then new Prime Minister Naftali Bennett appointed Roll to the position of Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs. Roll serves in the same position under the current Prime Minister Yair Lapid.

Along the way, Roll became a father via surrogacy in Oklahoma with his now husband, singer Harel Skaat.

As the politician in the family, Roll says that he is the “less fun” part of the family. Still, he and Harel manage to live and love life with their children in Tel Aviv. 

When it comes to film and television, Roll said that their children are into dinosaurs but far too young for “Jurassic Park.” He added that they are fans of the animated series, “LEGO Jurassic World: The Indominus Escape,” but would rather play outside than watch film and television. 

Looking back at his own first taste of American film and television, Roll smiled and listed “Forrest Gump” and “E.T.: The Extra Terrestrial” as his all-time favorites. 

“[‘Forrest Gump’ and ‘E.T.’] touched close to home, they had this naive aspect of them,” Roll said. “You know, like things working out, there’s something very reassuring when you have films that have a good ending.”

That optimism has fueled Roll throughout his life. During his visit to Los Angeles, he brought that optimism when speaking with younger generations. He spent most of his first day in town at USC talking to students, visiting Hillel and meeting with LGBTQ campus organizations. They talked about Israel, threats in the Middle East and fears of expressing Judaism on college campuses. 

Roll is a great believer in the mission of the Scripted Israel Conference, what he calls “getting people in one room sharing ideas, and getting to know each other.”  

“I would be very happy if we can make [the Scripted Israel Conference] an annual thing so people can be waiting for this conference each year with ideas,” Roll said. “It’ll become something very instrumental to Israel creation and to distributing it to the world through Hollywood.”  

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