When a promo for the Jerusalem Film Workshop (www.thejfw.com) popped up on his Facebook page earlier this year, Zev Rand of Teaneck applied right away.
The 20-year-old was in his first year at Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts, pursuing a bachelor of fine arts with a concentration in film editing.
Mr. Rand was one of 22 aspiring filmmakers accepted to the six-week summer program, which gives participants a hands-on learning experience led by prominent professionals in Israeli cinema in partnership with the New Fund for Cinema and Television, the Jerusalem Film Festival, and other sponsoring organizations.
The young filmmakers produced short documentaries screened at the Jerusalem Film Festival earlier in July. Now Mr. Rand is doing preproduction on a narrative short film, which will be completed by the end of the program on August 7.
“Who wouldn’t want a summer in Israel, learning from the best people in the Israeli film industry, and on top of all that earning a film festival credit?” he asked rhetorically. “And what else could a Zionist like me possibly ask for than having his first film festival be the Jerusalem Film Festival? It’s perfection.”
The workshop is based in Ma’aleh School of Television, Film & the Arts near Jerusalem City Hall. That’s a fitting location, given that the municipality has invested some NIS 50 million into planning a future state-of-the-art film production complex. In recent years, several major television and Hollywood projects were shot in the capital city, including the NBC series “Dig” and Natalie Portman’s “A Tale of Love and Darkness.”
The international student workshop, now in its second year, is an initiative of Gal Greenspan and Roi Kurland, chief executive officers of Tel Aviv-based Green Productions (www.greenproductions.co.il).
“Our inaugural program showed us how Israel truly offers an unparalleled location for learning cinema and producing great works of film,” Mr. Greenspan said. “Based on the first year’s success, we looked to attract a new class of budding filmmakers who recognize the filmmaking potential that exists here in Israel, and we are deeply proud to have some of our country’s most heralded cinematic minds among our instructors.”
The faculty includes, for example, director Tom Shoval, nominated for a 2015 Academy Award for his role in the film “Aya,” and Tal Granit and Sharon Maymon, whose film “Summer Vacation” was short-listed for an Oscar nomination.
For Mr. Rand, the superstar of the faculty is Arik Lahav-Leibovich, a celebrated Israeli film editor best known for his work on such multi-award-winning films as “The Band’s Visit” (2007), “Lebanon” (2009), and “Zero Motivation” (2014). “There really isn’t much else a young editor can ask for than to learn from one of the top editors in Israeli cinema,” he said. “It has been an awesome experience.”
Though he is only entering his sophomore year, Mr. Rand already has commercial film production and editing experience on his résumé, thanks mainly to three years in the “amazing” film club at the Rae Kushner Yeshiva High School in Livingston. The group produced a range of videos for the school to use for fundraising and other purposes, learning valuable skills along the way.
This genre has become a liberating mode of communication for Mr. Rand, who has struggled with a speech impediment all his life.
“The reason my concentration is editing is because it is the volcano inside me and the words I do not have because of my stutter,” he texts on his phone — the easiest way for him to convey what he wishes to express verbally.
He has not allowed this challenge to keep him from achieving his goals thus far, so when he says that he aspires to be a head editor of feature films, a listener is inclined to believe it will happen.
Whether it will happen in America or Israel is a bigger question. “I want to do my part to transform Jerusalem into a major international film production location, and I hope to make aliyah after the Israeli film scene gets bigger,” he said.
He has visited Israel many times and would like to have an Israeli residence to call his own, even if it’s not full time. His older sister, Emma, lives in Tel Aviv and served in the Israel Defense Forces.
Mr. Rand’s familiarity with the Israeli landscape is helpful to first-time visitors in the workshop, who come from countries including Croatia, France, Panama, and China, as well as Canada and the United States. “They look up to people like me to show them all the fun stuff to do in Jerusalem,” he said. “I’ve taken them to a lot of the great restaurants I found during my gap year in Israel at Mechinat Yeud.”
The Rand family also includes parents Anne and Jonathan; Eli, 13; and Devora, 12. They are members of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck.
Many of the workshop participants are not Jewish, or Jewish but not religiously observant. Mr. Rand said that everyone gets along well. “We all know how to deal with including everyone, even on Shabbat.”
For his film festival project, he worked with three other students — Lucas Markman of Texas, Niah Anson of Las Vegas, and Jerusalemite Gil Eliav — on a documentary about a local man who turns old windows into works of art. “We did two days of photography and four days of post-production. We all hit it off right away, which saved a ton of time.”
The Jerusalem Film Workshop has garnered the support and involvement of leading lights in the industry. Steve Tisch, who won an Oscar for producing “Forrest Gump,” is a member of its advisory board, as are Dorit Inbar, general director of the New Fund for Cinema and Television, and Moshe Edry, head of United King Films.
According to Mr. Edry, “We take great pride in witnessing how Israel has become a hub for some of the world’s most talented and ambitious filmmakers, and I know that this workshop will help bring greater exposure to the country.”