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Creativity only happens when you’re doing, thinking or practicing. And that only happens when you’re seriously hands-on.

"The originality of our product is the key to our success. Participants at Cannes say that when they press Play, they have no idea what to expect."

Dr. Dubi Rubenstein
Head of the MFA Program


THIS IS THE ONLY FILM SCHOOL IN THE WORLD
WHERE STUDENT FILMMAKERS OWN THE RIGHTS TO THEIR STUDENT FILMS.

Our students are encouraged to be independent, to make the tough decisions and to embrace the limitless sky. We believe this approach delivers a spirit of creativity and innovation that is unparalleled in Israel.

The film school's admission policy is equally unique. All qualified applicants — high school graduates with appropriate college entrance exam scores, etc. — are admitted to the first-year BFA program. That number hovers around 200. 65 students are invited to continue to the second year, after faculty and lecturers have had the opportunity to gauge the quality and artistic merit of their work.

We believe this offers an equal opportunity to all budding filmmakers, regardless of previous experience.

And regardless of circumstance. The Department of Film & TV at Tel Aviv University is just as committed to ensuring talented students from across Israel — no matter their socio-economic status or ethnic origin — have every opportunity to pursue a degree and realize their artistic dreams. The School recently entered into a cooperative agreement with the Caesarea Foundation, which will provide scholarships totaling NIS 2,000,000 over three years for students from Israel's social and geographic periphery. That includes Israeli Arabs, Ethiopian Israelis, and other too-often underserved populations. The School regularly holds open days in outlying communities to encourage more aspiring filmmakers from these regions to apply.

THE PROCESS

After being accepted into the Year 2 program, students are responsible for setting their own curriculum, as well as developing style and content for their own productions, which in too many cases also means raising money. This is a revolutionary, autonomous approach specifically designed to expose students to all the various media possibilities, opportunities, and obstacles and to allow for their greatest professional growth.

The goal is to provide a balanced combination of theoretical and practical studies that equips each student with the tools necessary to perform all the key filmmaking functions — writing, directing, producing, camera, and editing. Together, we believe they set the stage for individual artistry.

Film and TV students are also encouraged to study subjects outside the School, everything from astronomy to zoology. This emphasis on a multidisciplinary education is a core mandate for all Tel Aviv University students. According to former Department Head Dr. Reuven Hecker: "We try to raise creators and directors. It's easy to learn where to put the lights. We want our students to focus on content — architecture, music, and literature. This is the way we can help them make their films, not our films."

THE RESULT

This extraordinary education has reaped enormous rewards. TAU alumni are Israeli cinema in 2014. Almost every Israeli film produced in the last ten years was made by one of our graduates, and they have brought forth a true renaissance in Israel filmmaking.

  • Ari Folman wrote and directed Waltz with Bashir, a 2008 full-length, animated documentary — the first Israeli full-length animated film released in theaters since 1962. It depicts Folman searching for his memories as a soldier in the 1982 Lebanon War. The film won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
  • Eytan Fox is a New York City-born Israeli director; his 2004 film Walk on Water is still the highest grossing Israeli film in the United States.
  • Hagai Levy is best known for creating, directing and producing the television drama BeTipul and for producing In Treatment, HBO's adaptation. He shot each episode in a single day, a method that's now being used frequently in the US. Showtime just ordered 10 episodes of a new series Hagai co-created, called The Affair, which shows relationships from both sides.
  • The first two films produced by Aron Kashales and Navod Papushado — Rabies and Big Bad Wolves — made their US premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival.
  • Dover Kassashvili won Best Foreign Language Film at the 2001 Cannes Festival for Late Marriage, which is generally considered the film that kicked off the Israeli renaissance.
  • Danny Lerner won several international festivals with his end-of-year film Frozen Days, which he produced for $20,000, using one actress and filming only on the weekends with TAU equipment.
  • Keshet TV CEO Avi Nir was featured in Variety.com on October 2, 2013, which highlighted the network's "dominance in the Israeli market and its ability, year after year, to produce the buzziest and biggest programs ... "
  • Gideon Raff is the creator, writer, and director of the Israeli drama series, Prisoners of War, and the acclaimed US adaptation, Homeland, for which he won two Primetime Emmy Awards.
  • Yaron Shani directed Ajami, a 2009 Arab-Jewish collaboration that was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

GOING FORWARD

2013–2014 marks a turning point for the Tel Aviv University Department of Film & Television.

Senior University staff worked with the Department to establish an independent commercial production company to serve our students, as well as the greater Israeli cultural community. This is a model being used across campus, including StarTAU, an incubator facility for STEM start-ups; and the TAU Business Development Corp, a for-profit University subsidiary founded in 2012 to initiate and develop new revenue sources, such as online-learning opportunities.

The May 31–June 7, 2014, Tel Aviv International Student Film Festival marks its first outing as an annual event, and its first with a permanent budget — contributed by the University, the Municipality of Tel Aviv, and the Israel Film Council. The Festival was launched in 1986 by TAU students to provide a venue for their short-subject films. Twenty-eight years later, the weeklong event is the world's biggest student festival and among the three most important, according to CILECT, the International Association of Film and Television Schools. Some 500 of the 700 submissions are from international students; and almost always account for the majority of the 150 films selected for screening.

The School is also in the early stages of working with Toronto's Ryerson University to launch an online TV channel in 2014–2015. Ryerson scientists developed an app that works like Skype in HD; and enables direct broadcasting live to the web.

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