Fauda: The hard road to international success
BY Georgi Chakarov
The world is talking about Fauda - the ultra-realistic series about the relations between Israel and Palestine, political affairs, personal relationships, war and terrorism. The controversial story won the approval of both Israelis and Arabs when it premiered on Yes in 2015. A year and half later, Netflix picked up the show and brought to the international scene, turning Fauda into one of the most-popular and critically acclaimed series of 2017. Co-creator Avi Issacharoff tells Georgi R. Chakarov that the road to this huge global success was very long and hard as Israeli networks were unwilling to take a chance with such a controversial topic. But after more than four years of development and production, the show finally made it on air and has now turned into one of the biggest success stories of Israeli television, with a third season already confirmed for Netflix.
Avi Issacharoff
Avi, you are a popular journalist working for The Times of Israel, Walla and you also have a radio show. What prompted you to jump into the world of scripted TV with Fauda?
Seven years ago, Lior and I met not far from Ramallah by accident and we started to talk about the Israeli special forces and the Palestinean reality. He said that he wants to do a film about it and I told him that I had a dream about doing a TV show on that subject and this is how we started to work on Fauda.

My experience with television before that was very journalistic. The only experience that I had was doing documentaries for different TV networks. So, when we had the idea we went to a production company and they hooked us up with script writer Moshe Zonder and we started to work together, trying to understand what the story would be and how it is going to look like and after that we started to pitch it to different networks but they said No one after the other.

After three negative answers that we got from Keshet, Reshet and Channel 10, we went to Yes and they gave us a positive answer.

According to reports, Fauda was developed by you and Lior Raz based on your experiences doing military service in the IDF’s Duvdevan Unit. Is Fauda more based on real events or is it more fictional stories?
Actually, Lior was part of the Israeli special forces and my contribution was my journalistic background related to the West Bank and the Palestinean reality, having been to all those places and speaking with Palestinean officials, civilians and even terrorists. So, we tried to do it as realistic as possible.

How long did it take you to develop the idea and start the shooting process?
That was about three and a half years. It was really a very long process, then we started to shoot it and everything took us four and a half years. The reason it was so long was that we were very slow and even after Yes said “yes” we had nearly two years before they gave us the final green light after two years of development. Only after that we formed a writers’ room which worked for about 18 months and after that we went into production.

After the series premiered what was the reaction in Israel?
The reaction was quite positive and that was a surprise. We thought there would be a very negative response due to the nature of the show but many of the people who saw it liked it. After the premiere I got many calls from people congratulating us on the good job. I was very, very happy with the results.

Fauda was picked up by Netflix last year and became an instant hit. At what point did they come into play? Did you pitch the show to them?
Netflix got into the picture many months after the first season was aired in Israel. They did not contact us but picked the series from Yes. After it launched on Netflix, we were again surprised at the positive reactions coming from all over the world.

You now have two new projects in development at Netflix - Hit and Run and a yet untitled project. How did you partner up with them?
Lior and I had two new ideas and we went to Los Angeles and we pitched them to different networks and that’s how Netflix came into play and picked them both. And with Fauda 3 we will have three projects for Netflix. At this point, I cannot reveal any details about the third season but it has been confirmed.

About the other projects, I can only confirm what has been reported in the media already and cannot elaborate further on those projects. The first one is about a joint Israeli-American secret service operation: Mossad and CIA are trying to hunt down an international terrorist. The other one is a kind of a personal story that develops into an espionage story.

It seems politics and espionage will remain the focus of your upcoming projects. There have already been a number of series coming out of Israel in that genre that have been very successful internationally. How do you explain this?
I’m not really sure why but there are so many special stories to tell in Israel related to the security background. When you combine the creativity of the writers and the good stories that happen in Israel related to politics, espionage and security issues; all of this creates very good conditions to develop very good TV productions.

Television is a relaitvely new ground for you. Is this where you would like to develop in the future?
Yes, it is a new territory for me and for now I want to be here but I don’t know about the future. I am simply enjoying the moment. I divide my time between being a journalist and a TV creator. Right now I’m busy with gathering a team of writers for the new shows. So far it is not certain if we will be working with an Israeli producer but we will be working with American producers for sure.
AVI ISSACHAROFF is co-creator of Fauda which Israeli critics describe as “the best action-thriller show that was ever made in Israel”. It won the Israeli Academy Award for the Best TV Drama of 2015 and was sold to Netflix in late 2016 where it became a global phenomenon. Issacharoff and his partner Lior Raz are currently developing two other projects for Netflix, as well as season 3 of Fauda. Issacharoff is an award-winning journalist and currently works as the Middle East analyst for Walla and The Times of Israel. He also has a radio show on IDF Radio. He has co-authored two award-winning boks related to Middle East affairs.
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