Man, this was a fun production to put together. Since it was a one-shot event we had to get two teams, filming the entire event with two RED cameras.
We had been asked by Jersualem U if we could help them to create a film about Harvard University’s Israel Summit. Not only was I thrilled about such an opportunity but I also got to meet some amazing people like former NBA all star Amar’e Stoudemire, the CEO of a company that helped find the Boston Marathon bomber in a boat behind someone’s house, Elie Tahari a superstar fashion designer and many more super-inspiring, creative people. But let me back up here.
Jerusalem U is a film and video production company based in Jerusalem. They are a pioneer and frontrunner when it comes to fighting antisemitism and antizionism on campuses across the US with their media presence and productions. So when Rabbi Raphael Shore asked me to create this film, my team and I were psyched to be a part of such important work.
Max August, only a sophomore at Harvard, wanted to do something positive to combat the scary and rampant anti-zionism he saw on campus during his freshman year. While so many organizations take the defensive approach, providing an answer or comeback for every accusation hurled at Israel in the political forum, Max decided to take the positive approach, focusing on Israel’s unequivocal, unarguable strengths, such as technology, altruism, contributions to global society, and stunning scenic views and historical sites. He wanted to point to individual stories of people whose lives have been touched by Israel, both Jews and non-Jews, to give students at Harvard an experience that goes beyond political boundaries and religious and ethnical presumptions, and touches the human heart.
Most films we’ve seen documenting summits and other conventions are boring, just taking you through the experience of checking in, highlighting the roster of speakers, and ending with some closing statements. But we wanted to do something different with this film; we realized that this is a real opportunity to bring those emotional sentiments — that connection to Israel that people walked away from the summit feeling — to the screen, to bring the experience of the summit to the wider world, both to galvanize the viewer in the same way that the summit did, and to inspire other students to create similar summits.
But this could not be achieved simply by documenting the summit. We had to re-create that catharsis that summit-goers experienced, for the viewer of this film.
To that end, we had the same discussion that Max had when creating the summit. We decided that focusing on individual stories of people who have been touched by Israel, or who have utilized Israel’s technology, innovation, and the altruistic spirit of its people to better the world, is what truly touches people and inspires us all. So we chose to focus on a few of the most compelling stories (and big names) that people would be drawn to, as well as Max’s own story and the response of attending students who were inspired by Max’s can-do attitude and initiative to take a stand in such a high-profile environment, and to go all-out and make it a huge event, as opposed to a small affair that creators of past summits at other colleges and universities have put together, only to not create such a big splash for fear of backlash.
Max’s message is this: Stand up for what you believe in; say it loudly, and say it proudly. Whether you’re on campus, or just online, don’t back down. Israel needs you – your story, and your connections. Be that candle in your corner, and light up the world.