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11th TDF: ARIK BERNSTEIN MASTERCLASS (3/20/2009)

ARIK BERNSTEIN MASTERCLASS

Producer Arik Bernstein gave a Master Class on Thursday, March 19 at the Pitching Forum held by the European Documentary Network and 11th Thessaloniki Documentary Festival - Images of the 21st Century. Arik Bernstein spoke about the production technique and the philosophy behind the multiplatform documentary Gaza-Sderot.

Mr. Bernstein opened the Master Class by presenting the website http://gaza-sderot.arte.tv on which the French/Israeli/Palestinian documentary Gaza-Sderot is hosted. “Wherever you go on the site you see both sides, Palestinian Gaza and Israeli Sderot. Each episode lasts about 2 minutes and is a separate story of the characters we have selected as the ‘stars’ of the documentary”, Mr. Bernstein explained. He then demonstrated the way users have free access to all the videos, the forum and the blog. There followed a presentation of some documents from Gaza and Sderot.

“They are simple stories, but they show the problems faced every day by people from both sides, without leaving out the humor. Usually, in a war, the other side has no face. We give a face to the other side through the story of a fisherman or a hair dresser”, Arik Bernstein noted and continued: “We tried to find people with different levels of education and social background so that we could look at all social groups. We didn’t want to use politicians or celebrities”.

As he noted, the two film crews in Gaza and Sderot, using a preliminary script produce a new episode every day for five days a week. This is translated and uploaded. “From our total of 12 characters that we use, we got six or eight stories from each. The daily raw material wasn’t over 30 minutes, so that editing wouldn’t be difficult. In this way we made a total of 40 episodes, that is, 80 videos for both sides”, the producer said.
The popularity of the Gaza – Sderot documentary website is proved by the number of hits it receives and visitors’ comments. “From the statistics we have, the number of users who watched videos daily before the Israeli invasion of Gaza was approximately 12 to 15 thousand a day. During the conflict this number doubled, and their average stay on the site was eight minutes” Arik Bernstein stated.

Answering a question from the audience about the financing of his project, which has received the Prix Europe for Best European Emerging Media Project, Bernstein stressed that his budget was limited and added: “We hope that the large television networks will start investing in cross media programs and documentaries. Some television networks have already begun producing programs just for their websites”.

Speaking about the next step for himself and his colleagues, the producer revealed that they are preparing new episodes for Gaza – Sderot, but also a new project on Havana and Miami. “We have managed to get some money and over the next few weeks we will upload new stories from both sides, which will be the first after the war. In the future we’re thinking about doing something similar about Havana and Miami. I believe that the interest of the world will soon turn to these cities”.

The Master Class ended with excerpts from the hour long television documentary Gaza – Sderot.


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