Hollywood producer looking for the next great idea
Ben Silverman travels to Israel to find his next TV program to produce.
One of Hollywood’s best known and most prolific producers, Ben Silverman has brought many iconic concepts to television, but he's always on the lookout for the next best thing.
His former company, Reveille, produced the Emmy-winning comedy "The Office” as well as “The Biggest Loser,” “The Tudors” and “Ugly Betty.” After a two-year stint as co-chairman of NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios, Silverman co-founded Electus in 2009 to produce programming not only for television but all distribution platforms, including the web and mobile devices.
“We make shows for NBC, ABC, VH1. We have ‘Marco Polo’ for Netflix coming in December, the biggest budgeted show I’ve ever worked on,” Silverman told From The Grapevine. “We have ‘Wake up Call for Turner’ – a new reality show with Dwayne ‘the Rock’ Johnson’ – 'King of the Nerds’ for TBS and 'Local News,' which is going on TruTV. We do a ton of content for Yahoo and YouTube. We have the CollegeHumor.com portal, and ‘Jane the Virgin’ for the CW,” one of the most critically acclaimed new shows of the 2014 fall season.
To satisfy the continuous demand for more content, Silverman looks for projects outside of Hollywood, and he’s found promising candidates in Israel. Electus has bought the rights to "Zanzuri,” an Israeli comedy about a man who's convinced he’ll die soon after he turns 40 and tries to make the most of the time he has left. TV Land has shot a pilot. The most recent acquisition is the Israeli drama “Blue Natalie.” Writer Brian Galuboff and director Marc Forster are working on the adaptation.
Silverman thinks Israel is particularly suited as a source of great content for several reasons. “Israel and its viewing population is by and large a highly educated, upwardly mobile, and aspirational culture, very similar to New York,” where Electus is based and the Massachusetts-born Silverman grew up. “It’s a wired community of people who are on the Internet, using their mobile phones and multiple devices. Most of the country has cable or satellite,” he said. “All of this is consistent with the way Americans consume content. Also, the storytellers have the same point of view as the west. It’s the same social and moral fabric that exists in all great democracies.”
But a large part of Israel’s success in marketing its shows internationally is an initiative born of unique circumstances. “Being able to do so much with what you’re given has always been a tradition of Israeli entrepreneurship. I think Israel brilliantly looked to the export market to make those budgets grow,” said Silverman. The fact that Israel puts a high value on engineering and technology and that Israelis are accustomed to working cooperatively in groups from a young age are other contributing factors, Silverman believed. “You have to create everything with your brain and your hands and your heart,” he said. “The Israelis have demonstrated that for generations.”
Producer Ben Silverman (L) and director Morgan Spurlock attend the premiere of Morgan Spurlock's 'Mansome' at the ArcLight Cinemas on May 9, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Photo: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)
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