Creating unique content

By Kavishna Wijesinghe

Israeli filmmaker Yoav Paz, one of the Paz brothers, was on Junkyard Theory on 26 October. Yoav’s unconventional horror films JeruZalem and The Golem have captivated audiences the world over and host Akash Sunethkumara inquired into how he and his brother Doron got into filmmaking.

Yoav revealed that he went to Tel Aviv University (TAU) to study film. At TAU, creating a film in any genre besides drama was not necessarily encouraged. That didn’t stop Yoav and Doron who come from a filmmaking family (their dad was a filmmaker, albeit one who made dramas). Yoav emphasised that every good film, irrespective of genre, has to nail the dramatic side of things. That being said, he and his brothers were influenced mainly by films from the US such as ET, The NeverEnding Story, etc.

Filmmakers and brothers Doron and Yoav Paz

Yoav and Doron’s first feature was smaller scale and passed somewhat under the radar. Their next venture, JeruZalem (2015) was what put them on the map.

Yoav revealed that he wanted to create a zombie flick set in Jerusalem which is an hour’s drive away from Tel Aviv where he resides. The reason they set it in the Holy city was due to the ancient architecture, the mythology, and the unique setting it lent to the film. Additionally, he stated that creating a cabin-in-the-woods-type horror would not work given that Israel was a small country and there were no forests. It would seem fake and the best thing they could do was to embrace their limitations and create something unique within the boundaries.

Self-financed, the shoot took place over 11 days and they came back to shoot complicated scenes over a year later once they had got more financing after showing potential producers a cut of their film. Yoav stated that young filmmakers should strive to embrace their surroundings, ground their stories within their locales, and find that uniqueness without trying to emulate Hollywood.

When questioned about his plans for the future, Yoav stated that they had recently completed a war film called Plan A (2021) – a joint production between Israel and Germany – which was in the process of being released and that while they had more ideas for cinematic features, TV series are more in fashion. Due to streaming platforms such as Netflix having changed the landscape with series like Squid Game, a Korean show with no big-name actors attached, Yoav discussed the power of good storytelling and emphasised that more audiences were embracing international content now. He admitted that while it was an amazing time to be a creator, with so much content being put out there, making your film stand out is the real challenge. He attributes having a good poster and film trailer to getting ahead to a good extent and encourages filmmakers to also think about how their movies will be presented during the preproduction stage itself. 

With regard to how he and his brother work on movies, Yoav revealed that pre-production was indeed the most important process. Usually, on set, the brothers would set aside rules like only one of them would talk to actors in a given scene while the other would talk to the camera crew, and so on. He laughingly added that the fighting begins during the post-production stage where the two of them have arguments when the editing begins. 

With The Golem (2018), Yoav revealed that they aimed to create a periodic horror film with good production value tied to the story. Again, by setting it in an ancient setting and adding local elements, the brothers managed to give it a unique flavour. 

Akash Sunethkumara in conversation with Yoav Paz

Yoav admitted that although their films have gotten bigger in scope, it has not become any easier to pitch their projects to producers since the landscape is ever changing and every project is a new one. He added that in Israel, asking a producer to come onboard a zombie flick was an unlikely scenario since the majority of content that is released hardly steps into any fantastical genre. 

Yoav concluded the session with encouraging words to filmmakers, requesting that they discover their own unique voices by tapping into the exclusivity of their regions and focusing on telling a good story. 

The full interview with Yoav is available on the Junkyard Theory YouTube channel.
Junkyard Theory is Sri Lanka’s first and only film education platform that brings on veteran filmmakers from Hollywood as guest speakers. Their webinars, hosted by Akash Sunethkumara, have been recognised on industry sites such as “No Film School”, and the team now runs film courses for upcoming filmmakers in the country.