Interview with director Nir Berger

SHORT BIO OF THE DIRECTOR: Nir Berger is a screenwriter and director from Tel Aviv, Israel. He is a graduate of the exclusive Serial Eyes program for European TV drama writers and the Tel Aviv University Film School. He has created several TV & web series, which he often also directs. Among these are the successful web series Dead End (Sof HaDerech) (2019) and Contacts (Sihot Yots’ot) (2016), the sci-fi teen sketch show The Big Nothing (HaKlum HaGadol) (2017), and an untitled TV drama series in production for the Israeli Broadcasting Corporation, to air in late 2020. He has also served as head writer or as a staff writer on many series, among them the highly regarded sketch show “HeYehudim Baim”.

  • Was there a particular event or time that you recognized that filmmaking is your way of telling stories?

As a kid I was already obsessed with movies, taping anything I could find on my VHS collection. I guess it was already pretty obvious where this was going. Took me another 20 years or so to finally come to terms with it, though.

  • Do you think it is essential to go to a film institute in order to become a successful filmmaker?

No, not essential. It depends very much on your character. I think the best things you get from film school is deadlines, and collaborators. Both are hard to find elsewhere, and I know I needed both.

  • Is it harder to get started or to keep going? What was the particular thing that you had to conquer to do either?

Keep going, definitely. I have way more underdeveloped beginnings of projects than fully developed ones. I’m sure most writers do. You need a real passion for the idea to keep you going once the initial enthusiasm of the freshness of the idea dies down. Also, you’ll need that passion to push through the failures and rejection which you will encounter with every project. 

  • What was the most important lesson you had to learn that has had a positive effect on your film? How did that lesson happen?

I had to learn to set my ego aside and accept criticism that I didn’t necessarily agree with at that moment, but came from people whom I trusted and so I was forced to take it seriously. In this project it happened with some major creative changes early on in production, which eventually created a better show, and that’s more important than my ego being hurt over being wrong.

  • What were the production realities from casting through editing that you had to accommodate? How did you navigate those compromises or surprises and still end up with a cohesive film?

We went out to make a very complex show on a very tight budget, which eventually meant that in my dialogue with Yael, who was both producer and director of animation, we had to prioritize what changes could actually be made and which couldn’t, and we each would have to live with. This of course is insanely difficult for any creative, but was a valuable lesson in what really matters in the viewer’s experience and what doesn’t.

  • What was the hardest artistic choice you made in the making of a film, at any stage in production?

Definitely having to decide to re-edit all of the animatics due to some creative changes, which was both a ton of work and meant that I had to admit I was wrong. I’m not sure which part is harder.

  • You are a collaborator. How have you discovered members of your team and how do you keep the relationship with them strong?

With Yael (producer, director of animation) it’s easy – we’ve known each other since we were 12. This was a journey we took together during which we both had to learn to accommodate each other, and I think our relationship is stronger due to that forced flexibility. She also brought on the rest of the animation team, who were all amazing. With Ofir (co-writer, voice actor, storyboard artist) I worked before on a previous show we wrote together, where we found our rhythm. Writing this was so much fun, it was never a threat to our relationship.

  • What do audiences want? And is it the filmmaker’s role to worry about that?

Nobody knows, and if they say they do, stay away from them. I believe we can only know what we would want to watch, and try and make that, and hope that there are enough people out there with similar taste. Trying to aim for some imaginary target audience might lead to pandering or worse, and who wants to work on a show like that?

  • What role have film festivals played in your life so far? Why are they necessary? How do you get the most out of them?

I am honestly rather new to this world, with this project and another short film I am currently submitting. For a web series like this, the experience of watching it with an audience is invaluable and thrilling, as it’s the only time we get to see an audience’s real reaction. Also, there are often drinks.

  • Do you believe that a filmmaker should be original and fresh or he/she should stick to classic but safe cinema style?

I think you should make what you would like to watch but doesn’t exist yet. If you do, you will find your audience. Or not. Anyway you’ll be making stuff you like so who cares.