Tel Aviv-based Donna and Shula Productions and “Tehran” director Daniel Syrkin have set a joint venture to develop TV series for the global market, with an emphasis on the U.S. and Europe.
Donna and Shula Productions leaders Dana Eden and Shula Spiegel have shepherded two seasons of the espionage drama series “Tehran” with Syrkin. The series debuted in June 2020 on Israel’s Kan 11 broadcast network. Apple TV+ quickly picked up the show, making it the first non-English series to premiere on the platform. “Tehran” bowed on Apple TV+ in 2021 and the streaming giant partnered with Kan 11 on the production of a second season that premiered in May.
The spy drama revolves around a female Mossad agent, played by Niv Sultan, on a dangerous assignment. The series, which features Glenn Close in Season 2, went on to win the International Emmy Award for drama series last year.
Syrkin and Eden, who are co-creators of “Tehran,” tell Variety that the rocket ship that was “Tehran” proved to be a crash course over the past two years in producing high-end series for global audiences. Donna and Shula Productions will continue to operate autonomously, but the new partnership means the “Tehran” trio have committed to seek out large-scale projects together.
“We didn’t expect to work with a streamer on a second season. We enjoyed it. It made us hungry to do more things like that,” Eden said.
Working on Season 2 of “Tehran” with a premium streaming-level episodic budget was daunting.
“ ‘Tehran’ was a huge learning process for us in understanding how the Americans work and what they demand,” Syrkin said. “We had wonderful partners at Apple. Oliver Jones and Morgan Wandell were like our mentors. We just learned the language. It made us sharper.”
The addition of Close to the ensemble was also a huge motivator. “When Glenn Close is on set you have to up your game,” Syrkin said.
Eden emphasized that the partners are looking to demonstrate the level of skill and creativity that is coming out of Israel’s vibrant production scene. Not too long ago the goal for producers outside of the U.S. and U.K. was to have their series and formats remade in the U.S. market.
“But now we’ve shown that we can do it ourselves,” Eden said. “I feel that international co-productions are going to be the thing that will rule the new world of TV. Viewers worldwide are ready to hear more international stories. Stories for an American audience can have different angles.”
The partners are also hoping to work with U.S. writers and talent from around the world who may be drawn to new stories from perspectives rarely seen in mainstream U.S. TV.
“The life in Israel is so intense. People have so many conflicts in their lives,” Eden said. “It creates amazing stories and amazing characters. We live every day as if it could be the last day of your life.”
(Pictured: Dana Eden, Daniel Syrkin and Shula Spiegel)
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