Netanyahu Documentary: How Producers Kept Him From Floating Off In Dead Sea

 

This story first appeared in the March 21-28 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is seen floating in the Dead Sea's salty water alongside CBS travel editor Peter Greenberg in the new PBS documentary, Israel: The Royal Tour, which premiered March 6.

In the salty water, people float to the top like a cork bobbing in water, so producers didn't want to take a chance Israel's leader might float away. That is why off-camera, crewmembers were gripping his foot.

One of those crew members was Rick Feldman, who retired nearly two years ago after nine years as president and CEO of NATPE, and a long career as a TV and TV station executive.

Greenberg and Feldman have been colleagues and friends for years. When Feldman ran KCOP, Channel 13 in Los Angeles in the 1980s, Greenberg was one of the station's reporters.  

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Just before Greenberg was to depart for Israel to shoot the sixth in a series he has been doing for a decade in which the top executive (or president or king) of a country gives him and his cameras a personal tour, he ran into Feldman. Greenberg's previous tours have included visits to Jordan, New Zealand, Mexico and Peru. 

"When I told him what I was doing," recalls Greenberg, "he said 'I'd kill to go on that trip.'"

"''You don't have to kill,'" Greenberg recalls replying. "'You can come along if you work with us.'"

So Feldman signed on as a production assistant, the lowest level job on the production, and he was delighted to do it. "As a retired person I do whatever I want," says Feldman. "I like to hang out and do whatever my friends are doing."

As the crew moved across Israel, through cities and deserts, down river rapids and on visits to holy sites, Feldman was there to do whatever needed to be done. "I'm now 65-years-old but i was schleping equipment in the hot sun, in the Jordan River, in the Dead Sea, down in Jaffa and everything else."

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One of the last scenes was shot in the Dead Sea, where Feldman and others made sure Netanyahu didn't float out to sea. "The Prime Minister was a terrific sport about everything," says Feldman. "He was really on point. He went everywhere we wanted to go. He did everything we wanted him to do. It was really a lot of fun."

Netanyahu returned the compliment in a speech at the premiere of the documentary last week in Los Angeles where he thanked Greenberg and his crew for a good experience.

"This experience was in many ways reflective of the spirit of Israel," the Prime Minister told the audience in the Sherry Lansing Theater at Paramount Pictures in Hollywood. "Everywhere we went, everyone we talked to were so gracious and so warm and responsive. I hope that the true spirit, the true meaning, the true purpose of the state of Israel will come through in this film."

Greenberg says he was impressed with how hard Feldman worked. "You have to like 20 hour days," he says. "We killed ourselves but it's an experience i am sure he (Feldman) would tell you he would love to do again and again."

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