Danna Stern Producer
“Look at us here in Israel. I mean, look at the stories that we have, or just look at the diversity. The personal stories…we have so many religions and so many sects, there’s just such a wide rainbow of everything going on here.”
As the founder of the Israeli-based “yes Studios,” Stern created a distribution and development content powerhouse, focused on delivering premium content for international platforms.
She has been credited with helping bring Israeli content to global audiences and is responsible for the successful launches of numerous titles including “Fauda“, “Shtisel“, “The Devil Next Door” and “On the Spectrum”. In addition, Stern spearheaded the adaptation of Israeli formats in multiple territories including “Your Honor” (originally ‘Kvodo”) which has become one the bestselling scripted global formats of recent years; the multiple award winning series “On the Spectrum” (as Amazon Prime Video “As We See It”), “68 Whiskey” (Paramount +) , “The Good Cop” (Netflix) etc..
Stern is an international television veteran, having managed all aspects of programming, content acquisitions, channel creation and branding in her previous role at yesTV. Stern has been selected twice as one of Variety Magazine’s “top 500 global media leaders”.
She is a journalist by trade with extensive content development and production experience as well as acute business acumen. She holds a BA in English Literature from Tel-Aviv University and a MBA from Kellogg-Recanati.
I’ve always cooked (03:21)
What I was doing at YES (05:07)
So what is about that show, Fauda? (11:43)
Do people write to you about Fauda from Arab countries? (14:51)
I was supposed to be a doctor (18:24)
The part I love best is making deals happen (25:01)
My biggest win (32:35)
I have a lot of hobbies (40:17)
What’s the best way for people to help IsraAID (42:42)
There’s a lot of opportunities to join this field in ways that people wouldn’t expect (45:27)
Edited Transcription with typos – sorry:
Danna Stern 02:11
It’s been 30 years and a lifetime.
Eitan Chitayat 02:16
I was thinking about like, when I introduce you, how am I going to introduce you like I have known you for is it 30 years? Okay, so yeah, full disclosure. I know Danna Stern because we went to Tel Aviv University together, and we studied English Lit together. And we were like, what was in buddies for like three or four years? Right? Yeah,
Danna Stern 02:37
it was a fun time.
Eitan Chitayat 02:39
Every class I think we did. I can’t remember like what we did a lot. So um, but listen, before we get into all of that, I do have to ask you the first question which I always ask all of my guests on “I’m that” and the question is Danna Stern, can you please complete the sentence? I’m that…
Danna Stern 03:01
Wow. First of all, it’s a great question. But I am that mom. And I’m that career woman. And I am that aspiring home cook.
Eitan Chitayat 03:14
I’ve heard a lot about this cooking Danna. What? What’s that?
Danna Stern 03:21
Well, I’ve always cooked. I grew up in a family of cooks. You know, home cooks, not like chefs. But like, really decent cooks. I remember making my sister lunch when I was 10. And I think I’ve been cooking ever since. And obviously COVID You know, just took it to a whole other level now… obsessed. The only thing I pretty much care about other than my kids and then my work and then you know, just watching recipes endlessly.
Eitan Chitayat 03:47
So you’d like on Instagram, like tiktok all those kind of shows?
Danna Stern 03:52
All of it. All of it. Facebook, Instagram. I even buy cookbooks online. I mean, who does that anymore?
Eitan Chitayat 04:00
But you do it, that’s the thing. You don’t just like buy it, you actually do cook because you were telling me..
Danna Stern 04:06
Totally. You know if that movie, Julia and Julia, which obviously is based on a book and she cooked the entire year, she cooked up Julia Child’s, you know, The Joys of French cooking. If she hadn’t already done that, I would probably have started a project like that.
Eitan Chitayat 04:24
Well, you know, there’s changes going on in Danna Stern’s life. Everyone in the TV world kind of like knows who you are. The TV world is big. I mean, like a certain niche. You’re being very humble and modest. But I can tell you that your name gets around, and certainly for all the amazing shows that are coming out of Israel. You’re right up there. But for those who you know, people have heard your bio, but why don’t we just talk a little bit about what it is you have been doing for the last few years. Like, what was your role at Yes, because I know that there changes coming. So maybe you want to talk about?
Danna Stern 05:07
Well, the last few years since the onset of global streaming 2016..yeah, January was when Netflix launched their global streaming service. And it was really the first time ever that people throughout the world, no matter where they were, they could watch a show at the same time, they could watch it continuously, aka binge, they could watch it localized in their own language, whether dubbed or subtitled, and suddenly the world was watching the same thing. Everybody had access to titles coming from everywhere. And I think we were very fortunate to have one of the first foreign language shows that really succeeded on Netflix, which was Fauda. And on the back of that I started an entrepreneurial business within Yes. Yes is the satellite platform soon to be an OTT player in Israel Multi Channel television provider, depending on where you are on the world. It’s either a DIRECTV or Sky or a Stars, depending on, you know, where you reside. I mean, there’s a local incumbent, for sure. And I was with Yes before that for almost 17 years. And I think at that point, it’ll be 23. Pretty soon. But you know, that’s the big change that’s coming. It was a long, it is a long time. But it was a fun, fun time.
Eitan Chitayat 06:31
How did you start?
Danna Stern 06:32
How did I start? But anyway, just to finish that off, so I set up a business on the basis of really the success of that Fauda brought all of us, I kind of say this is the gift that keeps on giving. Everyone that was involved in, is involved in the show, (we’re now shooting season four, last weekend of the shoot, actually, in Budapest) everybody that’s been involved in the show has been doing really, really well. We’re still very much a little community. And I was fortunate enough to open a company called Yes Studios, fully backed by Yes, but it was a startup within an existing company. So the only really good thing about it was I didn’t have to find investors. But other than that, it was really building a business up from scratch with the aim of taking Israeli shows whether as is or tape as we say, like the original founder or an adaptation of format and get it remade somewhere like a Your Honor, which the English speakers will recognize it from the American adaptation starring Bryan Cranston. So the idea was to take those ideas, that IP, that creativity, and export it, and I think that we’ve done really well. But that’s, that’s really the last kind of five years.
Eitan Chitayat 07:43
Well, I mean, we can’t not talk about Fauda. And I was gonna say, well, let’s go back a little bit. And we’ll go back to how you started and everything. But let’s talk about Fauda for a second because I know Lior from advertising US and Israel. And you know, we’ve worked together as well.
Danna Stern 08:00
He did start there. He’s a great, you know, he’s a great creative.
Eitan Chitayat 08:05
He’s a phenomenal creative. And I remember when I was BBDO, in New York, and he was working at BBDO in Israel. And so there was this, you know, we’re going to maybe work together. And in the end, I didn’t, I didn’t go to BBDO in Israel and did something else. But that’s how we met. And I look at him now. And he’s, you know, such a success story. And I’m actually just personally very proud of him as, as a fellow creative, but also as an Israeli. And, you know, there’s that angle to how did the whole thing kind of like, evolve? I’d love to hear this.
Danna Stern 08:36
It’s one of those Cinderella stories that you think could have gone a million different ways. And thankfully, it went the right way for everyone. But obviously, Avi and Lior had been in the army together. And they met up a few, quite a few years later, and started talking about, you know, what their dreams were. And in one of those conversations, that kind of said, well, to write our story, and Fauda really started from that. Neither of them had ever written a TV series, again, you know, Lior comes from the advertising world. He was a copywriter – a creative director. And Avi was and is a journalist. So they definitely had those skills, but they never really put a script together, a proposal or a pitch or anything, but they did enough work in order to attract a production company and then it kind of trucked along and pitched the idea to pretty much everybody in the country. To be fair, everybody said no, including Yes. I wasn’t in that room. So I don’t take credit for either saying yes or no. But thankfully for them, and this being Israel, and I’m sure anybody who was from Israel or appreciate the story of you knew somebody who knew someone, and he got to head of marketing, they actually went to school together and told her the story and she then in turn, went back to the FCO and the VP of contract at the time and said, hey, you know, he’s my friend, he’s the real deal, see what you can do. And they gave him a development deal. Rest is, as I say, history, but I do want to give her credit. And I’ve promised her numerous times over the many, many years that have passed since her name is Dolly Nir, and she’s the one that really deserves the credit for getting Fauda made. And as you know, with any success, there’s a gazillion people are gonna say, oh, you know, I called it, I saw it, I believed it, I championed it, but it was really her.
Eitan Chitayat 10:30
Funny thing about like, when you develop something, it’s never just like one or two people, it really is a team effort. I mean, everything about this show is phenomenal.
Danna Stern 10:40
By the way, that’s true for anything in television, you know, it’s never one person. Yes, there’s a creative vision. And you might be a head writer, but there’s so many people involved in making great television. And when their success story, that list goes on and on, where when something doesn’t work, you know, that list is much shorter. But absolutely. And you know, with Fauda, it was in development for so long. I think it’s probably seven years before it went on air since they started their little their journey. And so many things that could go wrong, at any point in time. And so it’s nothing less than a miracle when things come out. And they come out well. But to be fair, as soon as we saw the rough cut I distinctly remember that day, and we knew it was something special, like we knew there was nothing like it.
Eitan Chitayat 11:24
So what is it? What is it about that show? That’s so special? I mean, because it’s not, it’s a worldwide phenomenon. It still is, I mean, everyone who watches Fauda, everyone’s kind I think everyone’s heard Fauda. But then people who might not have seen it, once they watch it, they’re like, Wow, what is it about the show?
Danna Stern 11:43
First of all, it’s action. I mean, it’s just great action, but many shows are that. That one has humanity in it and a lot of gray. And I think the thing that’s really changed everyone’s perception when they saw the first season was how multilayer the characters were. The Palestinian characters, you know that they had a family, they had hopes, they had fears. They certainly had heartache. And you can see that the Israeli side, same thing, there are no real heroes in it. Everybody’s kind of a villain, and certainly everyone suffers. So I think that was surprising and refreshing. It’s not a one-sided you know, there’s a crazy terrorists in the basement, putting together a bomb ready to go off kind of vibe. It was really just people on both sides of this never-ending political situation. And this crazy geopolitical…
Eitan Chitayat 12:35
How is it now as the show continues, you know, there’s season 2, there’s season 3, now there’s season 4, like, how much of a conscious decision is that, at this stage to stay true? To what you just describe.
Danna Stern 12:47
I think it’s something that we always strive for, and certainly the writers and obviously always strive for, you know, getting the action flowing and making sure it’s not repetitive, because that’s also something you know, when you’re doing so many episodes, and we’ve had 36 episodes thus far, there’s another, you know, whole batch coming. So you want to make sure you’re not repeating yourself. That’s just the basics of it. But you also want to save that humanity. And you want to make sure your characters are multi-layered. And certainly in this season that’s coming up, and I’m not going to spoil it, of course. It’s closer to home. I think in that respect, and it shows more, (and this has been reported on so I can say it) It is more about the, what we call the Israeli Arabs, rather than the Palestinian residing in Gaza Strip last season or the West Bank in previous seasons.
Eitan Chitayat 13:47
Well, that’s actually interesting, because I wanted to that was the next question, which is like, what’s been the reception of the Arab world and the Arab world isn’t one world – there are many different. There’s Palestinian Arabs, there’s Arabs all over the world, different countries, different cultures, if you could kind of like, give some insight as to what the reaction has been well.
Danna Stern 14:05
Since Netflix started publishing or publicizing their top 10 lists. And by season three, I think we had full visibility on the top 10 lists, not as much as obviously now you can actually go in and do a weekly list. But Fauda, when season three aired, just with COVID was starting this was April 2020, was top 10. And pretty much every Arab country at the time, you know, from Lebanon to Saudi Arabia, and this was before the Abraham Accords, as we call them, you know, the signing of the normalization between Israel and the UAE. So, we do well.
Eitan Chitayat 14:47
I mean, do people write?
Danna Stern 14:51
Oh they write, they post they send pictures. I mean, it’s hilarious. By the way, launching any global show is a ride. I mean if you put something on Netflix, you get to 222 million subscribers. I mean, on average, say three people are sharing their Netflix account. So you could do the math. I mean, you’re getting to like, almost 700 million people. Crazy. I mean, yeah, that’s a lot at the same time. So that’s gonna resonate. And even if you have a small show, that’s still a lot, there’s multiple so yes, so absolutely people write in. I remember I was at the time because this was COVID. And a lot of it, we had to put a lot of people on furlough, and you know, where you’re all working from home. And it was Passover. So I was actually doing the social media myself. And I was going into the Facebook page and Instagram page and answering people. And I had a lot of messages in Arabic. So I just use Google Translate, and I wrote back in Arabic or copy pasted back in Arabic, it was a hoot.
Eitan Chitayat 15:59
Wow. A lot of love when you say they’re writing a lot.
Danna Stern 16:02
Like I mean, really, I can’t even think of anything nasty that has ever come up. I mean, I’m really just outliers. One in like a zillion.
Eitan Chitayat 16:14
So does that surprise you?
Danna Stern 16:17
It does. It doesn’t anymore, but it certainly did.
Eitan Chitayat 16:20
I would say a lot of people listening to this right now would be surprised because I imagine you know, like Gal Gadot. She’s in the movie. Okay, Saudi Arabia, they banned her. Oh, I don’t know which country they banned her, whoever it is, but like,
Danna Stern 16:32
I think it was Lebanon, Lebanon, sorry.
Eitan Chitayat 16:34
So I’m sorry, Saudi Arabia, but like, I think that’s kind of like the perception. You know, like, if it’s something that’s Israeli, then the Arabs are not gonna like it. And even if they do like it, they’re gonna say that they don’t like it. So you’re saying that, that’s amazing.
Danna Stern 16:48
I mean, they might say don’t like it, but the numbers certainly show different. And the people again, aren’t not afraid to write in. I think they can tell it’s entertainment, ultimately, and entertainment trying to do good is worth I think it’s that certainly, you know, we try. It’s an Israeli show, right. And I’ll be the first to admit it that everybody working on the show is Israeli all the writers are Israeli. So it’s not a real two-viewed perception. But I want to say we try to do it with care, we try to be modest about it, we try to be aware of, you know, people certainly after Season One, when we knew we’re going to be on a global streamer for many, many seasons to come, we’re certainly aware of the responsibility that we have. So I would say we would come to it with a love of the brand and more so the love of the audience, and we try to respect them. And I think that shows.
Eitan Chitayat 17:47
It certainly does. So you mentioned the word entertainment, which is across this industry. So I know that you’ve kind of like always loved the world of storytelling, because we studied English Lit together. And that’s stories, all the novels all the books, all the famous authors. And you worked at Reuters for a while, remember that you were in Jerusalem, working at Reuters. How is storytelling in the world of entertainment and broadcast?
Danna Stern 18:24
I mean, that was a fluke. Like I was supposed to be a doctor. So I just had a really good English teacher when I was in high school, Mr. Cox and you know how it is, right, one good teacher kind of changes the trajectory of your life. But in my case, really, I was studying to be a doctor, my father’s a doctor, I always thought that’s what I ended up doing certainly in the army and then go to med school. So you know, I wanted to be a Dr. Stern, just like my dad is. It was weird because I have this great English Lit teacher. And I have a friend who to this day is a really good friend of mine. We were studying in the same school together in Singapore and we took a holiday trip to Korea. You were on this boat for 17 hours going to Jeju do and then he kind of turned to me said “you know what, you’re such a good writer, you know why don’t you try to get Galei Tzahal”, which is the Israeli army radio, and I kind of looked at him said “huh?” he said “yeah, I think you’d be really good.” I’m like, okay, and that was, I believe 11th grade and we got back from Korea, and I said to my parents, like what do you think? And you know, I wasn’t that into it. I wasn’t like this media kid. I wasn’t tape recording at the time people would tape record like their favorite DJs, so I certainly wasn’t that kid. But as I started the process of trying to get into this unit, I got more and more competitive and I certainly am a competitive person. And every time I passed you know, some stage I was like, Okay, this is what I want to do. So it kind of found me or I found it. And then I was in the Israeli army radio. I was a producer for three years. And then I joined Reuters for another six and a half. So I was a journalist for almost a decade. And then segwayed into, I guess, entertainment.
Eitan Chitayat 20:17
Why did you just get to a break?
Danna Stern 20:22
Why stop being a journal? Because it’s hard. It’s hard on your soul. Being here during those years, through the 90s. I mean, we need less bombs and the kidnappings and the wars and Rabin assassination. I mean, it was just a lot. I was really young. I mean, I started when I was a teen and it’s a lot to take in. And I was getting very blase I had a lot of really dark humor. I’d see bodies, body parts, you know, I was shot at in Gaza, I used to sleep nights at the office, like it’s not a great life. That’s one thing, it gets very tiring. This is also the 90s where, you know, people are not seeing this because we’re obviously on a podcast, but I am a blonde. And, you know, being a young 24-year-old blonde, running around the West Bank in the 90s is and then trying to, you know, go through roadblocks and try to get to spokespeople. I mean, you can imagine the harassment wasn’t fun. And working with an all male crew. Again, it’s looking back. So the stuff we went through was ridiculous that we put up with it. But those were the times. So that wasn’t great. And doing it for a long time. does get to but like all things you know, there’s like a moment and I distinctly remember this, I was reading this like entertainment magazine called Snipers. And there was this interview. This is 1999. This is so going to date me, but everybody knows how old you are. And we’re the same age.
Eitan Chitayat 21:55
I didn’t know that anyone knows. Maybe they don’t need to know.
Danna Stern 22:02
Maybe they don’t need to know. All right. It’s just don’t do the math. So I was reading this interview with this woman. Her name was Wanda Tao. And she was the Head of Acquisitions that one of the channels to the commercial channel licensees, and she was describing what she was doing for a living, basically, watching films, and some TV series. So this was late 90s. And television was terrible at this time, right? I mean, HBO is just starting Sex in the City and the Sopranos. So I mean, the best thing on TV was probably ER and Friends, but saying, This is what she does for a living. She gets to watch and license films and series. And I was like, Oh, my God, that’s my dream job. I was one of those kids you know, I was one of those kids who went to the cinema tech and watched films that were totally not age-appropriate. And I was like, I felt like I had this encyclopedic knowledge of film. But as if you were, I never went to, you know, I didn’t study film. I never wanted to study film. I didn’t feel like I needed to, I felt like I had that knowledge or the inherent just because I just loved that medium so much. And I was like, that’s what I want to do. So it was that aha moment. And then I made a little list of the where there were acquisitions, jobs or channels in Israel, and I started calling and on a second call, I got a job. And this was a year before Yes, it launched.
Eitan Chitayat 23:23
I was gonna say Yes, wasn’t then what it is today.
Danna Stern 23:26
No, it wasn’t even called Yes. But you know, I was hire number two on the content team, I got to go through and really do everything and anything that has to do with content programming, schedule, acquisitions, the business side, the creative side..
Eitan Chitayat 23:39
And you’re just learning it, like you’re learning as you’re going along, or…
Danna Stern 23:43
A lot of it we invented like a really a whole I mean, there’s, you know, I could go on and on about the things we kind of, you know, invented, but things like date and date, airing, you know, having the ability to premiere a show at the same time as it is in the US to combat piracy right at four in the morning in Israel. So, if you wanted to, you could get up and watch Game of Thrones at that time, a ton of lives, thematic programming. I know we had a big channel before binge was even a thing I remember. Just before we launched our binge channel, I Googled bids in Hebrew, you know, the letters, the phonetic sound, and there were two articles that you still perked. Yeah, I mean, everything we did, while we were the home of HBO, we did amazingly creative things, specials and retrospectives and just a whole lot of fun. It was really, really fun. I mean, we went out of the screen and did a Game of Thrones exhibit. We did a gallery, like the rest of HBO had a lot of fun. I got to travel a lot. You got to set behind the scenes. premieres. It was great.
Eitan Chitayat 24:51
It sounds like it’s a really exciting I mean, it looks like from the outside. It always looks glamorous and sexy and rock and roll but it actually sounds like it well it …
Danna Stern 25:01
It does, but you don’t see the endless Excel sheets, you don’t see the contracts. I mean, ultimately, this is a business. And I love the business aspect, like everybody now, as I’m transitioning out of my role, and saying, What are you going to do? You know, what do you want to do, and I go, you know, the part I love best, after all, this is really the negotiation and making deals happen. And coming into a room or zoom or a call, and, or an email, what it seems like, you know, everything’s gonna blow and then finding the way that everybody comes out, you know, just a little bit happy and just a little bit upset. And then you know, it’s a good deal.
Eitan Chitayat 25:38
So let’s talk about what your actual job has been in the last few years. Let’s, for the people that don’t understand the way this industry works, what was your role? What are you really doing? And what were you so good at?
Danna Stern 25:54
This industry is a big thing that everybody has, and I would say, I mean, everybody has a role to play. Some people, you know, write, others direct some script then others look for money. You know, there’s a whole host of jobs that have to do and, and, of course, the people actually physical production, and God loves, you know, working 20 hour days. So there’s a lot of different aspects of the business mine in particular, in the last few years has really been the international focus to run an internationally facing business. So taking those really stories, series docs, and some just ideas, and getting them to the widest, most lucrative, I’d say, audiences out there, and depending on the show, we decide on the strategy, and hopefully there’s a client for it. It’s both distribution and sales. It’s there’s a creative element, if you’re doing adaptations, there’s certainly a creative element, if you’re developing ideas from scratch and starting trying to find, you know, other people that are going to go along with the ride and help you fund it and make it.
Eitan Chitayat 27:01
So this is before there’s an actual show.
Danna Stern 27:02
Now, this is way before there’s an actual show. This is it can mean ideas, you know, and I’ve done a whole host of it. So some is just a straightforward distribution, you know, Fauda, Tape, or Shtisel. For that matter, that’s just a distribution, right? I mean, it’s not easy, but you have to have relationships. But first and foremost, we have got to have a good show. And finding a buyer for something like that making sure the money makes sense, the deal terms make sense, the deliverables make sense. And there’s a support system in place for Babbage Shtisel, just an example. We used to run all the social media and English for those shows, because no one else would do it. And you want to make sure that the people who watch it have somewhere to either vent or discuss or share. And that’s the some of the highlights, I have to say in the last few years, we’ve seen people interact with the shows, and like them so much. So that’s part of it. That’s the distribution part of it. Sales is really what we call the format adaptation. And the reason usually you just sell it once, but you can distribute multiple times. So like Your Honor, that we mentioned earlier, that sale to CBS Studios, and then to showtime for an English language remake. That show has been remade, and nine other countries at this point and more will keep giving coming to Germany launches next week just reminded I need to give a quote for some trade story. Italy just finished airing last week, France aired Russia, that country who shall not be named. There’s a version, there’s Korea, there’s Turkey, I mean, its great!
Eitan Chitayat 28:38
And you’re kinda like managing all of that?
Danna Stern 28:42
Yep. Managing all that working across time zones, cultures. I mean, it’s fascinating. We learned so much from working with people. And so different cultures, I mean, I can give a few anecdotes, but if you’d like, but I mean, so that that part of it is the sales and then there’s development and production. So development can be anything from an idea that somebody brings to you or you know, you have to stumble upon. For me it can either be an article, or you know, just sometimes I just let myself go into the web, and see where things lead to, you know, those things you never get to when you scroll down and I found some great stories that way. And then you have to find your creative lead to take that on, whether it’s a writer or director, depending on the project and you got to find financing from it. Once that’s all said and done, you actually have to produce it and find a home for it. So that’s part of the job to/
Eitan Chitayat 29:33
Well, it’s hard to like honestly, for someone who’s not in the industry to still understand. Okay, so what is your title?
Danna Stern 29:40
what was my title?
Eitan Chitayat 29:43
Well as Managing Director, your job is to make it happen.
Danna Stern 29:46
My job is to make it happen. But I grew up as a producer. I mean, that’s my trade. I would say if I have to define like my biggest trade is really I am a producer and a producer just gets things done. And you’re not necessarily the one doing at all, but you are certainly seeing the logistics of things. And you’re very good at saying what comes first. And what comes second, making sure the resources are at play, the time is well spent, and resources are well spent. And you use in the best of sense partners that you find along the way. Make sure you’re all on the same side and getting stuff done.
Eitan Chitayat 30:22
So I’ve, you know, being an advertising branding, you know, we’ve ever worked with my share of producers, and I love producers, I’m actually a bit of a producer myself, because part of my job was also like just getting shut down, especially as…
Danna Stern 30:32
Well, you’re producing this right now.
Eitan Chitayat 30:35
I mean, I’m the founder of my branding agency. So I wear that hat, like, I want to ask you about of all the things that and I know that producers, they wear a lot of hats, and you have to be good at a lot of things. But if you had to think about what your super, super superpowers, like what is done as superpower, what are you the best that people might not know. And don’t be modest. This is not a modest show, this is an honest show.
Danna Stern 31:03
I think I have a really good sense of process. And I think that’s probably why I’m a good cook, and why I can do like elaborate meals. And I think that’s probably the best nonprofessional way I can describe it. You know, people can cook but like hosting, and certainly hosting a lot of people is hard. And the only reason it’s hard. It’s not because the technical work of you know, cutting this or saute that frying this worming that is difficult. I mean, all those jobs are, you know, things you get better, as much as you do anything that you do with your hands, I mean, you’re gonna get better, the more you do it, the process and knowing especially if you’re doing like a multi-course, meal for a lot of people, knowing what to do first, knowing what to do second, making sure everything’s ready on time at semiotically. And in this is a kitchen of one, right? It’s not a professional kitchen, where everybody has a station. And they’re doing their bit. So during your prep first and then do your warm probably. So basically, there’s a system, there’s a system to the madness, and I think much like cooking, that ability to see what the process is and have it all fall into place at the same time or when it needs to. I think that’s a gift. And things are really clear to me, I can take a very complex situation from A to B, and understand what needs to be done.
Eitan Chitayat 32:26
What was like your biggest win, like not on paper. But like for you personally, the biggest. The biggest..
Danna Stern 32:35
Wow, it’s a great question. I have to say. I mean, there’s a lot of moments that are just like, wow, I can’t believe I’m here. I’m pinching myself, I can’t believe that’s just got done. Anything that’s groundbreaking. That hasn’t been done before. didn’t use that. So whether it’s launching Fouta or having I don’t know that that’s great. I mean, On The Spectrum is a show that I worked on, I don’t know if that’s my biggest one. But that show as soon as I saw like the assembly in the edit room I exact vision of what that show where it was going, what I needed to do everything from getting it into festivals. And I you know, I wanted it in Tribeca because it’s about young adults on the autistic spectrum. So I was like it has to go to Tribeca because Robert Tenera, who wants to Tribeca Film Festival and the production company, his son is autistic, so it’s got to go there. And then I want to go into this bus in class Television Festival in Lille in France. And I was like, it’s just gonna win there. And then I went to do a whole host of other festivals. And I gotta go to Monte Carlo with it to Korea with it all places, we had one. And I was like this show is gonna air as it is because it’s great. And we’re going to do a remake. And that’s going to be crazy. So we sold the HBO max. And then we did an adaptation in the US with Jason Katims as the showrunner just launched in like late January, on Amazon called as we see it, so pretty much everything I thought was gonna happen or not thought plant happened for that show. One moment, so but yeah, but it was just very clear to me. And it sounds really simple what I said, But I’m describing a four year process right now, probably five at this point.
Eitan Chitayat 34:16
So just getting out there and seeing it success. That’s something that you are just incredibly proud of. And it’s interesting that it’s that show.
Danna Stern 34:25
It’s that show I love it. I love it to bits. I love everybody on it. I think it’s just one of those rare opportunities that you get to do something good for humanity in addition to just being good at your job because the show is a life changer, the American version. And by the way, the dubbed version HBO Max used young adults on the autistic spectrum. So the dubbing there were young autistic adults that dubbed our characters into English on the remake. Three of the lead actors are young adults on the autistic spectrum many people working on this behind the scenes were people on the autistic spectrum whether working on payroll or music, we really got to deliver on the message of the show. And that to me is a privilege. That is one of those one of those things. But there’s, there’s been many. And I have to say, if I have to like, zone it down, I mean, I do a lot of, you know, panels and talks, and I either host or either moderate or a guest on them. And last, I think it was, this August, we finally went back to traveling, and my daughter, who was traveling in Europe at the time, came up to see me. And she’s never seen me do one of these. And she’s in the audience. And she came at the end of it and hugged me and said, You’re so great. I’m so proud of you. Falling. That’s all we really want. Right is for our kids to be proud of us. And coming from an 18 year old. You’re not there yet, but you’re getting there is no small feat. Yeah. Perfect. That may acknowledge you at all, let alone say that they’re proud of you is something..
Eitan Chitayat 36:03
Well, that’s actually really nice to have. First of all, your work is very, you know, people know, Shtisel, you know, Fauda, Your Honor, On The Spectrum. I mean, and so many more people know, these shows, you make something, you put that out there into the world, and she knows that, and there’s mum, and she’s up there. And she’s..
Danna Stern 36:26
I have to say, I don’t think it was about the shows. Yeah, I’m not even sure she’s seen. I know, she’s seen On the Spectrum, because I made her. But you know, the rest of her I’m not even sure she’s seen. And it was just that situation, right of seeing your parent that you see around the house, you know, maybe not in full makeup and hair. But just making breakfast..
Eitan Chitayat 36:45
No, what I’m saying is that you make something that everyone else sees. It’s like when my dad didn’t, you know, for years, you know, I was like in New York and advertising and I was working on, you know, when I was in Boston I was working on Volkswagen was the number one account in the world. And then I went to BBDO when the Ogilvy and Mather, and he never really understood what it was that I was doing. But when my ads hit Times Square on all the billboards there for DHL, and I went to Times Square and I took a video and I shot it all and I sent it to him, he finally kind of because it’s something big, in Times Square advertising Times Square, like he could relate to that. And it understood the magnitude the magnitude. Exactly. And I think that that’s what I meant when I said that. Not that she had seen the shows, but your you know, yeah, I mean, you doing some pretty amazing. So what is what are you doing next? I mean, what do you do? Next? Are you cooking? Are you gonna do something with that?
Danna Stern 37:49
Right now? Maybe? I don’t know. We’ll see. I mean, it’s, it’s a passion. You know, I don’t know that it’s a profession, but it’s certainly a passion. I mean, it’s mine. It’s a gift I have, I think, and that’s not going away. So there’s, there’s time for everything, and start making my own gym to really good. That was COVID for you. You know, I don’t know I’m taking I’ve wanted to take a break. I didn’t realize how difficult that really was. Because, again, you were saying, Yeah, I’ve been around this business for a long time. I think, you know, hopefully, I’ve done some good. And I’ve been very fortunate for people to either call me up or refer others to me. So I’ve been getting a lot of offers, and it’s gonna take my time and figure it out. I mean, absolutely no rush. I’ve not stopped working since I was 18. I’ve never had a day off. And I haven’t had one yet. I’m kind of looking forward to that.
Eitan Chitayat 38:41
Can you imagine like all of a sudden, it just quiet? How many did you say 23 years?
Danna Stern 38:47
You know, I’ve worked for decades. So I’ve been working straight since I was 18.
Eitan Chitayat 38:52
So let me ask you a question. What are you looking forward to? I mean, not saying what are you going to do, because that’s hard. That’s a big one. But like, what are you looking forward to? When you finally are free? Free to do what you are not free from a bad place?
Danna Stern 39:08
I look forward to not looking at my phone probably like 50 times an hour. And saying, you know, has this sky fallen somewhere that that responsibility is that you carry around your neck, as you know, once you get to a certain level, and once you manage people and was responsible, you know, for an entire line of business and you have a P&L that you run that comes with a lot of responsibility. And you are the first and last quarter call, usually, hopefully the last not the first. But you know, people rely on you for so much. And they look up to you and they need you. You want to be there. So I’d like to be there just for my kids for a little while. Everybody else, any other they’re getting older and they’re not going to be home for much longer. So, family. Yeah, I mean, it’s basic, right? I think everybody’s answer.
Eitan Chitayat 39:58
It’s funny when you say that you’re looking forward to it. But then when it happens, it’s also kind of terrifying. All of a sudden, like, imagine, like not looking at your phone 50 times a day, all of a sudden, you don’t need to look at your phone 50 times a day. It’s like, what do you do? So you’re there with your family…
Danna Stern 40:17
I have a lot of hobbies. Yeah, I’ve been very fortunate that during the years that I was working and building my career, I built a family, which is great. I mean, I do have three kids, and they’re all amazing. I also never stopped studying. And many, many, many years ago, I made this list like this wish list of stuff I wanted to do and learn how to do. And I’ve pretty much gone down that list. I’m not missing a whole lot. Somebody said to me, oh, now’s the time, you know, do the study or do the things that you’ve always wanted to… I’ve kinda done it.
Eitan Chitayat 40:48
Well, what I what have you done?
Danna Stern 40:51
Wow, everything from you know, I’m a licensed interior designer. I am a makeup artist. I have an MBA, I worked on my French. I mean, I had pretty good French throughout COVID. Last year and a half I’ve really improved my French so I’ve done you know..
Danna Stern 41:19
Yeah, so that’s been fun. So it’s a lot of things. You know, it’s small things. It’s big things. You know, I’ve even learned to make soup filled dumplings. That’s hard. That’s like a two day endeavor. You can do that. You know, I can make Japanese style ramen from scratch. That’s also today and never. Wow, yeah. So a lot of that stuff I’ve done, you know, I’ve certainly traveled. So I feel, I feel like I don’t want to say there’s a balance because it surely was not a balance in my life. And my kids will be the first to say there was no balance. I mean, work did come first. But I don’t feel like I’ve let myself go or forgot who I was. And what made me who I am. In the process.
Eitan Chitayat 42:02
So the partner, he’s a journalist who very, very successful one. So I mentioned like you with your career, very hands on him with his career very hands on.
Danna Stern 42:15
Yeah, but I think over the years, there’s been a kind of a, an understanding between us, and we’ve never really sat down to have that kind of conversation. But, you know, the years that I was really traveling a lot, and my career was in the trajectory that it was going very much up, you know, he took a backseat on his career, and was doing more kind of studio stuff, and like morning shows and things like that, that allowed him you know, to be with the kids, and he was the one to take them to and from school. And you know, they learned to walk and crawl when he was around versus me. And then as in the last few years since I started working away closer to home and I moved yesterday is right across the street from my house versus before I was driving, you know, an hour or two and probably an hour and a half back to work and things like that. And certainly being around COVID, the last couple of years helped. You know, his career has kind of taken off. He’s been traveling all over the world he’s doing right now. I guess we’re taping this it’s 1030 at night, he’s somewhere in the Negev, doing some an overnight thing. There’s some peace process thing I don’t even know. But I’m here with the kids, which is great. So it’s worked out? Well. I feel that, you know, we’ve, we’ve managed to. one of us has always managed to prepare for them.
Eitan Chitayat 43:32
So living in Israel, which is not easy. For people for the international audience, at least. What is it about? Like, we just want to talk about, again, the shows the shows that are coming out of here? What is it about these various shows that have so resonated with kind of like these international audiences, because there’s so many of them that have just gone on to be successful.
Danna Stern 43:53
There’s so many and a lot of are also, you know, formats and ideas. And I think there are many that people won’t even know are based on this really shows I mean Euphoria, for one homeland, people might be aware in treatment. I mean, there’s a lot of something that shows our mind, by the way, those are, you know, other people’s, they’re hot, they’re captured, I’ll give, you know.
Eitan Chitayat 44:14
Like, is it the Israeli mindset or culture or the kind like the universal values? I mean, what does it mean that the Israeli show has been succeeding so much?
Danna Stern 44:21
There’s a few things that really go into this industry. First of all, and this is the unsexy part of it. But this is a regulated industry and we all have to produce so Israel has been producing for a really long time whether other countries you know, the state broadcaster would have done things or kind of commercial broadcasters certain type of shows but here even the pay channels have had to produce and that really didn’t exist. I mean, if your say let us works in a whole different scheme, but UK I was really making originals until about seven years ago, and they were all relying on acquisitions and it’s true for marketing, whereas Israel’s been producing for a really, really long time. So there’s that plus I think we’re inherent storytellers. There’s something that Jews in general, probably Israelis, more specifically, we overshare. You ask someone for direction on the street, they have an accent and you immediately start drilling. Where are you from? I’m from here want to be my best friend, Shabbat dinner, you know, it’s just that immediate connection. And we were talkers. And I think, you know, we’d like to tell our tale. And we also like to listen, I think, maybe not as much as we should. But so there’s that. And the regulation, and we all have such interesting stories. Every Israeli is an entire world, you know, we’re all immigrants for all mutts, you know, we parents, everybody’s parents come from somewhere else. Certainly, our grandparents come from somewhere else, you know, depending on your story, there’s so much to unpack. Everybody’s different here. So there’s that. And then there’s a communal pressure under which we live. I mean, we have crazy, crazy lives in this space of the year. I don’t even know what happened. Like, I don’t know, we had rockets flying at some point. You know, we have I don’t know how many elections? You know, my stomping? I don’t like you can’t, you can’t write this stuff. Some of the time. You just can’t believe how much we go through this.
Eitan Chitayat 46:25
There’s something to do with the fact that Israelis are so brazen as well. I mean, I think that there’s that chutzpah thing.
Danna Stern 46:35
But that comes I think that’s more of the business side of it. Like why do we succeed more than others? on an international level? That’s definitely where that comes into play. Like, we don’t understand the concept of No. Other way we don’t understand in any rules. Yeah, we don’t understand rules. We don’t understand. You know, there’s not for us there for other people. So if you’re a filmmaker or producer, whatever, a lot of the time, most international producers will kind of back off if somebody rejects them not as rallies, they will come through the window, they’ll come through, you know, wherever there’s a crack we will come through, they will call someone they were proud. So what they’ll find that cousin, they’ll find a friend like they will make it work find a way go, we’ll find a way we do find a way we have to we’re very resourceful.
Eitan Chitayat 47:23
Yes, a lot of people that don’t know much about Israel, except for what they see on the news, let’s talk about the the amount of success we have in comparison, I mean, compared to the size of the country that we are in the field of television.
Danna Stern 47:39
I mean, I actually was just on a panel the other day seems like all I do recently, but really, this was just three days ago, about format adaptations. And just before us, the moderator did a little slideshow and one of his slides, where are the most formats coming from in the world? And it’s always number one in 2021.
Eitan Chitayat 48:00
Danna Stern 48:02
I mean, we’re tiny. We are tiny. People, 9 million people, you know, really three and a half channels that actually produce original scripted content. If you think about it, I mean, it’s absolutely wild, the our level of success is really unmatched anywhere.
Eitan Chitayat 48:22
So I want to ask you a question about being Israeli? Is that a source of pride for you? As it is, right? Yeah,
Danna Stern 48:28
that’s what I am. I mean, it just is, right. That’s it. This is where we belong, you know, without being a really Zionist is just being pragmatic, especially when you look at what’s happening in the world. Right now.
Eitan Chitayat 48:43
It’s pretty amazing that such a small country, and a relatively small industry comparatively, is able to put so much good stuff out there. And to see such a large portion of it succeed.
Danna Stern 48:57
But just look at us. I mean, you look at the stories that we have, look at the diversity that we have, look at, you know, the personal stories like it, we have so many religions, and so many sects, and just such a wide rainbow of everything going on here. And we’re also very liberal, let’s not forget that we really are I find this country, the best of sense, you know, being on one hand, very conservative and religious. But on the other hand, you know, Purim was the other week. I mean, I live in South Tel Aviv, where all the good I think clubs are, and it was four days of hedonism, like, Oh my God, it was just a community of people in the street, which is great, you know, do your thing. But I think there’s a lot of that there’s a lot of tolerance, a lot of acceptance, a lot of a range.
Eitan Chitayat 49:48
The range is exactly what I was gonna say because you go to Jerusalem, and that isn’t the story. And that’s the range right there. It’s like the complete opposite. But by the way, you don’t have to go that far.
Danna Stern 49:57
I mean, go you know, one town over in Bnei Brak, that’s what 15 this time of night, it’s really like a 15 minute drive and you’ve gone back to the shtetl, you know, and pull in the 16th century, like, nothing’s changed. Any other country, you actually need to turn on the TV to get that kind of experience here, you could get into a car and drive 15 minutes.
Eitan Chitayat 50:19
That’s crazy. No, it is crazy. So in terms of like, when we were talking about, like, what comes out of Israel and why it’s so successful, the favorite part of the business for you in terms of what it is that you have been doing for the last few years, what is that?
Danna Stern 50:34
I like all of it. I love the deal making part of it. I know, I should say to creative, but I’ve done a lot of creative. And a lot of people can do that. You know, there’s a lot of great creative people who can give notes on a script and, you know, identify story and work with writers, but I think kind of my uniqueness is it is I am not afraid of numbers. I actually, you know, I love the analytics of it. And I love the strategizing. And I just love the deal making. And I think it’s, I mean, the best example I’d says, you know, my dad’s, you know, my undergrad, my BAs in English Lit. And I also have an MBA from Kellogg, I think that kind of sums it up. Yeah, I just I do both. And I’d love it. I love when I can get those deals to work, and then see the result. And the result is creative. And the process, to me is also creative. I think I think great negotiation and a great deal is as creative as anything. And most people don’t go that far. So I love that part of it.
Eitan Chitayat 51:37
What’s the toughest thing about what it is that you do? No, just like, you know, What’s the toughest thing?
Danna Stern 51:46
Tax across borders. Yes.
Eitan Chitayat 51:49
Tax is something that …that’s not unique to you, honey.
Danna Stern 51:55
No, I don’t know. I mean, the deals are getting I have to say when I started out, it was pretty simple. And you know, you sold the show to somewhere and got a deal made or certainly when I was a buyer, it was that complicated. Now, shows are getting bigger. money’s coming from many places you’re shooting, you’re producing numerous countries, you have crews, you have writers, the laws are different. The copyright laws are different. The tax laws are different. I’ve been getting some of the I’m working on a project right now that is a Japanese German coke production. I’m here producing it, creative and executive producer on it. And then my writer is in LA. So she can imagine what that looks like as far as getting everybody’s deals and negotiating those deals and just work it yeah, by the way, trying to get Tokyo and LA to talk is nearly impossible. I was always sleeping. Oh, it’s just the timing. Timing. By the way, Israel is great for that. You asked me what’s the best thing about Israel is the timezone.
Eitan Chitayat 52:56
Yeah, we’re right in the middle.
Danna Stern 52:59
You know, we never have a problem..
Eitan Chitayat 53:02
You know, on the one hand, and the tight in terms of the times when we’re right in the middle of everything, but just in another context, but also right in the middle of everything, which isn’t so great.
Danna Stern 53:11
Which isn’t so great. And we are always on and we are always available. Yeah, it’s true. It really is true. Yeah. So that part of it is really hard. I mean, there’s, you know, rejection is hard, especially with people and buyers don’t see what you see. And I know I know content. I was a buyer for so long. I know when something’s good. And by the way, if it’s not great, I’ll be the first to say, look, it’s not great. But this might work for this and this, but if it’s great and you’re not seeing it, and I’m not, you know managing to make you see it and that’s on me.
Eitan Chitayat 53:43
Isn’t that a lot of pretense in kind of like, like, smiling a lot of bullshit. A lot of like, just things going on.
Danna Stern 53:51
It really depends on culture. I mean, there’s people that tell you to your face, and you’re just like, okay, you know, there’s certain cultures to be named them. I don’t know, I feel bad. I just gotta say, during internationals eye opening, because there’s this we keep saying it’s a small world, and it’s universal, international, all that stuff. It’s not. I mean, people are so different countries, traditions, languages, I mean, wow. And I love it. I love it. And I love trying to decipher what that means, really. And some people will tell you upfront, you know, Germans are extremely upfront. French, God knows. And then there’s some that you’ll never figure out what they actually need, because they’ll never tell you. Not for real. We do. I think we just mentioned one of those countries just before and certainly Americans and I know I sound horribly American and I keep having to apologize, I am not American. I just sound like this. You know, America’s certainly, this is one of the you know, sometimes I think of myself as like a controlled cultural translator. Because Israelis will get to LA or will get on a call where Somebody’s in LA and go, Oh my God, you know, they loved it, I’m getting a deal, you know, break, they can’t wait to make the show. And then you have to explain to them and match the way they speak. Like they’re always excited. I mean, it’s just Americans literally use the word excited about everything. So excited. So excited.
Eitan Chitayat 55:18
English, you never know what the English are thinking, right?
Danna Stern 55:21
You do know, you do. I find that I know. I like the English I mean, it’s a very different system. It’s very class oriented. It’s very snobbish, there’s rules that you have to follow. There’s a time period, you don’t get to jump ahead of the line. Like Americans and America, you could do it in the UK, you can tell her to that, like you have to earn your place. And it comes with time. And it comes with credibility. And you have to pay your dues, and you understand, but look there, you can decipher the bread. So I have to say I’ve had a problem. But they’re never excited.
Eitan Chitayat 56:02
Never. Wow, I worked with quite a few British people to get excited. But like so many times, I just don’t know what they’re thinking. It’s just like…
Danna Stern 56:14
But you’re right. I mean, it’s muted. You know, and there are other, it’s really fun. I’ve gotten the opportunity to work a lot with India and Indians and my God. I mean, if you think we have chutzpah I’ve never seen. I mean, wow, yeah. They’re relentless, and ruthless. And I love it. I feel the fastest deals I’ve ever done have been with India. I think it’s just a sense, because there’s, you know, the population growth, and I think people feel some kind of earnestness, you know, that. I don’t know if they think they’re replaceable, or there’s just a lot of people, you know, doing similar things. So they all try to excel. And my God, they’re so good. I mean, the people I work with are so so good at what they do.
Eitan Chitayat 57:02
I’m cognizant of time, I want to ask you two more questions. What advice would you give to someone who’s trying to break into this field?
Danna Stern 57:09
Go into gaming. Hmm, what do you mean, entertainment is a big word. And I think entertainment is same as television. Are you saying television? What does television this television is content? It’s not that screen that you have, because I don’t know about you. But I’ve not opened a big TV screen and ages, I watch all my shows on my iPhone. I know, it’s terrible. I’m sorry. But I know people invest so much in the technical aspects of it. I feel guilty. I really do. But it’s convenient. And I travel. So there you go. But so, you know, there’s content, there’s kind of the traditional, the long form content that we know, you know, the series that dogs, the features that we’ve all now started watching, again, in our homes versus actually going into theaters. There’s that aspect. And that’s just part of it. I think entertainment is anything that we really do to entertain ourselves to have fun to escape. And the biggest form of entertainment right now is gaming. I mean, people spend more time gaming than doing anything else. It’s certainly a bigger business than our business. I mean, multiples. It’s not if anybody listening to this and thinking, oh, yeah, that’s what my 13 year old does, yeah, but also probably your 26 year old neighbor. And that other 32 year old woman, you know, tumbling down the street. I mean, it’s everywhere. It’s fun, it’s immersive, it’s getting technologically better. And it’s storytelling, and a storytelling that you can create for your own or with your friends or somebody else has created it for you, depending on the kind of experience it’s immersive. And it’s it’s growing. So if anybody wants to be in this entertainment, stories don’t need to be linear. They don’t need to be, you know, massively produced on a screen that it can be something that somebody is writing code for, as we speak. So that’s what I do.
Eitan Chitayat 59:02
That’s an interesting segue into my next question. And I think my final one, which is take a second, in terms of the world of entertainment, and where people are headed and where society is headed. Do you like it? Do you like where we’re headed?
Danna Stern 59:23
I don’t know where we’re headed. I don’t think we can’t change. Future. We can’t change the past. We can change the moment that we’re in and we can change the way that we act. And that’s pretty much it. And we can change the way we make others feel. And I’m very conscious of that. I think COVID made me realize that and Ted Lasso, I have to say that that was the best show the last few years but only in the sense that his earnestness and telling people, they appreciate each other and you know, Andy Every sentence with I appreciate you was just a wake up call. I know it sounds silly, but we are talking about entertainment, or this business as something that does resonate and does, you know can be an agent for change. So that those are the things we can change. I can’t change the future. I don’t know if I like it or not. It is what it is. I mean, bigger things are played terrifies me. The environment terrifies me. The traffic terrifies me the state of war and stifle and disregard for humanity is terrifying. I mean, it’s so much evil. And it’s just if I step out of that and start thinking about it, I seriously get depressed. And I certainly don’t want people to end on that. But I will say this, I appreciate everyone listening. And I wish other people could, you know, say that to their fellow man and just try to make the moment and that situation that we can control just a little bit better. That to me is a little bit optimistic.
Eitan Chitayat 1:00:58
Exactly optimistic done. Thank you.
Danna Stern 1:01:01
Sure. Thank you.